April 4, 2013
It’s true. You are a miracle. And yet, so many people consider themselves to be ordinary or even unworthy of love.
How do we know that you are a miracle?
We only need to notice what is.
Why are you a miracle?
- You are a miracle because for billions of years, you were not here, and now you are.
- You are a miracle because out of billions of people, there is only one YOU.
- You are a miracle because everything in your entire body used to be part of the Earth.
- You are a miracle because everything in your body is still part of the Earth!
- You are a miracle because your mind is the most advanced technology in existence.
- You are a miracle because you have the potential to create something that has never existed before.
- You are a miracle because you have the ability to manifest your dreams.
Out of all the possible ways that the stuff of the universe could have taken form (been manifested), it comes together to form YOU – at least for a while. This is an incredible gift and an opportunity for you to experience the miracle of life – the miracle of creation.
You may feel down, sad, or even depressed at time. You may be hurt, physically, emotionally, or even spiritually. You may be facing challenges that make it difficult to fully appreciate the miracle that is you, but you still can. You can find a way to remember what you are. And that simple act will transform your life experience, no matter what it is.
Your Thoughtfulness Practice
Pause and take time to consider your life as an amazing gift that has been given to you to keep – for a little while. Meditate on the fact that you are alive, animated, and earthly. Yes – You are an earthly being having a spiritual experience. How amazing!
You are a miracle.
and you are loved.
March 3, 2013
Have you considered how you are using your mind? This might seem like an odd question, but it’s an important one to consider. We all have the potential to use our minds in a number of different ways. We can using it to recall events and feelings from the past. We can using it to help us in the present moment. And we can using it to imagine what will happen in the future.
How are you using your mind?
Do you use it to focus on the past, the present, or the future? Do you use it to think about ‘positve’ things, ‘negative’ things, or just things? What feelings does your thinking produce most of the time? Do your thoughts often leave you feeling uneasy or even in a state of anxiety? Or do they leave you feeling uplifted and optimistic?
If we wanted to create a picture or map of where our minds could ‘be’ with regard to time and emotions, we could use something like a tic-tac-toe grid. Drawing two vertical and two horizontal lines, we create nine boxes. Each box represents a possible state of mind. The column on the left represents thoughts about the past. The center column represents thoughts about the present, and the right column represents thoughts about the future. The top row represents thoughts that move our mood or feeling in a direction we might describe as ‘happy’ or positive. We will label those as “high.” The middle row represents neutral feelings. The bottom row represents ‘negative’ or undesirable feelings. We will label those as “low.”
Taking a look at the bottom row, from left to right the boxes or thinking states represent the ‘past-low’ state (regret or mourning), ‘present-low’ (anxiety or sadness), and ‘future-low’ (worry or fear). The middle row represents neutral feelings about events in the past, present, and future. The top row represents ‘past-high’ (good times), ‘present-high,’ and ‘future-high’ (anticipation of something desirable).
We can spend “time” in any of these nine areas. Most people tend to spend the majority of their time in the neutral past, present and future – with frequent visits to all three elevated times and a little time spent in the ‘low’ row. Spending time in the low row, either thinking about the ‘bad-things’ that happened in the past, or fearful of what the future may bring, can leave one feeling down or depleted.
People who might be described as “eternal optimists’ spend a majority of their time in the elevated row, remembering happy times or looking forward to what they imagine will be good times in the future. Someone who might be described as ‘bi-polar’ might see their thinking pendulum move up and down in the right column where ‘future-high’ thoughts bring optimism and a sense that “everything will be fantastic in the future” and ‘future low’ thoughts make it pointless to get out of bed in the morning.
Most people have all nine thought types throughout the day. Becoming aware of your thought types is one of the first steps in learning how to better use your mind. For example, when you spend a lot of time in the left column (past), you are not spending as much time noticing what is happening in the present or considering where you want to be in the future. Your ‘present’ becomes smaller as a result of your ‘past’ taking up so much mental space. When you spend a lot of time in the right column (future), your life might become more about your dreams and chasing those ‘dangling carrots of success,’ possibly setting you up for what is commonly referred to as a ‘dose of reality.’
Because life is now, an ideal place to focus your thinking is in the center column, the present. Thinking about the present doesn’t mean that you don’t think about the past or future. It does mean that when you do think about those times, you do so from a ‘centeredness’ in the moment. You spend less time thinking about the past and future, and more time noticing and considering that which is happening in the present moment. By spending more time in the present, you deepen your connection to all that is and have the potential to raise your awareness of, and appreciation for, life itself. Why? Because there is no life experience in that past or future. We can think about life in the past or future, but those thoughts are simply an abstraction, a collection of memories or ideas. Life is, and will only ever be, happening in the present. This is why it’s important to spend your time in it!
Why do older adults sometimes seem to spend the majority of their time focused on the past? It’s likely because they prefer it to the present. In the past, things were better. They could do more and felt more important. They miss those feelings and want to re-capture them. They avoid the present because it doesn’t seem as good as the past.
When times are difficult, people sometimes focus their thinking on the future, imagining better times ahead, including the ‘afterlife.’ This is another way to avoid the present moment and therefore life itself.
When you can identify your thinking patterns, in a nonjudgemental and objective way, you can create a realistic picture of how you are using your mind. From there, you can make changes that will allow you to use your mind in ways that serve your goals, rather than being subjected to the whims of your mind. You get to choose where you spend your time, not your mind.
Your Thoughtfulness Practice
Use the above nine categories of thought to take note of how you are currently using your mind. Discover what your thought patters are by saying to yourself “I am thinking about something from the [past, present, future] and I’m feeling [low, natural, high] about it.”
When you find yourself caught up in thoughts about the past or future, simply take note, without judgement, and return to something in the present. For example, when you find yourself day dreaming about the future, come back to something that will ground you in the present, such as your breath or observing something in your immediate environment. A very easy practice to return to the present involves feeling the sensation of being alive from within your body. See the article “Feeling the Feeling.”
As you learn to identify your thought-type patterns, you will come to form a picture of how you are currently using your mind. This will allow you to make informed changes, such as moving to reduce or extinguish worry. Worry is thinking in the low future. Noticing thinking time in the low-future is the first step. Moving back to the present is the second step.
Moving back to the present, from either past or the future thoughts is as simple as engaging in a sensory practice that is rooted in a present happening. Noticing the qualities of the “here and now”; Sensing your ‘beingness’; and Connecting with the qualities of “oneness” inherent in all things, are all ways to increase your presence in the present.
Do you know someone who could use this Practice? Share this post with them by using the tools below. Leave your questions or comments.
February 20, 2013
From our computers to your phones, we all get notifications to update our software. Even your TV or DVD player might tell you they are ready for some new software. Updates often add functions, fix bugs, and help the entire system work to produce better results.
The human mind/body is a system that also ‘runs on software.’ Your ‘programming’ is the result of your education, culture, upbringing, and experiences. Is it safe to assume that you, like a computer, might have some bugs that need fixing? Certainly. We sometimes refer to these ‘bugs’ as our ‘buttons’ or ‘triggers.’ When we’re faced with a certain kind of situation, we react and process it in ways that are consistent with our programming. Some of this happens on a conscious level and some on an unconscious level.
Acknowledging that we can benefit from a ‘software update,’ is the first step in taking specific and positive action.
Realizing that the mind is a dynamic collection of thoughts and memories that gives rise to a multitude of interwoven feelings and new thoughts and ideas represents a big step in your own evolution towards finding the kinds of updates that will work for you.
We can all update our software, but it takes work.
The first step is being open to change. The second is seeking to discover how you are currently programmed. The third is to determine what you want to keep and what you want to change. The fourth step is actively working to re-program the ‘code’ that is no longer working to produce the best results. The fifth step is to make changes permanent by changing your habits and behavior. When you finish, you repeat the process.
Changing your ‘code’ doesn’t mean brainwashing yourself to believe anything that serves to simply cover up the problems. It means the opposite: being honest with yourself and looking at your situation and your thoughts about your situation with complete objectivity. It means being present, observing yourself within each moment, taking note of your thought types, your feelings, discovering your preferred perspectives and orientations.
It’s easy to keep piling more and more layers of ‘code’ on top of one another, but that’s not a long-term solution. Adding to a system is not the same as going through it with a broom and dust pan, cleaning out what is no longer working or needed. This process, of clearing away what doesn’t work and replacing it with what does, is both accessible and achievable. It does; however, require a belief that this type of fundamental change is possible. It also requires a clear plan or technology.
One such ‘technology’ exists here, on this site. It’s called the Thoughtfulness Practice, and it incorporates teachings on all levels of being, from the physical to the intellectual, and spiritual. There is a process that works. It is possible to update your software and make the types of changes that will produce a lifetime of higher functioning. Goals can include reducing or extinguishing worry, or increasing feelings of connectedness. These are simple goals, but you need to use the right code.
Ask yourself: What would I change about my thinking right now, if I could choose one thing?
When you know what that is, step back, see the patterns that are not working, and begin to reconstruct your thinking around the behavior or experience that you prefer. This is possible when you use the right tools.
Leave your questions or comments below.
Thank you for reading.
September 25, 2012
For many of us, worrying is like a given. Everyone seems to do it, and almost no one questions it. Why, when it’s largely agreed-upon that worrying produces little or no value, do so many of us participate in this seemingly unproductive exercise?
To answer this question, we’ll need to define what we mean by the term ‘worrying.’ A simple definition I can offer is this: “Worrying is the combination of imagining an undesirable situation occurring at some point in the future, with the anxiety associated with that thought.”
Right away, we can agree that worrying is a voluntary action of entertaining the idea that, at some point in the future, there will exist a situation that we will experience as not only undesirable, but also as anxiety-producing.
Why, on earth would we do this? What purpose does this serve? One could argue that worrying is our way of making sure that we take steps to prepare for the future. In other words, if we are able to imagine an undesirable scenario at some point in the future, we might be able to prevent it from happening by taking some preventative actions in the present. This seems to be perfectly reasonable; however, what we are really talking about here is preparation, which does not need to include the anxiety that often comes with worry.
Getting back to the definition above, we see that the act of worrying involves imagining an undesirable situation. This, in and of itself, may not cause us to experience anxiety in the present; however, it often does. The key difference between worrying and simply thinking about the future, lies within our reaction to those thoughts in the present moment.
What happens when we worry, is that we “buy in” to the scenario, as if it were really going to happen. Our mind follows the thought, and in many ways, gets swept up by it. We find ourselves feeling as if we are also becoming swept up, our feet rising off the ground, our emotions running rampant. We respond to our imagined thoughts as if they were real. But of course, they are not.
How do we change this pattern? How do we direct our mind and body back into the present moment, where everything is okay–where we are safe? The answer is simple. We have only to remember that we have thoughts about the future because our mind is trying to help us. Our mind is presenting us with as many different scenarios as possible, as a way to make sure we are prepared for anything that could happen. When we acknowledge that our mind is simply trying to help us, but that not all of our thoughts about the future are valid–or even true, we place ourselves in the position of being able to choose which thoughts to follow, and which ones to experience as merely products of a busy mind.
One way to change your perspective with regard to various thoughts, is to imagine your mind as your helper, which it is. Rather than thinking of your thoughts as “my thoughts,” think of them as “my mind’s thoughts.” Think of the thoughts your mind produces as your mind’s way of trying to help you. After all, the main purpose of your mind is to help you solve problems. The mind seeks out problems to solve. When there is no apparent problem to solve, the mind often creates potential problems to solve. Worrying can be thought of as your mind presenting you with a potential problem to solve. When we experience worrisome thoughts from this perspective, it becomes quite clear that we have a choice to either follow the thought as if it were real, or to simply note the thought and remain grounded in the present moment.
Having an active mind is not a problem. In fact, it’s a blessing. The only way our thoughts can cause us to experience anxiety about the future, is for us to forget that not all of our thoughts are valid with regard to our lives in the present–or the future.
The next time you start experiencing worrisome thoughts, use it as an opportunity to see those thoughts as products of your creative mind. Celebrate the fact that your mind is so creative that it is able to imagine different scenarios occurring at some point in the future–even ones that might cause you anxiety. Do not try to suppress your thoughts. Do not fight your mind. Rather, acknowledge that your mind is simply trying to help you. Be grateful for having this creative resource at your disposal. Say “thank you” to your mind, for offering you so many options. When you do arrive at your imagined ‘point in the future,’ where you will need to make a decision, you will do what is needed with the tools you have at that time. This is all you have ever done–and all you will ever do. This is perfectly natural and all you can expect, since there is no way to address a ‘future problem’ in the present moment.
Meeting challenges does not have to involve feeling upset and powerless. To the contrary, working through challenges can be one of the most invigorating and satisfying things we do. When we are grounded in the present, worrying about the future, becomes a thing of the past.
September 16, 2012
Today–Not tomorrow–Not next week–Not next year.
Here–Not Nearby–Not over there–Not in some ‘special’ place.
Within–Not in a speech–Not in text–Not from someone else.
The world will EVOLVE when individuals choose to evolve. When more people devote time and attention to improving their life experience through seeking to understand themselves and use their minds in ways that are reasonable, responsible, and in ways that do not harm themselves or cause them to harm others–The world will evolve.
The world will EVOLVE when individuals stop blaming each other for the quality of their lives and take responsibility for their own choices. When more people stop focusing so much on what other people are saying, writing, and doing, and start to focus on what they can do, as individuals, to help–The world will evolve.
The world with EVOLVE when individuals stop searching for peace and enlightenment in places they cannot be, for things they cannot know, in a way they cannot access. When more people come to know God through knowing themselves, knowing their world, and knowing each other–The world will evolve.
The world will EVOLVE when individuals come to understand their minds as a tool for solving problems, rather than subjecting themselves to the problems created by their minds. When more people allow their minds to be free, while choosing the few useful thoughts among the thousands–The world will evolve.
Evolution relies on the emergence of efficiency over mere activity, objectivism over mysticism, and visionaries where there were once only voyeurs.
This is it. There is no no other time, no other place, and no one else who will do it.
For the world to evolve, we must each evolve.
September 16, 2012
You made it!
Out of all the possible manifestations and expressions that exist in the universe, here you are.
We know that the universe consists of mostly the same materials, and that those similar materials are combined to make various ‘expressions’ and ‘forms.’ Some of these are what we call ‘inanimate,’ while others are ‘animate’ or ‘life forms.’ The vast majority of the universal forms are relatively still. They are not considered ‘alive.’ They are part of the ‘stuff.’
Plants and animals are considered life forms and represent a relatively small portion of the universal expressions. Out of all that is alive, a very small portion is called ‘animal,’ as compared to plants. Out of all that is animal, a very small portion are what we call ‘intelligent life,’ those forms that appear to have free will, drive, sentience, and so on. Out of all the ‘intelligent’ forms of life that we know of, a very small portion are human, those animals with the greatest capacity for thinking (i.e., reasoning, categorizing, problem solving, etc.).
You are a member of that extremely small group of expressive forms. You made it. You are here!
Out of all the manifestations that you could have been, you become a human life–for a while.
When we are born, we somehow understand just how unlikely it is to have a human life–or really any life at all. We are in a seemingly constant state of bewilderment and awe. Suddenly, we are born. We are sensing, feeling, touching, hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting. We are interacting with the known world and everything is changing around and inside us. It is an amazing journey that is like nothing else. It’s wonderful!
From nowhere, we enter the now here.
It is the most unlikely condition that will ever exist, for once you return, you will not remember this journey. This is your time.
How will you spend it? Will you remain is a state of wonderment and awe? Will you wake each day and be amazed at the fact that you can breath, touch, see, hear, and experience the world is so many different ways? Or–will you focus on striving, earning money, solving problems, getting ahead, planning for the future, fixing the past, and suffering along the way?
Is it possible to earn money and remain is a state of wonderment? Why not!
Your Thoughtfulness Practice:
Stop. Do not DO anything. Be.
Feel the feeling of being alive, of being breathed by the universe, of being held in the arm of nature, of having the energy of universal love flow through you. Do not TRY. Just be. Feel this happening in every moment. There is nothing you can do to change the presence of love. You can; however, miss this moment and all the miracles that come with it.
You are Here.
Experience your beingness.
This is love.
March 15, 2012
When you’re reviewing conversations that you had with other people, or thinking about conversations that you will have with them, who are you talking to? In your mind, you’re having a conversation with the other person, but in reality, everything that they “say” and “do” is being projected by your mind. This is self-evident and with the exception of those who may be delusional, most people would agree that they are creating all of the “conversations” that occur in their own minds.
We all engage in these types of conversations and there’s nothing out of the ordinary about this. This type of mental activity is evidence of the helping nature of the mind. As I have previously discussed, the mind is always looking for puzzles to solve and ways to help improve our situation. Internal dialoguing only becomes an issue for someone when they lose their perspective and get swept away in their own mind flow.
If your internal dialoguing is causing you to experience feelings of anxiety, such as increased heart rate, rapid shallow breathing, sweating or nervousness, it may help you to remind yourself of the process in which you are engaging–at the moment that you are doing it. Most people tend to accept internal dialogue as part of everyday life. As I mentioned, there’s nothing out of the ordinary about having internal dialogue. Sometimes; however, internal dialoguing can result in a decrease in the quality of our current experience by distracting us from our “real-time” life.
Becoming aware of the quantity and the quality of our internal dialogue is an important first step to improving the overall quality of your life experience. A very simple action, and something that anyone can do at any time, is to identify when you are having internal dialogue by pausing to take note. All you need to do is say to yourself “I’m dialoguing with myself.” There is no judgment in this statement. The purpose is to simply identify your current state and bring it to your attention in an objective way.
By using the statement “I’m dialoguing with myself” you create the opportunity to examine your own thinking, as if you were a third party observing the conversation between two other people (you, and the person you’re “talking” to). From this perspective, you may gain insight into the nature of the “conversation.”
If your internal dialoguing is bringing about feelings of anxiety, you could simply decide to stop. If you’re like most people, your internal dialogue is probably somewhat repetitive and you tend to have the same or similar conversations with the same people about the same issues. If there is an issue that is ongoing, say between you and someone you work with, and you are engaging in repetitive internal dialoguing with the hopes of finding an acceptable solution, you may wish to take a different approach. Since internal dialoguing is actually a conversation with yourself, it stands to reason that you may never find resolution because the conversation is completely one-sided and does not actually involve the other party, with whom you are working. To move forward, it’s likely the case that you will need to address the issue directly with the other person rather than exclusively within your own mind. In the meantime, it may help to reduce the amount of time that you spend engaged in internal dialogue.
The simple act of identifying a process, such as dialoguing, can have profound and positive effects on your general sense of wellbeing, freeing up valuable mental ‘real estate’ that can be used for more productive and positive experiences. One of the most enjoyable experiences that could take the place of internal dialoguing is to notice the sensation of being alive from within your own body. Focusing on “the evidence of life,” such as your breathing, heartbeat, physical sensations and everything that you experience through your senses, can be a wondrous and enjoyable experience. You do not have to “do” anything to experience the wonder and beauty of life. All you have to do is pay attention to what is.
When we clear away the clutter from our mind, stepping out of our ‘mind flow’ long enough to stand at the bank of the river, and stop trying to make our lives happen by using our minds, we increase the potential for noticing and acknowledging our true nature, which is poised at the edge of evolution. It’s ironic that many of us seem to be under the impression that we can think our way out of the problems of thinking! Having access to a resource such as the human mind is an amazing gift, but sometimes the solution to the problems of thinking can be so simple, they tend to be overlooked or undervalued.
Life is not complicated, nor is it meant to cause anxiety or suffering. Those states generally exist in the domain of thought. The next time you are over thinking, having internal dialogues and feeling swept away in the flow of your own thoughts, pause to notice this with an objective statement. You may even find it useful to say it out loud. “I’m talking to myself.” or “I’m having an internal dialogue.” From a place of objectivity, you can choose to take a different path. Try it and see what happens.
March 12, 2012
Improving the quality of your life can take many forms. When we think about life quality, we often think about things like having enough time to spend with our friends and family, keeping our anxiety levels low, maintaining good physical and mental health and generally enjoying the experience of living.
Some of the ways you can improve the quality of your life take time, such as developing new skills, expanding your knowledge in specific areas and increasing your level of physical fitness, but there are things that you can do right now and which will not cost you a thing, to immediately improve your life experience.
You’re probably familiar with the term mindfulness, which is used to describe the state of enhanced presence and awareness to one’s external and internal experience. Teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh and Eckhart Tolle have written eloquently on this subject and more people are studying mindfulness as a way to improve the quality of their lives. This article focuses on one of the many aspects of a mindfulness practice, attending to the moment.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of mindfulness, I invite you to do a simple online search, reading some articles so you may familiarize yourself with the basics. Like any practice, there are many approaches to mindfulness. Some may include more “classical” meditation rituals, such as sitting in a specific way and/or yogic breathing techniques, also known as pranayama. What’s most important is not how you practice mindfulness, but that you practice mindfulness. There is no right or wrong way to practice. There is only practicing and not practicing.
Attending to the Moment
When we attend to something, we place our focus and interest on it. We become fascinated by something, not lost in it, but brought into his state of wonderment. As we experience life, we often encounter what seem to be repetitive situations. We awake in the same bed, open our eyes to the same view, go through similar rituals of preparation in the morning and in the evening and we may see many of the same people and do many of the same tasks day after day. Because all of these events appear to be similar, there is a tendency to place our attention outside of the experience as our minds are constantly seeking “new” and “different” experiences.
Because we think that we have “Been there and done that,” we often find ourselves in a state that many would describe as daydreaming. As we eat breakfast, we are thinking about past events or planning for the future. As we travel to work, our minds are often occupied with visions of upcoming tasks and possible scenarios. The result is that we often are not fully present in much of what we do. Our minds are mostly occupied by our memories of the past and our visions of the future. We are literally allowing life to pass us by.
The way to correct this is to increase your depth of attention to each moment. On a very basic level, you can start by beginning to notice details about an experience. Using all of your available senses, allow the abundance of information to flow into your awareness while you maintain a state of deep wonderment. The reality is that you have never experienced this moment before and you will never experience it again, so it’s important that you do not miss it! Look, listen, feel, smell, taste – embody the experience.
How amazing it is to be alive! The entire world is a dynamic and beautiful work of art that is waiting for you to pause long enough to fully appreciate it. Traveling farther along the path towards enlightenment, we come to acknowledge ourselves and all others as part of this beautiful creating we call the universe. You have been given an extremely rare opportunity to be a witness to the unfolding of the manifested world and the only thing you really have to do to greatly improve your life experience is to notice this.
The next time you are engaged in what you would normally consider to be a repetitive or mundane activity, remind yourself that the experience is entirely new and unique–because it is. Experience the textures and sensations that enter through all your senses. Look, listen and feel, but also be amazed and appreciative that you can look, listen and feel. Experience yourself experiencing the world. What is happening in your body? What thoughts and feelings are prompted from moment to moment? Rather than allowing the river of thoughts to carry you away, simply stand at this river’s edge and notice that it is flowing.
One of the biggest obstacles you will face with regard to maintaining a state of presence and attending to the details in every moment is the tendency to allow yourself to be swept away by your own thoughts. Know that your mind is a wonderful tool that produces thousands of thoughts each day and is always looking for problems to solve. This is the role of your mind, and something I will discuss in greater detail in future articles. For now, simply accept that you will have many different thoughts presented to you each moment of your life, like a flowing river through a valley. It will help you to remember that there is more to your inner landscape than only this river!
The other thing you will do to deny yourself your present experience is to act on the desire to label things. Naming, categorizing and labeling things and events that occur in your life robs you of unique and potentially wondrous experiences. You don’t actually experience what occurs from moment to moment because your mind has already defined the experience and placed it into the BTDT (Been there. Done that) category. Rather than taking the time to fully experience life as it is, you allow your mind to define the moment for you by superimposing preconceptions, assumptions and even your own biases over what is actually a unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience. This relates to the Buddhist concept of “beginner’s mind.”
Resist naming, labeling and engaging in any mental activity that appears to define an experience before you actually have it. Even if you think you “know” what something is, approach each moment without judgment or expectations. Your mind will likely wish to move ahead, searching for novelty, but the novel and unique exists in every moment when you allow yourself the pleasure of attending to it.
Attending to the moment is something you can do right now, even as you read this. If you would like to learn more about this topic, see an article on my personal website called “Seeing as New.” In future articles, I will discuss more aspects of mindfulness as well as techniques included in the Thoughtfulness Practice.
February 7, 2012
I recently returned from a two-week teaching and lecturing trip to Australia. After one of the sessions a woman approached me and asked if I had a few minutes to talk. she confided in me that, although she does do things from which she gains a lot of enjoyment, she often feels sad and isn’t sure exactly why. She went on to tell me that she sometimes gets frustrated because the reason for the sadness is not clear, and that fact sometimes adds to the frustration and creates even more sadness.
During the consultation, we talked about the thoughtfulness practice of ‘feeling the feeling.’ In this practice, the purpose is to remove any resistance from receiving the messages that your subconscious or unconscious body/mind is attempting to send you through the conduit of emotions and feelings. Ironically, it is often our resistance to undesirable feelings that produces the majority of our suffering, this concept is at the core of many spiritual teachings, primarily Buddhism.
As I asked her questions about the feeling and about what she was doing about it, she did seem to understand the dynamics in which she was engaging. She seemed to acknowledge that, even though she couldn’t identify the reason for the sadness, she was unable to prevent the feeling from taking over.
My recommendation was that she set aside some time, when she could focus and be undisturbed, to allow herself to feel the feeling and even invited it into her being, thereby allowing it to flow in and through her. I explained that it is often our resistance to negative feelings that creates the dynamic of tension–two forces working in opposition to each other.
I recommended that she focus on the feeling and try to identify where it manifests in her body. We often feel sadness in our chest and/or abdomen, although not exclusively so. I invited her to explore the feeling and to ask it, as you would a child, “What can I do for you?” or “What’s wrong?” By meeting the feeling of sadness with compassion, we can tear down the system of tension and suffering, opening up a dialogue with ourselves that can lead to greater peace and well-being.
By the end of our conversation her mood seemed quite a bit brighter. She was smiling and had a certain sense of lightness about her. She assured me she would try the thoughtfulness practice, even if, and especially when, she wasn’t in the mood to do so!
It’s completely understandable, but in today’s world of Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter, that one would feel the pressure to always be “up” and “cheerful.” The reality is, everyone feels sad some of the time–for various reasons. There’s nothing wrong with feeling sad. In fact, feelings always have a purpose–to inform us of what might be going on in our subconscious. It’s only when we are unable to cope with these feelings and when they cause us further suffering that we need a more functional approach.
The next time you’re feeling sad for ‘no reason,’ try using the thoughtfulness practice of “feeling the feeling” and see if it makes a difference. The only thing you might have to lose is a little bit of your sadness.
Share your thoughts about this article below.
December 15, 2011
It’s often the case that we reflect on ways to help each other during the Holidays, whether it’s donating some time to help serve meals to those in need, running errands for someone who is homebound, or simply donating our time to be with people who could use some company, such as those in retirement homes or hospitals.
Giving the gift of support, through physical or personal donations is a wonderful way to create a sense of connectedness with others and foster community on all levels. Gifts of this kind can take the form of specific events, such as making a special trip to a senior center to sing holiday songs with the residents, or helping to collect and distribute gifts through your community organization.
Gifts of Peace can also take a much smaller, more subtle form. They can be given in very small packets of attention, listening, and validating others. When someone approaches you with a worried look on their face, tension in their voice, and anxiety in their mind, listening with attention and compassion might be all that is needed to open up their hearts. This simple act can be one form of mindfulness-based meditation. When those around us are nurtured, we feel nurtured as well.
Embodying tenderness in all that you do, can have ripple effects that extend into the world, well beyond the physical limits of your immediate world. Walking through the world with a smile on your lips and openness in your eyes can affect everyone you touch in ways that are profound. Giving this kind of peace is not something that is usually noticed, but it is felt.
As you drive to your appointments this holiday season, think of every driver as your dear friend. Perhaps they need to get somewhere quickly, which is why they need to speed around you or get into that parking spot. Let them. Create space for peace by allowing others to flow around you. See them as members of your family who might need more understanding and support at this time. Give them the peace you carry in your heart. You will never run out!
One of the best ways to give peace, is to not take things personally when something unexpected or undesirable happens. Keep in mind that you have expectations. (We all do). But it is only when you compare your expectations with what actually happens that you might become frustrated and upset. When we accept the world as it is, we will never be upset – because we are always starting from the situation that is. This does not mean that we do not strive to improve, only that we are not caught up in comparing what we wanted to have happen with what is happening, which is pointless and often stressful.
Give peace by listening to someone talk without judging their circumstances or trying to ‘fix’ their problems. Listen with an open heart and mind, making eye contact and finding the bright spots in what the share. Often, people focus on their problems, but it is impossible for someone to know what his problems are unless he also has some idea of that the solutions! (otherwise he would simply accept the situation as normal).
Give peace by not engaging in positions of tension. Someone might say something with which you disagree. That’s OK. Is it important to defend the opposite position at that time? What is more important, to be ‘right’ or to be at peace? If you can, allow others to have their opinions and focus on what you both enjoy. Celebrate the good that you both see in the world. Often, when we remove our ‘problems’ we find love – for love is at the core of creation. Love is the heartbeat of the universe – the ‘one song’ that we all sing each day.
Give peace to yourself by having compassion for the child inside you that is doing the best he/she can. Allow yourself to make mistakes and laugh at yourself -because you know that life is about trying things, making discoveries, and exploring the boundaries of the imagination. Life is not a performance. It is an adventure – and adventures are marked by surprises. Enjoy them and be grateful.
Give peace to the planet by being a stuart of all your relations. Take care of every being you encounter, every form of life, and every phase of life. See the stages of the manifested world as one dance, moving in harmony, you with your place and everything else with its place, interconnected and interdependent. Know that, by offering peace, you are creating peace for yourself. Be peaceful and the world will reciprocate.
Blessings to you this holiday season.
May you be peace!