It seems to happen every year this time of year. This year is no exception.
It started when I decided to beef-up my YouTube channel. I wanted to create some free, helpful, supportive, and inspiring videos, figuring that people really needed the support and encouragement right now. With this desire came a sense of urgency. Now is a potent time, I thought. Now more than ever, people need help remembering who they really are and how to access the peace that's innate to their own Beingness!
So I set about trying to make some professional-looking videos. They needed to be well-framed, well-lit, and audibly clear. I needed to remember everything that I wanted to say and do so clearly and concisely, without seeming stiff or forced. Also, my hair needed to look good.
In no time at all, my neck started to hurt, I felt a burning between my shoulder blades, and I felt grumpy and resistant. All the while I was remembering a conversation I had with a writer friend a few years ago. We were talking about the creative process and how free it feels when we let Consciousness flow through us. And then he said something like, "But if you're not having fun, there's something else going on."
Well sure enough, I had stopped having fun. I couldn't get the lighting right: the stupid weather wouldn't cooperate. I couldn't remember what I wanted to say, so I made copious notes, which I mostly memorized, only to end up sounding stiff. I looked at the stupid camera like a deer looking into headlights, and my hair looked like shit.
I tried really hard to hang in there and "be positive," but the pressure kept building and I eventually had a meltdown. But this meltdown wasn't the kind of little-Shelly, pain-body-got-triggered meltdown. This one was different. I raged at myself. I'm so sick of myself! I hate myself! I'm so sick of this shit! And I wondered, Who is the self that I hate, that I'm tired of, and who is the I who is sick and tired of her? I realized that I was sick of the one who was all about push and effort and trying to make things happen. And the pain that I felt was the fury-filled, gnashing-of-teeth pain of inner resistance, an epic inner battle, a fight to hold onto my ego's agenda versus the need to let go, and I thought of Jesus: Take this cup away from me and how they say he sweated blood. And then I realized that I was dying - not literally dying - but that my big fat ego was burning up. Burning up as I laid on the bed suffering. And as bad as it felt, it somehow felt right.
I had told myself that my desire to make a positive contribution via these videos was noble and that I was correct and on purpose. But somewhere along the way, the purity of my desire was hijacked by the ego. Buddhist teaching says that fear and desire are the root of all suffering and that the death of fear and desire is freedom. Well I've done a lot of work on the fear part, but this desire thing is trickier - for me anyway.
And I think about what's happening now, in the world and in our country. As a culture, we tend to avoid the topic of death. We mostly shutter away our old and dying so that we don't have to be reminded that we are all going to die one day. Death is the ultimate loss of control and the human ego hates to not feel in control. The human ego loves to feel that it's accomplishing, moving forward, and making progress.
As Americans, we are intensely identified with achievement - what we want to do, have, and get - and our belief that we are masters of our own fate. But one thing this virus has taught us is this: maybe we're not. And maybe the way that we've been going about our lives isn't actually fun. It's just that we're scared to let go.
And so I can't help but wonder if, like me, we were collectively sick and tired of ourselves, but didn't even know it. Maybe a wise place in our collective psyche said, Enough is enough. We are tired of pushing so hard, striving so hard. And maybe we knew that in order to save ourselves from our self-created, collective unconscious suffering, we needed to get sick - either literally or metaphorically, physically or economically. Maybe countries are like individuals: sometimes we have to feel worse temporarily, before we can create more lasting healing.
How this Jesus-In-the-Garden experience, this crisis, will play out for us collectively we cannot know. How it plays out for us individually will be as unique and varied as we are. Some of us will sweat more blood than others. But this I know, by the example of the man who showed us how: if you can stay present to it all, even if your friends are falling asleep, your suffering will be your glory, and rebirth shall be your reward.
Much love to you all,
He lives and moves, as most cats do, from his center. Born wild, he is forever tethered to and guided by an Unseen Force from which he was born and from which he evolved, which might imply that he and the Unseen are separate - the one who was born and the one who bore him, but this is not the case.
Rocky's movements and travels through time and space, over rocks and creeks and up into trees, are not planned. They aren't thought of in advance. They are an expression of Life, of Consciousness, expressing through a white and tabby cat, with a bold and cocky swagger, who seems to know that death, is just around the corner. He's alert to every subtle movement, every sound, every smell - a slight rustle in the leaves, the snap of a twig, coyote footprints in the mud. Things that I don't notice, even in my fullest presence, filter into and through Rocky, becoming part of him as he becomes part of them, forever changing and adding to what he encounters with the energetic imprint of Rockiness.
Every mouse that barely escaped his grasp, the coyote he outsmarted, the rooster he tried to catch, and the titmouse he caught and ate, are forever changed. And so Rocky will live forever, (despite my suspicion that his cat years will be short).
And so it is with all of us. And so it is with Life. Like Rocky, Consciousness is always expressing through us. Like Rocky, we are each unique and special expressions. We impact Life by simply being here to observe and be part of it. And our unique expression of Isness mirrors back to Life, to Consciousness, something back to Itself, about Itself, that would be lost without us. That's how important we are.
But like Rocky, our time here, as cat and human, is short. And accepting our impermanence is terrifying for most of us. And yet, if the Essence of Rocky could speak, it might just say,
You and I are one. The same Consciousness that moves through me, also lives through you and gets to see Itself through you, so It is always on your side. Live as It so fully that you know yourself as That, and your human self as merely a vehicle, as an idea in the heart of the Unseen. and you'll never be afraid again - fiercely present, but never afraid.
is the truth that can't be argued about. It's the truth that melts your partner's defenses, the truth that melts your partner's heart. It's also called the microscopic truth or the dangerous truth, because it requires you to dig more deeply inside yourself and get to the bottom of what's really going on versus listening to the content of your egoic, thinking brain. It's a truth not spoken from the intellect, but from fully-embodied presence.
You cannot speak the truth unless you know the truth. And, the egoic mind, the thinking brain, can only speak to the surface level of truth. Given free rein, it will tell its truth over and over again, like a worn out tape in your head. And the more it tells its story, the more entrenched it becomes.
Its purpose for doing this is two-fold. First, the egoic mind's primary job is to create, maintain, and defend its identity. It derives its sense of self from its thoughts and opinions. It's not really interested in new information, despite its host's discomfort and claim that it really does want to understand "why." This is because its sense of self is not only thinking-brain created, it is being fed by the emotional tone of the bodymind.
So, even when you insist that you really are interested in the deeper truth, as long as you're doing it from your current level of frustration, hurt, or similar energy, you're not likely to arrive at any new information. Your mind will simply reflect the underlying energy that's driving it.
The second reason that the egoic mind insists on its truth is that it's afraid of looking bad or different from how it wants to see itself. It must therefore protect itself from deeper feelings that conflict with its image - the image it feels that it must maintain to ensure its survival. So when one has the courage to reach below the surface of the egoic mind and access that truth at the level of the bodymind, real breakthroughs occur.
No longer is there a stand-off between two separate, egoically defended minds, but a conversation between two undefended hearts, two sets of more vulnerable feelings that emerge as shared feelings, shared experience, and a recognition of one's self as not separate, but in oneness with another.
First of all, you might want to be sure that he or she truly doesn't want to have one, once he/she understands what a conscious relationship is, as it's explained by someone who is not you. With the right guidance, a good therapist or coach might help your partner see the benefits and be willing to learn some tools.
Once it has been determined that your partner is truly unwilling, it might be very challenging to have a conscious or enlightened relationship. But, it doesn't mean that it's hopeless.
While it's true that you can't control your partner, there is much that you can do in the context of your intimate relationship to optimize the possibility for his or her growth and to do your own growing in the process. I would not suggest working on yourself in hopes that he or she will change. Working on yourself needs to be approached as having its own reward.
It's possible, although not easy, to use your relationship just as you would any other challenging situation in your life. Whatever feelings arise are your feelings. And while they are understandable, you will either grow or suffer, depending on your relationship to them. If you wallow in your feelings, blaming your partner or your relationship for your unhappiness, you have resigned yourself to a victim position.
Resignation is not the same as surrender. Resignation has a heavy quality to it. Surrender feels light, open, and free. When you say, "Well it's just the way it is," or "It's just the way he/she is," and it feels heavy, you have entered the energy of hopelessness, resignation, apathy, and helplessness. If instead you can say, "OK. This is the way it is. What am I gonna do about how I feel about it?," you then enter the energy of courage or at least might feel a little better as you orient your locus of control back to yourself.
Again, the feelings that arise are yours. Why not spend your time and mental energy learning how to release the negative feelings and the deeper unconscious programs that might be driving them?
This creates a win-win. Because it's possible, although rare, to release your negative feelings to such a degree that neither your partner nor your relationship pushes your buttons anymore, in which case you will freer and happier as a person with fewer pushable buttons.
Your partner, on the other hand, may become increasingly uncomfortable, without necessarily knowing why, because of the vibrational shift in the relationship. Your partner may then start to take a look at him or herself or find a reason to disengage from the relationship. And while you may have some feelings about this, you can release these feelings as well, furthering your own sense of freedom.
As you are committed to your own growth and healing and feeling lighter and freer, one of the following things may happen: your partner will begin to grow and change; you will attract a partner who is ready for a conscious relationship; or neither of the these will happen but you'll be so happy that it won't matter very much.
I know that this might sound idealistic, but it's possible. I've experienced it to some degree for myself and I've observed it with clients. The main point is this: Use this situation to take responsibility for your own feelings and for learning how to release them and allow the Power that knows the way to take care of the rest.
If you are a therapist, currently using the Imago Couples Dialogue or something like it, I strongly recommend using it with a body-informed approach. If you're not using it, I highly recommend doing so and perhaps also adding Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks concept of the Unarguable Truth. Here's why.
These methods, used together, provide a communication structure that requires the sender to communicate cleanly, without blame or judgement, making it easier for the receiver to hear it. It also makes it so the receiver hears what the sender is actually saying versus running it through the filter of his or her own pain-body, thereby reducing projection and knee-jerk reactions.
The Imago Dialogue by itself is a great tool. But I can't tell you how many times my former partners and I left our therapist's office feeling more frustrated than when we went in. We seemed to have an endless amount of dialoging to do and never really seemed to get to the core of what was going on. Twenty years ago I didn't know about speaking the unarguable truth from the level of the bodymind, hence our communication was expressed from the level of the thinking brain - the ego.
It's not that my partners and I weren't trying. We just didn't know that communication expressed from the neck up is limited. It is limited to our ideas about how we feel, the surface-level familiar emotions, and the stories our defended brains have come up with as to why we feel the way we feel and why it is the way it is.
The egoic mind creates and runs its version of the truth, but it's not the unarguable truth. My partners and I weren't intentionally lying. It's just that we couldn't get down to the real truth because we didn't know it. The unarguable truth lives at the level of the bodymind, not the thinking brain. So accessing it requires an ability and willingness to access emotion at the level of the body.
I feel scared. When you said that, I felt a pain in my chest. I'm starting to feel like I want to shut down. These are all examples of the unarguable truth - truths that can't be argued about. You never listen to me (along with recounted examples), is not. The first examples require body-level awareness, the latter doesn't. And because we typically live from the neck up, from the egoic mind, our communication follows suit. And two egoic minds, which by their nature must maintain their sense of identity and separateness, are more invested in their respective versions of the truth than being open to knowing a deeper truth.
I can't tell you how many times a woman has said to me, "But I am expressing my feelings! I'm so frustrated that he _____. " She has been expressing her frustration to him and to herself to the degree that he's become numb to it and she's staying stuck. Because she's expressing a surface-level feeling, he hears it at the surface. He hears her expression as noise or complaint. And because it's a surface-level feeling, she stays stuck in the loop of an endless tape in her head, the energy of which is fueled by a deeper, unacknowledged feeling. The surface-level feeling is often, unconsciously, protecting her egoic mind from this deeper, more threatening feeling. It is threatening in the sense that it threatens the ego - her sense of identity.
When she can be coached and feel supported in tracking her body sensations and their accompanying feelings beneath the level of surface awareness, a deeper truth, a more vulnerable truth, will emerge. I'm afraid you're going to leave me, comes organically, like bubbles rising to the surface from the depths of the ocean. She feels relieved and so does he. Because regardless of his level of consciousness, he feels it as the truth. On some level he's been feeling it all along. He just couldn't attend to it long enough to make it conscious because he was busy reacting to or bracing against her complaint. And she feels relieved as a bodily-felt experience. The stuckness is gone because she's no longer having to use extra energy to maintain her story.
Time and time again, I've seen this level of truth-telling suspend egoic posturing, blaming, and defending and open people's hearts. Their compassion for the other wells up, not with effort or intention, but organically, as a natural response to getting the defended head-stuff out of the way and allowing their true natures to emerge. When we feel safe enough, when we're not having to defend ourselves, we can let down our guards, and allow our innate human potential for love, understanding, and compassion to come through.
I hope this post is to some degree helpful. I think I've tried to squeeze a pretty big topic into a fairly brief post. If you'd like more information you might want to visit: www.shellysmith.org/relationship-coaching. There's a video there and some links to other resources. And as always, feel free to contact me if you'd like to chat.
requires you to first bring at least some degree of full-bodied self-awareness and consciousness to yourself. It requires you to be fully present.
Staying present to yourself, with yourself, by yourself, for any length of time, is challenging enough. Throw another person into the mix, particularly one with whom you have a history, and it gets even more challenging.
The best way to start is by learning how to orient yourself to the present moment while you're interacting with others. Begin by grounding yourself. Feel your feet on the ground or on the floor, whichever the case may be. Feel yourself in your body. Notice your breathing. Notice the muscles that you're using when you breathe in and out. See if you can stay connected to yourself and your own felt-experience as you look at and listen to the other person.
Notice any tendency you might have to "leave yourself" by becoming ungrounded and climbing up into your intellect. Notice any slight tension or effort in your speech. Notice any attempt to fill the silence with words. Notice how often you reference the past or the future in your conversation. Notice how often you express a belief or opinion. None of these things are "bad" or wrong, it's just that they tend to be habitual or unconscious.
Another experiment that you might try is this: Get together with a like-minded friend - one who is also interested in exploring this. Agree that the two of you are going to sit and be together, in nature if possible, with the intention to practice being present to yourselves while you're with each other. You want to simply notice, moment by moment, what is happening inside of you.
Allow any communication to simply emerge from the present moment. Feel no obligation to respond or reply when the other speaks. Simply allow any response to well up from the stillness. This isn't meant to be work. You're not trying to reach a goal. It's just an exploration of Presence.
Thich Nhat Hahn says that the greatest gift we can give another is our full compassionate presence. I'd like to add that learning how to do this for ourselves, is the first step.
or Conscious Relationship, can only happen to the degree that each of the participants is conscious. By conscious, I don't mean that you're not in a coma. I mean that you have conscious awareness of what's driving you - your thoughts, reactions, and behaviors - and some awareness of what underlying emotions or unresolved issues might be getting triggered in your relationship.
If you're trying to achieve this awareness from the neck up, you're only going to get so far. Intellectual understanding can be helpful to a degree, but you'll soon discover that simply understanding why will not stop you from getting triggered the next time. It's automatic. When something your partner says or does triggers the pain-body, all bets are off, and you find yourself saying things and reacting in ways that you later regret.
The pain-body lives inside each of us to some degree, whether we are conscious of it or not. It's the accumulation of all kinds of past hurt that gets stored at the level of the bodymind. (Women share a collective pain-body, as do many ethnic groups, in response to a history of domination, subjugation, and repression). The pain-body informs our perspective and our orientation to the world and because it lives at the level of the bodymind, it can't be talk-therapied out of you.
The good news about this is that your intimate relationship is the perfect platform, and your beloved partner is the perfect person, to help both of you bring healing to your respective pain-bodies, since your partner is often the one who is triggering it and because they are often present when it happens. And when each of you agrees that you both have wounds, both have stuff to work on, you can decide to let your relationship be a safe, supportive container for pain-body healing to happen.
My partner Steve came to see me a few weeks ago. We are not married and live about two hours apart. He hadn't been here long before I noticed some tension in my body. My neck and shoulders felt kind of tight and as much as I didn't want to acknowledge it, he was getting on my nerves. He seemed a little distracted, forgetful, and absent-minded-professor-ish. This typically triggers something for me which I won't go into now, but in no time at all, I was suffering.
I felt so conflicted. I didn't want to ruin a fairly rare weekend together by talking about it, for fear it would turn into a fight. I didn't want to hurt his feelings and I felt like an A-1 bitch and a personal-growth-guru failure for not being able to accept him the way he was. All of this of course created more tension and conflict in me and so I finally decided that if I didn't find a way to release it, it would spill out into our interactions and ruin our weekend anyway.
So I took a deep breath and asked him for a dialogue. (We use the Imago Couples Dialogue for situations like this). Using clean, unarguable truth (Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks) language, I told him what was happening with me, including my perception of his forgetful, flaked-out weirdness (not the words I used).
Like an earnest student he mirrored each of my statements back to me, summarized what he had heard, and managed to empathize with my feelings - a pretty amazing feat in itself. But then, the real magic happened. He waited for a long time and with a light tremor in his voice and tears in his eyes he said, "Shelly, I'm scared."
Thump! There it was - the big truth that I could feel, that he could feel, that neither of us could name, that neither of us were conscious of and couldn't be, until a safe, responsible space was made for it.
Those three little words, "Shelly, I'm scared," changed everything. Not because of the words themselves, not because my man "admitted" he was scared, but because they resonated vibrationally with the deeper truth of our shared experience. Tears filled my eyes, my heart opened, and I looked at my fella, no longer as an irritating, forgetful old man who wasn't meeting my needs, but as my beloved.
Our communication had become communion and I listened with the heart of a flawed fellow human, a fellow traveler, as he described his recent level of stress and how it was impacting his health and his memory. Our raw, unfiltered presence with each other allowed big-P Presence to fill the space of our togetherness. We had entered into Enlightened Relationship. We had brought our unconscious weariness and woundedness to the Light of Awareness and it had transformed it, and us.
Steve and I are not special. Any of you can do this. All it takes is some good tools, some self-awareness, and a willingness to bring your pain-body and your projections up and out into the Light. When you do, Consciousness does the rest.
And when that happens, you will see the Truth of yourselves, each other, and your relationship . . . as divinely held, divinely made, and divinely purposed.
Much love to you and yours,
Some say that the historical Jesus wasn't born in December. Some don't believe he was born at all. But regardless of your beliefs or spiritual tradition, you've got to admit, if you're open to it at all, that the symbolism is pretty brilliant.
There's something about the story of the stable and the star and the simple shepherds with their flocks of sheep, that wouldn't be the same if it happened at high noon or the long days of summer. Light born in darkness cuts through to the subconscious, offering hope, and reminding us that what we shed light on, transforms all that is not light.
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. Perhaps more than anyone I've known personally, Jack made the biggest contribution to my spiritual and professional development. While his sermons could leave you speechless and his counseling skills superb, it was who he was, his Jack-ness, which made the biggest impact on me and so many others.
He often preached in a tie-dye T-shirt and Tevas, long before it was cool. In the 80's and 90's he welcomed gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender people into our church community - defending them, supporting them, and advocating for gay representation in the clergy. The Anderson Independent ran a story about our radical little church and he told me that one of the reporters asked him, "Jack, off the record, what do you think makes people gay?" And Jack replied lovingly, but without missing a beat, "God."
In the 60's he was an outspoken champion for civil rights. So much so that he once came home to a burning cross in his yard. It is said that in response he invited folks over for a weenie roast and s'mores.
Jack had an unapologetically devilish sense of humor. He once asked me, "Hey Shell, know what PMS stands for?" and before I could answer he said, "Puttin' up with men's shit." He thought it was hilarious.
Jack was completely at home with his shadow. He loved to act and was once appearing in a local theatre production of Old Man River. I asked him what part he was playing, to which he replied with a grin and his famous pipe sticking out the corner of his mouth, "A drunken lech," to which I quipped, "Ah, a real stretch for you I guess." And he just laughed.
He knew his shadow intimately and embraced it consciously. He wasn't afraid of it and therefore it wasn't running things behind the scenes. You never had to worry about it sneaking out in some perverted, sideways way, and this is why you always felt safe around him. Because he was so comfortable with his own humanness, he made you feel comfortable with yours.
Some of you have commented that my "authenticity and vulnerability" has inspired you. Well, my beloved friend Jack has alot to do with that. I was 27 years old when we met and for the next 10 years his realness freed me to be real myself.
Jack loved Christmas and could do a Christmas Eve service like nobody else. In memory of those Christmases and in the spirit of his wide-reaching love, I invite you, regardless of your spiritual beliefs or tradition, to join me, as Jack once did, for this little ritual.
This Christmas Eve, around midnight if you can, turn off the lights, go and stand at a window, preferably one from which you can see the stars, and light a candle.
No incantations are necessary. There's nothing you're supposed to do. Just stand and breathe and be present - you and your candle and the night.
Perhaps, like me, you'll think of loved ones who have passed, family relationships that are still broken or challenging, the scary state of the world and all of those who are suffering in it. Perhaps you will think of your own humanness - your failures and successes, quirks and hangups, dreams and frustrations. And perhaps you will let yourself feel whatever arises.
And if you do, when you do, just know that you're not alone. Whatever you're thinking or feeling, I'm probably feeling and thinking it too. And together we light up the darkness, our own darkness, and everyone's darkness, with our own little light of awareness. And in doing so, we are free.
This would have made Jack very happy.
Merry light-that-is-born-in-you Christmas!
Shelly (and Jack)
Recently I asked one of my clients, "To what degree would you say that are you able to just sit with your emotions?" He stared at me for a moment and then replied, "You mean without processing them, like without thinking them through, labeling them, trying to put words to them?" And I said, yes. "You mean without trying to understand them, where they're coming from?" Yes. "You mean without trying to understand what's causing them and then try to change the situation?" Yes. "You mean, just sit with them and feel them?" Yes. "Why would I want to do that!?" I burst out laughing because his response was so delightfully honest, so endearing, and such a clear example of where most of us humans are, particularly in this culture, with regards to our emotions.
It got me to thinking about our species and how, over time, our relationship with our emotions has evolved. And it seems to me that the way we relate to our emotions as individuals runs parallel to our evolution with them as a species. At one time, we must have simply acted on our emotions. If we were really angry at someone, we killed them. Then Descartes came along with, "I think therefore I am," suggesting that our rational minds were in charge and we could override our primitive emotions with mental willpower. It was a step in the right direction. Collectively, and as individuals, we need self-control. We cannot simply act on our feelings without negative consequences.
But here's where we, to some degree, got stuck. In trying to control and manage our animal-like, out-of-control feelings, we learned to suppress them. We now know that this takes a toll on our bodies and creates what we call stress.
At some point, the past thirty years maybe, we realized that we might be healthier if we learned how to express our feelings so that we could get them out of our bodies. This often means talking about our feelings, which is sometimes helpful, and certainly healthier than stuffing them. At one point in my own development, I needed a way to physically express my anger. With the help of specialists in this area, I learned that I could scream in a pillow and hit the bed with a plastic baseball bat, without scaring myself or somebody else, and feel much better. And most importantly, I learned that I could observe and simultaneously feel energy flowing through my body, without it (the energy) having to mean anything. And while I seldom need to now, I still have a plastic baseball bat under my bed in the spare bedroom, just in case.
Once we make friends with our primal emotions, we can start relating to them differently. Beyond suppressing them with our intellects, or whatever other way we tend to do that, and beyond expressing them, is a little known third way. When you can quiet the thinking part of your brain that wants to judge and interfere, when you can allow yourself to palpably feel whatever you're feeling, you can then, with the alchemical power of your awareness, learn how to release, transform, and convert any negative emotion into peace. But you can't skip your way to the peace without feeling the scary, unevolved feelings first. When we try to skip to the peace, because we believe our feelings are unevolved or unspiritual, we call this spiritual bypassing.
In my line of work, I have the opportunity to meet many kinds of healers and spiritual seekers. I am often surprised at how many have not (and are perhaps not ready to), acknowledged the darker, less evolved aspects of their humanness. Debbie Ford's book, The Dark Side Of the Light Chasers, does a great job of describing this. When our identity is tied up in being spiritual people, we tend to unconsciously judge, block, or resist those feelings or impulses that don't match our ideas of who we think we are and who we should be. But this darker energy festers in us, making us less effective, sometimes ill, and in extreme cases leads to the kind of thing we've seen with clergy addicted to porn and sexually deviant behavior.
Any primal emotion, brought to the light of your awareness, will convert, if you can sit with it long enough to feel it and let it be - without judgement, without analysis, without resistance. But you are the only one who can know where you are in your relationship with your emotions and if you're ready for this process. If you tend to act on your feelings, hurting others or yourself, you might want to take time to understand and think about what's going on and where your feelings are coming from. If you tend to intellectualize your feelings, if you understand them, but find that understanding them hasn't really changed anything, or sense that despite your understanding, it's taking a toll on your body, you might want to explore healthy ways to express them. If you're expressing them and find that the same feelings keep cycling through over and over, if you continue to get triggered by the same things, you might be ready to learn how to release them at the source.
I'm describing this in a very linear fashion, but most of us probably do some combination of the above, depending on the topic, the situation, the feeling, and our personal tendencies.
Wherever you are in the process, I want to suggest that learning to work with your negative emotions has the potential to be a spiritual practice. Ironic isn't it? We tend to collectively think that our emotions make us look unevolved or unspiritual, but in my experience acknowledging, allowing, accepting, and even embracing my emotions, as innate to my humanness, is one of the most spiritual things I can do. When I can learn to simply be present with myself and what I'm feeling, without judging and without indulging, I am strengthening my spiritual muscle. I am strengthening who I really am.
And who am I? You can take a hint from your early grammar lessons. I am is the first-person singular of the verb to be - not the verb to think, or to feel, but to be. My emotions aren't who I am. My intellect isn't who I am. I am that on which all of my thinking and feeling appears. I am the one who watches, who makes a space for, who allows - the one who is simply present. So the more you practice be-ing, especially in the presence of challenging emotions, the more you are be-ing yourself. And the more you practice being yourself, the easier it becomes.
Much love to you and yours this holiday season. It has been, and continues to be, my honor and privilege to have you as friends, colleagues, clients, and readers.
If you really want to know the answer to the question, Who am I?, you might try the following meditation.
Start with taking time to feel your feet - barefoot on the ground if possible. Notice the different parts of your feet on the ground. Feel your butt on the ground or in your chair. Notice the air going in and out of your nose. Notice the muscles you're using to breathe in and out. Say the words In and Out, silently to yourself as you breathe in and out, or picture them as you breathe in and out. Once your mind is fairly quiet, see if you can continue to breathe and feel your your feet and feel your Self in your body. Or perhaps be open to some sense of something Eckart Tolle calls the inner body. Don't try to figure it out. You likely won't be able to understand this with your thinking brain. Just be available to the idea of the feeling of it as you breathe.
Once you settle into that quiet-mind zone, ask yourself, Who am I? And wait. Breathe. Wait some more. Just wait and breathe and feel your feet, as best you can. Feel free to re-ask this question as often as it feels right. Just be careful that it's not with an energy of trying to get the answer. Asking and waiting in quiet space is enough. Simply notice what happens inside.
I cannot tell you how long this will take, how many times you'll have to do this process, but if you really want to know the answer to this question, it will come. And it will more than likely come in the form of a feeling or a certain felt-experience of knowing. It can't be forced, it doesn't come cheap, and there are no shortcuts. However, the peace and knowing that comes can be life-changing.
If you'd like some help with it, please let me know.
Heaven On Earth Farm
Specific directions provided upon scheduling or registration.
P.O. Box 1233
Pickens, SC 29671