In a podcast interview, Jeannie Zandi talks about her dark night of the soul and how it involved a lasting experience of a “chard” in her heart. That’s the same for me. It comes and goes, but is here more often than not these days. I suspect it’s fear and it does seem preverbal and related to a primal life and death issue.
For some of us, the victim identity can be very strong. The mind may even hold onto it as if it’s a matter of life and death.
Why is the need to hold onto something so painful so strong? What is the real need or wish within it? It must be something that our minds holds as very important. So important that it’s willing to create suffering for itself in the hopes of getting it.
To me, it seems that it comes from a deep need and wish for love and presence. For attention, understanding, comfort, love and presence. As long as that’s not met, the victim identification will continue to be fueled by the mind. In it’s trance, it may see it as the best or only way to get what it really needs and wants, which is that presence and love.
It works to some extent. When we go into victim identification, other people may give us some attention, understanding, and love. We may even have been trained by our parents that that’s how we get attention and love. And yet, it doesn’t really work. People may give it to us sometimes and not other times. And even if we get that presence and love from them, it’s not enough as long as we don’t give it to ourselves. We cannot truly take it in and experience it until we give it to ourselves.
So that’s the remedy. Our own presence and love is the remedy.
How do we give it to ourselves? There are a few different ways.
Natural rest. Notice and allow. Notice what’s here in experience and allow it. (Notice it’s already noticed and allowed.) Being present with it. This presence itself is a form of love.
Say “thank you for protecting me” to the part of us in pain. It’s here to protect us.
Say “I love you” to the part of us in pain. Say “you are allowed to be as you are”. Say “I am here with you and I love you”. Say “I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.”. Say any one of these over and over until it becomes a felt experience.
Imagine ourselves, or the hurting part of us, sitting in front of us. Do tonglen. Visualize that person’s suffering as dark smoke and breathe it in on the inbreath. Breathe out light (love, presence) and into the other person on the outbreath. See the person light up. Repeat many times until you really and deeply feel it.
Examine stressful and painful stories and identities. Use inquiry. (The Work, Living Inquiries. Something else.) This is also a form of presence and love. It cannot be done if there isn’t presence. And it’s a loving attention and examination, which may also reveal love when the painful stories and identities are seen more clearly for what they are.
Take care of the body. Do something soothing. Take a bath. Eat nourishing food. Drink plenty of water. Go for a walk. Be in nature. Be kind to yourself. Do yoga, tai chi, chi gong, Breema, TRE. (All of which are forms of presence and love.)
These are all ways we can shift how we relate to those parts of ourselves in pain. If we suffer, it’s because we tend to avoid or try to push these parts away. They are like animals or children who are ignored, avoided, struggled with, or even bullied. No wonder they suffer and are in pain. No wonder they cry out for our presence and love.
When we meet them in presence and love, they feel seen and honored and can relax. This takes time. We need to stay with it for a while. We need to return to it frequently, especially if these parts of us are used to being ignored or struggled with. An animal or child whose needs have been neglected needs time to learn to trust and relax, and that’s how it also is with these parts of ourselves. Giving our presence and love means giving of our time.
As mentioned above, one way to meet them in presence and love is through inquiry. Inquiry is a form of love. The process of inquiry is a process of presence and kind attention. And the outcome is that we see that what we thought was so solid and real (and painful) may not really be so solid and real. What’s more real and true is also more kind.
Surrender can be a surrender to love, to Spirit, to soul, to what’s here.
And it can also be a surrender to guidance. A surrender to the still quiet voice. A surrender to the heart.
It’s a surrendering of what thought thinks it wants and needs, to instead following the inner guidance. It’s a shifting of allegiance.
And embedded in this is an invitation to notice and inquire into any fears and shoulds stopping me from doing this.
When do I choose my conscious wishes, fears and sholds over the still quiet voice? What are these wishes, fears and shoulds? What do I find when I inquire into them?
Is it really worth choosing fear over love and guidance? What happens when I choose fear? What happens when I chose love and guidance?
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. – Matthew 5:44.
But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. – Luke 6:27.
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. – Luke 6:35.
Love your enemies. It sounds like a should, but it’s really medicine. It’s a prescription for finding wholeness and well being of myself, which in turn benefits those around me.
Who or what are my enemies? It’s anything in my world I don’t like. Anything I see as undesirable, bad, that shouldn’t be there. It can be an emotion, pain, discomfort, a person, an illness, war, delusion, a political party, noise, or anything else.
How do I find love for it? I have found these helpful:
I wish you love. I wish you ease. (Loving Kindness, Metta).
Holding satsang with what’s here. (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?)
All-inclusive gratitude practice. I am grateful for…. (Anything in my life, including and especially that which I don’t at first like.)
Placing myself in the heart flame. (When it’s something in me I perceive as an enemy.)
Christ meditation. Visualizing Christ at the seven points (in my heart, above and below me, in front and back of me, either side of me.) I sometimes also do this for others, and the Earth.
Inquiry into anything – any stories, perceptions, assumptions – that I use to close down my love for myself and others. Any stories of enemies. Any stories of love not being here. Any fearful stories about love.
What’s the effect of finding love for my enemies? For me, it’s a sense of wholeness and love for myself and others. A sense of coming home, and of deep well being and nurturing.
Why does this work? If life is love already, and we are life and love, then this is a way for us to come home to ourselves.
In a very real sense, love may be the medicine we are all looking for. If we had a choice, would chose to be free of a particular situation or illness, or find deep and genuine love for it? Perhaps a healing of our relationship to ourselves and the world is the healing we really wish for. (It’s not one or the other. We can find deep love for an illness, and still go to the doctor and follow her prescriptions. We can find deep love for a person, and still not allow him to hurt others if we can help it.)
Finding deep and genuine love for what’s here may even open up for our natural fearless wisdom and intelligence, allowing us to act with more kindness and clarity in the world.
When I first began the process of awakening, of investigating reality to see whether separation is in fact real or just a belief, I had no idea where that would lead.
I thought it was just about the mind, that machine between the ears. The idea was “wake up out of the belief in my thoughts and live in the now.” Seemed cut and dry to me back then. I had no idea what was in store with regard to my body and the rich but unconscious stories and memories it had stored through the years.
I had those monumental shifts that people often talk about. And I thought I was done. These were, for the most part, head awakenings where beliefs were seen through and stories were dissolved. For a few years after those shifts, I felt a clear transparency where my once really-busy mind had been. And this, again, made me feel like I was done. I hear people all the time proclaiming in one way or another that they are awake simply because they have had a head awakening. I listen patiently, knowing that the other shoe is likely to drop, meaning that everything that was stored in the body will resurface and have its day, until it too is investigated.
You see after the head awakening, which is that awakening into the present moment where one begins to feel as if there is no self, the body awakening is only beginning. In my experience, the body has its own memories, its own shapes, colors, stories, contractions. The last few years have been a process of gradual unfolding in the body, openings one after the other. And the road was not always easy. In fact, at times it has been quite painful.
My chest area opened early on, right after the initial awakening experience. What do I mean by heart opening? Nothing really mystical. It’s just that my chest felt clear and open, warm and loving. For eight years now, I have not felt any emotion (negative or positive) in the chest area. Just a warm, clear, transparent peace there. It’s quite simple really. The heart area is open. Nothing much more to say about that.
But the pelvic area, stomach and throat didn’t clear that easily. It took time. In my pelvic area, I began to be acutely aware of the contraction there after the head awakening. This area was dense, contracted and tight. Sexual addiction was rampant during this time. I wasn’t always acting out on it, but the addictive thoughts were there. And they seemed tied to that pelvic contraction. It’s almost as if that area of the body was screaming madly for pleasure, for release. And nothing would satisfy it for long – no sex act, no pornography. I would indulge in these things and find a temporary release of that dense energy that would last just a few days. The contraction would return and the sex addiction would come with it.
With the Living Inquiries, I finally had a tool to investigate this contraction very deeply. It was often a painful and frustrating investigation. Resting, looking and feeling into that area. Seeing pictures, words come and go, all of which seemed to be connected to that area. The pelvic area seemed as if it had its own mind, its own movie, its own set of meanings. As the meanings were distilled out of the contraction, it began to release. Warmth and space was all that was left.
And when the pelvic area opened, the vast difference between the now-open chest and now-open pelvic made the stomach and throat contraction even more obvious. The stomach and throat were the holdouts. The stomach held all the power-seeking, the intense wanting. The throat area seemed stuck, unable to express itself freely. And these areas carried their own little addictions, pain, sadness, and tightness. These were deeply embedded contractions that were resistance to almost every spiritual investigation, except the inquiries. The inquiries were the only tool that helped me open the stomach and throat. But again, this wasn’t a walk in the park. Months and months of infinite patience, of resting and feeling into those areas gently. Months of mining out the words and pictures that were embedded into the sensations in those areas.
And finally, through this gentle and thorough investigation, those areas began to open. I saw that what I had called a body through the years was actually a combination of words, pictures and energies that appeared on a screen right in front of me. For years, I thought that this play of words, pictures and energies was a body, a physical unit of sorts. Upon investigation, it all began to dissolve, slowly.
I don’t want to paint the picture of this unfolding as something that seems excruciatingly tiring or not worth the investigation. It’s been more than worth it to investigate these areas of the body. Rich, in fact. Very, very rich. Loving, compassionate and a lot of other adjectives I won’t bother adding into this post.
I had no idea in the beginning that awakening is not just about the mind. It is as much, or maybe more, about the body and the stories that are deeply engrained in it.
The body awakening has been the most eye-opening and rewarding part of this process of unfolding. I know now that one of the biggest traps is to proclaim that one is done. Yes, the seeking can end. Yes, one can have those shifts into what feels like non-dual space or oneness. But the unfolding continues to happen, with or without our consent. And it is largely an unfolding within the deepest caverns of our physical bodies.
If you are going through this embodiment, just know that there is support out there. There are many of us who can and will support you. You don’t have to buy into the religion of “I’m still seeking” nor do you have to buy into the religion of “I’m done.” You can watch the process unfolding naturally and organically with people who are also going through it with you or who have gone through it.
If you are interested in knowing more, join us in the Scott Kiloby Living Inquiries room. And if anything in this post is confusing or makes you feel defensive, that’s ok too. I’m merely sharing my experience. I’m not saying it is your experience. Only you can speak to that. I’m not trying to put any carrots out there to chase. I’m merely saying, in effect, “join me, because the pathless path to embodiment is painful yet extraordinarily wonderful and rich.” I feel so luck to have this human body, to watch it unfold and open in this way.
– Scott Kiloby on Facebook
Yes, yes, and yes. This fits my experience very closely.
In my teens, there was a clear head awakening followed by heart awakening. Then, after several years of “honeymoon”, there was the beginning of the dark night, which was also a deepening into a belly/body awakening. This has been a long and at times painful and difficult process, or – at least – that’s what a thought may call it. And it has been supported by several helpful tools such as Breema, The Work, and – more recently – the Living Inquiries.
Heartache has come up the last few days.
When I notice it as only sensations, I see that the sensations themselves are quite mild. Other sensations – in the throat and solar plexus – are stronger.
It’s the beliefs about what these sensations mean that makes it painful, and amazingly painful at times.
Here are some of these beliefs:
She doesn’t love me. I am unlovable. I will never be loved.
My life is doomed. My life is in ruins.
Something terrible has happened.
Note: In one sense, this heartache is old. It may well be from early infancy. And more accurately, it’s here now. It’s fresh.
A part me has the belief that it will take time.
The dark night process will take time.
Recovering from CFS will take time.
Stabilizing in a more clear seeing/loving/feeling of reality will take time.
And so on.
So I can hold satsang with these parts of me.
And I can bring these parts of me to the light field, the light of Christ, in my chest/heart area.
About half a year ago, I started exploring the heart space above and to the right of the physical heart. At first, there was a cave there with a flame, and I could put my human self in the flame, allowing it to burn away anything not aligned with reality, and so on. After some weeks, the flame went into every cell and molecule of the body, and the cave appeared empty. Now, the cave is filled with the light of Christ – in a very way that’s very simple and ordinary.
There is also a sense of a mix of the head and belly centers there, and even of the golden and black luminosity. Placing my human self in the light of Christ, I notice how space itself – anywhere – is this light of Christ. Combining the passion and clarity of the head center, and the deep nurturing blackness of the belly center. I sometimes invite this light of Christ – infinitely wise and loving – into the darkest areas of the psyche and this human self, into the space and molecules of this human self, inviting it to work there.
And in this, there is also a noticing that the light of Christ is already there, and that what a thought may label a confused area of the psyche already is Christ, whether that’s noticed or not, and whether these areas of this human self are more or less consciously aligned with it.
I did a session with Barry last week, where we invited in the presence of Christ, resurrection etc.
Here is a brief recap of some of the highlights:
I notice something descending on me, enveloping me. It’s an experience of being held. What’s enveloping me is white, soft, gentle, loving, silent, creative, intelligent.
I notice it seeping through me, suffusing me, my body and mind becomes this soft, gentle, loving presence.
There is a large golden ball of light beneath me. It ascends, up to my arms, then enveloping me.
There is a shower, as if a shower of golden sparks on me and through me.
Barry experienced the same at the same time as I did throughout this session. He asked, and was told this is the first mantle of Christ, described on page 51 in the e-version of his book We Are the Awakening Christ. This is where Christ takes us on and commits to bring us home. The second mantle is where we commit our lives to Christ, all of it without exceptions (I am not quite there yet, during this turn of the spiral).
Since that session, I have experienced this soft, gentle, white – or light golden – presence of Christ through and in me, in my heart area, and I have stayed with the flame in the chest and brought anything that comes up – resistance, fear, hesitation, wounds etc. – to it, knowing the flame knows what’s needed for it to resolve.
Connecting with the flame in the heart area of the chest (slightly up and to the right)…..
Quietly, wordlessly, the flame is noticed as white or light golden, it has a soft and gentle quality, it’s awakeness, infinite love and intelligence, infinitely creative.
I stand in front of it, sit in it. I bring my body and mind to it, as it is – painful memories, afflicted emotions, identified mind, illness in the body.
Quietly, wordlessly, the flame is noticed as love, awakeness, presence, this body-mind is noticed as love, awakeness, presence.
Quiet, wordlessly, there is a discernment between the true (truer!) nature of this body-mind as love, awakeness, presence, and how this body mind show up when mind is identified (confused, reactive, hurt, wounded, congested) and how it appears to identified mind (solid, real, isolated, what “I” am).
Quietly, wordlessly, there is a noticing of the difference between the silence and silent activity of the flame, and the apparent confusion and activity of identified mind.
Quietly, wordlessly, there is an image of the love and intelligence of the flame, silently and creatively working to bridge the gap, moving towards bringing identified mind home, towards mind recognizing itself as love, awakeness, presence, functioning in the world more closely aligned with its true(r) nature, living from more sincerity, integrity, honesty.
Quietly, wordlessly, there is a label of this flame, the true (truer) nature of this body-mind, as Christ. (And a knowing that for you it may be Krishna or another appearance of the aspect of our true nature that bridges the universal and personal.)
The dark night of the soul started when I moved to Wisconsin (for relationship reasons), and I stayed there even if my inner voice and guidance clearly told me to leave. After a while, my inner guidance shut down and my heart did as well. Now, there is a sense of numbness there, a numbness in my heart area. How is it to welcome it?
You are welcome here. You are already allowed, and I wish to intentionally welcome you as well.
I am sorry for having pushed you away. I am sorry for having made you into an enemy in my mind.
Please forgive me.
Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for your devotion for me. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for your love.
I love you. I love you as you are. I love you for being love. I love you for your devotion to me.
Also, how is it to meet it, welcome it, feel it? Where in my body is the numbness the densest? What happens when I meet it, stay with it, welcome it? Does it stay? Change into something else? Where does the trail of breadcrumbs lead me?
I have heard and read about the flame in the upper area of the heart, and I told myself I didn’t resonate with me.
After the session with Pamela a couple of nights ago, I suddenly realized it does resonate, I just didn’t make the connection before now.
When I bring attention to the chest area, there is space, and there is also the fiery sensation – a fiery love – in or near the physical heart. And, of course, this may well be related to the flame Ramana Maharshi and others talk about. For me, it was a fiery sensation centered in the heart area, and I didn’t think of it as a flame.
When I do Christ centered practices, this fiery sensation in the heart area is brought to the foreground, along with a fiery sensation on top of the head, and also sometimes in the belly area. (And the fiery sensation on top of the head does look like a flame in the aura, as I have noticed when looking at it in the mirror.)
Pamela invited me to (a) visualize my body in the flame, or (b) visualize offering to the flame whatever is not aligned with reality, whatever wounds, trauma, confusion, regrets, fears are here. It burns away what’s not aligned with reality, nothing precious goes away. And what’s left is what I am – love, wisdom, awakeness, functioning in the world. I notice it seems to be the right time to do this.
Over this last week, there has been a great deal of sadness and also a physical sensation of a rewiring of the heart.
The sadness has surfaced from memories of close and intimate relationships where I held back love, where I didn’t allow myself to feel and express how much I loved the other person, and from seeing how much pain it caused myself and the other. So there has been a great deal of pain, sadness, grief and regret surfacing, along with that sense of a rewiring of the heart, and a sweetness in it all.
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?
I passed a homeless man in Portland last night, a refugee from New Orleans, and gave him some money. He took my hand, looked me in my eyes, and said:
I will pray for you and your family tonight, and you will pray for mine.
And then as an afterthought:
Prayer is worth more than ten dollars.
It was one of those heartfelt and deeply human interactions that brings a deep sense of meaning to life.
Prayers continues to be an important thread in my life…
Sometimes with words and visualization, sincerely wishing all good for others (without exception) and myself.
Sometimes with words, asking for guidance and to be shown the way.
Sometimes visualizing Christ (or Buddha) in my heart and in front, behind, on each side and below and above me. (Christ meditation.)
Something else I keep coming back to…
There is a clear sense of awakening happening at the levels of head, heart and belly, even if those are only metaphors.
And as they happen separately and in different combinations, there is a clearer sense of the qualities of each one.
The head awakening happened for me in my teens, then combined with heart awakening and what I can only call “cosmic consciousness”. More recently, there has been times where there has been a clear head awakening on its own. The head awakening is a clear seeing of all as God. No separate I to be found anywhere. Ground awake to itself. Content of experience awakening to itself as a field, all as awakening, as no thing appearing as something, inherently absent of an I with an Other. This human self is living its life on its own, as everything is. There is no doer. No thinker. No chooser. No observer. No witness. Just the field.
The heart awakening is a love of everything as God. The love of God for itself, when all is recognized as God and this is lived through a human self. This love can be independent of content of experience (of feelings, emotions) and only appears as love when it comes out in actions. This is the love of the right hand helping the left, simply, effortlessly. In addition to this, it can also come out as content of experience, as a feeling, emotion, a bitter-sweet love. Bitter because of the suffering in the world. Sweet because it is love and it embraces whatever/whomever comes up, independent of its characteristics.
Something else that seems basic when we are more familiar with the terrain, but may be less so in the very beginning…
All of what I write about here – allowing experience, inquiry, gratitude, empathy and so on – is for myself. There is more clarity and invites identification to shift out of stories and identities.
And that release of identification allows for a wider range of stories that I can use as temporary guides for action.
I more easily recognize stories as temporary guides for action. And there is more freedom to use whatever experience, insight, knowledge and kindness is available to me in chosing a story to use as a temporary guide for action in any particular situation.
It may look like yin kindness. Receptive. Empathy. Allowing.
Or it may look more like yang kindness. Cutting. Strict. Clear boundaries.
(To the extent there is a release of identification, there is a freedom in chosing among these stories. Which means that there is often a mix… there may be some release of identification with some stories, yet still identification with other stories.)
Then there is the receptivity in watching for feedback. Learning. Modifying.
I can look for where I am still caught up in beliefs. And I look for ways to act that is a little more skillful in different situations.
I keep coming back to the mutuality of view, heart and belly. I notice the dynamics in daily life, and get curious about it… how does it look when I explore it a little more closely?
It is simple when it is lived. And there is now end to how complex it can get when I try to sort it out within thought.
For instace, I notice how an open heart supports a more receptive view.
First a few general things about views…
When the view is receptive, there is fluidity, curiosity and innocence (the don’t know type) there. Receptivity to find the practical validity (grain of truth) in any story, including the reversals of familiar ones. There is a sense of not needing to defend any story or identity, because none of them are taken as really true. They are at best temporary and practical guidelines.
When the view is closed, there is rigidity and identification with stories and identities. There is a sense of needing to protect certain stories and identities. To enhance and defend them, and shoot down any story (or situation) that appears to threathen them.
When I differentiate, it can happen within the context of appreciation or not.
If I differentiate – using thought to sort things out – within appreciation, I find that it tends to invite in curiosity and receptivity. I am more free to explore different views and takes on the topic, find the validity in each, and ways these views may fit together into a larger picture. If I am engaging with someone else, there tends to also be more of a sense of us and a recognition of myself in the other. A sense of exploration and partnership, whether the other person is open to that or not.
If I differentiate and it is not within a context of appreciation, it can be quite neutral. But the stage is also set for more easily going in the direction of a rigid view and a closed heart. Instead of a more open exploration, I may go into justifying or defending a particular view. I may go into polarization. I may experience separation to others and the views they happen to use as a guideline.
Either one is of course fine. And the differentiation without appreciation may be an effective tool in some specific situations. (Tough love, but there can be appreciation even there, just not expressed so directly.)
But in general, differentiation within the context of appreciation seems to be more helpful. When the heart comes in and supports the mind, there is more receptivity and curiosity there, and a willingness to explore the validity in a wider range of views. In some ways, there is a certain intelligence that comes from the heart supporting the mind.
Even when the differentiation comes up with the same in both cases, it is at least more enjoyable to do it within the context of appreciation and a deeper sense of us.
I went to a mini-retreat today with a woman Adya has asked to teach. Among her many very helpful pointers was this one about following ones heart and discomfort. It is slightly elaborated on from own experience.
If the small quiet voice (my intuition, heart) tells me one thing, and I do something else (usually because of a strong belief), there is naturally discomfort. I am out of alignment with what I know, somewhere, is the right choice of action in the situation. In my experience, this feels like the depth is wrong, even if the surface looks OK. The discomfort here is not only a reminder to follow the voice, but also comes from wearing away resistance to following the voice – the beliefs preventing me from following it in certain situations.
Also, when I do follow the quiet voice, there can sometimes be discomfort. I follow the voice, the action clashes with my familiar identity, and there is discomfort. As above, this discomfort comes from wearing away of identities and beliefs. But here, the depth is experienced as OK and the discomfort is more on the surface.
This is all happening within and as what we are, in both cases. It is all perfectly OK. It is just that following the quiet voice, and allowing identifications to be worn off by following it, is usually more fun as who we are – as human beings in the world.
Over some years now, I have been going to individual Process Work sessions with a local process worker. It has been off and on, and partly to deepen my familiarity with PW and partly to explore my own life.
I have had a nagging dissatisfaction with these sessions for a while now, mainly because of a sense that my process work faciliator is not able to follow the process where it wants to go and unfold. He seems more comfortable with staying at the surface and verbal level. This is obviously a projection – I can find it in myself – but also says something important about him and these sessions.
A few weeks ago, I had a dream where he is replaced with an African American woman. She is able to go exactly where the process wants to unfold, and she has a deep, earthy and heartfelt quality and an embrace wide enough for the whole world as it is. She seems to be a personification of the luminous dark which I continue to experience throughout everything that is, and – in terms of my body – centered in the belly.
Since I had this dream, and guided by the qualities of this African American woman, the process has been able to go where it needs to go, and be seen, felt and loved there. Things are shifting in ways they haven’t before.
I am impressed by spiritual teachers/coaches who can meet people where they are, especially when that “where” means a confusing web of stories.
It seems that the best teachers listen – with genuine interest and patience – for the spark within and behind those webs. What is the student really asking? What is alive for them behind the confusion?
I notice for myself that even when I get caught up in stories, there is a genuine question inside of it. And that is the question that skilled teachers are able to uncover and respond to.
Of course, some are smart and make it easy on themselves and their students, such as Adyashanti who asks his students to sit with their question for a while and allow it to distill and clarify over time, before it is asked. That way, some of the layers of additional stories fall away and a more essential and genuine question is left. And the student may find some insights for themselves too in the process.
One of the many “open secrets” out there is that well-wishing for others tends to calm social anxiety.
If I am in a situation that triggers social anxiety in me – such as giving a talk or teach – and I take the time to find sincere well-wishing for others, the nervousness subsides.
And if I know in advance that I will be in such a situation, I take some time to find the well-wishing to others in general and specifically to the ones who will be there.
How do I do it? As it becomes more familiar, it is just a matter of shifting into it. But there are also tools for inviting in that shift, such as finding the sincerity in statements like “may all go well for them”, visualizing others as healthy and happy, or doing a practice such as tong-len.
I am not quite sure what mechanisms are at play, but I suspect it has something to do with the miracles of an open heart.
When my heart opens, it opens to whatever is happening. For instance, if it initially opens to my body – through the Inner Smile or some other pointer – it opens to the whole of me as a human being, to others, and to life as it is.
In this case, my heart initially opens to others… and then naturally to myself. There is a sense of coming home, of allowing all of who I am as it is, of the sense of drama falling away, and a softening of the sense of I and Other.
So even when stories about me come up – stories my personality doesn’t particularly like – the sting goes out of it.
In sincere well-wishing for myself, I take the information in those stories seriously and make use of them in whatever ways seem appropriate, but there is little or no sting there.
Some of the things I notice when I do tong-len…
- It works with projections. Whatever I see over there – and especially shadow material – I find right here. I find in myself the suffering I more easily see in others. And I also find right here the causes of suffering, confusion and all its expressions.
- I see all of that as not or less personal. I see that it is shared, it is a part of human life. I also see that it is all an object, content of experience, coming and going on its own.
- There is a shift from a sense of I-Other split to a sense of us. We are all in the same boat here. We all experience confusion and its many effects.
- In the taking in of suffering and giving of clarity, there is a shift from confusion to clarity. I gradually get familiar with and come to trust that shift. I know, deeply, that it is possible. This helps me remember in daily life, and invite it in.
- There is an opening of the heart towards others and myself. A shift into kindness. Holding us all, including my own human self, in kindness.
- There is a shift into a sense of nurturing fullness, and out of reactiveness.
- There is a shift into a more receptive view, and out of rigidity.
- There is a release of identification with content, and an easier shift into finding myself as Big Mind/Heart. I see content as shared and coming and going on its, and there is less of a sense of a separate I.
- There is a shift into more engagement in daily life. There is a release from fear. Less sense of separation. A shift into kindness. And all of this is naturally expressed in engagement.
Some forms of verbal prayer that I find very helpful. Nurturing and opening of the heart.
- Prayer for the well being and awakening of all beings (including myself), and also for specific beings. (Some version of “May all beings find well-being and awaken.”)
- Dedication of practice to the benefit of all beings. (“May this benefit all beings.”)
- Expressions of gratitude. (Including the mantra “thank you”.)
- Heart/Jesus prayer. (“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me” said with the breath and heart beats.)
- Songs and chants. (The traditional Christian hymnals work well here too, much good stuff there if taken a certain way.)
- Reading poetry of well-wishing and gratitude. (Rumi, Hafiz and others.)
I do these verbal prayers in my native language, since it seems closer to my heart. And I also use each of these as a mantra, repeated in a heartfelt way over and over, often while bringing attention to the heart.
It is interesting to see how dream themes come up in the days before and after a dream. I noticed yesterday, the day after the Himalaya dream, a pattern that I only later connected with the dream.
For a few days, I had purposely gone into stressful thoughts to take them to inquiry, and also gone into unpleasant emotions so I could fully allow them and be with them., and noticed I had gotten a little stuck in that mode. So I decided to do some heart centered practices to lift it up a little, including the practices of rejoicing in other’s happiness, and prayer for the happiness and awakening of all beings, that I know from the Tibetan tradition.
I then realized that this mirrors exactly the dream. I purposely went down into the abyss, into the stressful thoughts and unpleasant emotions. And then climbed up to the top of the plateau again using a rope ladder, guided by a Tibetan teacher. Or as it happened that day, climbed up using a simple made-made device, the practices, and guided by Tibetan teachings.
A series of three people show up on my doorstep, one after the other, thinking I can help them. (They have read my blog, for some reason thought I could help them, and figured out my address.) I tell them I can’t help them. I brush them off. I don’t acknowledge them beyond that. The last one is persistent and follows me and my wife as we are go to set up for a meditation session in the evening. When we arrive, a meditation is in progress and the person following me thinks I have lied to her. I take time to explain the situation to her, and as I do so, a shift happens for me. My heart opens.