Mindful Questions

by Alan McAllister, CCHt PhD-phys

Intersecting Ripples

Lately I have very clearly noticed myself about to ask a question of my beloved which is not really in alignment with what I need to know. Somewhere I have picked up habits of being a little indirect or circuitous. When I was younger I probably thought I was being clever, but I now realize that it doesn’t serve me very well. Asking indirect questions can lead to misunderstandings, or other forms of confusion. If I am saying one thing, but thinking about a different question in my head, then my beloved’s answer will almost certainly mean something different to me than it does to her.

When I caught this happening I paused to ask myself, what is it that I really want to know? Why am I asking this question anyway? This simple act of mindfulness pulled me out of unconscious habit pattern interaction, into the present moment. Often it is something that seems small or unimportant. But small steps can start an important new habit.

“Are you hungry?” is a simple caring inquiry. But perhaps the question I really have is: ”Would you like me to start cooking” or “Are you ready to cook a meal together?” These questions are related, but not the same. My beloved may be hungry, but busy creating something and not ready to shift gears. Or she may not be hungry yet; but will be by the time a meal is ready. The more precise questions gain me answers that are closer to what I really need to know.

“Is that the last of the spinach?” is related to, but not the same as “Is it time to buy more spinach?”, which is what I really need to know so I can put it on the grocery list. Often there is an action that I am contemplating, or may need to take. The question’s true purpose is then to determine if the action is necessary, or the time is right. Rather than asking about the condition that would give rise to it, I can focus on the way to move forward.

I wonder how often I miss the mark on other things I say? How about asking for something I want? “Are you done with that?” is more ambiguous than “Can I use that for a while?” Even deeper I might ask “Are you tired?” hoping my beloved will say yes so we can go cuddle in bed. It seems harder to say “I’m feeling like I could use a little cuddle time; can you join me for a bit?” Perhaps because this reaches a level where there are old pictures about rejection, or about bothering someone. When the stakes are higher, shouldn’t my communication be clearer, rather than hoping she will read my mind?

It is easier to ask a question when I am not emotionally attached to the answer. Or I don’t expect the person I’m asking to have a charge on the topic themselves. Being afraid, I avoid the clear truth of a matter. I may think in terms of the other person, but I am really being untruthful with myself. I am not serving my own interests and giving my power away by being indirect.

Inviting mindfulness about questions, is part of being mindful about speech in general. Being mindful about speech leads to the ability to be aware of my choices around actions. Starting a small mindfulness practice anywhere in my life begins to build a new muscle. This muscle will grow organically. This is not some difficult practice. It is an intention; an invitation to my self to align with my true Self. Along the way it will highlight habits and fears that no longer serve me. It helps me to speak and act in the way I want to speak and act, in alignment with Self and Spirit.

I am grateful that I have been noticing my questions more; grateful to spirit, to my Self, and to my beloved, who sets me a wonderful example of paying attention to meaning in how we speak with each other. Mindfulness of questions is about becoming aware and honest with myself. Honoring myself and my beloved, I focus on the truth of a communication, question, or need. It is a small piece on the spiritual path of aligning thoughts, words, and actions with spiritual intention and flow. A seed that can grow into a mighty tree.

The Practice for this is simple: just be curious about how you say things the way you do? Set an intention to begin to notice when your words are not in alignment with your intention. Over time occasionally water the seed with your continuing intention and attention. The awareness will come.

(© 02/18)

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Mind Palaces

Mind Palace

A mind palace is a mental space used for storing a sequence of visual memory cues. It was know in ancient Greece 2500 years ago and well used by Roman orators. Imagine a series of spaces, like the rooms in a palace, and then place visual representations of the things you want to remember in them. When you visit the spaces and there the memories are.

While it might be fun to design and create fancy palaces, that turns out not to be very useful. It is much easier to use places that you ready know. The house you grew up in. The route to school. A favorite walk in the woods. The house you live in now. Any series of rooms, or locations, that is already well ingrained in your brain by frequent use.

The images that are placed in the palace, should also be simple, personally meaningful, and emotionally or energetically charged. These are qualities that naturally make something easy to remember. They are also qualities that make any ceremonial or meditational tool effective in general, the qualities that align attention with intention.

The intellectual human mind likes to create structures to play in. Spaces where words and ideas are elaborated and strung together, theories are forged, and information collected. Lives and societies are ordered based on those structures. The ego mind also likes to embellish and enhance, to create more complexity and detail. This makes it feel accomplished.

Spirit, however, is simple. Source is beyond form and all embellishment. It simply IS. Embellishment, although sometimes beautiful, makes something more uniquely individual and thus further removed from Pure Being.

Creating palaces, mental or physical, is a creative movement, a flow outward from Source. Returning to Source is served by going deeply into a single idea, e.g. Being, Love, Presence, Compassion, reaching for Essence. Ramana Maharsi’s teaching was simple. Keep asking “Who AM I”? There is a place for both exploring how Life flows out into the world and for breathing back inwards to Source. Different tools serve each flow.

The mind, like the body, is an aspect of the temple of my Soul, part of what allows my Self to be human and live in the world. The mind can be a baroque palace, or a zen tea house, or both. Which one helps you to remember the Spirit that inhabits it? Which helps you to create in the world? In a mind palace the key thing is the information or idea that each picture inside the palace represents. The palace is a container two steps removed. Similarly our own mind is a container for holding ideas and information. It is an expression of Essence, not Essence itself.

The mind is important, but Essence is what is most important. It is prior to, and foundational for, all its forms and expressions. Exploring the expressions can lead us back to Essence, or distract us from going deeper. Forms are helpful on the spiritual path when they are personally meaningful, energetically/emotionally powerful to you, and helpful in focusing your attention on the Essence which they embody.

Spiritually we are here to learn to Be, to remember the Essence behind all the pictures in the palaces of our mind, as well as the palace itself. Thinking is part of the creative outward flow. We are not here to search out the secret of the universe, or to build a better palace. We are here to remember what is inside and underneath it all: Source. You already Are. Source expresses through you, as through everything. You are That.

(© 01/2018)

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Gateway to Unity Consciousness

by Alan McAllister, CCHt PhD-phys

Unity Meditation

Unity and Duality

The manifest Universe we inhabit is inherently dual. All cosmologies start with Unity creating Duality (Heaven and Earth, Yin and Yang, Shiva and Shakti). The Big Bang released energy which became matter and anti-matter. Matter is positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons. Source does not abandon it’s creation. Everything that is created partakes of duality, includes polarities within itself, while also being part of the universal energy field.

Physical manifestation is an embodiment of Source, which is always and everywhere present as the foundation of Being. Duality is never separate from Unity, but exists within it. Polarity creates spaces, or gateways, for the physical to manifest out of the field of the possible (the Void, quantum vacuum) and into form. However, gateways work two ways. Polarity experienced in wholeness forms a gateway back to Source.

Polarity as Gateway to Unity

To return to Unity and Source is the goal of the spiritual traditions. When the Kundalini rises up the spine, it connects and unifies body with spirit. This process is often spoken of as a journey, moving from earthly consciousness to heavenly awareness. And we do experience this shift. But the Kundalini is also using the polarity between the 1st and 7th chakras to create a field that reorganizes the physical being so that it can embody Spirit. If the spiritual path was simply “up and out” it would not be called Yoga. Union is coming back to the body as Spirit and learning to experience them in wholeness, together. To live with Unity Consciousness.

When two (or more) are gathered in the name of the Divine, they create a space within which Spirit can be experienced. This happens in groups and even in simple conversations. A field is created between us and we deepen into the spiritual awareness of our own Being, and of Being in general. In a session focusing our intention on Spirit as we talk, we implicitly call Spirit up, and drop into Self. This is the first level of creating a gateway.

Holding Duality re-creates Unity

The use of holding paired points, or concepts is found throughout healing modalities (e.g. Shiatsu) and meditative practices (e.g. Zen). I once experienced a pair of Egyptian rods. You can see them in the statues, just sticking out of the hands of Pharaoh. When I first picked them up I felt like I had taken hold of the terminals of some cosmic battery. Similar charging can occur with bare hands. Holding duality in your hands creates a powerful Unitary Field. This is the second level of creating a gateway.

These days the neuropsychologists can watch the consciousness shift with brain imaging. Holding both hands in awareness at the same time, consciousness naturally shifts from everyday awareness into the deeper calmer awareness of meditation. Richard Miller has visualized the active regions of the brain reflecting this shift. This has helped me to understand what I do.

Abiding in Unity Consciousness

I’ve been holding space with my hands for a long time now. Over the years my sense of what I was doing has deepened. First I thought it was about creating a safe, clear space. And it is. Then I thought about returning to the quantum void, holding the Field of Possibilities. Moving towards Source an existing manifested form is released and another form can then be chosen from the field. The wave function collapses in a new way. Transformation happens. Now I see it as opening a gateway to the field of Unity Consciousness.

Come and play in the field with me. Being in the unitary field, drops us into unified awareness, deep trance, and Spirit. In Unity Consciousness many beneficial and healing experiences are supported and become possible. My role is that of an experienced guide, to help create the gateway to Unity Consciousness so it is easier for you to experience it within yourself. and to support your adjustments to a deeper state of Being. Resting in the field your Self knows what serves you and that will arise naturally.

Welcome home.

(© 12/2017)

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Body is Self

Alex Grey Yogi

Give yourself a slow breath, deep into your lungs. Follow it with awareness as your chest expands. Relax and release the breath. Notice how oxygen and chi radiates from your lungs. Follow another breath deeper into the abdomen. Relax and exhale. Let a third breath carry awareness into the pelvis. Releasing the exhale, follow inner expansion through the whole of your body.

Breathing consciously into your body you can return to Self and Spirit. Awareness flows inward, finding relaxation, expansion, spaciousness. The spaciousness of the tissues, of the cells and atoms, of all the inbetween places is where the other levels of your Being hang out. You will find them in all the spaces.

While the physical body is often spoken of as simply a vehicle or container, for Spirit, for Self. It is more than this. The body is the foundation for all levels of who you are; emotional, mental and spiritual. It is also the physical manifestation of Spirit and Self. Not separate from Spirit, it is an integral aspect of your Spirit. All aspects of your physicality are comprised of Spirit as matter.

The body is constantly communicating with us through internal sensation. We can learn to give it our attention. With practice you will become aware of all the sensations that your body produces as it goes about its business. This allows us to nurture our body. It is a way we can love our Self. Coming into wholeness.

Awareness of body leads also to awareness of emotional and energetic levels. Entering into our bodies we find sensation, but also emotional energies, energetic awareness, memory and wisdom.The body mediates external senses, but also internal senses. Learning to be aware physically is a way to also open up emotional and intuitive awareness.

Through living as a human, our body takes on many things. It becomes a storage place for all sorts of old stuff, injuries and traumas, along with pleasant memories. This is why we may hesitate to enter into this inner world. However it is important to do so. Clearing the body opens up the rest; the emotions and Spirit. Cleansing the Temple for your Soul to reside with you. It is hard to be aware of Self when we are ignoring its physical aspects.

When the body is burdened with old unfinished business, it doesn’t work as well as it can. Tension from avoiding trauma compounds tightness and contraction. Moreover the body is itself intelligent. It will constantly be trying to let you know something is off, trying to get your attention so that it can relax and open to healing. This produces all sorts of unwanted affects, which only increase over time.

We do well to work with our body, to respect it and learn from it, rather than trying to subdue it. It has the wisdom to know what is wrong and how to heal. Coming into conscious relationship with it allows healing to happen. As it does the body has many gifts of awareness and connection to the Spirit that is its Source as well as ours. It is not a cage or trap to be avoided or escaped. It is part of our Soul and thus a gateway to coming home. It is Temple, Spiritual laboratory, gateway to Self, and the Foundation of Relationship. If we are to create Heaven on Earth, we must start here.

Breath deep. Begin to cultivate a relationship with the physical part of your Self. Welcome Home.

(© 11/2017)

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Learning Curves

Wissahickon Valley

When you are in the moment, life can take you to some unexpected places. Recently I was walking with my beloved along a stream in Philadelphia. It was a cloudy afternoon, but the air was fresh. Sycamores, oaks and black walnuts towered over us forming a vaulted green canopy, enclosing us in nature. The gravel road following the stream was wide and well trafficked. People walking, cycling, running singly, or in groups.

We paused on a bench, backs to the hillside above us, facing across the road and the stream below. Resting, meditating and taking in the water and trees on the hillside across from us. A cyclist I had noticed earlier downstream, stopped across from us. An older man, lanky and lean, dressed in layers of athletic clothes without any particular pattern. Using the rails of the fence along the far side of the road he started to do limbering stretches.

Unexpectedly, he turned and addressed me, in a thick local accent, suggesting that I must be strong and work out. It’s been a while since I have exercised regularly. Surprised and somewhat amused, I made a non-committal reply. He continued to ask oblique questions and while I sensed he was driving at something it was not immediately clear what that was. His manner was enthusiastic, not threatening but still slightly odd. His accent and ragged teeth contrasted oddly with his evident interest in keeping fit.

He beckoned to me to join him at the rail fence and I thought that he might want to show me a stretch or other exercise. The conversation moved on to drinking in bars and armwrestling, and it became evident that he wanted a competitive partner. Sometimes life just is what it is. I was pretty sure that he was stronger than I, but I stepped up and placed my elbow on the fence. It turned out that I could use my t’ai chi training to drop the force he was applying down into the fence rail. I had no will to beat him and didn’t really try, playing at simply not letting him beat me.

We later tried it without the rail, just in the air. It was harder for me to counter his strength. He pushed my arm over and seemed satisfied. He said he sometimes competes in bars for drinks and was concerned that he not wrestle anyone too much more powerful then himself. So he was apparently using our engagement to help him calibrate other men’s abilities. He said he would improve best by engaging those roughly at his level.

In college I came to a similar conclusion about studying academic subjects. If the learning curve is too shallow I learn slowly and get bored, if it is too steep I become overwhelmed and frustrated. This man was, improbably, reminding me of this lesson. He was showing me that it is good to know how strong we are at something. So that we can estimate before hand when the curve is going to be well matched. What experiences are likely to help us learn, as opposed to overwhelming us.

Being open to this curious and amusing interaction provided me a good lesson. It also pointed out that I never know who will be my next teacher.

(© 10/2017)

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