“the way up and the way down is one and the same.”
it seems very rare these days, as it probably has been throughout history, that a man or woman behaves much at all like the person he imagines herself to be. most often our self images are hasty and incoherent patchworks of biology, upbringing (parents and culture) wishful thinking and self rescue fantasies in complex interaction with the conscious and unconscious minds. meanwhile, what we really are is…well, does anybody know?
to approach the problem of self knowledge (an essential counterpoint to the activity of self transformation) by adding to our self images ideas about our “true” nature or self is to invite failure – after all, who but the little self, with its constricted imagination and deep sense of inferiority, could piece together such fantastical notions as this supposed mythological “big self”? any underlying truth that might exist will not reveal itself through these ::deep:: contemplations of the little self, but through removing that so-called “self” entirely; not by moving “up”–a false and evasive upward movement into ideas, concepts, hopes or fears–but down, into truth, reality, not as we would like it to be, not as we fear it might be, but as it is.
this course is meant to facilitate a confrontation with the real.
it divides the “way down” into three stages and provides practical work for each stage on the levels of the physical, the emotional, and the cognitive. these techniques are fool proof – provided they are actually carried out.
stage 1: contraction, condensation, bitterness
this is where we begin, where we come up against the boundaries of habit, constriction, tensions and belief; here we find that growth is not merely a matter of desiring to grow; we learn about our current perceived limits as we bump up against them. we observe, allow ourselves to see, and learn to tolerate any discomfort that may arise from that seeing.
stage 2: expansion, force, evaporation
having mapped out the boundaries of the current self we begin to strategically apply “heat” in order to begin to dissolve them. this phase is often exhilarating and semi ecstatic, as we find, maybe for the first time, that apparently immovable boundaries can in fact be moved and even dismantled, provided that we apply the proper methods. we disrupt, melt away, and learn to tolerate any anxiety that may result from that melting.
stage 3: integration, circulation, equilibrium
this is where we step back, let the flames die down, and survey the remains. the emotional vapors given off by applying heat can be intense, and we want to be sure we have processed them before returning to address the next layer. we reflect, allow ourselves to adapt to the change, and begin to look for signs of the newly shaped contours of our selves, as we prepare to repeat this three step process as many times as layers of boundaries exist.
the specific contents of each of these stages will differ significantly with each individual, depending upon past and current experiences. but the techniques provided, if performed sincerely, will not fail to initiate the process, a process which is itself universal. it is the unmasking and removing of the illusions that protect us from our fear of the unknown. and what is the unknown? it is all that is, has been, and will be; and it is unknown because it cannot be known.
when we lie to ourselves and others about who and what we are, where we are, and what we know, we may succeed in momentarily protecting ourselves from fear, doubt, hurt, or misfortune; but this turning away—this turning “up” into fantasy and belief, tall tales about the quest we have already undertaken or may one day undertake–has only one ultimate result: the anchor is never actually pulled, the ship never actually sets sail, and we never actually take the night sea journey through which we can actually move beyond fear, beyond the greatest lies we tell, beyond the worst mistakes we make.
i actually kind of happened upon your site at one point and just signed up. where could i get some understanding as to what this course is actually about?
that is a great question, kate. we will have a live q & a session on justin.tv/radicalundoing on friday january 14, 2011 from 2 to 3 pm PST. also, you can ask specific questions here and we will happily leave answers in the comments section for others to benefit from as well.
the course serves as an introduction to the radical undoing work. it will provide tangible exercises, concepts, and techniques you can use to get in touch with yourself. all the techniques we recommend have one purpose. that purpose is to point you back at yourself as the source of all truth.
most people in the enlightenment, spirituality, and self development businesses will serve you heaping portions of bullshit to keep you seeking forever outside yourself.
these techniques become yours as soon as you do them. the truth you experience is your truth. this three-part course gives a bit of a framework for putting aside seeking, spirituality, and beliefs once and for all. then it begins. what begins? you begin.
the three parts can be likened to this:
1. see what is going on.
2. destroy everything false.
3. deal with the wreckage.
for example: stretch your face for 5-10 minutes. do it very slowly. move and stretch all parts of it. as you begin to stretch, you will start to “see” what the exercise does for you. you will notice all the tension that gets held in the face…all the tension it takes to wear masks for other people all day, all week, all month and all life long.
next, you will, by stretching the face, start to break apart, or destroy, some bits of that tension. as the tension breaks apart, so do the masks you have been wearing. what awaits you under all the masks?
finally, by the end of the process of face stretching for 10 whole minutes, sense and feel what is going on in your face. don’t interpret the sensations. instead, just notice them. sensing and feeling the experience of the face after the stretching process is a form of “dealing with the wreckage.”
think of how this might apply to other areas of your body and other areas of your life.
when i was younger, i thought it was possible to find the Truth. i should have known better, really: my first literary loves were the french existentialists sartre and camus, the latter of whom especially could not have spelled out the situation more clearly. i accepted their ideas on an intellectual level, and it seemed to me that the discovery of life’s meaninglessness was great news. i could never quite understand why so many others who had read these philosophers took it so hard, or wore themselves out denying it. but though i had read, i had not quite understood, and my very humanness still stood guard against a fundamental (versus merely intellectual) acceptance of the idea that behind every something was not its truth, but a deep and abiding nothing. it took undoing to finally hold me down and make me swallow it.
many modern writers on buddhism and other traditions that emphasize nothingness as a foundation of all existence attempt to pretty it up by saying, “i know, nothing sounds bad, but what they really mean is nothing like no-thing, like no specific thing, cuz it’s, like, everything, bro!” this attitude seems a bit misleading to me, even patronizing; in my experience, the nothing that resides beneath the many layers of delusion is not this mystical everything, but quite simply an absence. i can’t help but wonder if those who care to qualify nothing as a mystical all-is-one stopped peeling back the layers just a little too early. i cant blame them; mystical union, as a direct experience, is perhaps the most powerful and convincing of all delusions, and quite possibly the most exalted experience possible for a human.
but…what was it you’re supposed to do when you see the buddha on the road?
the so-called peak experience is perhaps the most sought after human experience this side of simply staying alive. we spend countless hours and dollars cultivating them, through sex, drugs, art, social engagements, ‘self improvement,’ ‘spirituality,’ etc. they provide the high water marks in our lives, renewing our sense of wonder and gratitude, reminding us of the eternal ‘yes’ to existence underlying our daily grunts and grumbles about the veil of sorrow that too often enshrouds us. they are, in the true sense of the word, awesome.
there is, however, one problem with this incessant quest: the peak experience, once over, rarely effects any permanent transformation; it quickly recedes into a memory as distant as the event was alien to our day to day reality. those who would try to cling to these experiences are forced to cling to a ghost, condemned to wonder how they ended up back in the same valley, why things are always the same, no matter how hard they try……………..
let me be clear: i have nothing against peak experiences; i seek them with focus and determination, fondly and with appreciation. but the fact remains: they do not significantly alter the base line, the valley, from which they temporarily lift me. and no, it does not appear that life can be made into one continuous peak experience, alas. trust me, i’ve tried. and anyway, if it were a constant peak, it would no longer be a peak, by definition—just another valley with nothing to compare it to.
so back down in the valley, beneath the cloud, enters the Work—techniques that alter the baseline, permanently. that’s what we’re after with undoing—scraping away all the gunk that makes you shudder when you return to reality after riding the peak. this is real change, and that’s why it can be scary for some: there’s no coming back down. in fact, there’s no going up, either, because your very x and y axes are melting down and mutating. there’s nothing to compare where you are now to where you were then. you’re just…somewhere else.
so where does that leave us? i say, seek the peak experience. it’s a big part of what makes human life beautiful. just don’t be surprised when you drift down, once more, to the same valley floor, and if, when you look around with those fresh eyes, freshly remembering what you just saw, and you don’t like what you see, well……………………
during dream, the limbic system (the part of the brain that governs emotion) is extremely active, reacting to dream content as though it were processing real events; the prefrontal cortex (which governs “higher” functions such as logic and planning), on the other hand, has its activity decreased dramatically.
the average person has enough difficulty keeping his emotions in perspective when she is awake; it’s no wonder, then, that we almost always take for granted the extremely odd events in dream and respond to them as if real.
if a waking person responds automatically to emotions, without active feedback from the prefrontal cortex, he is in a state similar to dream. one of the major goals of undoing is to give the prefrontal cortex more control over emotion by generating the growth of nerve fibers from the prefrontal cortex to the limbic system and brain stem. this results in a greater degree of “awakeness” in daily life; it can also lead, by the same function, to lucid dreams.
the other night may car broke down, and I had an anxiety dream about it falling apart, piece by piece, while i drove it. for some reason, i suddenly remembered that, in reality, only my radiator was damaged, and there was no reason for my car doors to be falling off…so i thought, “i must be dreaming.” i grabbed the wheel, drove the car off a cliff, and flew around ecstatically until I woke up. what had happened? my prefrontal cortex had kicked in and i simply noticed something was odd, deduced that i must be dreaming, and decided there was no real reason to feel afraid.
now think about how that might work in waking life……………………………………….
how many times has someone told you, “relax…” ? probably more than you care to remember. telling someone to relax or chill is a sure way of getting them more upset. many times people command others to do things they don’t know how to do. “relax” is one of those commands.
this article will arm you with three tools you can use immediately to achieve some deserved relaxation, even if only for a moment. repeat the exercises over time to reach deeper and deeper levels of relaxation more quickly than you now believe possible.
i have included a simple trick you can use to trigger a relaxed state without using the exercises once you have learned to get yourself there over and over. read to the end for the trick.
simple ways to relax:
1. a moment of silence: close your eyes and sit still for a minute or longer. don’t try to do anything. just sit there and enjoy the silence. if you have thoughts, so what, you have thoughts. don’t worry about them. people often get confused and stressed out about what they are supposed to be doing. for this moment, let go of that.
use these videos as a timer to assist you:
start with one minute and work your way up to five minutes per day, or whenever you feel the need or desire to relax. make sure to do it every day, but don’t stress out if you miss a day. that defeats the purpose… 🙂
2. ultra slow neck turns: turn your neck from side to side e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y slowly. if you feel so moved, follow along with this video until you get the hang of it yourself. you might feel plagued by rampant thoughts and the desire to move more quickly at first. over time, you will feel the joys of slowing down and taking a few moments to do this exercise. one great side effect is deep relaxation of the neck muscles.
3. what the hell is going on? its best to lie down when you begin using this technique. later on, you will find yourself able to do it in your head at all times in all situations. for now, lie down flat on your back. make no voluntary movements. do your best to make no interpretations.
just describe out loud every sensation and feeling you notice in your body. if you need help, just scan your body from head to toe and report out loud what you notice. if you have trouble describing something, just say, “there is a sensation in my knee…there is a twitch in the leg…” etc.
again, drop all judgment of yourself. judging yourself increases tension. don’t judge yourself for judging yourself, silly. just notice when it happens and move on. laugh a little and tell yourself that the judging voice is not you…
leave comments with questions and results below this post. click on the post title to reveal the comment section below each post.
ok, that’s all for now…..
oh yeah… i almost forgot the little trick.
once you begin to notice the difference between relaxation and tension, you can anchor the relaxed state to an image, gesture, sound or scent. choose one thing and stick with it until you feel it working. here’s how you do it:
pick one image, gesture, etc. not one of each, just one total for now.
next, do your preferred form of relaxation until you notice yourself getting more relaxed. once you get as relaxed as you wish to get, visualize or look at the image, listen to the sound, do the gesture or motion or smell the scent. repeat this process every time you relax. use the same anchor every time.
test your anchor by doing the action you chose when you want to relax. you should notice yourself dropping quickly into a relaxed state. refresh the anchor every chance you get by doing the relaxation exercise of your choice and doing the chosen action over and over. you will KNOW once you get it.