The thinking brain . . . I call it the thinking devil. It dangles a carrot in front of us saying, "Come over here and sit in the corner. I'll bet if you sit and think about this long enough, chew on this hard enough, you'll arrive at an answer that's satisfying." But it's a trick. It never happens.
There's only one way to tame the thinking devil and it doesn't come from trying to control him. He actually loves that. It gives him something to push against. The best way to deal with the thinking devil is to learn how to watch him and see him for who he is.
Watching the thinking brain strengthens your awareness of the truth of who you are and who you are not. You are not the thinking brain. You are the one who can watch it.
In time and with practice, you might get so good at this that you will catch yourself laughing at his/her antics - the way you would laugh at the "acting out" of an unruly child. Even better, you might begin to feel compassion for his/her desperate attempts to be important and valuable to you.
Once you are able to watch your thoughts, you can respond to them saying, "I love you. Is there more?" Then let your thoughts respond with whatever comes. Respond to what comes next with, "I love you. Is there more?" And so on. In time your overactive thinking brain will run out of ideas and give up - at least for a little while. In the process, you will have strengthened your identity as the watcher - and a compassionate, non-reactive one at that!
This is a great way, by the way, to respond to worry thoughts. Instead of trying to control or tame your worry thoughts, allow them to come up and respond to them with the I-love-you-is-there-more technique.
Have fun with this and as always, please let me know if you need any help.
Space. The final frontier. No, I’m not talking about the Starship Enterprise. I’m talking about the space that lives inside each and every one of us. It's the space that holds all that we desire and the answers to all of our questions like, Who am I? What is the meaning of life and what is my relationship to it? and What happens when we die? It’s a place that's ever-present, yet one we seldom visit.
As a counselor and personal growth facilitator for almost three decades, I have had the privilege to sit with Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Agnostics, Atheists, and people who say that they are spiritual but not religious. Some come with a diagnosis, given to them by a medical professional or a counselor who files insurance. Some do not. The stories they bring with them range from mildly stressful, dysfunctional childhoods, to accounts of some of the most horrendous things that human beings do to one another. And yet, despite the disparity in their beliefs, diagnoses, or life experiences, they all want the same thing - to feel better.
By the time they get to me they've generally started to realize that what they're looking for doesn't live outside of them. They've exhausted their search for it in food, relationships, sex, alcohol, or drugs. They have done their best to use their good, logical minds to try to figure out what needs to happen. They've prayed, used affirmations, positive thinking, willpower, and mind-over-matter strategies to make changes in their perspective or behavior. They've consulted books by experts, self-healing practices, personal growth workshops, yogis, gurus, and clergy.
Doing something normally makes us humans feel better. There is a sense of safety in thinking that we know or are at least on our way to knowing. And this is understandable. The problem is that as soon as we latch onto any of these practices and/or teachings as the truth, we become identified with them. What I believe, becomes linked with and ultimately confused with, Who I am. And anything the human mind identifies with as me, has to protect and defend it and feels very threatened by anything that seems contradictory.
And while it seems that our beliefs provide a certain sense of safety, in my experience, this sense of safety is an illusion. Life seems to have a way of shattering our illusions. For example, as soon as the devout believer in life after death is faced with a terminal diagnosis, they are terrified. And all of the doubt and questions and fear that’s been covered over with comforting, staunchly-held beliefs are brought to the surface. This is not a criticism. It's understandable, and seems to be part of the human condition, because most of us humans are addicted, regardless of the differences in our beliefs, to thinking.
I consider an addiction to be anything we can’t stop - at least not for very long. It seems to have a force of its own and tends to run our behavior and our lives behind the scenes. And, while it offers the promise to make us feel better, and does so temporarily, it ultimately makes things worse.
I don’t know about your mind, but mine, when allowed to run amok, doesn’t normally have great things to say about me or much else. If I watch closely enough, I can notice how it makes me feel bad, which gives me more to think about and more to figure out, which tends to fuel more thinking and the illusion that, "If I think about this long enough, I'll figure it out and then I'll feel better."
There is a way to be free of the compulsive, addictive nature of the thinking brain. Beyond thinking and beyond the suppressed emotions that are often driving our thinking, is the space on which it all appears. The very nature of this space is peace, compassion, safety, and well-being. You can’t access it by thinking about it. And you can’t skip over the feelings that might come up once the thinking brain is quiet. The feelings must be met with the same quiet observance with which you meet and thereby quiet the thoughts. It’s not a journey for sissies. But it’s well worth the exploration.
Please don't take my word for it. Just try it out for yourself. But I can tell you, in my own personal experience, as well as witnessing, being with, and guiding this process with clients, maybe over a thousand times, this seems clear: no religion, spiritual belief, or lack thereof has any better access to this space than any other. There is no emotional state, long-standing or temporary, that cannot be converted within and by the space. And, there is no amount of trauma in the bodymind too horrible, no nervous system too traumatized, that can’t be restored to balance, healing, and wholeness by the alchemical nature of this space.
Please understand that I am not suggesting an end to religion, belief, diagnosis, or the thinking brain. I’m just suggesting an exploration of what lies beyond. And I guess I’d like to close with a poem I wrote several years ago called, Who You Are.
Who You Are
all that you need.
all that you need within you
to feel what you want to feel.
You do not need a partner who loves you
to feel unconditional love.
You do not need a good job or money
to feel secure.
You do not need a symptom-free
to feel well.
The kingdom of heaven is within you!
But first you must navigate
the pearly gates -
only the gates aren't so pearly.
They have names like
resistance and fear
and are meant to distract you
and block you
from the kingdom
and the truth
of who you are.
They masquerade as busyness and doing
Facebooking and emailing
obsessing and worrying
blaming and opinionating
picking a fight with your partner
making somebody wrong
defending your position
watching television, reading a book,
eating, exercising, drinking alcohol, any addiction at all,
anything you can't stop.
But the sneakiest, most insidious habit of all?
Trying to figure it out.
Oh, it seems innocent enough.
You have a good mind.
Surely if you think hard enough
you can figure it out,
whatever your it
seems to be.
So you're seduced into spinning
round and round in your head
convinced that a satisfying answer
is just around the corner,
but it never is. The satisfaction
There's just more spinning
and the endless hook
(Mental masturbation I call it).
If you have the courage
and I know that you do
to stop spinning for a moment
then take a deep breath
and wait -
in the scary
wide-open space of
Be still with yourself
hold your own hand
and comfort yourself
in the wide-open space of
I think you will find
as I have
that there is peace
there is freedom
there is comfort and wellbeing
in the still quiet land of
And, there is love . . .
Love that's so pure
and so bright
that you know in your unknowing that
this is why you've been running
this is what you've been scared of
because this love is so big and so vast
so all consuming
so unfathomably deep.
This must be God, you say
and then you realize,
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Shelly M. Smith.
Related Post: The Key To Heaven
If it were not for resistance we would all go free very quickly.
Lester Levenson, whose "awakening" and subsequent teachings inspired The Sedona Method and The Release Technique, said this about our emotions. He knew that the nature of energy is movement, which meant that energy, all energy, whether in the form of emotions, beliefs, or thought patterns, wants to move. It wants to transform. It wants to go home. The only thing that's stopping energy from flowing through and out of us, is us - our resistance to it.
When we can learn how to get out of the way, our emotions will do what emotions are meant to do. They're like thunderstorms. They're meant to roll in and then just roll right on out.
Now before you start giving yourself a hard time for having resistance in the first place, understand that it's mostly unconscious. Therefore, you can't correct it by thinking about it or with willpower. Secondly, please know that, in its own way, your resistance is probably trying to help you. It's trying to keep you safe. It most likely got set in motion when you were very young and perceived that having feelings or expressing feelings meant disapproval, the threat of abandonment, rejection, punishment, or any such thing that would be terrifying to your young child's system.
The way to work with resistance is the same way you would work with any other feeling. (We often don't think of resistance as a feeling, but it is). With practice, you can get a felt sense of it - a sense of the energetic tone or quality of it. And when you can get a sense of it, you can acknowledge it, welcome it, and breathe with it, until it softens and releases. And you'll find that the feeling you're resisting will release right along with it.
If you'd like some help with this, please let me know. In the meantime, just do your best to bring your non-judging awareness to whatever's happening inside. You're the only one who can.
I saw myself on a white horse, in full battle armor, lance in hand, walking on a long dusty road, presumably between battles. We were both tired. It seemed to be our lot in life - going from one battle to the next. We didn't know anything else. We didn't question it. And then, without warning, without any thought or analysis, we stopped. I dropped my lance, turned my horse around, and headed home. I was done.
Many of you who have worked with me have experienced images or visions that emerged spontaneously, as symbolic out-picturings of the energy that's being released. Several years ago, during one of my own releasing sessions, I had this one and haven't been the same since.
Before I met this warrior within, met him where he lived, as energy stored in the bodymind, I couldn't have known how much I was seeing and operating in the world through his eyes. Chronic tension, scanning my outer life for potential problems, and bracing against my own feelings were so familiar, such an integral part of my inner experience, that I didn't realize how much he was running things and at what cost, until I felt the difference.
Resistance is a tricky thing. Whether we're resisting our own internal experience, our own feelings, or something or someone outside of us, resistance is so second nature that it's mostly unconscious. We believe on some level that our bracing warrior stance is protecting us from feelings we don't want to feel, experiences we don't want to have, and truths we don't want to face. It helps us maintain an illusion of strength and of feeling safe and in control and separate. It can masquerade as "just the way I am" or as self-righteous, defense-worthy spiritual truths.
Our current political climate, to me, is a powerful example. The popular slogan "Resist," which I assume is in response to our current political leadership, is not one that I'll ever get on board with and here's why: resistance to the other, any other, only makes things worse. It creates tension in your own bodymind, making you less effective and less open to creative solutions and possibilities. It also gives the "other" more to push against, thereby amplifying your respective you're-the-enemy-and-I-must-fight-you positions. Whether we're talking about politics or your relationship with yourself and your own feelings, resistance just creates more resistance. Pushing-against just creates more push-back.
Does this mean you shouldn't have or feel your feelings? No. Feel your feelings. Acknowledge and welcome your feelings. Allow them to flow through your body. And when you learn how to acknowledge and welcome the resistance to your feelings that's also inevitably present, your feelings will release, along with the resistance.
Does this also mean you shouldn't take action? Does this mean you'll be complacent? Of course not. Releasing resistance doesn't make you passive or complacent. Write letters to your representatives, sign petitions, vote, and take any other action that you feel led to take. But if you can, whenever you can, release the resistance first.
Take it from an old warrior who has seen way too many battles. Fighting doesn't change a fucking thing. It doesn't change the other. It only makes you tired. The only fight worth fighting, the only battle you can ultimately win, is the one inside yourself - the one between you and your feelings, you and your beliefs about who you are, who the other is, and the way it should be. And one day, if you're really lucky, you'll get tired enough to stop, see the feelings and beliefs - the fight, for what it is, and you'll take a breath, turn your horse, and head toward home.
From one tired warrior to another with love,
“I will never attend an anti-war rally; if you have a peace rally, invite me.” Mother Theresa
This blog post is my response to the following article in Healthy Holistic Living, by Jenna Barrington. Published on August 21, 2018. (Click below to read original article).
The feminine, in its bigger sense of the word, is in desperate need of “re-wilding” – reconnecting with the natural cycles, rhythms, and moods of the earth. The feminine soul is nurtured by feeling its feet on the ground and remembering, via bodily felt-experience, its oneness with nature. Our bodies are, and have always been, wired this way.
Riding or simply being in regular contact with horses speaks to something primal in us and awakens our remembrance of a time when our survival depended on our sensitivity to weather and climate changes and our interdependence and collaboration with other species. It requires us to, consciously or not, get out of our heads and back in our bodies and awaken these primal feelings of connection.
Horses, unlike dogs and cats, are prey animals. As such, they are highly attuned to the emotions and intentions of predators – humans – because their survival has depended on it. So despite their domestication, they remain acutely aware of their environment, which requires them to be grounded and in the present moment at all times. In my experience, and in that of my clients, simply being around them reawakens our innate, but perhaps temporarily forgotten, inclination toward groundedness and a focus on the here and now.
In my mostly women-based practice, and in my own life, I see how incessant talking, social-media-ing, shopping, and emotional eating are often a reflection of an emptiness, an attempt to fill this deeper hunger for a more real and lasting connection.
So lie in the grass, go barefoot, bathe yourself in moonlight, get your hands dirty, and if you can, whenever you can, hug a horse!
We buried my niece last Monday. And yes, there was grief - heart wrenching grief – and hugs, food and flowers, and an outpouring of love for my sister and our family. But what struck me the most, looking out from the back seat of our chauffeur-driven car, was how normal everything looked – but how different it all felt.
We seemed to be suspended in some sort of bright, other worldly cocoon of something that I can only describe as peace or grace. I don’t know whether it was the spirit of my niece, the energy of prayers coming from all different directions, or special comforting angels, specially assigned to funeral processions. In any case, it was real and palpable and like nothing I’ve ever felt before.
And I understand now what is meant when they say, “There is no birth without death.” Amidst the tombstones and still bare trees, tiny spring wildflowers were blooming, fruit trees were budding, and my family and I let go of past hurts. Petty misunderstandings and grudges all fell away as we sat before my niece’s flower-laden casket. We didn’t have to talk about it. We didn’t have to try. It just happened.
For many people, Easter represents death and rebirth. For others, the arrival of spring does the same thing. In either case, surrender is key.
Whether it requires an illness, death, or financial crisis, there comes a time when you know you’ve done all that you can – a time when all the clenching and posturing, efforting and pretending, becomes so exhausting that you finally let go. And when that happens, the peace and grace, love and compassion, that’s always been present, is born again . . . in you.
Rhyne Smith Andrews Callens
September 23, 1988 - March 14, 2019
"The moment of surrender is not when life is over. It's when it begins." Marianne Williamson
Valentines Day is a day that we celebrate love, specifically the romantic, Hallmark-fantasy kind of love. And while romantic love is a fine expression, it typically falls short of what the human heart is capable of. Fortunately, life has a way of reminding us, prompting us, to open more deeply to the truth and power of the human heart. If only we will let it.
My 30-year-old niece is dying of cancer. Since her diagnosis 8 years ago I have bounced around in my own little world of this-isn’t-real disbelief, feeling useless and helpless, feeling triggered by unresolved issues between her Mom (my sister) and me, feeling ashamed of not doing more, and trying (unconsciously mostly) to protect myself from feeling and taking on the feelings of our entire family.
As a highly sensitive and empathic person, I have a lifetime of practice in trying to protect myself from feeling overwhelmed by the feelings of others and the pain of this world. The built-in structure of my work, as well as the tools I’ve learned, helps me stay balanced with clients, but my personal life is another story.
Last week I received a text from my sister describing a rushed visit and consult with MD Anderson and a horrible procedure my niece would have to undergo. Not long after, I felt a heavy constriction and ache in my heart that at times left me breathless. My niece and I are not particularly close and her mother and I have had our differences, so my mind dismissed my physical discomfort as having anything to do with them.
It seems however, that my heart had ideas of its own. Thanks to a shared DNA, shared molecules, and perhaps a shared history, no amount of trying to rationalize away or talk sense to it could ease the heavy-weighted drag on my heart. It was only when I took the time to feel into it and say, “I’m here for you,” did it finally break open, with deep wracking sobs, to tell me its story. It told me the story of suffering – mine, yours, my niece’s, everybody’s. It told me that growing up means accepting this world as it is - with betrayals and losses, illness and death, and so many things that we can’t control, and that trying to avoid these things is not the point.
When I finally reached what felt like the bottom of a deep deep well there was peace, but not just the kind of peace that follows emotional purging. This peace came from a power much bigger than me, that extended out from and beyond me, embracing the whole world in tenderness and compassion.
As the weight on my heart was replaced with a soft deep fullness, I came to understand the inherent gift in suffering and the alchemical power of the human heart. It seems that the bigger and broader and more deeply it opens to your suffering and mine, the more it exposes the truth - we are all connected by a holy thread, spun with an unlimited supply of love and compassion that ultimately we can't escape, even when we try.
Happy Love Day Everybody.
This article was originally published in 2018 for Natural Awakenings Magazine.
If you’ve tried to make changes in your life or in your behavior at the start of the New Year – or any other time for that matter – and find that you start out gung ho, but lose momentum, you’re not alone.
What I most want you to know is that this doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy, lacking in self-control, determination, discipline, or willpower.
In my experience, it simply means that the rational “thinking” part of you wants to make certain changes but other parts of you do not. These other parts of you do not live in the frontal cortex where rational thinking and problem solving take place, but live in the bodymind or unconscious mind. They consist of energy in the form of conflicting beliefs, programs, or suppressed emotions and were often set in place when you were much younger.
Let’s use losing weight as an example. I trust that you are informed enough to know what foods and exercise habits will support you in losing weight and which will not. So this rational informed part of you tries to eat right and exercise, but another part of you, which you may or may not be conscious of says, "Yeah? Make me. I want to eat whatever I want to eat when I want to eat it. Thank you very much.” There may be another part of you that already feels deprived and unloved and feels that you are taking away the only way she knows how to treat herself or comfort herself.
Any place in you that is hurting and feels unheard, may stay quiet and “behave” for awhile, but if you continue to ignore these parts of you, push them away, or try to control them, they will eventually act out with a vengeance. This is why people sometimes engage in secretive splurging and eventually sabotage their good intentions. This is how these unheard parts finally have their say.
(Sometimes people try to “program” their unconscious minds with positive affirmations. If this strategy works for you, then by all means, please continue. But I see so many people who have been unable to make their desired changes this way, and feel bad about themselves as a result. There are a couple of reasons this strategy often does not work. First of all, the unconscious mind is about a million times more powerful than the conscious mind. Secondly, this technique is often done with an energy of control versus love).
The way to escape this cycle is not through more self-control or beating yourself up, but by learning how to listen to these hurt parts of yourself versus trying to control them. Like all hurt children, they just want to be heard and understood. When you can learn how to do this with genuine compassion, they will release their grip and their demands will quiet.
Beyond goals and intentions, even beyond self-improvement, lie your heart's deepest desires. Driving every desire for more friends, more money, and greater health is the longing for the feeling state that you believe achieving or having these things will provide.
While it's perfectly natural for you to follow your dreams and desires, after all you were created by a creator and will always tend to ask, "Next?," it might be worthwhile to explore what's driving them. Doing so is not meant to bring judgment to your desires, but to loosen any angst around them, to release any sense of, "When ___ happens, I'll feel better/be happier" etc., and to essentially open up to the feeling state you're trying to achieve and its presence as it might be available right here, right now.
Have a pen and paper handy. Take time to make yourself comfortable, get grounded, and breathe. Scan your body and see if you can get a sense of anything you might be holding, either in the form of body sensations or feelings, and allow yourself to simply be present with them as you breathe. Take time to do this until you feel that you're in a relatively quiet, relaxed state. Then feel into your chest, in the area around your heart, and ask yourself, "What is my heart's deepest desire?" See if you can wait and simply allow whatever comes to come. Remember you're asking your heart, not your head. Whatever comes, whether it makes sense or not, jot it down briefly. If nothing comes, just breathe and ask again.
Ask as many times as you'd like, pausing to write down, sit with, be with, and breathe with each answer. You might notice that your answers change or they may stay the same. It really doesn't matter.
Select one of your most consistent answers or the one that feels strongest to you and ask yourself, "What feeling state will I have when I have this, that I don't have now?" Breathe and notice the first thing that pops in your mind. Then ask yourself, "If I could, would I be willing to let myself have that feeling now, in this moment, for just this moment?" Or, "Would I be open to the possibility of having that feeling now?"
You don't have to know how. You don't have to get into a debate with yourself about how you can't possibly feel what you're wanting to feel until __ happens. Just see if you'd be willing or be open, just a little bit, to having the feeling now.
Just do your best. If you'd like help with this, please let me know. If you've worked with me before, we can do this over the phone.
If you get nothing else out of this exercise, you will at least have some insight into what deeper desire might be driving the more conscious desire. And sometimes when you can validate the deeper desires of your heart, some of the angst about when and where and how you'll get them, will relax.
As I emerged from sleep last Saturday morning, my mind drifted forward to the day ahead - the plans I'd made, the things I wanted to do, needed to do, felt I should do. And I became aware of a familiar feeling - a low-grade dissatisfaction or boredom, and a sense of wanting more. I tend to blame this feeling on living alone or not having a greater sense of community around me.
So I started revisiting some thoughts I've had before about how to fix this. Should I move? Should I try to find and make more friends? Would I be happier being married? But as I imagined myself spending my day with my new imaginary friends and doing the things I think I would enjoy, I became aware of how temporary it all felt. At the end of the day, I would still come home and do my evening chores and deal with what was mine to deal with, alone. And if I was married, we would go to bed and start over the next day and one day, one of us would die.
If you're not yet 50 this might sound morbid. You might not think about death as much as I do. But there comes a time when death becomes more of a reality and less of something that's going to happen "one day," off in some sort of vague, distant future. And with this awareness comes a stronger desire to not only look to what's really important, but to reflect back on your life and question if getting your outer life just like you wanted it has ever really been the key to lasting happiness.
It was with this felt-awareness of the fleeting quality of situational happiness that I made a subtle but important shift. I turned my attention from the solutions, images, and strategies that my mind had conjured up, like a movie in my head, and came back to my body and my breath. When I did, I realized that what I really wanted was not more, but deeper. And so I sank into my own beingness and found all that I was looking for - belonging, connection, fullness, and peace.
From this depth, this felt-experience of oneness with Self, I feel I can accomplish most anything, and do so with a sense of freedom and fullness. There's nothing left to get, nothing left to fix, and no future state of being or feeling to achieve. It's all here now.
My New Year's wish for you dear friend, is that as you set your goals and intentions and reflect on your hopes and dreams for the coming year, that you're able to take the time to experience within yourself this deeper truth . . . all that you are seeking, you already have, and already are.
Best and Deepest New Year to you and yours.
Heaven On Earth Farm
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P.O. Box 1233
Pickens, SC 29671