What if this is the single most important thing for you to do right now

 

In Break Through Pain Shinzen Young wrote, paraphrased:

If you are in so much pain you cannot do anything else than lie in bed, what if that’s what the universe considers the single most important thing you can do right now?

It’s a beautiful question, and I sometimes ask myself the same when I feel flattened and am in bed, or feel overwhelmed by primal fears surfacing. What if this is the single most important thing – for me, others, the world – is for me to feel flattened and lie in bed, or feel overwhelmed by these primal fears? What if what’s here is what the universe considers the single most important thing for me to do and experience right now?

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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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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.

Avoiding vs opening to emotions and stressful thoughts

 

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

Avoiding really means avoiding opening to them, and I can do this in two ways: Engage in and fuel the emotions/thoughts surfacing (complain), or try to escape from them (distract). Either way, I avoid opening to the emotion and the stressful thoughts.

And opening to the emotion and thoughts means two things: Welcoming, allowing and being with the emotion (perhaps noticing it’s already allowed). And noticing and inquiring into the stressful thought to see what’s more true for me.

For instance, I may have the belief I made a mistake, and it comes with emotions of regret, grief and perhaps despair. I can avoid opening to it through fueling these thoughts and emotions. I complain about it to myself and others. I tell myself I made a mistake over and over. I imagine how my life would have been if I had made another choice. And so on. I also avoid opening to it by trying to escape from it. I cover it up with food. Distract myself by going to the internet or watching a movie. And so on.

The other option is to do a 180 degree turn and see how it is to open to the emotions. Shift into welcoming them, be with they, stay with them. Allow them their life. Notice they are already allowed. Notice how they shift, how new layers emerge. How – when they are seen, felt and loved – the energy behind them seem to dissipate. How it eventually shifts into the void. I may also notice that these emotions were only created from a belief, a thought taken as true. They are doing their job. They are innocent. They don’t necessarily reflect reality or what’s true.

I can also see how it is to do a 180 degree turn in how I relate to my stressful thoughts, and open to them. What are my stressful thoughts? What do I complain about? I made a mistake, because…. I made a mistake, and that means…. What do I find when I take these beliefs to inquiry? What’s more true for me than these thoughts? How is it to take it in, feel it, live from this new insight?

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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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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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Befriending fear

 

I still have nights where experiences surface that’s difficult to befriend or welcome. Mostly, it’s a sense of strong wordless inner struggle along with a sense of everything dissolving – the image of a larvae in a pupa describes it. From the outside, I see there is nothing to fear here. It’s probably just part of the process. But from the inside, when it happens, a great deal of fear comes up.

When I get caught up in this, it’s easy to “forget” what may help, so I’ll go through it here as a reminder for myself.

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Ascetic and tantric

 

Ascetic and tantric are used to describe traditions, but they also mirror what’s already in me. They reflect an attitude.

When I take an ascetic approach, I cut away what doesn’t seem to fit with my plans, and it’s often a more short-term or band-aid solution. I say leave me so I can go on with my life as before.

And when I take a tantric approach, I welcome it, use it to consciously embrace more of myself and life, and allow myself to be nourished by it. I say I am curious about you, I welcome you so I can embrace more of reality. I am willing to be changed by welcoming you in ways I cannot know or predict in advance.

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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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Dream: Homeless man

 

homeless-man

I am in charge of inviting people to a New Years party. As the party is about to start, I see a homeless man there, apparently inviting himself. Even for a homeless man, he seems to be at the bottom of the heap. I ignore him, hoping he will go away on his own, and mentally prepare to do what is needed to have him leave. A woman welcomes him wholeheartedly and without reservation. I am surprised by how she is so unreserved in welcoming him, and even more surprised when I realize that he is fully awakened and lives it with a great deal of life experience and wisdom. Far more than just about anyone else I am aware of. Other homeless people show up, and are now welcomed wholeheartedly as well, by me and others there.

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Welcoming the feeling of a doer

 

I am enjoying a simple exploration these days…

Notice a sense of a doer – in whatever form it takes here now. (Observer, thinker, chooser, explorer.)

Where is it in the body? What are the sensations?

Quietly meet the sensations. Welcome them as they are. Stay with it. Explore with a gentle curiosity. Friendly interest. An appreciation for these dynamics as they are, and the mystery behind it. The beauty of it.

Notice if it shifts. Then stay with that.

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Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you

 

But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”

Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.

And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.

Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.

Ezekiel 2:8 – 3:2

Bible verses can of course be interpreted to (appear to) support just about any point. For me, reading these verses in isolation, I see a beautiful description of what happens when we “eat” our lament and mourning and woe.

I start out rebellious. I argue against reality. I resist experience. I want things to be different from what they are. (According to my story of it.)

I am invited to eat my lament and mourning and woe. (Meet it. Be with it. Feel it. Welcome it.)

And when I do, I find – to my surprise – that it tastes as sweet as honey in my mouth.

I find that it is not what it appeared to be when I resisted it. It appeared horrifying as long as I resisted meeting, feeling and welcoming it. But when I do, there is a sweetness, comfort, receptivity and nurturing fullness there.