I had spent all day feeling frustrated, but I knew there was more to it than that. I could sense it. But I couldn't quite get a grasp of the feelings, which seemed to range from fear, to anger, then to sadness, but mostly what felt like resistance to "the way it is" and a discomfort with the unknown.
My beloved Appaloosa gelding Domino had had a colic episode the night before and despite my attempts to "stay positive" and to remind myself that the feelings that it triggered probably had more to do with a previous loss than his illness being an imminent one, I couldn't seem to "get my head right" and was getting down on myself.
Earlier that day, in my moving mindfulness practice, I felt a heaviness in my heart that I didn't really want to be with, breathe with, but I did. And when I did the memories came of the day and a series of events leading up to another death due to colic.
Tiffie's death meant the loss of my equine-assisted therapy dream team, an orphaned foal, and a broken heart - mine. All deaths are hard, but her's was traumatic. And I could feel that morning the subtle remnants, the unresolved nuance of feelings that I still had not released. I let myself feel and grieve for awhile, reached out for support, but went through the day, still on edge - looking out the window to check on my fella, watching for subtle signs of discomfort, administering his herbal colic formula, and taking five gallon buckets of water sweetened with molasses to encourage him to drink and keep his system flushed.
Towards the end of the day, after his second bucket of water, I watched him walk over to a cinder block turned upright like a stool and just stand there. So I went over to him and because my back was tired I sat down on the cinder block and that's when it happened: I decided to do what I do with my clients. I softened my gaze, sometimes closing my eyes completely, noticed my breathing, felt my feet on the ground, and scanned my body,
I noticed a tightening in my upper chest and I just be'd with it - and breathed and felt my feet. Soon my teeth started chattering, and I allowed what felt like fear to move through my body: which it did with yawn after yawn between periods of teeth chattering.
Sometime during this process, Secret, Tiffie's orphan, came over and stood so close that the side of her face, her cheek and sometimes her muzzle, were touching my face. A few times she intentionally positioned her eye less than an inch from, pretty much touching, mine. Sometimes she would shift her weight slightly and then Domino's muzzle would be on my cheek. At some point the teeth chattering turned into sobs as I crumbled under their relentless compassion and presence.
I don't know how much time passed. We were immersed in some sort of timeless reality. All the while I cried, chest-shaking cries as I remembered Tiffie, telling her how sorry I was that I couldn't stop it - couldn't stop what was happening to her and the disease process in her body. And I wondered if the horses and I were grieving together. But the horses' grief seemed more like sadness for me - a recognition of how I'd been holding on, punishing myself, not consciously of course, but on some level. And when the sobs broke with my own awareness of this, everything stopped. All was quiet.
Secret casually walked away. Domino followed. Their job was done. And I watched in awe as they gently ate grass, looking so peaceful. And I looked at the gelding. And I noticed that the weight in my chest was gone. The edgy "What's going to happen next?," "Is he ok?," "Does he need more water?," was also gone.
And a golden setting sun broke through the clouds to make an unearthly light against the trees on the mountain and the green, green pasture where they ate. And a strange breeze lifted what had been heavy humid air and I knew at once that things were different: we had somehow altered the course of something.
Of course I don't know what. Intellectually I know he could die from colic next week or next year, but somehow, someway, things were different. Our shift in emotional energy had created a shift in the wave of possibilities. Again, I don't know how, but could feel it. And I bathed in the peace of that knowing and for the first time in days, I felt glad.
My body it seems, can tolerate a mystery. In fact, it loves, it marvels, it excels in the unknown. It is at one with the mystery of life because its ebb and flow and moving current, and the space within and moving through it, is the same as the ebb and flow, the wave and the space, of everything.
And as I felt my body, I felt the everything. And I was home.
And the rain came down and washed us clean.
It was hot outside, my air conditioner wasn't working, and I was lying on my kitchen floor because my internet is slow and my laptop has to be tethered to the router. Also because my left hip and lower back had been hurting since I'd spent a week sitting way too long at my computer.
But I'd registered for an online continuing education course through the Tamalpa Institute and wasn't about to miss this day's Body Mapping course featuring the spine and more specifically the ligaments supporting it.
Our facilitator led us through the usual visual information about anatomy and cell structure and then guided us in checking in with these ligaments and the surrounding structures. And then the music started and we were invited to let these ligaments and anything else in our bodies speak through the movement.
I typically love this facilitator's choice of music, but didn't resonate with any of this session's music - at all. He'd invited us to just ignore it if it didn't resonate with us and so I continued my body exploration while lying on my back, thinking I was doing just that when an amazing thing happened.
My body took on a life of its own and began to move in ways that surprised me. "Shelly" might not have liked the music, but my body clearly knew what to do with it. (I have been dancing and moving on and off for over twenty years as part of my personal healing process and knew firsthand the power of allowing the body to move and heal itself, but this was different).
As I lay on my back, putting my attention on my spine and its supporting ligaments, my hands and arms slowly and gently extended over my head, doing feathery sort of rhythmic, repetitive, serpentine movements. Then my sacrum started to move, rocking my pelvis more deeply into the floor, and at some point my left foot led my left leg out to the side, extending it way beyond what I thought was possible, stretching something attached at my pubic bone. And all the while I marveled in awe as other seemingly unrelated parts of my body responded to the attention I was placing on my spine, which seemed to be conspiring with the music, the energy of the other group members doing the same, and that unspeakable, unnameable force - the bigger Dance - that contains, informs, and is the very essence of it all.
My back and hip loosened and felt much better after that. But more impressive than that was how deeply I felt my body and its cells and structures as one with this greater Dance. I, ego-personality-Shelly, had very little to do with the process. it was clear that she was merely a mind-made concept and that my true self was the Dance Itself.
I hope to be offering conscious dance and movement experiences like this soon: workshops intended for body exploration, dance and movement as meditation and healing practice, dances for women - whether just for fun, emotional healing, or for awakening libido/sexual energy. If this is something that you're interested in, please let me know.
In the meantime I wanted to tell you about my best, most healing dance ever - lying flat on my back, in the heat, on my kitchen floor, to music I didn't like.
There is only Light. We might think that darkness exists. We see it as Light's opposite, which might suggest that it has equal weight; just the other side of the same coin. But darkness isn't the opposite of Light. Darkness merely reveals that there is an obstruction to the ever-present Light.
The darkness of nightfall happens when our part of the earth turns away from the sun, blocking its light. But does the sun go away? We enter a room with dark curtains covering the windows, but when the curtains open, there is light. Did the light ever leave, or was it simply blocked by the dark curtains?
It's the same with us: we are Light. Yet, just like nightfall and the darkened room, the light is obscured: it's obscured by the denser energy of thoughts, emotions, opinions, and beliefs. We make the mistake of thinking that these energies are who we are. We tend to think that we are the sum of our thoughts, beliefs, preferences, emotional proclivities, and the physical vehicle that contains it all.
When we confuse these human traits with who we are, I am Light, seems blasphemous. And indeed it is. I Shelly, am not Light. Shelly is merely the vehicle, an outward manifestation, a potential expression of the Light.
The vehicle of Shelly was created by the merger of two other human, flawed vehicles. And as a result of this merger, she inherited their mental patterns, emotional programming and survival strategies, and those that they inherited from their parents.
Perhaps this is the "fall" that scripture speaks of. Being born into this human dimension means that we necessarily merge with the often misguided, limited, fear-based thoughts and strategies that we humans have developed in response to living in a potentially frightening world. To be born into a human body means that we have to come through these dense energies, and like our ancestors, we confuse them with who we are.
But we are much more than the culmination of our thoughts, feelings, and physical forms. Take a moment to notice: if you stop thinking, do you cease to exist? If you momentarily feel nothing, do you cease to exist? If you imagine being somehow physically altered in some extreme way, do you cease to exist? Of course not. So who or what remains?
Awareness remains; the awareness that you're not thinking, not feeling, or that you're different physically.
So what is this awareness? At first glance it might seem that Awareness is part of your mind. But if you can observe your thoughts, then the you that's observing your thoughts cannot be the same you as the you that's thinking them. And besides, as we experience Awareness more deeply, we notice that while it's highly alert, it's also silent. It's also difficult to locate, much less describe, because as soon as we engage our minds to do so, we've entered the realm of thinking and left Awareness.
Scientists have looked into every nook and cranny of our bodies to try to locate the observer, the one who watches, Awareness, to no avail. And yet we can say irrefutably that it is.
We also have powerful evidence of what Awareness can do. When it is accessed, when you be it, your alert awareness has the capacity to quiet your mind, transform any negative emotion, even long-standing emotional states, relax long-standing, limiting beliefs, open your mind to new possibilities, relieve physical pain, and change the molecular activity in you body. It does all of this with such elegant simplicity and is so unfailingly reliable, that one who experiences this process firsthand will sometimes describe it as miraculous, even holy.
And it is. Our limited human egos can't do this - not with lasting consistency in any case.
Some of my clients who've experienced this transformational process have said that they felt the Holy Spirit come through them. And while this might be true, it suggests that the Holy Spirit comes, implying that it, at some point, left. Yet it's my experience that it never leaves. As Light, it's always present. We just needed to open the curtains.
And how do we open the curtains? By accessing the light of Awareness, by being it, and allowing it to do what Awareness does - shine it's light of truth on any energy that is not Light, not of Itself, allowing that energy to transform.
So friends, as the earth makes its tilt, bringing us the darkest day of the year, and as we see more darkness in our world, in others, and consequently feel it more strongly within ourselves, let us not forget that the Light hasn't left: it's merely been obscured. It's been obscured by our amped-up, personal and collective, dense energetic responses to living in a somewhat frightening and changing world.
These challenging times are likely to drive some of us into deeper darkness. In response to worldly events, we will grab onto familiar, fear-based strategies, becoming more deeply entrenched in our limiting beliefs and opinions, moving further away from who we really are. Others of us will turn inward for answers, using this potent time as incentive to look more deeply, accessing Awareness, and transforming denser energies by bringing them to Light.
We get to choose. But it's comforting to know that no matter what we choose, no matter what happens, no matter how long it takes for us to remember who we really are, collectively and individually, the Light is always available, always present, always is, always will be . . . forever.
Merry Light-That-Is-Who-You-Really-Are Christmas!
You are the light of the world. Matthew 5:14
The Light Of Awareness ". . . Twenty years ago, I lost a friend, mentor, and role model to cancer. I haven't had many role models in my life, but Reverend Jack Crandall was one of a kind . . ."
Your Light ". . . There is nothing so dark in you that I have not acknowledged within myself . . ."
. . . once we're no longer holding someone else responsible for how we feel.
When someone is traumatized by someone else, as in the case of rape, molestation, physical or emotional abuse, when someone is betrayed by another, it is normal, natural, and appropriate to have very strong feelings in response - feelings that create all sorts of physiological chemical processes at the level of the bodymind. This pain accumulates, resulting in what we might call the individual pain-body.
When whole groups of people are persecuted, traumatized, or demoralized, it creates a collective pain in the bodyminds or psyches of people who are part of those groups. African Americans, Native Americans, Jewish people, and women, typically carry a shared pain, which we call the collective pain-body.
There is no doubt, in all of these cases (and others), that deep wrong was committed, leaving deep emotional wounds. This is when various spiritual traditions might suggest that forgiveness is in order. Forgiveness, they say, is the path to healing. I don't disagree with the spirit of the message. I take issue, however, with how most humans, clergy as well as laypeople, or other spiritual teachers, interpret forgiveness and how it is to be achieved.
When I was a mere babe, twenty-three years old to be exact, I caught my boyfriend in the act with another woman. I just about went crazy. I'll spare you the gory details of that night, but I was left with a broken heart and a broken jaw, a very remorseful boyfriend, and a lot of shame and shock to find myself in such a situation.
While common rhetoric went something like: If he hits you once he'll hit you again, I knew deep down, quite miraculously in retrospect, that I was being called to work through this thing - not just point an accusing victimized finger at him and walk away. At some point I ran across a book, also quite miraculously, about forgiveness. I wish I could remember the name of it, but I don't. And I don't know that the book itself was actually all that ground-breaking, but what I did with it was.
The takeaway was this: Yes, what happened was awful, it was wrong. He behaved badly (and in this case so did I). So now what?
Whatever I read in that book made me realize that there was only one way out - and that the one way out was through. I was going to work through every feeling, no matter how dark, and chase down every little nuance of hurt that might be hiding in the deep, dark recesses of my bodymind, until I was free - free of the rage, the hurt, the feelings of betrayal and blame, until I could look at him, or think of him, and feel nothing but peace, from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. And I did.
And once the pain was out of my body, I saw him and me through eyes of compassion. I saw two young, pretty immature people, who were doing what humans often do - acting out their pain, their inner conflicts and confusion, in ways that hurt others and ultimately themselves. And that's when it happened - forgiveness.
I think I grew up that year; I mean spiritually grew up. And I wouldn't trade the experience - the actual trauma, and the suffering that it caused, for anything.
I hadn't thought about this period of my life for a very long time until a client asked me recently about forgiveness. I was trying to explain that forgiveness is, in my experience, not successful when it's attempted from the neck up - from the level of the will or personal intellect. The mere decision to forgive is rarely an effective one. It tends to just gloss over the hurt, avoiding the pain that goes along with it (a process sometimes referred to as spiritual-bypassing). But it's this very pain, this suffering that we're trying to avoid, that provides the necessary motivational fuel to undertake real inner emotional housecleaning, real healing.
I've got to think that when Jesus talks about forgiveness, he means for us to do this inner work. He doesn't mean that we should just decide, using our little personal wills, simply because forgiving is what we're supposed to do.
Because it's only when we reach below the level of the egoic mind and reach our bodily-held suffering and consciously surrender to it, are we open enough to receive the miraculous, alchemical nature of healing - an alchemical process that's beyond something our minds can think about, direct, and control. It's bigger than we are.
And I know this is so because once this emotional healing happens, forgiveness is a given. It happens naturally. It's not something I have to think about or do. It's not something I have to effort at or theorize about, or try to conjure. It simply arises; like a soft flower, opening from deep within my body, blooming outward, blessing both me the forgiver and the forgiven.
I've got to believe that this is what happened with Jesus on the cross. Surely there was a whole lotta suffering going on before he got to: forgive them for they know not what they do. And if this is true, it confirms what I've been saying here all along: it's not the forgiveness itself that is holy, but the suffering and the emotional healing that precedes it that makes it so.
Love to you and yours,
Conscious suffering is holy. Eckhart Tolle
What happens when you try to sit still, in the silence, alone with yourself for any length of time? Do you start to feel antsy or restless? Bored or fidgety? Do you feel uneasy or start to get uncomfortable in some sort of vague, indescribable way? Do you make excuses like, "I've got too much to do to sit still," or "I'm an extrovert. I need to be around people?"
Whether or not you're busy or extroverted is not really the point; what happens inside and the feelings that arise in your body before you get up and decide that this sitting-still-thing is stupid, is what's important.
The feelings that arise, if you're willing to stop long enough to notice them, are pointers. They point to suppressed feelings and unconscious beliefs and programs that your doingness helps you to continue to suppress. Most feelings, beliefs, and behaviors are driven by "underlying wants." These underlying wants usually fall under one or more of the following categories: wanting approval, wanting control, wanting security/safety, wanting separation, or wanting oneness.
While it's understandable and very human to want these things, we are usually trying to get them from unreliable, unstable, and impermanent sources; sources that exist outside of us, like other people, future situations, or improved outer conditions. And like most humans, once we get a taste of getting our needs met in this way, or even the hope of getting our needs met in this way, we will latch onto these outer sources and say, "I'm someone who needs ____, or prefers ____. It's just the way I am."
We then begin to think of these tendencies as preferences, personality traits, or something in our character, which helps us to strengthen or add to our sense of identity. But until you can sit in the silence alone with yourself, you won't know the truth of who you are, because the truth of who you are cannot be discovered by anything that you do, have, or who you are with. It can only be known and experienced as Beingness.
Until you can sit alone with yourself and be happy, you bring an unconscious expectation to your relationships, your work, or life in general, to meet your needs and provide your happiness. And it's ultimately a setup for suffering, because when the outer world fails you or doesn't comply, which always happens eventually, you are left with the despair of an addict without a fix, and all the feelings you were trying to avoid in the first place are up in your face - magnified.
This is why the Buddha said that desire was the source of all suffering; not because desire in and of itself is bad or sinful, but because it necessarily suggests a disconnection from the source of all true happiness and a further movement away from this source as we look for the missing thing where it is not - outside of us.
So sit with yourself if you can bear it. Watch and wait and let yourself feel. Let yourself hear from the parts of you who are wanting something because they feel a lack or a sense of not-enoughness. This not-enoughness can only be filled by your deep and conscious Presence. It's the only reliable, sustainable source. And every time you fill yourself with your Self, you're closer to the truth of who and what you are, and everything else stops being what you must have in order to be happy, and instead simply one of those things which "will be added onto you" (as Jesus said), like icing on the cake.
Peace and love to you all,
Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all theses things will be added onto you.
The kingdom of heaven is within you.
I read somewhere recently that Dr. Phil got in a little bit of trouble for some remarks he made about Covid-19. He said something to the effect that if we didn't return to work, if we didn't "get back to normal," more people would die from the stress of not working than from the virus. We all know that Phil has never been short on opinions, but whether he's right or not is not what concerns me here.
What his comment reveals is not only a reflection of his lack of skill-set, a lack of faith in his ability to help people release, transform, and resolve the stress around not working, but in his culturally-biased assumption that not working is the problem - versus recognizing our emotional reactions to not working as the problem. His comment reflects and also reinforces a disempowered stance that puts the locus of control on Covid-19, our political leaders, the economy, and our outer-directed efforts to fix all this up just right so that then we can feel better; instead of affirming our own innate power to transform our negative feelings, and be at relative inner peace, regardless of our outer circumstances.
Again, I'm assuming that this is merely an indication that he doesn't know how. This wouldn't be a problem except that because of his popularity, we can only assume that his position and attitude is a reflection of mass culture, and that's what worries me.
When we can't control our outer lives, if we do not have jobs or achievements, is it necessary that the stress of that kills us? Yes, being out of work with no income, and being responsible for others, would certainly bring up strong feelings of survival-type fear. It's perfectly understandable. But where is the faith in the human organism's capacity to transform fear? Where is the faith in an abundant universe that offers unlimited potential and possibilities that we might have access to once our fear is transformed?
Please understand that I'm in no way trying to discount these kinds of fears. I have them too. But within every fear and every situation that triggers that fear, is the potential for healing, release, and to know ourselves more deeply - inner work which we might not be motivated to do if we weren't scared silly.
We are not at the mercy of this pandemic. Instead, it presents us with an opportunity to face the illusion that we were ever in control in the first place. It invites us to find something deeper in ourselves than our outer-directed, ego-directed plans and strategies, something deeper than our self-identification with worldly-attained security, achievement, and success.
I hope Phil is wrong. I hope the stress of not working won't kill us. I hope instead that this crisis will be used to help us be more than we've been before and that instead of back to normal, we emerge from this as better than normal - with a greater sense of who we are, beneath and beyond our worldly, egoic striving.
Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he said, I have overcome the world. Perhaps he came to know the limitations and futility of striving, strategizing, and trying to control our outer circumstances. Perhaps he was trying to tell us that as long as our focus is on anything out there, we will have "tribulation." Maybe he was trying to show us another way and was challenging us to dig deeply enough to find the innate, indwelling peace, stability, and freedom within, that which transcends the outer illusion.
In any case, I don't think he would let us off the hook like Phil did. He wouldn't agree that the world could beat us and wouldn't agree that the world could fix us. But would have invited us instead to rediscover the truth of who we are, beneath and beyond the world of form, all the while celebrating our remembrance of this truth, and the worldly conditions that inspired it.
In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. John16:33.
Thank you Jesus, for showing the way.
We all want to feel fulfilled. It's a basic human need and a fine one. The Life Coach Training Institute that I attended and the life coaching movement itself is based on the idea of not just surviving, but of thriving. It's intended to help you live and create "your best life." Again, this is a fine intention and there's nothing wrong with pursuing it. I am grateful for how it has helped me create this life that's such a good reflection of my essential self.
The question becomes, To what degree am I expecting Life to suit my particular needs and desires, so that I can be happy, feel loved and secure, feel good about myself, or be at peace? To what degree am I expecting outer conditions to be set up in such a way that I feel good for good? It's a common illusion and one that's perpetuated by our culture. When ____ happens, or when I achieve such and such, then I can relax and rest and be happy.
This sense of postponing a feeling of fulfillment or happiness, this sense of waiting, is so much a part of us that we often don't notice that we're doing it. But, you will know this to be true if you watch your mind carefully. You'll notice how often your awareness is on some elusive, future experience, and less on the present. You'll notice how challenging it is, especially as you're performing fairly mindless tasks or while driving, to keep your thoughts on what's happening right now.
Part of this future-oriented waiting is mere habit, our mind's need for constant stimulation, the ego's need to feel that it's doing something, accomplishing something, getting somewhere. But another aspect of this is a conditioned pattern of looking for fulfillment outside of us, in all the wrong places. The fulfillment we seek is not out there. Outer life conditions can only bring temporary, fairly shallow fulfillment.
When life's not working to my liking, when I'm not feeling as fulfilled as I think I should be, it's helpful to ask myself, What am I trying to get to - feeling-wise? What am I hoping to experience or feel that I'm not feeling now? And then I let myself feel the discomfort of not having what I want, not having it the way I want it. I let myself feel the perceived lack of what I want to feel or the sense of not enough of it. I might let myself have an inner tantrum. I might let myself write out, uncensored, my tantrum-like demands and feelings - why it's unfair, why I deserve better, and so on. And I breathe and stay with it, until it settles and dissolves.
And once that happens, a deeper sense of Beingness emerges. I then let go, quite naturally, of waiting for some future out-there to fulfill me, and rest instead in deep Presence, the always available source of true and lasting fulfillment. And I have everything I need, everything I ever wanted, right here, right now.
Maybe that's what Jesus meant when he said that the meek shall inherit the earth.
Much love to you all,
Looking to the mind for answers to recurring problems or questions is like returning to an empty file cabinet expecting/hoping that this time the information is in there.
HINT: If the mind had an answer that was satisfying, you wouldn't still be asking the question!
See if instead, you can present your questions to the all-knowing Stillness within. Use your breath to connect with your body, feel your body breathing, feel into the inner space of your body. Quiet your mind and wait. If your mind kicks in, gets distracted or busy, use it to return your focus to your breath and your body.
See if you can build a "tolerance" for inner Stillness. It will get easier with time and practice. Sometimes it's helpful to place your hand on your abdomen, just above the navel, and wait for the answers to come - as words, images, or as a subtle knowing.
This kind of body listening is more likely to take you in the direction of gut-knowing, Divine guidance, or knowing the answer in your heart of hearts.
My life has not changed much since self-quarantine. I still see a few clients outside on the farm and others over the phone. As an introvert, staying home and talking with a few close friends on the phone is enough social interaction for me. And as a single woman with horses and a farm to take care of, I've got plenty to do to stay busy. But busy has never really been my thing. I've not tended to use doingness as a way to quiet my mind, quell any emotional discomfort lurking beneath the surface, or feel OK.
However, in the last few weeks, I've noticed a subtle boredom at times. It sort of arises at the edge of my awareness and is immediately followed by a sense of somethin' ain't right. And then I notice myself scanning off in the vague vicinity or direction of how to fix it - how to ease the subtle discomfort of somethin' ain't right.
When I've caught it and let myself feel into it more deeply, I've noticed a belief or assumption just underneath that goes something like this: I'm not supposed to be bored; I must not be doing it right; boredom bad/stimulation good; maybe I'm bad; if I'm bored, something about my life is incorrect. I don't really believe any of this mind you, not logically. As I said, it's a feeling. And it's subtle.
And I've thought about Buddhist monks living in monasteries and how daily regular work, performing mundane tasks, is part of their practice. If you're on a spiritual quest and want to find enlightenment as a guest at a monastery, they put you to work: cooking meals, cleaning, and mopping floors. The practice is, the intention is, to do these tasks mindfully, with humility, and with deep Presence.
From that perspective, thinking of those monks and those seekers, it seems silly that I would think my life should be anything other than preparing meals, doing farm chores, or mopping the floor. Whatever made me think, on some level, that it wasn't enough, wasn't good enough, wasn't entertaining enough, didn't make me happy enough? And I think, What a spoiled lot we are! And alternately, How poor in spirit we are!
Our wealth allows us to have endless ways to keep ourselves surface-level stimulated and entertained. It allows us to run from anything that feels like emptiness or boredom. It prevents us from suffering - not in the way that refugees suffer, not in the ways that homeless or starving people suffer, but in the way that middle-class America suffers - with a mild, but somewhat chronic state of not-enoughness, a low-grade boredom, restlessness, something-better-is-just-beyond-my-grasp-and-I-need-to-get-it kind of suffering.
So I've approached my days more aware of this subtle brand of suffering. I sense the low-grade, antsy glance at what's next, something's-not-right, something's-not-good-enough kind of feeling. And as I am more present to it and able to be with it, I've watched it transform and settle into something deeper, something calmer. As a result, I go through my day with less expectation - less expectation that Life should bring me a certain level of stimulation, which I suppose we culturally equate, and so I equate, with happiness.
And instead of surface-level happiness, an amped up this-is-good, I'm-doin'-it-right kind of happiness, I find a depth of peace and Isness that's far more entertaining, far more satisfying, than anything my spoiled American-self can conjure.
Wishing you growth and peace during this potent time,
I come up to the house from a morning of seeing clients down by the creek and I want my lunch. I don't even notice that I'm not really physically hungry, but I'm craving something for sure. I'm craving the soothing experience that my fixing-and-eating-my-lunch ritual has come to provide. It comforts me. It gives me a sense of continuity, stability, an everything-is-normal, everything-is-OK kind of feeling. I stop and wait and check inside, and I pause my lunch-making ritual for long enough to notice that pausing makes me feel uneasy, uncomfortable.
I let myself sit with the feelings of uneasy and uncomfortable and notice that underneath there's a feeling of emptiness, followed by a subtle, frantic, graspy feeling - an attempt to fill up and avoid the emptiness. And while all of this is uncomfortable, it's really not that bad. It's sit-with-able and breathe-with-able. And in a fairly short time, a smile comes, with a nod to my ego saying, Ah, you almost caught me. You almost made me believe I needed something, needed some activity or experience, to make me feel whole and OK.
The first challenge is being present enough to notice what I'm doing, instead of allowing habitual movement and activity to take over. The second is being willing to get a feel for what's really happening inside of me - the feelings underneath that are driving my behavior. And the third is being willing to take the time to be present to and make a space for the feelings until they dissolve.
Thich Nhat Hanh says it this way: First you must know that you are suffering, second you must welcome or embrace your suffering, then you transform it.
Until recently, I didn't quite connect with the Buddhist concept of suffering. I didn't really see myself as someone who suffered. But it's all relative isn't it? No, I'm not starving, I'm not homeless, I'm not in chronic physical pain. But I suffer from a chronic reach outside and away from myself for something more, driven by an underlying sense of lack, of not enough, an emptiness that if I'm willing to sit with it long enough, feels a lot like suffering.
This low-grade suffering is perhaps more pandemic in our culture than the current pandemic. It's so much a part of us that it seems normal. We don't recognize the reach for our devices, the trip to the store, or our time on Facebook, as a distraction from suffering. But I'm sure it's easier to see as viewed from other, perhaps more earth-based, cultures.
In Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Carl Jung recounts an interview with Chief Mountain Lake who said this about us, “ . . . Their eyes have a staring expression. They are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something, they are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want, we do not understand them, we think that they are mad.”
As we go throughout the day, maybe we can periodically pause, check inside, and bring our awareness to the internal push or restless feeling. Maybe we can sit with it and wait for the emptiness or fear that's just underneath, and allow ourselves to feel it, breathe, and let it transform. Maybe together we can stop the madness by bringing our middle-class-America version of suffering to light. After all, it's one pandemic we can do something about.
Heaven On Earth Farm
Specific directions provided upon scheduling or registration.
P.O. Box 1233
Pickens, SC 29671