What’s in your toolbox?

As awakening deepens, I notice I have a number of favorite tools. They really are all the same—they all come down to noticing. But it can help to come at this from various angles.

The tool I rely on the most is releasing. Because more often than not what is between me and Truth is some sort of resistance. Releasing certainly helps with letting go of the hard emotions, but if you try releasing, you will notice that it soon expands to letting go of beliefs and embodied patterns as well.

Handy Man
Creative Commons License photo credit: RLHyde

Another favorite is observing thought. The cool thing about observing thought is that it expands to observing everything. With some practice, you are noticing the Voice—you know, the incessant Voice, and your thoughts, then the gaps in between, then emotions, beliefs, patterns. Some days, you look back, with a smile, and say, wow that was me just a little while ago.

I don’t meditate regularly. There are periods when I meditate a great deal and periods when meditation is just regular living.

At some point there is the recognition that these are just tools.

Lessons are learned. There is the lesson that awakening proceeds in a three-steps-forward-two-back sort of fashion. Whoever you are, you will experience a humiliating set-back, possibly several times. It’s a bummer.

There is the lesson of acceptance. True transformation comes about when I fully accept what I have become. When the lurching to be something different is let go of, there is clarity.

There is the hard lesson of allowing, with love and patience.

There is the lesson of gentle honesty. We are highly skilled at fooling ourselves, this sort of naked authenticity is not easy, but it develops.

There are times when there is an overwhelming feeling of emptiness. It can be vaguely disconcerting, and sometimes outright scary. If thought gets a hold of this feeling, it shows up as what is life all about? Is this all there is? What am I doing wrong?

This is a good time to inquire. Ask “who am I?” If thoughts happen, ask, “to whom does this thought occur?”

Don’t answer with a thought.

When the mind is busy or an emotion is overwhelming and any sort of practice seems too difficult, I fall back to reading and listening. Some of my favorite resources are here.

I don’t rely on any particular spiritual tradition or guru. Don’t deny, don’t follow. As Seng-ts’an said succinctly “Do not seek Truth; only cease to cherish opinions.” By opinions, he meant beliefs and concepts, particularly spiritual ones. Letting go is far more effective than accumulating. Of course this isn’t easy. There is a strong movement in the ego to want to accumulate and cling to concepts. There is a strong movement to create a spiritual identity—what Leonard Jacobson calls a “spiritualized ego.” A woman who considers herself spiritually advanced said that she will go out of her way to make sure her karma is positive. Sure, you can live like that if you want, but it’s just replacing an idea of an unforgiving and judgmental God with an idea of an unforgiving and judgmental concept of karma. Chogyam Trunpa, a great Tibetan meditation teacher, wrote that we are often “deceiving ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually when instead we are strengthening our egocentricity through spiritual techniques.”

It does get easier and easier and easier. You do remember to be aware more and more. You do let go more and more easily. You remember more and more to be here now, to fully inhabit your body. The most essential question is “do I feel peaceful, joyful and complete” and more and more, you do see that the answer to this can be a resounding “Yes!”

What’s in your toolbox?

19 thoughts on “What’s in your toolbox?

  1. Bella

    “Lessons are learned. There is the lesson that awakening proceeds in a three-steps-forward-two-back sort of fashion. Whoever you are, you will experience a humiliating set-back, possibly several times. It’s a bummer.”

    I always wonder why it has to be like that… It’s so difficult to me… it feels like I live in two completely different worlds.

    Thank you for that wonderful post! :)

    Reply
    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Bella,

      Yes, it does feel like we live in two different worlds sometimes. The ego fights back, and I suppose we can take that as an indication of progress. When I was at a Vippassana meditation retreat some years back, I felt a great deal of agitation. I talked to the instructor about it and he said, good, that means it’s working.

      It can be frustrating. But we can often use the frustration itself as an opportunity to observe and release.

      Thanks for the kind words. I hope you are well.

      Namaste,
      k

      Reply
  2. Brenda (betaphi)

    What’s in my toolbox? This site and others like it that remind me to accept and allow, relax and release. Lately, I’ve gotten caught up reading blogs that focus on nature and the great outdoors. I find those very calming. I like what you said about clarity coming when the lurching to be something different is let go of. I’d like more clarity, and someone to share my life with, and ten or twelve acres somewhere. Is that lurching? Clarity and completeness elude me, but peace and joy accompany me most of the time. I’m happy to be alive. :)

    Reply
    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Brenda,

      “I’m happy to be alive. ” That’s a wonderful place to be. I agree with about a nature. Even just a walk in a natural setting is very calming and soothing.

      A desire is not a bad thing. We have to remember again how to distinguish between what Essence wants, and what is the ego’s movement from fear. One way to do this is to make a list of desires, and identify what motivates the desire. Is it from wanting approval, control, security, or a sense of completeness? Is it from the opposite of these? Is it from some combination of these? Once you have identified the reasons, you can release the wanting of these. This can bring some clarity.

      I hope you are well, my friend!

      love and peace,
      k

      Reply
  3. Happiness and Wisdom

    I found that observing thought was the first step for me. I found it fascinating, which made me more likely to practice. Once the thoughts are illuminated, the beliefs begin to show themselves and these can then be explored and cleared away (released?!). I really enjoy your blog – inspired, and inspiring stuff! Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Happiness-and-Wisdom,

      It’s wonderful that you find the technique fascinating. I do too, but admittedly, it took some practice to get there. In the beginning, thoughts seemed to have a great deal of momentum. They wanted attention right now, and it was hard to observe. With some practice though, the momentum diminishes.

      Thanks for the insight. I hope you are well!

      love and peace,
      k

      Reply
  4. Janice R.

    Dear Mr. K.,
    lately I have found some stuff in my toolbox that I did not know was there. Maybe I had overlooked it or maybe it just showed up. I found grace in there today. I was just about to do the same ole thing again and then for whatever reason I found myself doing something different. My different reaction was not planned, not thought out in anyway at all. I just did something else. It was strange and all that, but, more than anything I felt like an individual. I normally feel sorta muddled, vague. No clear definition. But, today when I did something different, I could recognize that I am me.
    Does any of this make sense? If you can follow this explanation you are smarter than any shrink I have ever been to. When you (me) don’t know yourself very well it’s hard to use the right words to explain something.
    Love & Light,
    Janice

    Reply
    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Janice,
      You had a moment of clarity, a moment of presence. Grace is a good word for it. In my experience, with awareness and release, these moments happen more and more often.

      I hope you are well, my friend!

      love and peace,
      k

      Reply
  5. Walter

    One of my cherished tool is observing my thoughts. As I go deeper upon my query about my true nature I try to distinguish myself from my mind. I believe that I have an awareness far more than the awareness of my mind, such awareness goes beyond the boundaries of any limitations. Perhaps I may not fully grasp it in my limited understanding but I trust that it can give me the answer I seek.

    As the bible says: Seek and you shall find. :-)

    Reply
    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Walter,
      Yeah, observing thoughts is favorite of mine too. I understand what you mean by distinguishing. Krishnamurti calls this the observer and the observed. There is an apparent duality in distinguishing the mind, that is watching it as witness, because there is the witness and there is the mind, but this apparent duality goes away, and as Krishnamurti says, the observer is the observed.

      Thanks for your insight! I hope you are well.

      Namaste,
      k

      Reply
    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Sarah,
      Yes, physical exercise is great. It helps me become immediately present, and it is healing and releasing. Exercise though is not always accessible. In my case, I go through periods of time when I am exercising enthusiastically and periods when I don’t exercise at all. So, something like “observing thought” or releasing are more accessible because I can do them literally at any time, and generally regardless of how I’m feeling.

      I hope you are well!

      Namaste,
      k

      Reply
  6. Janice R.

    Dear Mr. K.,
    There are many things about this new life of mine that I do not understand. And some of it can be discouraging at times. When you and other folks I read about and listen to talk about feeling happiness and joy I don’t get it. I mean I don’t feel depressed as much but I also don’t feel a vast sense of well being or happiness. When I feel my “happy place” at this point it is mostly a state of nothingness. No anxiety but also no joy. Am I fooling myself. What am I missing?

    Reply
    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Janice,

      You’re not missing anything. We have a tendency to over-analyze. The only essential question: do I feel joyful, peaceful and complete? (or whatever your version of that question is). If you don’t feel it, you simply have to be honest with yourself about it, completely accept and allow, and continue to learn to be aware and continue to release. Don’t create any particular expectation of high states. When there is anxiety or uneasiness or any feeling which we consider negative, know that there is resistance, and continue to release. When there is a neutral feeling, continue to release. When there is a feeling of emptiness or detachment or loneliness, continue to release.

      These days there is a lot said about being positive and blissed-out and so on. It seems to be popular amongst bloggers and contemporary spirituality. I don’t think this is particularly helpful–this ultimately has the effect of making people feel inadequate. I try to be authentic here. When there is a feeling of vastness I write about it; when there are dark nights I write about that. It’s much more about allowing and patience and releasing than it is about reaching for any sort of high state.

      You are doing very well. Keep going!

      love and peace,
      k

      Reply
  7. Janice R.

    Dear Mr. K.,
    I know that somehow I am better. I am not having anxiety attacks nearly as much, almost gone. Also, another thing I noticed is that I am actually reading other folks comments, I used to read yours and then zoom down and start writing and free associating. Now my reactions to your writing and others comments feel more meaningful.
    I think, I maybe wrong, but, I think that I have had anxiety for so long that now that it is better, I kinda avoid hard or difficult feelings that arise. This being in awareness sounds so great on the cover of a book but when you actually practice it, it can be demanding, a demand that you pay attention to whatever comes up. Negative behaviors, crappy thinking patterns, judging. I keep saying these feelings, thoughts are not going to kill you. Awareness Release, Awareness Release….
    I hope you have a wonderful Father’s Day and I hope if you won’t get to see your daughters you will have a chance to talk to them. If you are half the father that you are a mentor to me, your girls are very lucky.
    Janice

    Reply
    1. Kaushik Post author

      Dear Janice,
      Thanks for the kind words.

      One thing we have to overcome is the conviction that we are broken. The ego will keep coming back to a divided and fearful existence. It will say you need to be strong or spiritual or you need accumulate this or that. We are whole and intact, but it takes some time and patience and allowing to recognize that. When we do, we are confident that there is a way of being which is natural and easy and light. We may not experience that all the time but we are confident that we can, and then we are able to release the effort around awakening.

      love and peace,
      k

      Reply
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