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July 2020 Musings

We seldom realize that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.
– Alan Watts
In this practice, words are chosen with care. A simple example is how we’re trained to introduce ourselves. You’ll seldom hear a facilitator say “I’m (name).”  You’re more likely to hear “My name is X.” We might dismiss this difference as semantics, but there is spiritual significance in that choice of words. The former introduction signals identification with the illusion of personality; the latter acknowledges the egolessness of True Nature.
A casual attitude towards language maintains the illusory world of ego. Ego’s voices use words with deadly effect to compel the attention and represent “reality.” As Awareness Practitioners, we’re training to disintermediate conditioned mind’s interpretation of life and have direct experience of the Intelligence That Animates. Using the abstractions of language to articulate direct experience is challenging. Choosing words precisely becomes a practice of not letting conditioned mind be the translator, of letting Intelligence give voice to how it sees itself in the moment. 
The word “process” is often used in Practice as an ellipsis of “process of suffering.” When I say “my process,” what I really mean is “how I’m causing myself to suffer.” Practice offers a specific framework to describe a process of suffering. The description is a composite of observations in response to the following questions.
What are the voices of egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate saying?
What beliefs and assumptions are being entertained?
What is being projected?
What aspects of the personality are involved in the conversation?
Is there a duality operating?
What self-hating messages are being heard?
This is not a random set of questions. They are designed to assist us to become aware of how suffering is created and maintained.  It takes a great deal of paying attention to be aware of one’s process. Ego would rather tell a story.
So, in group, when it’s my turn “to process,” I might say, “I had a row with my housemate over doing dishes. She never does them. I’m sick and tired of doing them and I finally yelled at her. She was so hurt. I felt so bad that I lost my temper.” A skilled facilitator might reflect by saying “Aha, so you are looking at a process of suffering around an interaction with your housemate over dirty dishes. Sounds like self-hate is right there at the end of that exchange?” This would be encouragement to step out of the story and begin to articulate your process in the framework of practice. If you have difficulty doing that, the facilitator will likely ask you questions that will draw out and clarify what you’re believing, projecting, assuming, what the voices are saying…anything to assist you from continuing to tell the story.
Narrating a story keeps the story alive, maintains the “narrator-I,” and keeps the focus of attention on the content, in this example, a problematic housemate and dirty dishes. That way, the fact that “I,” the story and the content are all within conditioned mind can slide out of awareness and ego can hide out. This is why in the yearlong retreat we spend the first ten days breaking down a specific focus into the vocabulary of process. Over and over again, we’re required to train to surrender the story and report our process within the framework that will assist us to look at conditioned mind rather than look through conditioned mind.
With that training, when it’s my turn to speak in group, I might attempt to articulate what I’m seeing about the content I’m suffering with in the language of process rather than letting ego tell a story. I might say, “I’m looking at a process of suffering around my housemate not doing the dishes. I get identified with someone who (aspects of the personality) feels put upon and resentful when other people are not carrying their share of the workload. I project that my housemate doesn’t appreciate how much I do around the house. I assumed we had an agreement that we would each do our part. I believe people should keep agreements and not shirk their responsibility. The voices keep repeating judgements about how uncaring and indifferent my housemate is until I’m ready to scream, and then I yell. Of course there’s a lot of self-hate about how awful I am to make such a big deal about something as trivial as dishes.”
This way of processing accomplishes many things. It allows me to take responsibility for my own practice by bringing as much awareness to “my process” as I can, and then bring into guidance/facilitation where I should look next. Since I’ve done some of the work already, the Guide or the facilitator can assist me to see more about what’s going on rather than simply facilitating the translation of an ego narrative into process language. Most important, in bringing attention to awareness, I’m training myself to stop perpetuating the narrative that keeps the ego “alive.”  I’m stepping out of the identification with ego and “my” story. As J. Krishnamurti put it, “The moment I am aware that I am aware, I am not aware. Awareness means the observer is not.”
Once we know “our process,” we can see it everywhere. If we are seeing it, then we’re aware of it. And if we’re aware of it, we can choose not to attend to it. This is one-half of the process of ending suffering—disidentifying from what we’re not. The other half is training to identify with the awareness that is, which is what we practice in the last seven days of each session in the yearlong retreat. But that perhaps is the subject of another discussion for another time and maybe beyond words. To close as we opened with Alan Watts, “Only words and conventions can isolate us from the entirely undefinable something which is everything.”
P.S. Doing a process map is a great way to bring awareness to how suffering is created and maintained. Cheri describes how to do a process map in her blog. As does this new recording.