Transformational Change: Releasing Conditioning from the Depths of the Self
Tuesdays: Sept 8, 15, 22, 8-9AM ET. 3 hrs total | Sign up: $60
In this class you will learn practical methods for how to trigger lasting changes at a more fundamental level of being, vs. at a level where you feel you need to “transcend” or “override” latent suffering through conscious effort. This class will help you release the underlying thoughts, intentions, and directives that generate holding patterns of suffering, from the core. Classes will be recorded and will be available to all participants. Additional support will be available by email outside of class.
Many times in the spiritual milieu we hear messages such as “Just let go,” “Stop doing,” and “You’re already there.”
These all invite the (not unreasonable) responses of: “Let go of what, and how?” “Stop doing what, and why?” and “Already where? – Telling me that I’m already somewhere doesn’t actually make me feel different about not feeling that I’m there.”
Fundamental consciousness is our most basic experience of life and being. The difference between fundamental consciousness and the object-oriented perception of normative experience, is that fundamental consciousness is experienced as a dimension (or point of view) that is prior to any felt sense of subject (I’m over here), and object (you/it/that is over there). This experience of unity consciousness feels already complete, unbroken, and well and at ease. And there is truth in the statement that it is “already there” – in the background – now and (seemingly) always.
We experience this domain of consciousness fundamental, partly deriving from the fact that it is independent of our conscious will, and not something that we have to effort into existence in order to experience. Rather than efforting a state of consciousness, we experience fundamental consciousness as the underlying background of all sensations, emotions, and states of consciousness simply by attuning to it and relaxing into it.
This all still begs the question of what it is that holds us askew from fundamental consciousness, if it is indeed “there in the background.” Also, even if we do experience it through meditation or other practices, and even though it’s an intrinsically pleasurable, soothing, and a deeply healing domain of being to relax into – there may still be parts of ourselves that still don’t release all the way when we relax into this experience. These constrictions feel like pockets stuck energy (emotion, life force, memory, sensation, etc.) in the internal space of the body. When these constrictions in the mind-body system are held persistently, they can be called holding patterns. Part of this class is an experiential exploration of what actually maintains these holding patterns in place, and how to thoroughly release them, from the core.
A preview of exercises explored in class:
To let go of holding patterns, there are two components: one is a deep acceptance – and an acceptance that is deepened and enriched by attuning to the qualities of fundamental consciousness itself, especially the quality of love. Another component is the releasing of an implicit mental grip we tend to hold on our experience.
The release of our inner mental grip on our experience is one of the pointers within the Attunement to Fundamental Consciousness exercises by Judith Blackstone, which helps us deepen our absorption into fundamental consciousness by way of releasing a subtle mental-somatic contraction that we (humans) tend to do in service of holding our experience together. Although these contractions presumably reside in our fascia, this class puts forth the hypothesis that the lynchpin of this mental gripping is implicit mental intention and volition, and the way that mental focus is held in the body.
Here is a simple exercise we can use to demonstrate this point:
1) Find a point of tension in your body.
2) Become present through the area of tension.
3) Do you notice, just by becoming present, that the area of tension contracts, somewhat reflexively?
4) If so, good – tracking your inner experience means that you can use it to give you feedback. Staying present with the feeling of internal constriction, notice your baseline sense of focus. As you do this, notice the physicality of your focus – if there is any sense of gripping or harshness to it. Gradually introduce more gentleness in your sense of focus.
5) As you relax your focus, refining it and making it more gentle, what do you notice about the area of contraction? Can you notice that it spontaneously begins to relax, just on its own? Can you notice that it becomes easier for you to breathe and that your whole body becomes more supple – just by introducing gentleness in how you focus?
6) Another aspect of the latent mental grip on our experience has to do with our baseline mental intention. What I call mental intention is the inner felt sense of volition, mixed with implicit need-to-be-and-do purposes and directives. These can be anything from “I need to protect myself from such and such” to “I need to meditate the right way.” The point is that there is an actual feeling associated to mental intention which can be described phenomenologically as “sharp,” “edgy,” “harsh,” “imposing,” or even subtly violent. In one way or another, these latent mental intentions put demands upon our mind-body system in a way that reinforces our patterns of constriction. Take a minute to feel into this sense of mental intent. Although sometimes it takes time to know what the specific purposes and latent demands upon ourselves are (“I need to be good,” “I need to be right,” etc), we can feel the “edginess” of our mental intention, and relax this and any demands that we’re presently aware of, down to just being present. Do you notice the sense of constriction relax a bit more?
7) The next part of this exercise (explored in class) should be done with guidance and proper resourcing, as this is where we begin to release and/or process the content that is actually held.
A preview of theoretical content explored in class: Our Innate Feeling-Intelligence
We all have an innate, elemental feeling-intelligence, or animal intelligence within our mind-body system. This is the part of the mind-body system that knows what is pleasurable and what is painful. On a spiritual level, this very elemental responsiveness is also the most accurate reference point for what actually moves us towards contraction and suffering, and/or what actually moves us towards expansion and healing (vs counteracting, “transcending”, bypassing, etc.). I also like to call this domain an animal intelligence because it responds in ways similar to that of a house cat.
Let’s do a thought experiment: What happens if we try to stroke, play with, or otherwise engage a house cat in a coarse or abrasive way? Naturally, the cat will become perturbed and will likely go and hide. Just for fun, let’s try a second thought experiment: What if we wished really hard for the cat to be OK with the fact that we were imposing and abrasive, and stroking the cat in a way that it didn’t like – would this change the way the cat responds? …The answer, of course, is “No.” In the same vein, we can’t “will” or “effort” ourselves to do or be something in a manner that is subtly violent, unnatural, or abrasive to ourselves. We can’t have an intent that is (even subtly) violent or imposing on upon our feeling intelligence and at the same time move toward release into fundamental consciousness. In short, harshness of intent and stabilization into fundamental consciousness are antithetical to one another.
If we want the cat to feel comfortable around us, then we actually have to be comforting, and listen to how the cat actually wants to be received. Since 1) our inner house cat is us and 2) we can’t outsmart ourselves regardless of how sophisticated our intellect is, it is worthwhile to pay attention to how our focus and intent actually register with our feeling sense such that we are not in a perpetual cycle of indirectly holding ourselves askew from deeper thresholds of well-being. We can incorporate this into our meditation practice, where we are already relaxed and introspective to some extent, and notice how we may be making demands upon ourselves that are making our inner “cat” uncomfortable, and then work to gradually release those demands.
In sum: When our will (focus and intent) is directly or indirectly divided against our affect (our elemental feeling-intelligence), we feel constricted and suffer. The more stabilized we become in fundamental consciousness, the more attuned we become to specific constrictions and holding patterns, and the “need-to-be-and-do” thoughts, intentions, and directives that hold them in place. We can release these constrictions through a combination of attunement (to fundamental consciousness) and specialized release techniques, which we will explore in class.