Not painful to think?

 

Arne Næss, one of my favorite philosophers and human beings, once said:

It’s not painful to think.

And yet, of course, it can be.

Thoughts come with a whole mess of things, including sometimes memories and associations that trigger uncomfortable emotions. It can certainly be very uncomfortable to think.

If we think seriously about something, we may….

See that we don’t know as much as we think, or with much certainty.

Notice discrepancies and inconsistencies in our worldview.

Be reminded of painful situations or aspects of ourselves.

Have to question our beliefs and identities.

And much more. All of which can be quite uncomfortable.

The puzzling thing isn’t that not more of us are thinking more thoroughly. It’s that some do. And why? Most likely because we realize that it’s actually more painful, especially in the long run, to not examine things thoroughly.

Reality is kind, and we are kind to ourselves when we align our views more closely with reality.

Note: I am sure Arne Næss knew this very well. He probably just wanted to make a point. Thinking itself is not painful. It’s what we do with it that sometimes is. It’s how we react to it that can create discomfort.

Note 2: There is a clear difference between examination/inquiry and thinking. I know that this post blurred that distinction a bit.

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Psychological questionnaires: Assumptions behind the questions

 

I am doing the Finder’s Course in a few weeks and filled out most of the psychological pre-measures today. It was a reminder of how imprecise many questionnaires are.

They make assumptions that may not be shared by the ones taking it, so the results are unreliable.

For instance, one asked me what percent of time I am happy, sad, and neutral. I initially came up with a number far higher than 100% and then had to bring it down to 100%. The reality is that most of the time, and even right now, there is a mix of happiness/contentment, sadness, and neutrality. I would perhaps say 40% happy, 50% content, 50% neutral, and 20% sad.

The questionnaire assume that they are mutually exclusive and asks what percentage of the time I experience one or the other. If I am honest, I would have to say I experience all three most of the time, perhaps 90-95% of the time. To me, it makes far more sense to ask what percentage of each I am experiencing right now.


Update Jan. 18, 2017

I decided to add a few more examples of how questionnaires appears to make assumptions not neccesarily shared by the person answering the questions. I realize this may be a bit pedantic…!

People should try to understand their dreams and be guided by or take warning from them.

I am answering “no” since I don’t think this applies to people in general. I definetely work with my own dreams – often using Jungian active imagination – but I wouldn’t prescribe it for people in general. They may not be interested or benefit from it.

If the question is really about how I see dreams then the question is misleading and my answer (“no”) will give a different impression than what’s true. Still, I can’t second guess the intention behind the questionnaire and answer “yes” since it’s not true for me.

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Jeff Foster: No emotion is a mistake

 

Awakening is not about deleting or transcending human emotions, for how would the ocean transcend a single wave, and how would the sun transcend one of its beloved sunbeams? It’s about seeing that every emotion – from joy to despair, bliss to boredom, agony to ecstasy – is only a movement of life energy, actually a movement of yourself, a wave in your vastness. No emotion is a threat, an enemy, or a punishment. Every emotion is an invitation to remember your vastness, rest in your oceanic nature. You are on a pathless path of radical inclusion, friend, and there are no mistakes here.

– Jeff Foster

Byron Katie: Anyone who is angry is fearful

 

Anyone who is angry is fearful.

– Byron Katie

That’s my experience as well. Behind anger is fear. Fearful stories create anger, fear, compulsions, and much more.

Stressful stories that we hold as true lead to fear – which can take the form of anger, sadness, or compulsions. The answer is to question these stories and hold all of it in kindness and presence.

When in a funk, careful about drawing big conclusions

 

A funk or any strong emotional state tends to color our experience of everything. And that goes for our thoughts as well. Our thoughts tend to reflect whatever emotional state we are in. It’s as if our mind wants to be helpful, so it creates or brings up thoughts aligned with the emotional state.

It’s good to notice this pattern.

I notice I am in a funk or an emotional state. I notice my mind creating certain stories that goes with that funk or emotion. And I notice that as the funk or emotional state passes, as it does, then those thoughts pass as well. They were linked to the emotional state. They were not as true as they seemed when they were supported by the emotional state.

As I notice this pattern over time, a part of me also recognizes and knows what’s happening and not to believe those thoughts. A part of me knows they are fueled by the funk or the emotions, and as the funk or emotions pass, the thoughts will not seem as true or real.

And that helps me avoid fueling the thoughts further, draw big conclusions (about life, others myself, situations) based on them, and especially to act on those conclusions.

This is kindness towards myself.

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Three ways of relating to emotions

 

We have three ways of relating to emotions. Often, there is a combination, and we may cycle through them as well.

Two of them is reacting to emotions and their associated stories. We can act on them, or we can suppress them. When we act on them, we act on the anger, sadness, fear, or whatever it is, as if the stories behind the emotions are solid and real and not to be questioned. When we suppress the emotions, we may pretend they are not there, or choose to avoid them, and we do that too because we see the stories behind them as real, solid, and scary.

The third is to relate to the emotions more intentionally. We recognize the emotions. We may be aware of the stories triggering the emotions, and our stories about the emotions. We may intentionally allow ourselves to feel the sensations. We may speak about what’s happening and share it with someone else. We may meet and explore the sensations and the stories with curiosity, to see what’s really there.

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Thinking with mental images and other imagined senses

 

We humans think with imagined versions of our senses. We think we mental images, imagined sounds, imagined smell and taste, imagined touch. Even words are imagined sounds and images (of the letters), often combined with mental images of what the words refer to.

I imagine that most animals do the same. They think with imagined senses, with mental images and imagined sounds, smell, taste, touch and more. Whatever senses they have, they may think with imagined versions of these senses. I assume mammals and probably birds and reptiles do that each in their own way. Insects may also do it, although, although more rudimentary.

And if there are beings in other places of the universe, it’s possible they do the same. They may think with imagined versions of their own senses, whatever those senses happen to be.

Some form of feelings or emotions may also be included for many beings. For us, sensations give a sense of solidity and reality to some imaginations, and they also give them a charge. And that serves a survival function.

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Muscle relaxants and painkillers, and what we feel

 

Their conclusion: Acetaminophen, the most common drug ingredient in the United States, can reduce a person’s capacity to empathise with another person’s pain, whether that pain is physical or emotional.

Popular painkiller ingredient can reduce empathy, study finds, The Independent, May 12 2016

Recent research shows that common painkillers reduce empathy. Having worked with clients who are on different types of medication aimed at reducing emotional or physical pain, I am not surprised. It seems that reducing our ability to feel physical sensations reduces our ability to feel emotions as well. And that’s what we would expect knowing that sensations are an essential component of emotions and any experience that we experience as having a charge.

As I have mentioned in other posts, sensations lend charge and a sense of reality and solidity to imaginations. They make the content of stories seem real, true, and charged, whether these stories are just a label (sadness, anger, happiness, pain), or a more elaborate story about the world, others, or oneself.

I assume something similar is happening with muscle relaxants. Body contractions are a part of anxiety, depression, trauma, and addictions, so when the body contractions soften, the intensity of these emotions and cravings are likely to soften as well.

No wonder people get addicted to painkillers and even muscle relaxants. They help us not feel feelings we would rather not feel.

Painkillers and muscle relaxants numb us. There is nothing wrong in that. For some of us, it may be the best solution in the situation we are in. And it’s also not a lasting solution. It doesn’t solve the underlying issues which is that we take our experience as real and solid, we take our painful stories as true, and we fight and struggle with our painful stories and how they make us feel. For that, we need to address these underlying issues more directly. For instance through inquiry.

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Emotions and thoughts are not telling the truth

 

Emotions and their associated thoughts can be misleading in two ways.

(a) We think they are about the current situation.

We assume they reflect or are justified by or even created by the current situation. The reality is that almost always, these emotions and accompanying thoughts are old. They come from early in life. They may even be passed on through the generations. The current situation trigger these old patterns in us.

Emotions and their thoughts are often not about what they on the surface seem to be about. A friend or partner leaves me, I feel a sense of abandonment and that I am unlovable, and that’s not really about the current triggering situation. It’s about early childhood experiences, perhaps all the way back to infancy, where I felt like this and it was not resolved. (The only way to resolve these is to be present with and feel the sensations, and examine the imaginations connected with it.)

(b) We think they tell us the truth.

We think the emotions and the associated stories tell us the truth about whatever they seem to be about. And yet, that’s usually not the reality. They are from identifications, beliefs, wounds, and even trauma. They come from reactivity. At most, they have a very limited validity, as do a number of other stories (including their reversals). And even more so, the reality is that we don’t know.

Using the example above, I have stories about being abandoned and unlovable. On the surface, they may seem and feel true. But they are really just imaginations (mental images and words) associated with sensations in the body. When we identify these and feel the physical sensations and look at the images and words, the original experience doesn’t seem so real anymore. We recognize it as created by the mind through sensations associated with imagination.

When I say emotions and their associated thoughts, I mean thoughts that seem to give meaning to, elaborate on, and explain emotions. And also thoughts that trigger and create emotions.

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Mixed emotions

 

When I check in, I sometimes notice a whole universe of different feelings and emotions. Right now, there is a mix of elation, contentment, fear and more.

When that happens, I can isolate one feeling or emotion at a time, and then notice images and words associated with it.

Isolate the feelings and emotions. Notice images and words associated with it. Isolate sensations, images, and words.

That in itself can be interesting and very helpful.

If I want to, I can continue exploring. I can do some mining and see what more is there. I can ask some simple inquiry questions to clarify what’s already there.

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Whole body sensations, and sensations vs emotions

 

I had a client yesterday who was unclear on the difference between sensations and emotions, and who was unable to locate certain sensations.

I thought I would mention a couple of things about it here:

Sensations vs emotions

For me, sensations are bodily sensations, whether they seem associated to images and words or not. I feel a sensation in my heart area. 

Emotions are sensations combined with images and words which gives them a name and often a rich set of associations. I feel sad. I feel it in my throat and heart. It’s because I am alone. Nobody loves me. I was often alone as a kid. I see myself as sad. I see the sadness as a dark lump in my throat. I see images of me being alone as a kid. (etc.)

There is also a middle zone here, where we may have sensations and use images and words to describe or visualize these, and even have associations combined with them.

Difficult to localize sensations / emotions

If a client (which could be me!) describes a vague or all-encompassing feeling or emotion, and they have difficulty localizing it, I often ask if it’s a whole body feeling or sensation. The answer is often yes.

It seems that these whole body sensations often go with an all encompassing feeling or emotion, which can either be quite strong and clear (clear anxiety, depression) or can be more subtle and perhaps more vague.

It also seems that it can be difficult to localize these all encompassing feelings, at least at first. The mind may expect to find a more localized sensation, so overlooks that it’s all over the body.

Emergency measures

 

When something – an emotion, physical or emotional pain, cravings and addictions – feels overwhelming and unbearable, what do we do?

As psychologists (and others) identified a while ago, there is a range of coping strategies. From the more unhealthy ones such as drinking, using drugs, and aggression and violence, to the moderately unhealthy ones such as eating, shopping, and entertainment, to the more helpful ones such as friendships, nature, movement, to the ones that may resolve it all such as inquiry and seeing through the beliefs of overwhelm and unbearable.

Among the latter, some may be helpful short term and some in the longer term. And we each have to find what works for us.

Here are some emergency measures that works for me:

Move. Go for a walk. Do self-Breema. Shake (TRE). Jump up and down in place.

Talk with a friend.

Conscious breathing. Place hands on belly and chest and notice the breath. Make outbreath longer than inbreath. Breathe into the sensation, allow the sensation and breath to merge.

Feel the sensations. Feel them as sensations. (Set the stories aside for a while, if I can.)

Use ho’oponopono. Say to myself (the scared part of me), I am sorry, please forgive me, I love you. Say this also to whatever triggered it. (A person, symptom, situation.)

Alternately amplify and drop the stressful stories. (10 sec. each, described by Joey Lott in some of his books).

Tapping. (EFT type tapping.)

Say to myself: I love you. I love you. I love you. / It’s OK to feel this.

Ask myself: Is it true this is overwhelming? Is it true it’s too much? It’s unbearable, is it true?

And some longer term strategies:

Inquire into how I relate to what’s been triggered.

Can I find the threat? The overwhelm? Intensity? Pain? (Living Inquiries.)

Is it true it’s unbearable? Too much? (The Work.)

Inquire into the triggers. (Perceived threats.)

Inquire into being triggered. (My stories about it, deficient identities, fears.)

I posted a question about this on a Facebook page for inquiry, and here are two answers I found especially helpful:

Venting to a best friend. Talking it out, focusing on how I feel versus the triggering event or person. Giving it that voice helps it wash through through a big honest cry.

Also, lately I’ve been using the words “I am willing to feel this” with whatever arises. Physical or emotional pain, lately it works for me most of the time. Another one: Put my hand on my heart and say “I love you” over and over again. or Put my hand on the area of my body that hurts/triggered and do the same thing. “I love you” “I’m sorry you’re feeling this” “I love you”. caress my face, caress my arms, like a pet… for a few minutes. tapping also. These are mine.

– Marina B.

An interesting question. As time has gone on, I’ve discovered that it’s possible to rest with even the most intense states/feelings. That’s been incredibly valuable, as I spent many years feeling that I couldn’t be with what I was feeling, and so using all the tools that we’ve described above, and more. They certainly have their place, and yet what has helped me the most is being with or resting or inquiring even in the direst of times. There’s something so profound about discovering we do have the capacity to bear it all, even when it feels unbearable

– Fiona R.

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Emotions = Sensations + Stories

 

What’s the difference between emotions and sensations?

Sensations are just sensations. Physical sensations in the body.

These sensations can have stories associated with them. And these stories give meaning to the sensations.

The stories sometimes create what we call emotions, and they tell us they are emotions.

Without stories associated with sensations, it’s easy and simple to feel and rest with the sensations. They seem neutral, and even friendly or mildly interesting.

With stories associated with the sensations, it can sometimes seem scary to feel them. We avoid feeling them, because we think something unpleasant or even terrible will happen if we do.

That’s why a simple exploration can be very helpful. When I separate out the associated images, words, and sensations, I get to see what’s there and how my experience is created by my own mind. In this case, I get to see how the emotions is created, what stories created the emotions (in my current situation, and perhaps in the past), and what stories I have about the emotions and what they mean.

All of this helps loosen the sense of reality it may initially have. It makes it easier to feel the sensation component of the emotion, and feel it as sensations. And that means I don’t have to try to escape it anymore (through compulsively going into thoughts, distracting myself, reacting). It’s OK to feel it.

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The richness of this moment

 

When someone asks me how I am doing, it’s not always easy to give a simple answer.

The reality is that any moment is very rich.

What’s here now. Right now, I notice…. quiet joy, enjoyment, satisfaction, dissatisfaction, sadness, fear, dread, love, discomfort, contractions, a sense of boundlessness, and much more. It’s a bitter-sweet experience, where both ends of many polarities are included.

And when I think about any situation, it’s similar. For instance, when I think of my ex-wife, there is love there, a wish for her to do well, some regret, a twinge when I think of her with someone else, a knowing I wouldn’t want to share my life with her now, sweet memories, slightly uncomfortable memories, and much more.

Richness of views. There is also a richness of views that all co-exist. When I look at my situation now, and my history, there is a wide range of views that all have some validity. I can find tragedy in missed opportunities. I can find privilege. I can find adventure. I can find mistakes and poor judgment. I can see it through a “spiritual” story of opening, initial awakening, dark nights, and situations perfectly set up to further the deepening. I can see it as a moving story of the hopes, failures, achievements, and losses of a typical human being. And again much more.

There is always one more facet of my experience here and now I can notice. There is always one more view that makes sense and has some validity.

Happening within what I am, and reflecting who I am. Taking a slightly different angle, I see that my field of experience – as it is now – is what I am. It’s all happening within and as what I am. It’s the richness of what I am now. And from yet another angle, I see that any quality or characteristics I see “out there” in others or the wider world, is something I can find in myself. I wouldn’t recognize it “out there” unless I already knew it from my own experience and who I am. In that sense, there is an immense – and very real – richness to who I am, if I only look and see.

Awareness, love, ground. It’s equally true that I can find where everything is awareness, love, form, and ground.

The awareness, love, intelligence is here, and it seems I can find it whenever I look. Whatever happens, this field of experience, is awareness, love, intelligence. Or, at least, those are the words that seem to fit the best.

The content of experience is here, as described above, including quiet joy, sadness, satisfaction, slight discomfort and more. And I can find a similar content of experience whenever I look. This happens within and as awareness.

At the same time, there seems to be a “ground” (void) here that awareness and its content happens within and as. And that too seems to be here whenever I look. This is perhaps what it’s most difficult to find an appropriate word for. It’s a  nothingness that allows for awareness and the content of awareness. And it seems surprisingly tangible?

When I say that “everything” happens within this, that “everything” includes any sense of a me or I. That too happens within what a thought may call awareness, love, form, ground. It happens within what “I” really am. In a sense, there is one “I” that all this happens within and as, and another “I” or “me” that happens within this (the human self, sometimes an apparent doer, observer etc.). And really, all of these – awareness, love, intelligence, form, ground – seem all facets of the same.

Feeling sensations as sensations

 

This is one of the pointers I have found invaluable:

Feel sensations as sensations.

Instead of seeing it as anger, sadness, grief, exhilaration, discomfort, physical pain, compulsion, or something else, feel the sensation component of it as sensations. Notice where it is in the body. Feel the sensations.

It sounds almost too simple, maybe even naive.

And it can be amazingly effective, when we are able to do it. When the shift happens to feeling the sensations as sensations.

It’s not always so easy. The reason it initially appears as anger, sadness, or whatever it is, is that the sensations are connected with images and words. They form a whole, which we have stories about, and which may seem scary.

It can help to do some simple inquiry. Feel the sensations. Notice images connected with it. Notice words connected with it. Rest with it. Ask simple questions about it, to make it easier to see what’s already and really there.

Look at the word “anger”. Look at the letters, the shapes, the spaces between and around the letters. Are those letters angry? Are they anger?

Look at the image of your father. Look at the colors, texture, lines. Imagine touching the surface. Is that image your actual father?

Look at the image of a dark ball. Is that image a threat? Can it hurt you?

Doing some inquiry with the associated images and words helps us see images as images, words as words, and sensations as sensations. It helps us feel and rest with sensations as sensations. It can make it much easier to do so.

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Judy Cohen: What makes these sensations “negative”?

 

Anger, fear, sadness, heaviness, contraction, pressure.

What makes these sensations “negative”? What’s negative about them?

– Judy Cohen on Facebook

That’s what I have wondered since I first heard someone using those words.

They clearly have a survival function. They are selected for because they help us survive.

They have a function in everyday life. They help us navigate and communicate.

And “negative” is a label, taught to us from culture. Someone first came up with that label, and the attitude behind it, and – somehow – this “meme” caught on and was transmitted between people and generations in our particular culture.

Of course, I too somehow respond to these thinking they shouldn’t be here, or that something is wrong if they visit. That’s very normal having been brought up in a culture with these views and responses. I wanted to be a good boy, so I did as my parents and others did. I learned to see them in this way. And I can explore that – and find a different relationship with all of it – through inquiry. Either intentional and explicit inquiry, such as The Work or the Living Inquiries. Or inquiry that’s just an ordinary curiosity as part of everyday life, or kindness practices (towards these parts of me, and the parts of me responding to them as “bad”) such as ho’oponopono, loving kindness, holding satsang with what’s here, tonglen, the heart prayer, and more.

Ways through emotional pain

 

In the most recent phase of my life, I have become much more familiar with emotional pain. Where my life used to be relatively easy and I was consistently quite content and happy, I instead got thrown into cycles of deep emotional pain alternating with relative calm. There is a clear sense that my system is bringing up whatever wounds and trauma are here – from this life and ancestral material, and perhaps from previous lives – so it can be digested. Or…. so it can be seen, felt, loved and released. So it can be seen for what it is. Felt as it is. Loved as it is. Recognized as love. So this human self can heal and mature a little more. So more of who I am is aligned with the clarity and love of reality. Anything not like love and clarity will come up so it can align with clarity and love.

Here are some of the ways I have found helpful in relating to this emotional pain.

Reframing. How I frame the emotional pain makes a difference. If I see it as a problem, or a sign that something went wrong, it’s difficult. I stay in the battle with the pain. Instead, if I see the pain as coming to be seen, felt, loved and released, it’s different. Making it even more personal, I can see the pain as unloved children coming to find a home and love. The unloved parts of me seek the light, they seek the loving presence I really am, and reality really is.

Love. The pain seeks love. Here are some ways to meet the pain with love: (a) Can I meet and feel it with love? Can I allow it to happen within me, (with me) as a loving presence? Is it true that love is not already here? (b) I can say something very simple to myself and the pain, such as “I wish you love, I wish you ease, I love you”. (c) I can use practices such as ho’oponopono, metta or tonglen, either on the pain itself, the suffering me, someone triggering pain in me, and anyone/everyone else in my life and the world. (d) I can meet the pain in satsang. You are welcome here. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love for me. What would satisfy you forever? What are you really? (This is also a form of inquiry.)

Feeling the sensations. Emotional pain is much easier to deal with when it’s felt as sensations, and the associated stories (words and images) are either set aside (temporary solution) or seen through (more lasting). Where do I feel it in the body? What are the sensations? How is it to feel these? How is it to bring attention to the sensations in themselves? How is it to allow them to be there, to change?

Inquiry. Inquiry can be very helpful here, in many different ways. Through inquiry, I can….

(a) Identify and see through beliefs triggering the pain.

(b) Examine the words and images “glued” to a sensation, making up the experience of emotional pain. As words are seen as words, and images as images, it’s easier to feel sensations as sensations. This, in turn, allows the “charge” behind it to be released.

(c) Examine the emotional pain itself, and the apparent me that’s experiencing or reacting to the pain. Is either as real and solid as it appears?

Also, I can…..

(d) Ask myself: Is it true it’s too intense? Is it true I can’t take it? Is it true I can’t feel the sensations as sensations? Is it true I am unable to feel it within (me as a) loving presence? Is it true it’s not already allowed?

(e) Notice that the emotional pain is here, and that which it is happening within is here – the wider space, allowing, a loving presence. I can notice the content of consciousness (aka in this case “emotional pain”), and consciousness itself (wider space, allowing, loving presence). Both are already noticed, and that noticing can be very helpful.

Additional approaches. There is a range of additional approaches and healing modalities that can help here, including Tension and Trauma Release (TRE), EFT, EMDR, massage, and more.

Support. Finding support can ease the process a great deal. I have found support in friends, people who have gone through something similar, teachers and guides, gaining some understanding of the process, being in nature, walking, nurturing and grounding foods, body work (massage, Breema etc.), taking time, finding some patience with myself and the process, and more.

Transparency. Letting people around me know what’s going on, at least if they are understanding, can prevent some problems. I have found myself behaving “out of character” when the process gets intense, and also, at times, acting on the pain that’s coming up. It helps to remember that my current situation, and people in my life now, are not the “cause” of this pain. It’s much older and more primal than that. And it helps to (honestly) admit to not always being able to relate to the pain in a sane and mature way, and apologize.

Give myself a break. It’s also been important for me to give myself breathing room. Sometimes, just going for a walk, watching a movie, or doing something with friends seems to be the best medicine. It feels good to take my mind off what’s happening, even – or perhaps especially – when the process feels intense and relentless.

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Stickiness and flow

 

When the conglomerate of words, images and sensations is unquestioned, it tends to seem very real. There is a sense of stickiness. There may also be a struggle with emotions and energies so they don’t flow through easily.

When the words, images and sensations are inquired into, and recognized for what they are, there is a sense of stickiness falling away. And this allows for emotions and energies to flow through more easily.

Labeling experience

 

A thought labels an experience. It may say it’s joy, pleasure, fear, dread, stuckness, physical pain.

Another thought may say it’s desirable or undesirable, something to keep or try to change.

And if these thoughts are taken as real and true, if they are not examined and questioned, it all seems very real.  Mind perceives, feels and acts as if it’s real.

And yet, it’s all created by unexamined thoughts, and mind identifying with the viewpoints of these thoughts.

The reality is that what’s here is not the label, it’s not inherently terrible or good, and it lives its own life – as do any responses to it.

It’s here to protect me. Any response in me, any emotion or physical sensation, is here to protect me. It’s devoted to me.

It’s love, and it can be recognized as love and met with love. And that’s what it has wished for. It can relax.

When a thought says “it’s dread” and “undesirable”, and mind identifies with that thought, it’s awakeness fighting itself.

And when that’s seen, it seems quite ridiculous and the dynamics fall apart, to the extent it’s seen (examined), felt (experienced, noticed as already allowed) and loved (recognized as love and met with love).

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Three centers and beliefs

 

During the initial awakening, the head center was quite open and many beliefs were undone at that level. (The level of conscious view.)

Then, the heart centered opened and everything was recognized as love, and many beliefs were undone at that level.

Now, during the dark night, there is an invitation for beliefs to be undone at the level of the belly, at a deep and primal emotional level. (The deep, primal contraction, holding.)

The wisdom of fear

 

There is a wisdom in emotions, in the stories behind them, and in any belief.

Fear comes up, and one of the stories behind it is that I’ll be too late for the plane.

This is worried love. The fear and belief wants the best for me. It’s devoted to me.

And I see the wisdom in it. I don’t want to be late for the plane either. It comes from intelligence and kindness.

At the same time, when it’s held tightly, when the thought – and the wordless images behind it – is taken as solidly true, as absolutely true, it’s painful. It’s chaotic. It’s stressful.

It’s a being in pain, that suffer. It’s not aligned with reality, with all as love. So I can welcome it, thank it, apologize for having pushed it away for so long, apologize for having made it into an enemy, find the wisdom in it, find the love and intelligence behind it. And I can also identify the thoughts and images behind it, and – for the strongest ones, and eventually each one – find what’s more true for me, what’s more aligned with reality.

In this case, I see I want the same for me as the main thought behind the fear. I also don’t want to be late for the plane. It comes from kindness and intelligence.

I also see that I honestly don’t know if I will be late for the plane. The plane may be delayed. I may arrive on time even if it’s not. And I may get another plane that will get me there the same day, or the day after.

Also, there are some underlying images and thoughts here. In this situation, is it a terrible thing if I am too late for the plane? I really don’t know. And I can find genuine examples of how it’s not. (I may experience the kindness of others. I may get to see it works out anyway. I may get to find how resourceful I can be.)

And I can explore this with everyday and “smaller” fears, and also the fears that appear bigger and more basic, such as the fears around relationship, illness and death. Can I find the wisdom behind it? Can I find the kindness and intelligence in it? Can I find that it’s love, worried love? Can I find where I have pushed it away, made it into an enemy? Can I find – for the strongest belief – what’s more true for me, what’s more aligned with reality? Can I find the same for some or all of the underlying images and thoughts?

Ways of relating to emotional pain

 

Some ways of relating to emotional pain, each of which I am familiar with from own experience.

I can recoil from it, react to it, try to change it.

I can ask for deliverance, resolution, guidance, clarity.

I can use a range of different techniques, including ho’oponopono, tonglen (towards myself), and TRE.

I can dialog with the emotional pain – with the pain itself, with the part of me experiencing the pain – and see what it has to share, how it would like me to relate to it, and so on.

I can breathe, feel, and turn it over (to the divine, Christ etc.)

I can identify and question (a) my thoughts about it, and (b) the thoughts behind it, triggering it

(a) It’s emotional pain. It’s an old wound. It’s overwhelming. It’s too much. It’s easier to distract myself from it. It’s kinder (to me, others) to avoid it.

(b) She didn’t want a relationship with me. She chose someone else. I missed out of a wonderful opportunity. My life would have been better with her.

I can be with the emotional pain, stay with it, open my heart to it, befriend it, meet it as a child, a friend or a lover. Allow it to have it’s life.

I can notice that any struggle is happening among my own images, within my own world of images. This tends to come out of inquiry, for instance The Work or exploring sense fields.

There can be a recognition that it’s all happening within awakeness, as the play of awakeness.

The first approach – avoiding, reacting to – tends to keep the dynamics going. (And there is nothing wrong with this, it’s worried love and innocence.) Some of the mid-range approaches rest on an assumption that (a) there is emotional pain, (b) it’s happening to a me or I, and possibly (c) that something needs to change. Different forms of inquiry may be used to question those assumptions. And that may lead to a direct recognition that it’s all happening as awakeness, and as the play of awakeness.

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Relating to emotions

 

Even with such an apparently simple topic as thought and emotions, there are many layers.

Emotions may be triggered by beliefs, even if these beliefs may appear to held mostly at an emotional level and we don’t consciously believe them.

And then there is how I relate to emotions, and this too comes from beliefs. Emotions just are, they live their life, and that’s more than fine. It’s thoughts that make them appear good or bad, difficult or easy, overwhelming or pleasant, when these thoughts are held as true. Here are some of these beliefs I notice for myself:

Its a bad/unpleasant emotion. I feel worse. I feel better. It’s possible to feel worse / better.

It’s fear. (Anger, sadness, grief etc.)

It reflects reality. (My stories – triggering the emotion, about the emotion- reflect reality.)

It means something terrible has happened / will happen. (Has – sadness, grief; will – fear.)

Its too much / overwhelming. I cannot be with this emotion / experience.

Its easier / better to avoid it. It will be worse if i allow / meet it.

Whats here is not OK. Another experience is better.

This is not God’s will / love. This is not kindness. (This emotion.)

This emotion / experience is not already allowed.

I should be further along. (More clear, mature, healed.)

Through investigating these thoughts, from a specific situation, I may find that the drama, turmoil and unpleasantness is not inherent in the emotion itself, as it appeared at first, but in how it’s met and related to. When thoughts says it’s a bad emotion, or unpleasant, or means something terrible has happened, I create discomfort for myself. And when there is more clarity on these thoughts, the emotion is allowed it’s life, it’s met as a friend, it’s even welcomed, it may be met with love. And in that, there is peace, there is a sense of coming home.

And that – it seems – goes for any experience, including the ones that appear very basic and bodily such as hunger, tiredness, and physical pain.

Naming emotions

 

Most of us have discovered that naming our emotions helps take the edge off them. And, not surprisingly, a recent study found just that.

I feel nervous, name it, and it feels more manageable. I have fear about something, confess to it to myself and perhaps someone else, and it’s a little easier to do it. I feel anger, tell it, and I don’t have to live out that anger.

Here are some things I notice happening when I label an emotion.

From subject to object. Before I name an emotion, I am often identified with it. As I label it, it becomes an object to me instead. It goes from subject – something I take myself as, to an object – something I am aware of happening within awareness.

Fuzzy to clear. Before I name an emotion, the emotion itself and the images and stories associated with it may be fuzzy to me. I am not exactly sure what’s there, so it’s easy to go into additional stories about it and scare myself further. As I name it, the emotion becomes clear to me, and it feels more understandable and manageable.

Honest connection. When I name an emotion and share it with others, it’s often a relief. I am honest with what’s here, and there is a sense of a more real connection. I confess to what’s here.

All of this makes the emotion a little more manageable, and that goes for the images and stories associated with it as well.

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Old wounds surfacing, thoughts trying to help

 

I keep noticing how old wounds or primal fears surface, and how thoughts try to help.

They try to match these emotions onto a current situation (a trigger), future scenarios (fears about what may happen), or something in the past (an origin or cause).

They may also try to figure it all out, sort it out within thoughts.

Some of this may be quite helpful, at least in a limited sense. And it may also be a spinning of the wheels. And that too is innocent. It’s confused love.

If we are into inquiry, there is another option. Thoughts may be used to find situations that match the emotion, write a JYN from that situation, and take these thoughts to inquiry.

There is also another way, as Adyashanti points out and I keep discovering for myself. And that is to be still and allow the emotion its life, allow it to move through, discharge, perhaps reveal new layers and let these have their life.

And the two – inquiry and being still – go hand in hand. Inquiry helps me explore beliefs creating reactive emotions (fear, sadness, anger), beliefs about what they mean, and about being still and opening to the emotions. And being still allows the emotions their life and perhaps move through and reveal new layers.

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Glitch in the brain

 

One part of our brains – the limbic system – generates a challenging emotion for us to feel. Another part of our brain – called either primitive or reptilian – considers that emotion as life-threatening and blocks it at all cost. This battle between the two parts of our brain leaves us cross-wired and stuck.

Raphael Cushnir sometimes talks about a glitch in the brain, and that is of course a valid and helpful perspective. It’s how it looks from the perspective of biology and evolution, and it helps us see it’s not personal.

Another perspective, which I tend to gravitate towards, is seeing this in terms of beliefs.

The limbic system here becomes a metaphor for or a pointer to beliefs creating reactive emotions – sadness, anger, grief etc. And the reptilian part of the brain becomes a metaphor for or pointer to beliefs about these emotions and what they mean.

For instance, I believe that he is disrespectful towards me and this trigger anger. Using Cushnir’s metaphor, this is the limbic system in action.

I have another set of beliefs about anger – anger is bad, anger means something terrible has happened, anger means I will go out of control, anger means people won’t like me – so I push aside this anger, I stuff it, I tighten muscles and breathe more shallowly, I try to not feel it.  In Cushnir’s metaphor, this is the primitve or reptilian brain. (Although some of these beliefs, some of the beliefs that causes me to stuff the anger, are certainly not reptilian. They are more mammalian and social.)

The benefit of looking at it through the lens of beliefs is that it gives me something to explore, both in terms of what triggers reactive emotions and how I relate to them. I can inquire into my beliefs, and find what’s more true for me.

And these two perspectives can easily co-exist and mutually enhance and support each other. One shows me it’s not personal, and makes it feel more scientific. The other helps me identify and inquire into my beliefs relating to emotions.

Bubbles of confusion

 

This is something many talk and write about these days:

There may be an initial awakening or opening (as it was for me in my mid-teens). There is a shift into Big Mind/Heart. Spirit notices itself as everything and everyone, without exception. The world (Spirit, God, Brahman) is revealed as a seamless whole. The boundary between inner and outer is revealed as just coming from an image overlaid on perception. The images of me and I are recognized as only images, and identification with them may be released at a conscious level, and may or may not release at an emotional level.

During this time, there may still be wounds and beliefs at the human level. And they may not be noticed much, for a while, since attention is released out of these wounds and beliefs. The brilliant light of Spirit is so strong that these – in contrast – minor hangups are barely noticed.

At some point, these wounds and beliefs surface again. They want to be included in the light. They want to align with reality. Emotions that were stuffed as they initially surfaced, often prior to the awakening, surface now to have their life, to be felt, to move through, and release. Beliefs created earlier in life, and still held at an emotional and sometimes conscious level, surface to be inquired into, so the thought can be released from being taken as true.

This may happen within Spirit noticing itself. There may not be any “need” for Spirit to re-identify as a me and/or I. The surfacing and moving through of stuffed emotions, and the surfacing and inquiry into beliefs, may happen within Spirit remaining aware of itself as all of it. This happened for me, to some extent, during the initial illumination phase.

Another option is that Spirit may temporarily re-identify as the me and/or I. One way of looking at this is that certain crucial images and thoughts have not been seen through thoroughly. Another is that this temporary re-identification allows emotions and beliefs to surface without being eclipsed by the brilliance of Spirit recognizing itself. This may be a darker dark night, and for me, this is what happened following the illumination phase. And even then, it shifted to some extent between the two options.

This is all about our human self, allowing it to reorganize and realign with reality more thoroughly, at more levels, in more areas of life, in relation to more of the possible thoughts that come up in us. It can bring clarity and insights into more areas of life, and it allows Spirit noticing itself to live with more kindness through this human life.

Spirit may well notice itself, as described initially, and yet be hindered in it’s expressed by remaining wounds and beliefs at a human level. The more clarity there is on the variety of thoughts surfacing, the more stuffed emotions are released, the more there is a deep healing and maturing at a human level, the more free Spirit is in it’s expression and it’s life through and as this human self in the world.

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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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