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27 January 2018 0 Comments

Addressing Reactive States with Compassion

Addressing Reactive States with Compassion

Sometimes I still get reactive at recorded messages thanking me for my patience. After being on hold for ages and being disconnected repeatedly, trying to take care something that ‘shouldn’t be’ going on in the first place, I’ve been reduced to screaming that I don’t HAVE any patience (plus a few expletives). Most large companies do not care about their insidious impact on thousands of people’s lives. I justify my outrage with this care. Reaction still raises my blood pressure, floods me with stress hormones, closes my heart, etc.

My underlying core distress in this situation has to do with not mattering as a person. When I successfully address this inside it relaxes the reaction.

Without compassion for our distress it is very hard to intervene, especially if we feel bad about our behavior. Judging it doesn’t help. We need to create a loving opportunity to step out of it, right in the moment.

If we think in either/or, we may think: “I have to accept or tolerate this and go along with it even though it’s wrong OR I have to be mad.” There are always other choices. Either/or must not be allowed to reign. It’s a trap.

As I observe my reactions I begin to invite myself gently to make a different response. I ask myself, “What might that response be? It has to be something possible right now.”

Sometimes it’s fine to blow off steam and yell at recordings. I might feel better for expressing. Other times the same expression makes me feel bad and doesn’t help. Staying in touch is essential since one-size-fits-all responses are not sufficiently present.

It’s so easy to get down on one’s self. If I can take on the situation as a challenge to personal mastery and manage it with equanimity, this does not preclude giving a company clear feedback about their technology and methods. Useful feedback may help save thousands of people from enduring the same frustration.

Observing my motivation and my desire to have things work well for everyone instead of criticizing myself for being in distress, begins to open up options.

Then I relax more and I can ask the person I’m talking with to bring the issues up at a meeting, to their boss, or otherwise do something that may change the problem. I remind them that it is demoralizing to deal with faceless companies that don’t manage their impact on the public. Feeling like we don’t matter increases depression and stress. When I can enroll their assistance, the employee can feel good about taking a constructive and proactive attitude instead of shutting out people’s distress. I can do this without first losing my own peace.

What I would like to do in those situations is to integrate lessons from meditation: Breathe, relax my body, access love, ground myself, connect with the universe. Sometimes I can.

When we become disturbed or unpleasant, it’s a call for our own compassion and for the compassion of others. It’s okay to ask for that compassion, even though we may or may not get it. It’s even better to generate it ourselves.

It takes time and intention to learn how to bring compassion into our own distress and to minimize the distress we cause others. Judging ourselves, trying to be good, or making anger a bad thing doesn’t work. Neither does splitting off from the parts of ourselves that are in distress. Developing skillful means takes time, but feels good and keeps our hearts alive.

Mastering reactiveness can be an act of love for others as well as a way of loving one’s self.

What kind of situation casts you into reaction?

What is the underlying or core distress that drives your distress?

How can you make a compassionate response to this distress?

What happens when you do?

13 January 2018 6 Comments

Owning Death, Acceptance & Self Love

Owning Death, Acceptance & Self Love

At a gathering just before the turn of the new year, a friend of a friend presented a tarot deck, suggesting that several people draw one card each.

Usually I avoid divination techniques. Although lots of people find them useful, they clutter my guidance with imprecise thoughts and images that provoke mental processing. Still, I was drawn to take a card. I drew the “Death” card.

When I held the image on the card in my heart, I felt a freeing and uneasy kind of lightness or even an odd joy. The “Death” card felt like an acknowledgment of an internal process.

“Death” need not be literal and physical. We usually associate death with the painful and often angsty process of having to let go not only of your body but of everything you own, all you love, everyone you know, and your self, whether or not you are ready.

Most of our associations with death are as an unwilling participant, or of bereavement, and perhaps being left behind with overwhelming practical tasks and considerations. Conversely, reports from those who have clinically died and returned are usually pleasant, if somewhat unsettling. I’ve heard more than one might think first hand.

A few decades ago I thought about killing myself. My self esteem was so bad. If we feel like killing ourselves it’s good to remember that this type of assessment is often driven by negative self worth. We would not apply the same standards to another person.

Always remember: The body is innocent. The mammal that hosts you is totally innocent.

Unless we’re way past our pull-by date, it’s not the BODY that needs to die: It’s our mean self talk, ego attachments, fears that drive a perceived need for control, habitual and limiting aspects of our personalities, opinions and judgments about ourselves and others, and so forth. These can die and we feel happier.

When we feel like we want to die it’s usually because we are not taking good enough care of our bodies. The mammal needs love and nourishment.

Some spiritual traditions talk about dying into love. I always thought of this as a huge and ultimate thing, the final transformation. Now I’m taking a different view. Dying into love can also be simply the process of learning to release the stuff I mentioned above.

Letting go into love, as a figurative death, doesn’t have to be a highfalutin thing, some giddy state of denial, or even an ecstasy. Our moment-to-moment engagement with the process can be as simple as noticing and letting go of assuming that we are not worthy and allowing ourselves to BE, without self criticism.

We don’t have to release it all at once—most of us don’t die suddenly—but just as we are able to without strain, more and more. Small steps in the direction of self love create amazing transformation over time. Holding this type of death as a positive goal and practicing relaxing into it is actually comforting. It doesn’t get unnerving until we get ambitious about it and push to do it all at once, before we’re ready.

Absolute acceptance is a kind of a death, not the death of the mammal, but the unbinding of many ego and personality structures. Rigidity in these structures largely develops as defense against pain and distress, internal wounding, and real or experiential annihilation.

Paradoxically, we ourselves annihilate our own Presence to some extent whenever we are acting out these automatic defenses. In other words, when we are reactive we are not fully present. Some kind of pain is likely to be driving us.

Also paradoxically, being fully Present is being fully alive, and also a death, in that the transformation presence gradually and eventually births is so utterly monumental.

How do YOU consider death?

What would it take to make death accept it as a force within life to help you live more fully in the moment?

8 January 2016 3 Comments

Manage Your Energy Part 73: When Personal Growth Becomes Narcissism & Dealing with Self Hatred

Manage Your Energy Part 73: When Personal Growth Becomes Narcissism & Dealing with Self Hatred

“The moment a person becomes straightforward a straight way opens before him.” ~ Inayat Khan

Personal growth becomes narcissism when one engages pursuits of growth in ways that demand attention, without taking the steps that release oneself (and others) from the self-obsessed compulsions of what we consider to be our flaws.

Habitually indulging self hatred, for example, can be a fancy way to avoid self awareness. The intensity of feeling becomes like a sand trap one wallows in. Engaging the hatred can become a way to stay stuck, to avoid personal growth. This differs IMG_0430from sinking in to the feeling to carefully observe and release our tendencies, structures of experience, motivations, and the less-familiar emotions underneath. Seeing behaviors in yourself that you don’t like and saying, “I’m bad! I hate myself,” without aiming to discover what exactly what you are actually doing and what you need reinforces the issues instead of resolving them. It’s like spinning around and around in an eddy.

Discovering self hate can be startling and arresting. Be very kind to yourself if you are in this place. This type of condition is very difficult, especially for those who do not have the advantages of Inner Work, who have not been exposed to techniques for self observation, forgiveness, exploration, and transformation, and do not have the support of qualified professionals.

Those who do have the advantage of such skills and support, who habitually stop at self hatred without moving into and then beyond it, may be indulging narcissistic or masochistic tendencies by wallowing in self hate. The narcissistic part shows up in rage at one’s self because one “shouldn’t be this way,” and is “better than this,” and in being too caught up in one’s own process to respond compassionately to others.

When we get lost in any negative emotion by reacting against it, we are turning away from noticing important aspects to what we are doing, inside and with others. We short-circuiting awareness and remain with the familiar feeling. Hatred or negativity then function as an inverted form of self love, feeding the ego self. This works the same way that an inferiority complex accompanies and underlies superiority.

Attempts to make oneself look good delay solutions and function as a fancy form of defense. Such attempts ultimately backfire. Avoidance makes things persist.

Genuine, healthy remorse of conscience supports healthy motivation and healing. This requires going THROUGH the self hate or negative emotion, without stopping at that depot. Remorse of conscience is not like guilt. Guilt is a sand trap. Remorse of conscience is a process of sensing into the heart and making a decision based on understanding and deeper values.

Accepting, embracing, and then relaxing underlying motivations slims them down and helps to integrate them, creating greater scope for genuine positive expression.

What steps help to release this type of compulsion?

  • Quit judging and stay with feeling—but do not allow feeling to become stuck or static; keep going deeper.
  • Identify the behaviors you use to avoid looking at your feelings and experience.
  • If self hatred arises, welcome it gently and look more deeply. Do not give self hatred special importance.
  • Stop identifying as ‘special-bad,’ as if your issues are more unforgivable and damning than those of anybody else.
  • Identify and take responsibility for your underlying motivations. Notice what motivates behaviors that challenge intimacy or success.
  • Admitting to the parts of you that want to stay stuck. Accept them—without endorsing them. Find positive ways to address the underlying fears.
  • Remember that emotions are not excuses.
  • Take direction from your true values and allow them to inform your choices. Aim to be true to them even while you are having negative emotions .
  • Create straight-forward ways to meet healthy needs and desires, while accepting and releasing those that are not.
  • Take responsibility for communicating your needs without being demanding or trying to make someone else responsible for them.
  • Get help addressing the remnants of childhood issues with your parents, which will otherwise inform your behavior with intimates.
  • Never suppress or ignore emotion—but do not allow it to run you. This means being aware of it, not it acting out.
  • Practice compassion by bringing your spiritual practice fully into your body, right along with your difficult emotions. Allowing them to be less important without trying to get rid of them. If they intrude, acknowledge them or get to the bottom of them, then bring in love and change the subject inside.

What is the difference between having an emotion and being run by an emotion?

What makes the difference between whether talking about your emotions (with someone who is open to feeling) develops intimacy or becomes overly self-involved?

25 September 2015 2 Comments

Managing Your Energy, Part #63: Being Highly Sensitive & Dealing Closely with Those Who Aren’t

Managing Your Energy, Part #63: Being Highly Sensitive & Dealing Closely with Those Who Aren’t

“It is of no use to try and prove to be what in reality you are not.” ~ Inayat Khan

“My bare feet! Step gently on life’s path, lest the thorns lying on the way should murmur at being trampled upon by you.”  ~ Inayat Khan

Self recognition and easier relations with others are the purposes of becoming aware of ones level of development. It is not beneficial to make comparisons with value judgments in mind. Ego must take the back seat so neutral observation can drive. Mind uses contrast to learn
discernment. Meanwhile, heart continues to seek Unity with all beings.

The transition from becoming confused about who we are, over-giving, or disappearing in an attempt to fit in with others to learning how to hold our own internal shape and space during personal interaction can be challenging. The focus changes from seeking external support to sustaining internal sources of support. This growth requires being able to recognize our own experience.

Highly sensitive and intuitive people with comprehensive values are often uncomfortable interfacing closely with people who cannot understand our experience. Clear observation of what an individual actually can and cannot do helps to create reasonable expectations and leads to easier interaction.

These elements tend to be overlooked by those who have not had such experience:

—The ways sensitivity is accommodated by the body, the including super-sensitive nervous, immune and hormonal systems that accompany super-keen sensing
—How hard it can be to arrive at self acceptance, without feeling something is wrong when one is uncomfortable and others do not understand it
—How painful, expensive, and shaming it can be to seek help and be told that nothing is the matter
—That symptoms are often positive adjustments to inner growth while the body and energy systems shift to support accelerated change
—That symptoms with neurological, energy, or karmic elements do not respond to ordinary measures
—How intense it is to be inundated with external energies and impressions
—What it feels like to have a cascade of hormones and emotions secondary to immune system over-activation
—The hugely varied and odd sensations, experiences, and direct perceptions some of us go through, and the unusual capacities that spring from integrating them
—How tiring and overwhelming it can be to process abnormal amounts of incoming information, and to sort what is valid, important, and meaningful from what is not
—The amount of Inner Work it takes to know one’s self well enough to do the above
—The Direct Knowing that can develop from acutely sensitive awareness of energy
—The comprehensive values that develop from having to do so
—What it takes to develop confidence in a world where one is not in the norm
—The discomfort of continually fielding projections, judgments and assumptions from those who do not understand
—How odd it feels to discover one has developed a new capacity or ability in which one has never really believed
—How confusing it can be to feel drawn through compassion to help others, even when doing so may be draining or harmful to one’s self
—How draining and isolating it can be to try to explain these things to people who don’t get it

Communicating these experiences be frustrating—and is often pointless. Someone without similar experience usually does not correctly assimilate or maintain what one tells them. P1140494They reinterpret what one says according to what they can understand, or suggest ways to fix things that are not problems.

Even with compassion for the person doing so, being given “feedback,” from someone who cannot see what is actually going on can be very annoying.

Speaking now for myself: When someone clueless is actively trying to impose their perceptual boxes onto me, and imagine they are talking about ME, I find this disconnect emotionally painful. I can keep my mouth shut, attune to their needs and limitations, take care of my own needs, or withdraw—but I do not feel close, respected, or at ease.

In a capacity of service, I am pleased to adjust myself to someone else’s world. I respect clients as fellow travelers. Being asked to explain and justify myself when I am off duty is work. Spending time by myself is often preferable.

Integrating spirituality into personal life brings up the kind of challenges we’ve been discussing in the last few posts. Stepping into the generosity of global service by sending positive energy to All Beings is a beautiful way to counterbalance the distress I have been describing.

A brand new spiritual dance using the words from a prayer of Inayat Khan showed up in my head recently: “Thy light is in all forms, thy love in All Beings.” This vision helps me move from discomfort back into Love. It exemplifies a profound respect that does not rely on personality.

How do you feel respond when people who cannot comprehend your experience give you advice that does not serve you?

What do you do to maintain respect for those who repeatedly and unwittingly disrespect you?

13 March 2015 0 Comments

Managing Your Energy, Part 38: Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts, Choice, Meaning, Spiritual Freedom

Managing Your Energy, Part 38: Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts, Choice, Meaning, Spiritual Freedom

“Brother, stand the pain.
Escape the poison of your impulses.
The sky will bow to your beauty, if you do.
Learn to light the candle. Rise with the sun.
Turn away from the cave of your sleeping.
That way a thorn expands to a rose.”

Some of my worst moments occur when I feel forced to squander countless hours trying, for example, to download a year of financial information that some mandatory update has eaten, and telephone “help” no longer supports the platform I just repurchased. With the thousands of people in mind who are in the same position, being treated to casual cruelty, irresponsibility, and the company’s rhetoric about their lack of support for the products they inflict on the public has reduced me to shouting. It’s the helplessness.

I know this is trivial. The triviality makes it worse. Stress from major life events at least seems meaningful. Real trauma is vitally alive. It demands transformation. In contrast, dry and useless waste of precious days is like death by a thousand paper cuts. Meaningless stress deadens us and erodes societal well being.

Inability to accept the mundane increases my pain. Aiming for self mastery or contribution offer a sense of choice about some part of the experience, adding some meaning. When I am willing and able to practice this it reduces my distress.

One of my spiritual goals is to be able to remain in my heart—or at least avoid spiking my cortisol—in frustrating, trivial circumstances. It helps me to take a strong stand for everyone who may have to deal with the same thing. I seek to enroll anyone who may be able to make a difference in the way that company does business, asking them to help reduce meaningless planetary stress by advocating positive change during meetings, and by notifying policy makers. Breath practices help me too. IMG_0028

We may be unable to control circumstances, but we can at least gain some influence over our responses to them.

When we do not participate in the ways that ARE possible, we suffer more.

Looping back into our several-post topic of spirituality and suffering:

When we feel that God will cause us suffering, I think we must ask ourselves What we take God to be. (Please substitute your own word or concept if you don’t like the G-word.)

When we experience ourselves as separate from God, we can be messed with by God. When we feel we are an integral part of God, like a cell within the whole of the body, we play our part. We are impacted by the whole but it is not doing anything TO us; we are part of it.

Someone once said to the spiritual leader, Hazrat Inayat Khan, “I don’t believe in God.”

Inayat Khan replied, “You haven’t experienced God. How can you believe in something if you have not experienced it? Wait until you have some experience and then believe.”

Inayat Khan also said that god is a vibration, and that we create that vibration. We bring it forth from within us as an ideal, and train our energy to resonate with that ideal, making it real by bringing it through us into the world.

No matter what we believe or what we call it, we can practice bringing love into the world. It’s not easy, but it is inherently worthwhile.

Working with love and forgiveness AS ENERGIES invites expanded and redemptive experience. Working through the mind is less efficient. We need to FEEL it. When we are willing to love ourselves during our moments of distress, and to forgive ourselves for our wounds, we move toward happiness that transcends circumstances and conditions.

What do YOU resist, and how does this resistance ultimately increase your distress?

Can you identify some way to create a sense of choice or freedom within your experience?

4 May 2014 4 Comments

Pearls from Pain, Part 17: Seeking Assistance

Pearls from Pain, Part 17: Seeking Assistance

Since issues about receiving support and assistance are prevalent, many struggle to find a healthy balance between independence and seeking care from others. Here are some guidelines:

Ask for assistance when:

  • You can’t focus well enough to work on yourself
  • You sense that you are missing something
  • You feel overwhelmed, or in over your head
  • The same issue keeps coming up again and again
  • You issues seem vague
  • Something feels creepy, strange, or unwholesome and you can’t shift your energy
  • Your focus keeps shifting when you try to address your issues
  • You would like to be moving forward more quickly
  • You are in more pain than you can manage
  • Support would be a kindness for you

IF you have a tendency to ask for support in lieu of doing your Inner Work, do not ask for assistance when:

  • Your own interventions will directly resolve your distress
  • You know exactly what to do but haven’t tried it first*
  • You aren’t willing to accept guidance or to make necessary changes*
  • You want to find someone to blame for your issues
  • You want to avoid personal accountability for your choices
  • You know what your current issue is but you wish it was something else, like wanting to find someone who will tell you it’s not gluten sensitivity even though you’re pretty sure it is

*As long as you are willing to accept support, you can certainly ask for assistance in becoming emotionally willing to develop self-compassion, learn new skills, and take beneficial action.

If you have a tendency to ask for “help” in order to get attention, ask for assistance with the emotional issues that drive you do do this–rather than seeking assistance with everything else. Let yourself HAVE the attention of someone who can assist you–and let them help you to become more self reliant.

Self reliant people deserve just as much support as needy people, but we get it for different issues, or for growth and development instead of staying stuck toP1080253 get care.

We are interdependent beings. It is natural to seek as well as to give support. We learn through our interactions, especially with those we emulate.

A consistent relationship with a guide or mentor offers great advantages. A clear-sighted person operating in your behalf knows your nature, history, issues and energy. They understand your context and the implications of the challenges that arise in your life.

A consistent relationship with a guide has a number of advantages. Consistency can:

  • Keep you on track so you don’t backslide
  • Help you to notice and take advantage of opportunities you may not notice when things are not going well
  • Keep your guide in touch with what is going on in your life
  • Inspire continuity in your Inner Work
  • Nip potential issues in the bud
  • Give you a check-point for new ideas and directions
  • Move past the concept that something must be wrong in order to enjoy support

Find a healthy balance between receiving care and acting in your own behalf. Knowing you can seek care as a preference rather than a need helps improve your quality of life. Seeking appropriate support IS self care.

Where is YOUR balance between seeking support and trying to do things on your own?

Is your orientation toward support a defensive stance, or a healthy and flexible decision?

25 April 2014 2 Comments

Pearls from Pain, Part 16: Facing Abandonment Issues

Pearls from Pain, Part 16: Facing Abandonment Issues

“It is life’s job to bring up all the emotions possible for a human being to experience, and a human being’s job to feel them all without obstruction.” Steve Gilligan, Ph.D.

Once we can observe and relax mental suggestion and association, direct experience of emotion largely comes down to feeling body sensations and experiencing energy flows. Yet we may fear and try to escape these sensations, as if being present to them will actually annihilate us.

I used to be terrified of abandonment. I’m still not overly fond of feeling abandoned, but a whiff of the possibility doesn’t have power over me as once it did.

When we’re terrified of an emotion, we may not even know it. We may hide that emotion from ourselves to avoid the implied threat.

I knew I feared abandonment because I couldn’t behave naturally when I felt it. I’d get withdrawn, or busy, or angry about trifles, or scrutinize other people’s behavior for clues of impending abandonment. If I had valid reasons to think abandonment might occur, I would temporarily lose my ability to verbalize my feelings.

Note: When emotions cripple our ability to speak or think about the topic in words, an initial trauma probably occurred in early childhood, before P1080293we were able to talk.

Around twenty years ago a friend suggested that when my emotions became intense, I should SIT STILL, and ALLOW them to overtake me, with my attention on my solar plexus area (where ribs meet). I thought about doing this–on and off for months.

Considering this simple practice can bring up enormous resistance!

Eventually I got fed up with being pushed out of myself or dangling like a puppet on the strings of such a powerful emotion. I steeled myself to take my friend’s advice and just SIT in it.

The next time I was floored by my terror of abandonment I gathered and focussed my intention to face it no matter what. I was sick of crying about it, running from it, or eating myself into oblivion and decided to quit running. I swear I felt as if an actual hole would open up in the earth and swallow me!

The process of facing emotional terror is similar to turning around and facing the person chasing you in a dream, unmasking our underlying fear.

Waves of body sensation began to build up and intensify as I sat in my body and attended to my experience. I just felt and watched, determined–at the very least–to see just how much a person could really endure. My best tool was to get curious about whether I could take any more, and what would ACTUALLY happen if I could not.

At this point I said, “Okay, hit me with your best shot!” I sat, waiting to blink out of existence, or for my pain to become absolutely unendurable, asking myself, “Is it possible to take just a little more?” I was so sick of being run by these feelings that if I was going to die I could just get on with it.

As I gave my sensations full attention, the waves of pain began to subside. I was surprised to find that I was still there. After several more waves I became fascinated by the way the intensity backed off when I accepted my experience.

I suspect that when we are fully Present and alive, we step outside of time and retain a clear memory of our experience. This direct confrontation with abandonment terror was one of those moments of Presence that remains vivid over time. This single intervention made a permanent change. In the following years I have felt discomfort, uneasiness or fear, but never again has the prospect of experiencing my emotions held terror threatened to overwhelm.

Which emotion or experience holds the most intense charge for YOU?

Have you ever faced it down? If so, what happened?

18 April 2014 5 Comments

Pearls from Pain, Part 15: Expressing the Universal

Pearls from Pain, Part 15: Expressing the Universal

Profound grief has a transcendent dimension. Powerful pain can bring us right into our humanity, in a base and primal way or in a ways that touch the beauty of spiritual unity. The state of one’s heart is the determining factor.

My most transformative experience of transcendent grief occurred several decades ago, following a crisis that lead to the sudden and monumental loss of an intensive spiritual study group I had been cultivating for three years. This was the only time I had been in an intimate group that felt like lifelong bonds. I felt like dying.

I remember lying down on my bed, staring down shock and grief and taking stock of my life. At the cost of giving up attachment and accepting what life was dealing, I could go anywhere and do anything. I did not WANT to, but I could. I realized that my body was innocent. No use taking things out on my vehicle. Nothing could be done. I would go on. I grieved.P1080209

Profound spiritual traditions say, “Die before death.” The freedom of letting go of our conditions is one part of what they are alluding to. I released my conditions for participating in life as it had just become.

As I began to sob I first heard strain my tone. I felt guided to keep my heart open instead of contracting around the pain, and practiced relaxing my throat, letting the sound of my weeping pour through me like breath through a reed flute. I sought to let the pain breathe me and to stay soft.

Gradually I began to listen to my grief like an ancient song of the universe, primal and eternal. Entering my pain even more fully I embraced it and let it expand, remembering places in the world where cultures support this full expression, like the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and a procession of mourners in a Greek village.

Since my heart could hurt no more  intensely, I began to visualize wrapping my heart around the pain being sung aloud by people on several continents. Expansion beyond Self felt good, even as I hurt. Accepting my pain was drawing me into profound compassion.

From this place of beauty I felt generous, nearly at peace. I thought about Western culture, how we repress pain; of all those in terrible pain who cannot cry. I contemplated the anguish of being locked inside one’s self with such distress, while no one around knows, and becoming too stiff and shut down to release it. My clean, pure pain was like a river of life.

Then a fascinating kind of joy arose as I began to pull through my wide open circuits the pain of those who cannot voice it. I prayed to be an outlet or release point for their pain while I flowed in this eternal song of grief, connected to all Beings, yet safely at the center of my own experience.

This timeless passage gradually resolved to land me gently in the here and now, relaxed and in a state of wonder. I saw fresh and clear the light and shadows in my room, textures, shades of color. I thought  again about the losses I was grieving, now without angst or resistance. I just noted them. I felt like someone waking up on an island after a shipwreck, aware of tragic loss but also of transcendent grace. Life stretched out before me with its particularities and possibilities–the miracle of standing before life like a painter with an empty canvas.

If part of you ever feels like dying, remember: Your body is innocent. If you feel like dying, let ego die to your demands of and illusions about life. You can build a new life.  Your body is a gift. You can create new possibilities and perhaps even experience transcendence by releasing any conditions you place on happiness, and participating in the Greater Whole.

What part of you, or your life circumstances, belongs with your past now, but not your future?

Who can you become more fully if you accept this loss and expand instead of contracting?

11 April 2014 2 Comments

Pearls from Pain, Part 14: Self Discovery, Part 3: Getting to Authentic Feeling

Pearls from Pain, Part 14: Self Discovery, Part 3: Getting to Authentic Feeling

Getting in touch with authentic feeling is an ongoing process.

Some want their process to be “done”–as if they’ve got something better to do. We don’t. Whatever we do without being in touch with ourselves is vaguely unsatisfying at best.

The clarity we get from knowing our selves and effectively addressing what we really need is inherently satisfying, whether or not we can get what we want. This process relies on authentic feeling.

Learning what our sensations mean initiates self discovery.

Like many of us, I entered young adulthood with a vague sense of the relationship between my emotions and body sensations. I could be overcome by a stew of feelings and their flood of sensations and have only a general idea of what I was going through. Sometimes I got all up in my head so I didn’t actually FEEL my feelings. I thought it was enough to KNOW what they were, but did not give them actual expression.

Knowing does not create release. Rationalized emotion circles around and distorts the way we think instead of arising, building sensation, cresting, and ebbing away like emotion and sensation do when we let them flow.

I began to explore what I was feeling by ‘trying on’ an emotion–saying the name of it while tasting it with my body, to see if the emotion I thought it might be fit my sensations. I asked myself, “What emotion is associated with this sensation?” I also thought about what people look like when they feel it, and what my own posture was expressing. After a while I could I could recognize emotions by feel.

P1050058Those raised by parents who accurately mirrored their feelings back to them and acknowledged those feelings in words naturally recognize what they feel. They may find it odd that anyone cannot. In my clinical experience, most people are pretty sketchy about a lot of what goes on inside.

We may not know what we REALLY feel, and substitute in our minds what we think we SHOULD feel, what is SAFE to feel, or what we image someone else might WANT us to feel.

Pay careful attention to your body sensations when you have a feeling, like noticing the resonance of musical chords as they vibrate through you, activating different areas. Sense and memorize what specific emotions feel like in your body and nervous system, so you can recognize them when they arise.

By being in touch with our authentic feelings we begin to understand what they mean and what we need. This leads to being able to respond authentically, and supports the ability to set clear and effective boundaries.

Explore what feelings mean in different contexts. When I am doing Inner Work, for example, a sense of dread means I am on track with something important. Shame means part of me wants to hide something. Fear means I need some kind of support from myself to move forward, like committing myself to take care of an underlying need. Anger means I need to establish a better boundary. The same feelings may mean something else in a session or a relationship.

When tracking down hidden feelings you are not done if you . . . :

  • Feel you are moving away from something you don’t like
  • Sense something sliding around or trying to hide
  • Are in a state of unresolve
  • Have any internal conflict
  • Feel resistance to your best course of action
  • Think something about your process is vague
  • Have an urge to distract yourself
  • Feel uneasiness, fear or panic
  • Have a suspicious urge to eat, drink or smoke something, talk with someone, exercise or work to distract yourself

Getting to the bottom of an issue can feel like . . . :

  • Moving into a clearing or having open space
  • Solidity and clarity
  • Ease or peace
  • A sense of understanding that uproots distress
  • Having a sense of who you really are
  • Knowing what you need or what to do
  • Clarity about your boundaries
  • Openness to discovery

Useful questions for self-clarification:

What am I trying to get, or avoid right now? What am I hoping for?

How can I get what I need openly and directly, or supply it to myself?

Is there anything about this situation that I find threatening? If so, is there any way that I can I support myself to reduce or eliminate that threat?

4 April 2014 2 Comments

Pearls from Pain, Part 13: Self Discovery, Part 2: Can You Trust Yourself?

Pearls from Pain, Part 13: Self Discovery, Part 2: Can You Trust Yourself?

Our old personality patterns change without effort on our part in proportion
to the depth of awareness that we bring to them.”
(Understanding the Enneagram, 365)

Of the myriad classes I have taken on techniques for clearing emotional blocks, none have addressed self-observation.

Bringing depth of awareness to self discovery takes courage and dedication.

It can be shocking to discover, through insight and life experience, that we are someone other than we always thought we were. We may find that in some ways we are a different person than the one we took ourselves to be and telegraphed to other people. Newly encountering a well of habitually suppressed anger, for example, can be such an experience. Some shy away from revelation.

We can trust ourselves only to the extent that we truly know ourselves. 

The more we avoid, the less trustable we are to other people too. 

However well-meaning our intentions, when we act without knowing our own hearts, we may betray others unwittingly as our unconscious motivations come into play.

Habitual defenses retain subconscious influence, exerting control over us as if from behind a screen, like the little man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. Awareness offers freedom of choice. Without awareness we remain habitual–asleep to possibility.

By coming to understand our denial and defenses we become trustworthy, to ourselves and to others. We can act with healthy self-interest and remain truthful about our motivations. 

Underneath the intense emotions of our defenses is a good place to look for what we really long for, deep inside. When we look beneath our defenses with compassion we can see that they guard feelings and longings that are vitally important to us. By knowing our deepest needs and desires we can support them more directly.

We hide things from ourselves not as much because of what the things ARE, but because of how we REACT to them. P1050075

Reactive behavior is almost always defensive. It may hide shame, fear, self-condemnation, or helplessness.

Getting angry with ourselves, for example, can be a way to avoid feeling shame. Shame, however, can function as another defense. It can keep us from actually addressing the conditions and behaviors we feel bad about. Fear of failure may underlie this. If we can relax shame we are very likely to discover a perfectly-natural, vulnerable need which we’ve been afraid to acknowledge.

Blame tends to distract us from taking on what we can change on our own, in order to make ourselves more comfortable.

Self-loathing is a way of acting out, internally, expressing condemnation. It’s like a tar pit. Gently addressing our condemnation itself offers a path out.

“Running” negative emotions (letting them take over your body without self-observing) ramps up distress. Avoiding or denying blocks self awareness.

Accepting, observing, FEELING distress and RELAXING it:

  • Allows compassion in
  • Allows us to feel into what we can do to successfully support ourselves
  • Supports real healing
  • Brings us into the present, where we have real influence and the power of choice
  • Allows us to discover our essential Self–which is NOT a pattern or collection of learned behavior but a vital expression of our unique Being

How do we proceed when the reflex of guarding old wounds keeps reasserting itself?

We contact our own essential nature through positive vulnerability–loving openness to possibility, with a sense of wonder.

When we actively USE despair as a doorway instead of becoming mired in it, we can move THROUGH it by learning to surrender ever more deeply into what is real.

What do you want to hide?

What makes you want to hide it?

What do you feel when your ask yourself to explore it?

What are you afraid will happen if you accept it?