Staying with sensations

 

It’s easy to say open to the emotion, welcome it, be with it. 

And yet, the question is, how can I do it?

Here are some ways I find helpful:

1. Find fears and resistant thoughts that come up when I consider opening to an intense emotion, and inquire into these. Some beliefs may be: It’s too much. I’ll be overwhelmed. This emotions means something terrible has happened/will happen. This emotion reflects reality. The thought behind it is true. 

2. As I open to the emotion, I can ask myself: Is it true, it’s too much? Is it true, it’s overwhelming? Is it true, I cannot do it? Is it true, it’s not already allowed?

3. Find where in the body I experience the emotion, and bring attention to the sensations there. Bringing attention to the sensation side of the emotion feels more manageable, and it’s also inquiry. I notice how it is to bring attention to the sensation side of the emotion. It may show me the distinction between the sensation side of an emotion, and the image/thought side. And the automatic coupling between those two may lessen and fall away over time. As an emotion arises, I may notice it’s a sensation, and some stories about it – it’s fear, it means something terrible will happen – are simply just thoughts, innocent questions about the world, not necessarily true.

4. When I bring attention to the sensations, notice how the sensations/emotions change over time, how new emerge – perhaps with their own stories, and so on. As Brandon Bays points out, this may eventually lead into the void.

5. As attention is distracted, bring it back to the sensations. Also, notice the thought attention is distracted by/into, and perhaps thoughts about distraction itself. Make a note of it and take this thought to inquiry later. The thoughts attention is distracted by may be the same as under #1 above, and the thoughts about distraction itself may be of the self-judgment kind.

6. As in TRE and other explorations, touch can be very helpful here. Someone holding my hand, or putting his/her hands on my shoulder, or the belly, or feet, may be a great support in staying with intense emotions as they surface. It’s a reminder that someone else is here in the world, and of kindness.

7. I can also do ho’oponopono on the situation: On the person or situation the emotion appears to be about, here and now.  On the emotion itself, seen as an enemy and struggled against. On myself, struggling with how to relate to the intense emotion. And perhaps, if I trace the wound/fear/belief back, on an early childhood situation relating to what’s surfacing now.

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Two dynamics: avoiding vs opening

 

When intense emotions and stressful thoughts surface, I can avoid or open to them.

And each one has self-reinforcing dynamics, they each tend to set up a loop.

Why do I avoid opening to the emotion/thoughts? It’s because of a set of beliefs, and they may seem quite deep seated at first.

It will get worse. Something terrible will happen. (If I open to the emotion, inquire into the thought.)

It’s better to avoid. It’s more comfortable to avoid. It’s easier to avoid. It’s possible to avoid.

The thought is true. The stressful thought reflects reality. It’s pointless to inquire into it.

So when I avoid, I do it because of these beliefs, and it means I don’t get a chance to question them. I avoid opening to the emotions, so I don’t get to see what will happen if I do. I avoid questioning the stressful beliefs, so I don’t get to see what’s more true for me.

Of course, we cannot avoid all the time, so we do get glimpses of how it so to do the 180 degree turn and opening to the emotion, and inquire into the stressful thoughts. It happens in ordinary life, perhaps through a conversation with a loving friend. And it may happen through a book, a teacher, or a workshop.

As I open to an intense emotion, it’s a form of inquiry. What happens if I open to it? Allow it? Welcome it? Notice it’s already allowed?

And inquiring into a stressful thought is a double inquiry. It’s an inquiry into the thought, and an inquiry into what happens if I inquire into this thought.

In both of these ways, I get to see that my assumptions may not be entirely accurate. I thought something terrible would happen, I thought it would get worse (which it may, in the very short term), and it didn’t. Something else happened. So I get more curious. I am drawn to trying it again. Next time an intense emotion surfaces, along with stressful thoughts, I may remember. Something in me nudges me to try it again. How is it to open to this emotion, inquire into this thought? And as I do this more regularly, it becomes a new habit. Now, opening to emotions and inquiring into thoughts becomes what’s more attractive, more familiar.

The shift may take time, and yet it’s inevitable that it happens, as long as I am sincere in questioning whatever thoughts I have that may prevent me from opening to the emotion, and questioning the thought.

Opening to experience

 

A brief follow-up to the post on The Journey:

In The Journey, Brandon Bays describes a process of welcoming and staying with whatever painful emotion is here. Welcome it, stay with it. Allow it to transform, as it naturally does (new layers of hurt/wounds emerge). Until it all drops into the void.

It’s what I find happens naturally during meditation, especially if the sessions are regular and a bit on the longer side. What’s stuffed earlier in life surfaces, and there is an experience of intense emotions burning themselves out, leaving a brilliant clarity and awakeness.

It’s also something I can explore in everyday life, for instance asking myself can I be with what I am experiencing now? (Raphael Cushnir.) I can also explore it further: Is it true this is too much? Is it true it’s overwhelming? Is it true avoiding it is easier? 

And I can identify thoughts behind my impulse to fuel or avoid the emotion/stories surfacing, and take these to inquiry. Here are some I find for myself: (a) Opening to the emotion will make it worse. It’s overwhelming. It’s too much. (b) The thought is true. It’s pointless to inquire into it. Inquiring into the thought will make it worse. (c) It’s easier to avoid. It’s more comfortable to avoid. Something terrible will happen if I open to the emotion/inquire into the thought. 

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Book: The Journey

 

I was taking a course with a spiritual teacher when, during a question and answer session, one of the students asked, ‘What do I do if an intense emotion comes up for me – how do I find the peace in that?’

She answered, ‘Just don’t move. Let yourself be completely present to the emotion. Welcome it. If a negative emotion arises, don’t run away from it; don’t run off to the refrigerator to eat some food to cover it up; don’t turn on the television to distract yourself from it; don’t call your friends to disperse its energy by gossiping about it. Just stop and feel it. Just let yourself be present to it. You’ll find if you don’t try to distract yourself from it, or push it away or, worse still, dump it on someone else; if you stay still, if you are really present to it – in the very core of the feeling you will find peace. So when you feel a powerful emotion, just let it be – DON’T MOVE. Welcome it.
– from The Journey by Brandon Bays

I looked at this book yesterday as it is about one of many practical approaches to allow, welcome and be with what’s here.

She describes a process of meeting whatever painful emotions are here, staying with it, allow it to transform (new layers emerge), until it all drops into the void.

It’s what I find happens naturally during meditation, and it’s also something I explore in everyday life through different forms of inquiry.

Skimming through her book, I noticed – or imagine – a few beliefs she may have: If I live a healthy life, I won’t get sick. People will judge me as a failure if use conventional medicine. Illness means something is wrong. Disease is terrible. Older people won’t get it. British people are reserved. (Age/nationality stereotypes.) And even if I don’t recognize these beliefs in an obvious way in myself, it can still be helpful to inquire into these and see what I find.

I also noticed a few beliefs for myself: She thinks her insights are special. It’s an universal insight. It’s too simple (to talk about). It’s too obvious (to make a big deal out of). 

Why is it a good thing it’s presented in this way? Why is it a good thing a very helpful process is presented in this packaging? She may reach a different audience than others presenting similar pointers. Some may share her beliefs (about health etc.), feel a kinship and see her as one of them, and be attracted to explore something they otherwise wouldn’t. For instance, Christians or non-Buddhists may not be exposed/attracted to Buddhist teachers pointing to the same.

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Jeff Foster: Rest in peace

 

If your peace can be disturbed, it is not the kind of peace you truly long for. If it can be disturbed, it is just a second-hand image of peace, and not the real thing.

We say, “I was so peaceful, and then a wave of fear (or anger, or pain, or sadness…) came along and destroyed my peace!”

But is that really true? Can you ‘have’ peace and then ‘lose’ it? Can peace really be destroyed?

Really it’s the other way round, isn’t it? Fear didn’t destroy your peace, you destroyed fear’s peace. You denied fear’s right to peace by not allowing that energy to move freely in you.

Even fear just wants to come to rest, to express itself fully and come to rest, but we’re so busy trying to get rid of it, escape it, or numb ourselves to it – basically we’re trying to ‘do’ something with it, and this ‘doing’ is actually the end of our peace, not a path towards it.

Stop destroying fear’s peace and let it rest, poor thing – it is suffering from an ancient tiredness, having been wandering in the wilderness for billions of years. It just wants somewhere to lay its head.

Will you give fear the rest it longs for? Will you give fear a home? Will you let all of these poor orphan waves in life’s vast ocean – fear, sadness, anger, doubt, confusion – rest in peace, the peace that you are?

Being what you are – that’s a peace that cannot be destroyed.

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Beliefs about surfacing wounds

 

As wounds and emotions surface, sometimes around something that happened a long time ago, the invitation is to stay with it, open to it, allow it to pass through, and perhaps identify and inquire into beliefs.

These beliefs may be (A) the ones creating the (apparent) wound and emotions, such as he treated me unfairly. When I notice these types of beliefs, sometimes ask myself is it true? while I stay with the contraction. I also make a note of whatever beliefs I notice for a later and more thorough inquiry.

The beliefs may also be (B) about what surfaces, and these may cause me to (a) recoil from the experience or the memory, or (b) indulge in and fuel the stories behind it. Here, I can ask myself, can I be with what I am experiencing? Is it true it’s too much? Is it true it’s easier to recoil? And I can also make a note of some of these beliefs for a later and more thorough inquiry.

These stories may be: (i) It’s too much. It’s overwhelming. It’s no use. It can’t resolve. (ii) Opening to this experience will make it worse. Opening to this experience will make it stronger. (iii) Looking at this image/thought will make it worse. What I’ll find is worse than this. (iv) This image/thought is true.  Investigating this thought is meaningless since it’s true. This experience means something terrible happened. This experience means something terrible will happen.

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Guardian of the treasure

 

In fairy tales and mythology, there is often a guardian of the treasure.

It may be a dragon guarding a princess or gold and diamonds, or – in the case of Greek mythology – Cererbus guarding the gates of the underworld, preventing those who have crossed the river Styx from returning to the world of the living.

And I find this in my own life as well.

My treasure is what’s revealed when I (a) meet and befriend what I am experiencing now, and (b) inquiry into the stressful thought that’s here.

And the guardian is my fear of doing just that. My fear of looking at what’s here.

My fear of meeting and staying with what I am experiencing now – whether it’s discomfort, unease, pain, joy or fear itself. And my fear of identifying and investigating the stressful thought that’s here.

This guardian, this fear, is created by additional beliefs: It will be too much. It will open a Pandora’s box. Reality is unkind. Opening to it will be worse than avoiding it. Something terrible will happen if I open to my experience, inquire into my stressful thought.

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The Backward Step

 

Take the backward step that turns your light inwardly to illuminate your self.
– Dogen Zenji in Fukanzazengi

Dogen mentions taking the backward step.

It seems that I just wrote about one of these backward steps: Noticing and connecting with the fear that’s here, behind unease, tension, discomfort etc.

The forward step, the habitual step for many of us, is the recoil from the fear, and instead go into reactive emotions, tension, seeking comfort, over-thinking and so on. And the backward step is to instead notice and connect with this fear.

Another backwards step is The Work. Here, the forward step – the habitual one for many of us – is to take the belief and run with it, fuel it as it leads to more thoughts, emotions, a life in the world. The backward step is to notice the belief, write it down, and take it to inquiry to see what’s there.

Yet another is sense field inquiry. Or even, in a sense, ho’oponopono. Or one of the many other practices which invites us to look at what’s really here, or reverse a process of going into and fueling beliefs.

Of course, what Dogen talked about was zazen.

Fear

 

I am returning to being with the fear that’s here.

There is unease, tension or discomfort. I notice a fear behind it. Connect with it, feel it, allow it to have its life, meet it as a friend, meet it as a child seeking love.

Whenever there is any of the symptoms of beliefs I can do the same, and these are the symptoms I notice from question no. 3 in The Work: A sense of unease, tension, discomfort, reactive emotions, hurt, seeking comfort in food or activities, a sense of having to protect something or someone (including viewpoints, identities),  trying to find refuge or safety in analyzing or thinking or maps, or wishful or fearful images.

It seems that (a) some very basic beliefs are behind the fear, creating the fear. (b) There are also beliefs about the fear, creating an impulse to recoil from the fear and the basic beliefs behind it. (c) This impulse to recoil leads to an impulse to seek refuge and safety in the same and other beliefs. And (d) these beliefs in turn fuel fear.

It’s all a house of cards, held up by the impulse to recoil from the fear and the beliefs behind the fear.

So the medicine is to connect with the fear, feel it, be with it, allow it its life, meet it as a child seeking love. As I do this, there is a sense of connecting with the root of the fear and it doesn’t need to express itself in reactive emotions, seeking comfort in food or activities, over-thinking and so on.

And the medicine is to allow the fear a voice, writing down whatever it has to say, the stories and beliefs behind the fear, and then – perhaps later – take these to inquiry. This too, in my experience, gives a sense of coming home, of relief, even gratitude.

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A silent “no” to existence

 

I have had several days recently – off and on – where I experienced something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It felt mostly as a congestion at all levels. After asking for guidance, something shifted while in bed last night. I found the fear behind the experience, and felt it. And then realized that what I was experiencing was a silent, primal “no” to existence. As I saw this, something shifted further and the experience moved on. It must have been yet another very basic layer surfacing to be seen, felt, and loved.

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It is a great honour to sit with discomfort

 

It is a great honour to sit with discomfort, for all the mysteries of the universe lie within. As you sit with discomfort, you also meet discomfort’s best friend – the urge to escape that discomfort! Is there enough room in you for both discomfort AND the urge to escape discomfort? Of course – who you are is vast and spacious enough to hold anything. This is true meditation – no longer resisting discomfort and trying to escape to a future comfort, but discovering the ever-present, unconditional Comfort that you are, the perfect calm in the midst of the storm.
– Jeff Foster

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A sense of longing

 

As I wake up, there is a sense of longing combined with a slight sense of dread.

The longing seems familiar in childhood, and the dread from the last couple of years.

I notice a tendency to recoil from it. Fear.

Beliefs about what it means, and what it would mean to welcome it.

I dive into the middle of it.

Bring attention to it. Welcome it as a friend.

There is a shift.

It can no longer so easily be labeled longing or dread.

There is a fullness, a sense of coming home.

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What I resist is the gateway?

 

What I resist is the gateway.

What do I find when I use this as a question, a pointer for own exploration?

I resist an emotion, and when I allow and meet that emotion, I find relief, an open heart, a sense of coming home, flexibility in relating to situations. I find what I really seek.

I resist a thought, and it’s the same there. When I identify and inquire into that thought, I find resolution, creativity, kindness, a sense of coming home. I find what I really seek.

So what I resist is the gateway.

And really, something else seems more true:

The thought behind – creating – the resistance is the gateway.

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Meeting our confused parts as we would meet any being wishing for clarity

 

I keep returning to this topic.

What we are can awaken to itself and all is recognized as the play of awareness, as emptiness in the form of awakeness and it’s play of form. Everything is happening on it’s own.

At the same time, this human self is here and there may be many parts of this human self that’s still not aligned with reality. From it’s previous life within identification as an I, it has wounds, beliefs, stored trauma and more. And the movement is for all of these parts to come to awareness and align with reality. These parts – these voices or subpersonalities – still live partly within confusion, and seek clarity. They wish to be liberated from their suffering.

This can play itself out in several ways.

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Surface to find clarity

 

When a bubble of confusion surface (wound, belief, reactive emotion, unease) it does so to find clarity. In a quite real sense, it is a being that wish clarity and liberation from it’s suffering.

So how would it be to meet these beings as a friend? To meet them with some clarity, wisdom and kindness?

Here are some ways to meet them:

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Allowing, inquiry and TRE

 

Draft….

Some of the ways allowing experience, inquiry and TRE work together.

Allowing fear and experience is more comfortable than getting caught up in resistance, thoughts, emotions or escape. And it  also allows old wounds and stored tension/trauma to release and unwind.

Inquiry into beliefs a invites a release of what creates and recreates tension and trauma. It’s not situations that creates stress and trauma, but taking certain interpretations and assumptions as true. (Being chased by a giant ape is fun when I tell myself it’s a movie, but terrifying if I tell myself it’s true, happening to me, and wrong and terrible.)

I can inquire into beliefs about experience – I need to escape this experience, I’ll die if I allow it, something terrible will happen if I meet it. And I can inquire into beliefs triggering fear and reactive thoughts and emotions, such as something is wrong, something terrible has/will happen.

Life itself brings beliefs to the surface and offers an invitation to inquiry, and it brings fears and experiences to the surface with an invitation to welcome and meet them. Nothing more is really needed.

But in some cases, body-oriented approaches may help release stored tension and trauma in a gentle way. It may help the process along.

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Embracing what’s disowned in the field

 

Here is one of the explorations I am called to these days:

I notice the field of experience.

Is there anything there is resistance to?

Is there anything in the field of experience there is a slight “no” to?

How is it to consciously include this? Embrace it? Meet it with a yes?

How is it to open my heart to it?

What happens?

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Variations on allowing experience

 

draft….

Variations on the theme of allowing experience…..

I can watch or observe experience.

I can be with it, allow it.

I can meet, welcome or embrace experience.

I can notice it’s already in awareness, it’s already allowed.

And I can be it, notice I am already it.

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The impulse to escape experience

 

Elaboration on an earlier inquiry:

– o –

Basic dynamics

(a) When I believe I need to escape experience, I may be able to do so partially and for a while.

I may distract myself.

I may find tools and techniques that change my state and experience for a while.

But I cannot control experience. Experiences come and go. They live their own life.

I cannot control what I will experience when I wake up tomorrow, or next week, or even the next minute or second.

The specific experiences I try to avoid may still be there in the background, and they may surface again and be triggered again.

When I try to escape experience, I can only do so partially and temporarily.

(b) Also, believing that I need to change my experience is uncomfortable in itself.

I get myself into escape mode. I keep trying to run from what’s here.

And that is inherently uncomfortable.

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Even keel through shifts

 

I notice shifts between three different states.

The first is into wounds, beliefs and hangups. A belief surfaces to be seen, felt, loved.

Another is into what I am, into Big mind. The veils are thinner. It’s easier for what I am to notice itself.

And yet another is a release from either, just ordinary life.

Each of these is an invitation to see, feel and find appreciation for what’s here. An invitation to befriend experience and stories, notice I am what happens and inquire into stories.

These shifts are also an invitation to find a more even keel throughout states, and one way to do that is to befriend experience and inquire into stories – especially those saying something is not OK.

And these shifts is an invitation to notice what I am throughout states. Content of experience changes – what is it that does not change?

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The unembraced seeks embrace

 

The dark seeks the light. The unloved seeks love. The unseen seeks to be seen. The unfelt seeks to be felt.  The unappreciated seeks appreciation.

Last night after going to bed, a stream of shadow material surfaced again. Some it is was personal, and most of it was archetypal.

It’s easy for me to resist. To get up and have a cup of tea. To listen to a podcast. To go for a walk. To find someone to talk with in another time zone.

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Allowing and being it

 

I woke up this morning with a sense of heavy dullness and unease. It’s easy to not want this experience. My impulse is to resist the experience, to change it, to get up and shake it off.

Instead, I stay in bed for about an hour more, allowing and welcoming this experience. Shifting into being it, noticing I am it already.

When I resisted the experience, it seemed an “other”, a problem, something I wanted to change and go away.

As soon as I allow it and find myself as the experience, it is quite different.

The content has the same qualities of heaviness and unease, but now it is what I am. It gives a sense of fullness, richness. It is nourishing.

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Healing it here

 

A draft…..

There are many approaches to healing here what I see in the world. It may not “need” healing in an ultimate sense, but wishing for healing is a natural impulse. It feels good and right, and may even reduce suffering for myself and others, and make it a little easier for us to make more wise choices.

I have recently explored ho’oponopono, a new and revised version of an ancient shamanic practice from Hawaii and other pacific islands. I see something in the world that needs healing – coming out of suffering and confusion. I find in myself what creates this, connect with it, and forgive myself for it. I forgive myself for having created the causes that brought this about. One way of doing this is to say I am sorry, I love you, thank you. Or simply, I forgive myself for having created this. Ho’o may sound odd, but it makes immediate intuitive sense to me.

The essence is (a) to take complete responsibility, and (b) invite clearing of what creates suffering and confusion. This is similar to other approaches such as The Work, the Big Mind Process, tonglen, bearing witness, and perhaps even techniques such as TRE if done with the same intention.

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Attention goes to knots

 

Something else I keep rediscovering:

Attention goes to knots. It goes to wounds and hangups, and beliefs when reality rubs up against them.

It goes to whatever is still unresolved in my stories about the past, future or present, and this takes the form of recurrent thoughts, rumination and day- or night dreams.

I don’t always appreciate it, but I find that reality is kinder than my preferences. Reality invites me to clarity and a more complete resolution, while my beliefs often would rather avoid it.

Whenever attention goes to a knot, it is an invitation for clarity. And for me, it is an invitation to allow, be with and be the emotions it brings up. To find and inquire into the beliefs behind it and find what’s more true. And to see how it is to life from this – including doing my part to resolve whatever needs to be resolved in my relationship with others.

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Churning thoughts, flow of emotions

 

A good reminder:

When I notice churning thoughts or complaints: Write it all down uncensored. Find themes and underlying beliefs. Investigate those, and find what is more honest for me. What happens when I believe those thoughts? Can I know for certain they are true? What’s more true for me? (I can answer any of these questions from the view of Big Mind/Heart.)

When I notice strong or uncomfortable emotions: Set the thoughts and images aside. Connect with my heart. Bring attention to the breath in the heart area. Breathe and feel, breathe and feel. Notice the experiences – emotions, sensations – flowing through.

The times images and strong emotions come up and I take them as true, it is easy to slip into fueling the stories and resisting the emotions they create. I try to push the experience away or escape it, often through distractions. I act from and create confusion, and the images and emotions gets balled into a difficult-to-deal-with mess.

When I instead take a step back and open my mind and heart to one at a time, I make it easier for myself. I write down the thoughts. And take time to breathe and feel the emotions and bodily sensations. An invitation for clarity comes from meeting one at a time.

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Allowing that which is most difficult to allow

 

I am going to make this simple…..

As I get more familiar with allowing experience, as is, as if it will never change (although it always does), and with kindness, I can actively seek out that which is more difficult to allow.

I can bring up the images about the past, future, or present that are most difficult for me, and find familiarity with allowing these images and the emotions triggered by them.

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