Does Holosync resolve shadow material?
Someone asked me a great question regarding my post titled, “More about the power of awareness”. Though I gave a quick reply, I’m writing an expanded version here.
Here’s the question, and then my (expanded) response.
I’m convinced that watching with awareness will integrate any shadow material, but I don’t understand why Ken Wilber in his many books is stating otherwise. Terry Patten, Adam Leonard and Marco Morelli wrote in Integral Life Practice [a book recently published by Integral Institute]: “If I meditate, and meditate very deeply, what can happen? I can watch my fear and sadness arise as objects in my awareness. I can relax my ‘identification’ with them. (…) But unless I do shadow work in addition to meditating, I probably won’t truly face my shadow.”
In one of the editions of Mind Chatter [Centerpointe’s now-defunct newsletter/magazine, which was replaced by this blog–hence the name, The Blog that Ate Mind Chatter] you said that you were going to ask Ken about Shadow work versus Watching with awareness, aka witnessing. You wrote that your own experience and many others showed that witnessing can resolve shadow material.
Have you ever asked that question to Ken. If you did, what was the answer? If you didn’t, will you ask it? I’m just curious about this topic. I know that shadow work can be useful, but the method you are proposing is a lot faster, easier and more effective than 3-2-1 process [a process taught by Integral Institute for re-owning shadow material] or any other type of therapy.
This is a great question. Here’s how I see it. [If you aren’t clear on what a “shadow” is, you might want to read my previous post, “What’s Hiding in Your Shadows”.]
When the people at Integral say that you can meditate forever and not deal with your shadow material, I think they are right. You can meditate for years, even decades, and not deal with your shadows, and many people do. That’s because there’s more to dealing with shadow material than just observing your feelings during meditation and “relaxing your identification with them”.
This is a bit of a detour, but I think this idea of “relaxing your identification” with your feelings is a mis-statement of what actually happens in meditation. It assumes a separate self that feels something and then identifies (or dis-identifies) with it. What hopefully happens in meditation is the realization that while feelings happen, there is no feeler–no separate “you” who then feels something. Feelings happen, but a separate feeler is not necessary and does not exist (contrary to what nearly everyone takes to be common sense).
What we take to be the feeler is, in fact, just another feeling, a ghost in the system (you could also say that what you identify as the “thinker”–i.e., “you”–is just another one of the thoughts). I know this seems like a weird idea, but sit with it and see what happens. Look for the thinker or the feeler (or the walker or the talker or any kind of doer) and see what you find.
Here’s another example, one that doesn’t involve the question of a separate “you”, but illustrates the same point: it’s inaccurate to say that there’s something called “lightning” which then does something–it flashes. The lightning IS the flashing, and the flashing IS is lightning. There’s just flashing, but no need for a flasher, a separate something that does the flashing.
Requiring that every action (every verb) include something that does the action (a noun) may be a grammatical rule and a social convention, but it isn’t what happens in reality, and it’s the essence of an unreal and unnatural duality.
The doer is nothing more than an idea. All supposed “things” are actually actions, events. A cat is “catting”, a table is “tabling”, a tree is “treeing”. Action does not require an actor, and assuming that an actor exists ultimately creates the (seeming) duality that keeps people in anxiety about life (but that’s another story we won’t go into here, but which I have written about in other posts).
What’s missing from this Integral Institute description is the fact that those feelings (or, other consequences, such as actions taken, results created, etc.) are generated by something inside the organism (its internal cognitive processes–or, you might say, the “respond-ability”–of the organism). Feelings are a response the organism’s nervous system has to stimuli from the environment, and they happen without the need of a separate self who “has” these feelings.
The feelings, however, aren’t the problem. The problem is the illusion of a separate self. Since the feelings aren’t the problem, dis-identifying with them isn’t the solution. If there is no separate self (which there isn’t, even though almost everyone operates as if there were), who would dis-identify with them? Perhaps it feels as if there is a dis-identification in the early stages of meditation, before the separate self is seen as an illusion. Such a person is still under the delusion that there is a separate self that now “feels less identified” with the feelings or thoughts.
In fact, dis-identification with these feelings might even contribute to making them into shadows. Dis-identification causes us to say, “This isn’t coming from me.” It makes you think the feelings must come from outside of you, when they actually come from you (not the separate-self “you”, but rather the responses of the organism you associate with “you”).
But I’ve gone far astray in order to make sure you get that the people who wrote the Integral Life Practices book are speaking as if there is a self who can “identify” with feelings. So let’s get back to the real question of whether Holosync will allow you to deal with and resolve shadow material (otherwise, who knows where we’ll end up!).
I think the point the Integral folks are making is that what they are calling dis-identification with your feelings (and what I would rather call a realization that there is no separate self) isn’t going to resolve your shadow stuff. In fact, even if you had the spiritual insight that there is no separate self–even if it becomes luminously clear that doing, feeling, thinking, etc. do not require a doer, feeler, or thinker–the shadow stuff would remain. An organism’s “doing” is a learned response, programmed into its nervous system. Something happens, and the organism responds in a certain way. For instance, another person acts in an angry way, and you become afraid.
To continue with that same example, that pre-programmed response might include being triggered by angry people (which happens if you’ve disowned your own anger). It would also include expressing anger in covert and dysfunctional ways, which also happens when you have disowned anger. If this is the case, it won’t matter if you are “dis-identified” with the anger, or even if you’re firmly established in a no-self point of view. The shadow response is programmed into the organism’s nervous system. It’s just as automatic as moths being drawn to a porch light.
There is another way for a nervous system to operate, however. Responding in pre-programmed ways has its advantages, because you don’t have to re-think each event you experience. Disowning anger (or any other human quality) has its benefits. If anger is disowned, it probably was the best response the organism could come up with in order to deal with the anger of others during childhood.
There is, however, a largely untapped talent humans have where responses are not automatic. When this talent is developed, the person responds spontaneously and intuitively in each moment, perhaps drawing on pre-programmed responses if they are appropriate, but exercising choice rather than just responding automatically. Instead, the person responds from a wider pallet of choices that come out of the needs of the moment.
This talent, if you want to call it that, depends on awareness.
If you’re aware enough to see, for instance, that your internal representations (your internal pictures and internal dialog) directly create your feelings, as they happen, you’ll see that 1) some of the feelings created don’t serve you, and 2) that you have choice about the internal representations that generate the feelings (awareness creates choice–without awareness, internal processes operate automatically).
Usually these “creative” internal representations happen automatically, outside your awareness. If so, they create a pre-programmed response, as I described above. You can, however, become aware of the process by which these responses are created. Once you do, your responses stop happening in a pre-programmed and automatic way. They become a choice.
So it’s the awareness that internal representations (along with a few other internal processes) generate certain responses–and their consequences–that creates the shift. If you have a shadow–an aspect of yourself which you’ve disowned and projected outside of yourself, onto others–and you merely experience the feeling of it during meditation (with or without “detachment” or a no-self perspective), it isn’t going to shift anything. The automatic response will continue to happen whenever it is triggered.
That’s because there’s nothing about experiencing the feeling that causes you to realize that it was created in your own mind. You could still assume (as people do all the time with feelings) that the feeling was caused by external events. If the point of choice (which internal representations are made) is outside of your awareness, you’ll naturally assign another “cause” to the feelings. Or, you might assume that feelings “just happen,” without a specific cause.
If, then, as I said above, you dis-identify with those feelings (as the authors of the Integral Life Practice book describe it), it makes matters worse. Dis-identifying (or a no-self perspective, for that matter) certainly isn’t going to cause you to get that the feelings are being generated by your own internal processes.
However, when you become aware enough to see that what you do in your mind generates how you feel (which also includes the realization that the environment is the trigger, but not the cause), it becomes clear that you’re doing it, that what you feel comes from your nervous system’s pre-programmed responses rather than from something “out there”.
Or you could say that you see that what internal representations are made in response to a certain trigger (i.e., experience) is a choice, and the pre-programmed response isn’t the only choice. This realization requires that you own the feeling (i.e., acknowledge that it comes from something in your nervous system), which dissolves the shadow.
Remember that “disowned” really means “it doesn’t come from me–it’s out there. It isn’t my anger, my selfishness (or whatever), it’s that other person’s.” Owning something means that you SEE (in other words, are aware of) that it’s coming from you. Seeing this creates choice. And, it’s important to realize that this doesn’t mean merely knowing that you create it, but rather seeing how you do it, as it happens.
With even more awareness, you also see the potential consequences being created, and that these consequences originate from something you do.
This is why, if you’re aware, you have choice–because the feeling being created originates in something YOU DO. Or, you could say, to the degree you are aware, to that degree you have choice. If you’re aware of what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it (what you’re doing inside to create it), while you do it, you have choice about it (which, with even more awareness, includes seeing the potential consequences).
The consequences of disowning a human quality include 1) being constantly triggered by it when you see it in others, 2) attracting people who exhibit the disowned quality so that the world seems to be full of that type of person, and 3) expressing the disowned quality yourself (though you don’t see that you’re doing so) in covert and dysfunctional ways.
In clearly seeing that the response is coming from something in you and not from something outside of you, and in clearly seeing the consequences, it becomes difficult keep doing it when the consequences aren’t resourceful. In that case, the shadow is re-owned and the automatic responses it was generating becomes difficult or even impossible to continue doing.
I want to add another wrinkle, though, for the sake of completeness. A major point of my last two posts is that despite the fact that you potentially have all this choice (if you’re aware enough to exercise it–a big assumption), and despite the fact that this choice gives you much more power and control over your life, there are still two things that you can’t escape from: the impermanence of all things and events, and the fact that you are caught in a huge web of cause and effect, most of which you have no control over.
The consequences affecting you from all the events in the physical world (galaxies, stars, the sun, the earth, gravity, cosmic rays, the weather, that rocks are hard, what your body needs to stay alive, etc., etc.), and from the actions of all the other people who have a different agenda than yours, are like “cause and effect bullets” wizzing around you. When you’re aware enough, you avoid many of these bullets because you’re more likely to be aware of them and step out of the way.
The more aware you are, the more you see this huge web of cause and effect and how it might affect you. In doing so, you have more choice. You avoid involvement with certain bullets–for instance, unpleasant people and situations, bad investments, risky situations, and so forth–that you might otherwise, with less awareness of the potential consequences, get involved with.
A shadow represents a lack of awareness. When you have a shadow, you unconsciously attract certain difficult people and difficult situations, and you act in ways that create negative consequences. Being unaware, you don’t see yourself doing this, so you keep doing it. As certain consequences happen, you place responsibility for them outside of yourself. See this process (and your part in it) with awareness, however, and the shadow is re-owned, the consequences seen, and what happens in your life changes for the better. You avoid the bullets previously generated by that particular shadow.
The more aware you are, the more of this suffering you avoid, but there’s no way to avoid all suffering (other than dying, I suppose). First, there are just too many bullets for anyone to avoid them all. With enough awareness, though, you can avoid a lot of them. Even though the choice created by increased awareness only affects a small percentage of the “cause and effect bullets,” it’s enough to dramatically improve your life.
Second, there’s no way to avoid the fact that everything in this universe is impermanent. Everything, no matter what it is, eventually falls apart. You can surrender to impermanence, and in doing so end the suffering created by your resistance to it, but you’ll never get rid of impermanence itself.
If you come to terms with these two, you become a master of your life. Few people do this, however, because there’s a price to pay to have this kind of awareness, and most people aren’t willing to pay it (by using Holosync, though, you are paying a large part of it). This “coming to terms with what is”, by the way, is the point behind the first of my 9 Principles for Conscious Living, Let Whatever Happens Be Okay.
I respect Ken Wilber’s opinion that meditation does not help a person deal with shadow material. I’ve seen many long-time meditators who are still screwed up emotionally and have lots of shadow material. At the same time, I’ve personally known thousands of Holosync users who clearly have resolved all kinds of shadow material.
Over the last 24 years, many Holosync meditators have become aware of how they create their feelings, their behaviors, which people and situations they attract or become attracted to, and what meanings they place on what’s going on around them. As you gain this awareness, you stop creating what does not serve you–which includes disowning certain aspects of being human, which is what shadows are.
My friend John Dupuy, who has applied Ken’s Integral theory to addiction recovery, and has made Holosync the cornerstone of his approach to drug and alcohol recovery, tells me that he has observed the same phenomenon: nearly all the addicts he treats who use Holosync seem to shed emotional problems in a way non-Holosync clients don’t.
Another good friend, psychologist Dr. Beverlee Marks Taub (who, by the way, has been using Holosync since the very beginning, way back in 1985) works with many Holosync users in her therapy and coaching practice. She has been telling me for years that Holosync users move through their “stuff”, including their shadows, far more quickly than non-Holosync users.
There is considerable evidence that the awareness Holosync creates dramatically accelerates the process of seeing how you create your life.
Shadows are the result of a lack of awareness. They cause you to inadvertently step in front of the bullets I referred to above. When you disown a human quality (making it a shadow) you are, by definition, unaware of it. You’ve pushed it out of your awareness because being aware of it feels painful to you. Someone in your childhood taught you (usually through positive and negative reinforcement) that it’s something bad or wrong. They made it painful for you, so you disowned it.
When that shadow, that human characteristic, does intrude into your awareness, you respond to what seems like an emergency by making it seem as if it’s coming from someone or something else, something outside of you–rather than seeing or admitting that it’s actually a part of you. It isn’t your anger, your selfishness, your weakness (or whatever). It’s someone else’s anger, selfishness, or weakness that bothers you.
So you can see that if you begin to become aware of how your feelings, all your ideas, all your premises about life and reality, all your behaviors, and how you become attracted to certain people or situations, all originate in your own mind, it becomes increasingly more difficult to disown something, to project it out onto someone or something outside of you.
For whatever reason, Holosync seems to create that awareness in a way that traditional meditation does not. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s just a matter of degree. Perhaps traditional meditation just doesn’t create quite enough awareness, or perhaps you just have to do it much longer to get the same result.
It could also be that the shadow recognition we see in Holosync users is at least partly the result of all the information we share with you, including the information on this blog. Whether we look at the entire population of Holosync users or the entire population of, say, Zen practitioners, we see some people who are aware of their shadows (or, we might say, are in the process of becoming aware of them, since no one seems to be aware of all of them), and many who aren’t.
When I look at Zen master Genpo Roshi, who I know quite well at this point, I see someone with a great deal of awareness of his shadows, and who works on re-owning them as fast as he can become aware of them. I like to think that I’m doing the same–my relationship with him has had helped me to become much better at doing so. I also see plenty of people in the Zen world, as well as in the Holosync world, who have lots of shadow material and seem to be relatively unaware of it. Is this just a matter of how much Zen training, or how much Holosync training, a person has? Is it a matter of how much additional outside-of-actual-meditation training a person has? I’m sure we’ll learn more as time goes by.
All I can say is that Holosync users seem to own shadow material much more easily than non-Holosync users, and with much less outside feedback, than those who use traditional meditation only. If you’re not yet using Holosync, what are you waiting for?
Finally, before you go, I’d like you invite you to spend the weekend with with Zen master Genpo Roshi and me in Vancouver, British Columbia, on June 27th and 28th. This will be the sixth in our series of Big Mind workshops we’ve been doing for the past two years. No public event I’ve ever done has received the raves Genpo and I get for these workshops, and nothing I could say could fully convey the huge benefit you’ll receive by spending this time with a true Zen master (and me!).
I truly can’t think of anything I’ve done over the last 30 years (other than Holosync) that rivals the experience Genpo Roshi and I have created for you in this two-day event.
Just to give you an idea of what might happen for you when you attend, here are a few of the many comments we’ve received from others:
“Hi Bill, I was one of the 220 participants in the two day workshop of Big Mind/Big Heart. I can attest that all you say is true. It is a mind blowing experience, and like the gift that keeps on giving–days after I am still basking in the glow.” –April
“I have been in the audience of many wonderful teachers, but nothing in my experience compares with this last weekend. I had no expectations really (except my usual nagging feelings of self doubt i.e., I won’t be able to get this). I must admit that my mind is still trying to figure out what took place. It’s still hard for me to put into words, but I can say the experience and clarity is beyond any doubt. I must truly say that this is THE most extraordinary experience of my life so far.” –Richard
“For someone who lives in their emotions, this may seem phony at first. But actually, it is quite liberating. It freed up a lot of stuff for me, just to see that it was possible to live in a different way. Would we attend another conference? Absolutely. Why? Because it’s a great thing to participate in the group dynamic, Genpo Roshi, Bill Harris. Did anyone mention that Bill and Genpo are funny together? They can almost go on the road with a standup routine.” –Sandy
“I knew very little about Zen or Genpo Roshi; signed up intuitively. I’ve been meditating, attending growth seminars, workshops, studying, seeking, for 40+ years and most recently Holosync-ing, which I Love! AND I was completely amazed to be in Big Mind, experiencing the Transcendent State, feeling Bliss and One With Everything completely out of the ego state within the first 5 or 10 minutes of Genpo’s process. Exhilarating! Such an elegant, simple process, masterfully facilitated by Genpo Roshi and also Bill. At the end of the 1st day I realized a lifetime of shame and shallow breathing had been released. My body still feels very light and fully breathed, effortlessly, with an added measure of Happiness, Joy; Far less grasping at what I thought was ‘Reality’. –Jani
I’ve emphasized awareness a lot in recent posts. These workshops are one of the fastest and most powerful ways to increase your awareness I’ve ever seen. You’ll not only experience the transcendent, the state of Oneness everyone talks about, you’ll also leave behind several shadows that (trust me) have been causing suffering for you for years. So please come and be with us. It will transform you.
And, this is my chance to meet you in person and get to know you. As you’ll see, both Genpo and I are very approachable and available to you during this weekend. Do come up and introduce yourself so I can get to know you.
To learn more, and to register while there still are seats available, just go to www.centerpointe.com/bigmind. Because of the tough economy we’ve reduced the cost significantly, so this is the time to attend a Big Mind workshop.
And, if you’ve never been to Vancouver, it’s one of the most incredibly beautiful cities in the world, especially in June. See you there!
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