Archive | Pearls from Pain RSS feed for this section

14 March 2014 4 Comments

Pearls from Pain, Part 10: Various Practices that Promote Self Discovery

Pearls from Pain, Part 10: Various Practices that Promote Self Discovery

Practice leaning into any uncomfortable inner spaces.P1040757

This one practice will help you to reclaim parts of yourself that you may not yet be able to engage directly. Such parts hold valuable keys to what you need and want. They open doors, lead to personal revelation, put you in touch with your inner voices, promote sincerity and authenticity, and gradually bring about the wonderful solidity of personal congruence and integration.

I am not suggesting that you sit in distress at every moment. I am suggesting NOTICING distress and touching in for enough time and with enough intention to feel, assess, and express authentic feeling. Then you can make an intelligent accommodation to your actual needs.

These additional practices promote self discovery:

  • When you feel discomfort of any type, explore it by asking yourself questions about it. (Examples of question chains)
  • Sense into your body and be aware of any emotion that arises as you focus on a particular symptom. What does this symptom tell you about your feelings or needs?
  • Be willing to accept that there may be benefits to being ill, incapable, or in pain. Do not judge yourself for this. We all have a Saboteur part. Being able to be aware of it is a big advantage. Be skillfully curious about the potential advantages of distress.
  • Notice inner conflicts where part of you wants one thing and another part wants something different. Stay objective and seek to mediate fairly between these parts. If a part is destructive, ask the destructive part what it needs until it brings forth an answer, image, or sensation to which you can make a constructive response.
  • Practice identifying your most vulnerable underlying feeling. Be gentle and kind, inviting it to let you know what it needs.
  • Stay with your experience during these practices and notice what emerges.
  • Keep looking deeper until something arises from within. This ‘something’ may be a feeling of emerging clarity, a fresh insight, or a moment of realization. You have come to the core of the issue and are ‘done’ when you will begin to feel grounded, easeful, and congruent. At this point you may naturally rise back up and out of your issue with a feeling of accomplishment. This feeling is quite different from stopping without resolution, or getting distracted.

Intentionally devise intelligent ways to take care of any real needs you have discovered underneath your discomfort or emotional pain. You may, for example, need to set a boundary, establish time for yourself, speak out, change a habit, or begin to talk with yourself more kindly.

Doing this sort of practice actually develops areas of your brain. Using your intelligence to process anxious feelings actually reduces firing in the part of your brain related to anxiety. This type of intervention also helps to develop brain function related to sensing. Practicing sensing and talking intelligently to yourself about your emotions develops the ability to change your state intentionally.

The Well of Grief
By David Whyte

Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief
turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe
will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,
nor find in the darkness glimmering
the small round coins
thrown by those who wished for something else.

What cues tell you when you are in an expanded or contracted state?

Notice when your heart opens or closes. How does having your heart open or closed bias the types of solutions you are able to access?

7 March 2014 3 Comments

Pearls from Pain, Part 9: The Pain Body In Action

Pearls from Pain, Part 9: The Pain Body In Action

Let’s look at the way the pain body operates when we take significant steps to improve our lives:

The pain body is an amalgamation of prior experience and an expression of our subconscious personality defense structure. As such, it can kick into gear when we begin to grow emotionally.

The pain body becomes most active under two different circumstances. The obvious one is when we become “triggered” (set off emotionally) by circumstances that mimic old wounds, or become re-wounded. The less obvious is when we begin to make some real headway in our lives toward moving OUT OF circumstances, energies, habits, relationships, or other conditions that keep our pain body in control. In other words, when we make real emotional or spiritual progress, the pain body kicks in to subvert this forward movement.

Why does this happen? We get scared. We get afraid we cannot do it, or sustain it, or manage the life changes, or that we will be SEEN or be vulnerable, or lose something we associate with security. For example, someone may fear that by becoming emotionally healthy they will not longer be able to tolerate their marriage or job, or that they will be drawn to a spiritual activity their friends may judge.

Look at this process as an unconscious movement toward homeostasis. It’s as if we snap-lock back to the same settings after a temporary change. We want to feel good–but what will it cost us to make the changes? We will have to rework parts of our lives, stand differently, breathe differently, say different things, attend different events.

P1040653Identity, while seemingly abstract, asserts itself at this point in the growth process. We want transformation, but will be be OURSELVES if we get it? Self-definition is a bugaboo. When we think we ARE a particular why, and that is our SELF, real change can be met with nothing short of a fear of self-destruction, which equates to death as far as the ego is concerned. The pain body tells us that we need our defenses–including defense against real change–to prevent death.

Being aware of the conflict between living into what we really want while being drawn back into our most unpleasant patterns is one of the most awkward and uncomfortable junctures in personal growth.

From an energy perspective, our situation tends to be intensified by external energies that are drawn to and feed on emotional conflict, pain, and distress–especially when our conflict is subconscious. We may also take on non-useful mental or emotional energy from people around us by being in resonance with their frequencies. This is one reason we can get thrown off from an expanded state by interfacing with friends.

For the reason above, breakthrough processes like transformation workshops sometimes rely on getting people into an environment away from their daily lives and anyone who is not a part of the process. What is rarely addressed in expansive work is the nearly inevitable backwash from the pain body, which seeks to reestablish emotional homeostasis once one is required to live into the changes.

Compassion is the get-out-of-jail-free card. The pain body–and the assorted energies it draws in–maintains itself on self-judgment, self-loathing, and resistance to being our true selves. The surest way to disentangle ourselves and slim down the pain body is to RELAX our way out of the patterns. Learning to bring forward self compassion as we encounter our issues is the key to release.

How does YOUR pain body kick in when you are on the brink of something you deeply long for?

What does it tell you will happen if you really do make the life changes that will allow you to have what you want?

28 February 2014 4 Comments

Pearls from Pain, Part 8: Feeling Your Pain Body, Part 2

Pearls from Pain, Part 8: Feeling Your Pain Body, Part 2

What does it FEEL like to be aware of the pain body?

When we become aware of the pain body we feels something like:

  • Sinking into a pit of shame or despair
  • An overwhelming sense of incapacity
  • Grief, panic, or distress, screaming through body sensation
  • Intense emotional-blending-into-physical pain
  • Feeling incapacitated by emotional intensity
  • Being crammed through a very small hole
  • Stinging almost burning or cold pain like a sheet or shape around you
  • Alternations of nervous energy with exhaustion

For the most part we do anything and everything to AVOID experiencing our pain body, including:

  • Numbing out with alcohol, drugs, excessive work, excessive sleep
  • Overeating or destructive eating
  • Perfectionism
  • Extreme exercise
  • Sex or porn addiction
  • Watching too much television
  • Obsessive engagement with Facebook
  • Creating conflict to distract from deeper or more frightening pain
  • Saying we’re fine and over-focusing on other people
  • Motormouth
  • Compulsively disappearing into books or research
  • Constantly poking your electronic device instead of actually connecting with people
  • Wallowing in negative emotion or being stuck in self pity
  • Fantasizing or enacting violence against self or others
  • Sapping other people’s energy
  • Becoming demanding
  • Habitual irrelevance
  • Chronic complaining

Numbing behaviors are called ‘narcotization.’ These behaviors are automatic. We are not fully present when we engage in them. The problem with these behaviors–even the ones with silver linings like working too much–is that they do not resolve your pain. The pain and avoidance behaviors keep looping on and on. Then we get drained and the results are not positive.

P1040751I am not suggesting losing yourself in your pain, but finding yourself THROUGH your pain.

Notice the ways you ‘narcotize.’ What does it cost you?

I am not suggesting wallowing in pain. Wallowing is static. I am talking about freeing yourself for wholesome feeling, so you can move forward.

I am not suggesting becoming engrossed in negative interpretations about life. I am suggesting noticing, sensing, feeling, expressing, and relieving your pain by being fully present to it so it can release.

You can’t get anything positive by trying to avoid, deny, or get rid of part of your experience. Resistance and denial harden your heart and deafen you to compassion. Compassion heals.

Truly and fully FEELING pain relieves it–message delivered, energy expressed. When we do NOT feel or express it, pain impressions build up until we DO feel it.

How do we hit the “reset button” when pain has built up?

  • RECEIVE your pain first. When you fully FEEL it, ALLOW it to dissolve as you attend to it tenderly.
  • Do the inquiry exercises in the previous few posts
  • Don’t take things personally

Act as if the purpose of your life is to come to full acceptance of everything that happens to you in its course.

Suppose trying to be happy creates unnecessary unhappiness. Instead: ALLOW yourself to be happy. Allow yourself to feel it when you are NOT happy. Let your state flow and change like the river of life.

Around, beyond, and underneath experience is an essential form of happiness. It exists regardless of circumstances and conditions. As we learn to flow with ourselves we can feel this interesting kind of happiness flirting around the edges of our awareness, even during difficult moments.

How do YOU sense chronic emotional pain?

Where do you tend to feel it? Is it IN your body, AROUND IT, or both?

Do you ever feel enveloped or contained by pain?

21 February 2014 8 Comments

Pearls from Pain, Part 7: Feeling Your Pain Body, Part 1

Pearls from Pain, Part 7: Feeling Your Pain Body, Part 1

The Prophet (on Pain)

Your pain is the breaking of the shell
that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break,
that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.

And could you keep your heart in wonder
at the daily miracles of your life,
your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;

And you would accept the seasons of your heart,
Even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

Kahlil Gibran (1883 – 1931)

I have mentioned the pain body in previous posts. We have explored why would you care to feel it, but I have provided only a vague idea of what it may be. Let’s examine pain body more closely:

The pain body is like a record of everything painful and difficult that we have experienced. It is an accumulation of impressions, memories, and sensations. When it gets activated by a painful event, the pain body can get us in a power grip and stop us in our tracks. It can potentially cause us to act out.

The Pain Body may have survival value, like learning to avoid putting your hand on a hot stove. When the pain body accumulates momentum from repeated trauma and it is activated by circumstances or associations, it can take over and drive the personality. Self sabotage, emotional deadness, habitual belligerence, acting nice as a defense, annoying other people to get attention, draining people’s energy, shutting down intimacy and other heavily entrenched behavior patterns express an overactive pain body.

The pain body represents the container or limit we hit when we attempt to step out of habitual or dysfunctional behaviors only to find ourselves limited or trapped by the feelings underneath them and our automatic responses. Related conditions are fairly resistant to most treatments and interventions. Self-awareness and intention over time are necessary to lighten up the pain body.

Why is it called a body? P1040737

Accumulated energy from intense pain we have experienced is contained in our energy fields. If we pay close attention, those of us who sense energy can FEEL it around us. When it is active, the pain body has a specific shape, size, sensation, and energy-texture.

Encountering the pain body, we usually just want to get RID OF IT. We cannot. We can, however, gradually reduce its energy charge so it becomes less and less active. And we can use it for Awakening.

Self-sabotage can be seen as the pain body becoming active and temporarily taking control over our actions.

Your pain body can make you:

  • React automatically instead of making an intentional response
  • Sick when you need to go to a job interview or confront your partner
  • Fight with your sweetie when you just want to be close
  • Meek when you’re usually powerful
  • Dominating when you feel vulnerable
  • Cold or mean when you need something
  • Pass by or overlook important opportunities
  • Tell someone you want something different from what you really want
  • Withdraw when you want attention
  • Stay ‘in control’ instead of letting people in (when being controlling is the behavior you cannot control)

It’s really hard to ‘see’ the pain body because it’s almost always protected by denial. You get Inner Work Extra Credit if you notice it. :)

Since deep pain is protected by psychological defenses and often unconscious, the pain body obstructs spiritual awakening. It keeps us asleep; automatic. Becoming aware of it is a breakthrough of awareness. This makes the pain body a portal or doorway to self-development. Feeling it is a positive accomplishment.

What are your beliefs and assumptions about pain, shame, sadness, and grief?

In what ways do these beliefs affect the ways in which you express pain or grief?

15 February 2014 3 Comments

Pearls from Pain, Part 6: Inquiring Within, Part 2

Pearls from Pain, Part 6: Inquiring Within, Part 2

Mastery with Inquiring Within makes us adept at sensing and reading energy.

P1040670While some of you may be well versed in personal and emotional inquiry, others may find trying to catch a glimpse of uncharted inner territory vague or even unnerving. The dance between awareness and subconscious processes is complex and fascinating. Each of us can discover new depths or previously-hidden facets.

No matter how committed we are to awareness, parts of ourselves can be wily and hide out. Active curiosity about how and why we hide things from ourselves is a positive stance. Interested engagement allows the neutral Observer or Witness part to do its magic, giving us non-reactive access to our inner worlds.

Here are some Inner Sensing Question Chains which may be useful for inquiring within:

What, exactly, am I actually sensing or feeling in this moment?
When did these sensations begin?
Where do I feel them in my body?
Exactly what sensations am I having?
Do these sensations seem to relate to any events, memories or particular emotions?
How would I describe them?
Do they change as I attend to them or describe them?
If these sensations express an emotion, what would it be?
What body posture am I in, or do I feel pulled toward?
If I saw someone else in this posture, what might they be feeling?

Did anything happen to bring up these sensations or feelings?
Do they feel in any way familiar?
When have I felt this before?
What was going on in my life at that time?
Did something remind me of an event from my past?
What similar feelings do I have now?

Did I react to something I recently heard or saw?
In what manner am I reacting?
What am I resisting?
What do I actually want?
Does my current reaction help or hinder getting what I really want?
Are there any actions I can take to increase my odds of getting what I want in a clean and direct way?

What is my energy doing in related areas of my body, chakras, and in my energy fields?
Are any areas congested, scattered, burdened, sparse, absent, patchy, locked up, over-amped, dull, or screaming intense?
What clues does my energy give me about what is going on inside me, and visa versa?

What other feeling is UNDERNEATH this feeling?
. . .  And underneath THIS feeling?
. . . And THIS one?
. . . And . . .

Where do I go inside when I encounter this feeling?
What do I make it mean about me that I feel this?
Is it true, or merely a biased interpretation or judgment?
What do I actually need when I feel this way?
Is there any chance I am trying to use this feeling or my reaction to it to try and get something I want?
How do I hope this resulting state will cause others to treat me?
How do these feelings cause me to treat myself?

When and where did I learn this pattern of behavior?
Does it work for me?
Is there a clear and direct way to get what I want?

Pay special attention to symptoms. Symptoms frequently mask denied emotion. Get curious about them, like looking underneath rocks to see what might be there.

Cultivating a positive relationship with our discomfort is a major key to self realization.

Diving into discomfort may not be cheery, but it creates access to the parts of ourselves and the reasons we need comfort. Naturally this leads to healing. Unlike pulling away, shutting down, or numbing out, awareness gives us REAL CHOICE.

Discomfort can been seen as a call for awareness.

Discomfort is an essential form of guidance.

If you may find it of assistance, feel free to copy the above question list and paste it into a file so you can print it out and refer to it. In the next post I will suggest related practices for self discovery.

What is YOUR typical response to discomfort?

How does this response serve you?

8 February 2014 3 Comments

Pearls from Pain, Part 5: Inquiring Within, Part 1: Self Awareness

Pearls from Pain, Part 5: Inquiring Within, Part 1: Self Awareness

Inquiring within, to discover who we really are inside, is the activity that allows us to align our needs and nature with our lives in the world. Self awareness is key to satisfaction, healthy motivation, sense of purpose, and true expression.

When our authentic needs are not appropriately aligned with what we are doing and the way we have set up our lives we experience pain and dissonant circumstances. Emotional pain invites us to realign our needs with expression and action, and to change our priorities.

Realigning with authentic needs depends on being able to get in touch with feelings, sensations, reactions, and needs–which offer a form of guidance when we allow ourselves to understand what is required. It takes courage and discernment to sense into all this and come up with new choices.

Being honest with ourselves is foundational to discernment, while discernment furthers and deepens self honesty. This cycle of self awareness builds on itself.

The more we practice self honesty the more reliable our discernment–and our intuition. Unflinchingly self honesty fosters the ability to sense the difference P1040649between intuition and our emotion reactions. Solid insight transcends whether or not we like something. If intuition becomes secondary to emotional comfort or personal preference, what we can discern will be severely limited in scope.

Our most important discernment, which we make over and over, is whether or not something we perceive is a product of our own projections and emotions.

Accurate intuition and guidance are most valuable when we need assistance or direction. Learning to receive insight in the face of and regarding our personal weaknesses is an incredibly valuable practice.

How do we learn to sensing into what is really going on inside?
How do we learn to disentangle misinformation to get to our inner truth?
How do we develop self awareness?

Emotion has the most impact on our energy fields and centers. To acknowledge, express or release underlying emotions we first need to be willing to admit them.

Since pulling away from emotional pain shuts down awareness, learning to observe and accept pain takes us a long way toward the practices, values and goals we are discussing.

Intense feeling is often well guarded. When inner sensing is unclear, study your defenses. Aim to gently penetrate pseudo-logic, resistance, superficial answers, and other obstacles to inner revelation.

One trick of resistance is for an intense emotion to pop up, which then poses as a “reason,” “excuse,” diversion, or distraction, stopping further inquiry. Habitual anger and blame, for example, or self contempt can arrest introspection.

When we have the courage to look underneath blame or shame we almost always discover some tender, valuable part of ourselves that we are seeking to “protect.” Hiding that part prevents us from expressing our real needs.

We may feel helpless underneath grief or anger, allowing grief or anger to prevent us from experiencing the tender vulnerability of the voice with which our needs speak to us. When we can accept and support our hidden vulnerability or helplessness we are now empowered to make loving and more-powerful choices.

In the next post I suggest Inner Sensing Question Chains for self exploration.

During moments when YOU pull away from looking IN, exactly what is arising for you?

What happens if you become curious about and interested in your process at this moment?

23 January 2014 2 Comments

Pearls from Pain, Part 4: Why Feel Your Pain Body?

Pearls from Pain, Part 4: Why Feel Your Pain Body?

Why Feel Your Pain Body? This poem speaks to the spiritual benefits of facing our pain:

The Truth stands before me,
On my left is a blazing fire, and
On my right, a cool flowing stream.
One group of people walks toward the fire, into the fire,
And the other towards the cool flowing waters.
No one knows which is blessed and which is not.
But just as someone enters the fire,
That head bobs up from the water,
And just as a head sinks into the water,
That face appears in the fire.
Those who love the sweet water of pleasure
And make it their devotion are cheated by this reversal.
The deception goes further-
The voice of the fire says:
“I am not fire, I am fountainhead,
Come into me and don’t mind the sparks.”
~ Rumi

Going into rather than pulling away from our pain creates a portal-like place of leverage through which we can access authenticity and positive vulnerability. These states are essential to experiencing true healing and deep intimacy.

To anchor the process, I asked a client exactly what she had done to move herself from self-condemnation into insight and relief. I was extraordinarily moved listening to her breakthrough in confronting her pain with self-compassion. Her heartfelt awe and amazement at the way her experience changed is inspiring. Here are some excerpts(with permission):Mystic Path
“I just go in and be with the sadness, and stop trying to move against it or defend it in any way.”

“When I move through the behaviors I do not go into shame. What drives everything [unpleasant behaviors] is NOT going into the pain. When I go right to what the feeling really IS and express it, I can address what is really bothering me and I can receive support.”

“I was willing to look at it without judging, putting aside my inner critic and seeing where am I TODAY: How do I feel and what do I need?”

“My opportunity for change and shift expands. When I’m in my positive vulnerability, there is a larger space; I do not operate in this tiny vacuum. And I LIKE that space a lot! I don’t feel small or pitiable. I feel like I have more space to move emotionally. I feel like I have real freedom when I am positively vulnerable. I have positive choice. This feeling is incredibly beautiful.”

“I look at myself differently, and at my life differently, and I do things differently in my life. It’s not always something huge. The things can be small things like the way I bring myself to work or the way I eat dinner, but they make a big difference. Life is made out of these moments.”

We so often long for or seek purpose in life. We tend to look for something grandiose. Moments of sincere Presence with ourselves has inherent meaning. Real intimacy with ourselves invites real intimacy with others. We learn to relax the mechanistic resistance, blocking, avoidance, distraction, and shutting down that keep us from feeling fully live, engaged, and accessible to joy. Pain, accepted, can be a gateway to meaningful engagement.

Our energy does something amazing when we fully enter into intense feeling, with compassion. The frequencies that pour through us connect universally with others. They flow through us into the world in a way that supports love, compassion, connection, and healing. Our energy impacts all the souls we touch from inside, and spreads to everyone with whom they are linked. This experience is profoundly meaningful.

Can YOU recall an experience in which you fully allowed and accepted pain without judging yourself or pulling away from feeling?

Were you surprised by what happened?

17 January 2014 4 Comments

Pearls from Pain, Part 3: Don’t Let Your Pain Body Win

Pearls from Pain, Part 3: Don’t Let Your Pain Body Win

I initially learned about my pain body from my main healer. She only told me it is an energy body that contains and ‘runs’ (automates) our accumulation of old pain, influencing our behavior.

The last time I went to her in heaps of pain, she told me I was “doing pretty well with my pain body”. That surprised me since I was feeling a lot of pain. Inquiring, I found out that “doing well” meant I was more at one with my pain, instead of pushing it away from myself.

For more than a month I had been accumulating pain. One painful event rolled over into another without enough down time to fully feel and adequately recover from each hit and before the next arrived. The mostly-unexpected death of an extended family member disoriented me and cut off a vital source of support.

My habit of taking things in stride, staying constructive, and performing my duties as impeccably as possible usually strengthens me. Work can order, regulate, and balance me. Suddenly the activities that usually help became an additional strain.P1040711

Our strengths sometimes become our undoing. We may power through or stay positive on the surface while our innards are screaming out. Meanwhile our bodies layer on stress and tension. It can be better to break a bit than to stay too strong, to let down enough to get back to a flexible flow.

I woke up one morning realizing that I was ‘coping’ way too well–and burying agony. My healer had said, “Don’t let your pain body win!” when I left her house. But how?

Contemplating this, I realized I must start a campaign to release my backed up pain. I began with the current score:
Pain body: 12
Teresa: 1

Not good for the first round.

A full-effort campaign to make myself a priority looked like this:

  • Alter chemistry: Dump grains and sugars, add vegetable juice, bone broth, and consistent protein. Walk daily, early to bed, more water.
  • Observe self
  • Update nutritional supplement program
  • Observe self
  • Change my game by taking on things I usually leave be and leaving be things I usually take on. State my needs. If necessary, take unilateral action to meet them. Say “no” when I need to.
  • Observe self
  • Let housework, non-personal email, to-do lists etc. pile up.
  • Schedule appointments to receive services.
  • Observe self
  • Seek healing kinds of pleasure–
  • Spend time outside, watch nature
  • Get massage
  • Sunlight
  • Observe beauty
  • Cook lovingly
  • Watch a show with a friend
  • Observe self
  • Make spiritual practice a priority.
  • Observe self
  • Take some time off and just BE without pressure to DO anything.
  • Observe self

. . . and quit complaining about not getting anything done!

New Score:
Pain Body: 3
Teresa: 18

Letting the pain body win means allowing old habits surrounding pain to run on automatic, keeping us from being self-aware enough to make fresh choices. It means letting the pain run us. When we push it away we become less aware of it, so unconscious patterns prevail.

Taking on the pain body is more than taking on our needs. It consists of noticing the ways we give over to pain or submerge it, and allowing current and authentic feeling to emerge. Only when we feel what is going on do we know how to care for ourselves in ways that dissolve and release our pain.

I did not include in my list my processes of attending to feeling and self-inquiry because I was already doing them. I will describe them in detail and discuss the pain body more in following posts.

What do YOU do when intense inner pain comes up?

How do reset yourself so pain discharges instead of accumulating?

10 January 2014 4 Comments

Pearls from Pain, Part 2: What Makes YOU Cringe?

Pearls from Pain, Part 2: What Makes YOU Cringe?

One of the most powerful and transformative acts we can take is to move TOWARD what makes us cringe instead of shrinking from it.

The first place we usually go with a statement like the one I just made is to think about something outside ourselves, like someone trying to dominate us. While my above statement does apply, I’d like to focus on the things we pull away from ON THE INSIDE.

How we deal with inner cringing creates the platform of support from which we deal with external relationships and event. Facing ourselves is powerful.

Let’s start with several descriptive stories:

In my office, Heather, my clients’ three-and-a-half year old, was amping up, exciting her two toddling sisters. Her mom asked her to sit quietly in one spot for the remainder of their appointment. That would be three minutes.

Heather sat on the floor. After less than a minute, her face and posture began to crumple at the prospect of enduring stillness for such a long time. She was struggling to cope without melting down by asking questions to explore her potential options. I could relate to the way the three minute stretch loomed like a daunting eternity of agonizing boredom. I sat by her on the floor and spoke with her about what that was like.

I remember how looming time seemed as a child. Anything beyond the current moment was an unimaginable eternity. Heck. I remember times in the last week when time elongated to the point of pain. I’m remembering ridiculously long pauses in intimate conversations; the frustration of feeling hostage to time while another person drifts into oblivion, leaving me hanging on a sagging trail of words, wondering whether a crucial sentence would ever become complete.P1040655

I also remember getting to the other side of the imagined horror that can attend just sitting with one’s self and feeling. A spiritual teacher once required me to sit in front of a blank wall for eight hours a day, for five days in a row. I was totally certain my head would explode and I would cease to exist. Near the end of the fourth day I surrendered to whatever came up, and found that I felt comfortable. The teacher called me then and released me from completing the practice.

A client–we’ll call her Marta–was looking ahead to a period of her life when she could take time off work. She greeted this option with at least as much trepidation as positive anticipation.

Marta’s concerns came down to: What will I DO? How can I get excitement? How can I manage my experience without being caught up in something exciting?

The idea of having insufficient stimulation can take on nightmarish intensity.

Excitement, in a sense, can become a kind of codependence with the outer world to provide distraction. Satisfaction and appreciation come from bringing ourselves forward and meeting life as it is. We depend on our inner resources.

Habitual reliance on excitement or grasping TOWARD something is the mirror image of avoiding or pulling AWAY from something. They are both states of resistance to WHAT IS.

What makes you cringe? Can you lean IN to it?

What do you feel you MUST HAVE to feel okay in the moment? Can you relax your grasp?

What would you need to do inside yourself to be able to relax through the moments when you tend to cringe or grasp?

What negative or positive mental fantasy makes it seem like a certain brief span of time must be unbearable?

What do you tell yourself about it?

What is actually true?

What would you gain through by learning to face those moments with equanimity?

3 January 2014 2 Comments

Pearls from Pain, Part 1: Work Your Emotional Triggers

Pearls from Pain, Part 1: Work Your Emotional Triggers

My primary healer once reminded me in session: “If you aren’t getting triggered, you aren’t doing your work!”

(“Getting triggered” means something sets off an emotional reaction reactivating past trauma, adding misplaced intensity to current interactions.)

When my healer said that, I had to concentrate and turn it over in my mind. At that particular moment I was triggered and feeling ashamed of it. I greeted her observation with relief.

This is how it works: If you’re going through life numb, shut down, out of touch with your feelings, or pasting a canned set of beliefs and behaviors over your natural responses, you aren’t in touch with your deeper processes. You can’t shift OUT of something if you aren’t fully IN it. And if you don’t head IN to the areas where you have issues, you are not able to assimilate and dissolve those issues.

P1040723Standing in and de-fanging our triggers invites transformation. Avoiding them keeps them in there like land mines.

Challenging our old status quo in the process of growth is often uncomfortable. Big changes often require facing down the ‘reasons’ we have not yet gone into this new territory. Like a kid on the first day of school, we encounter unfamiliar circumstances and potentially awkward feelings.

When we are growing emotionally and spiritually, we face new things–whether or not our external circumstances change. These new things may consist of making brand new responses to the same set of people and conditions. We may respond inside, for example, with greater sincerity and authenticity. These inner changes alter how we express ourselves outwardly.

Changes to established ways of experiencing ourselves or relating can be just as unsettling as moving or getting a new job. Challenging ourselves to make new responses brings up the issues and assumptions that formed our previous responses. Facing the feelings that used to hold us back unearths old issues. Hence: “If you aren’t getting triggered your aren’t doing your work.”

The great thing about getting triggered is that–if we are able to observe ourselves–we have a real opportunity to address and resolve issues that hold us back. By facing the emotional charge that pops up we gain insight, learn about our needs, resolve old pain, and transform our responses to life.

Pearls emerge as learn to lean in to emotional pain instead of avoiding it.

In the next handful of posts we will explore how to recognize and use emotional pain to develop insight, open your heart, and increase the accuracy of your intuition.

When we block awareness to avoid pain, we create resistance to seeing things we need to see. The more able we are to face distress the more accurate intuition is likely to be, because we are not invested in denial.

Facing pain with compassion goes a long way to opening your heart.

Pulling away from pain limits our emotional range of response and keeps us stuck. Rather than hardening off in reaction to pain, learning to sense and respond kindly to our own pain develops our ability to do the same for others.

As we move through this post series we will continue to develop personal inquiry skills, consider fresh ways to explore, and see if we can get in touch with an energy phenomenon called the Pain Body.

How do YOU feel about exploring your emotional pain?

Are you able to stick with yourself when pain arises, or do you float off or distract yourself?

What do you tell yourself about your emotional pain?