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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?