Jeff Foster: Meet a feeling without history

Meet a feeling without history.

Next time a wave of sadness, or anger, or fear, or some kind of nameless despair, appears in the present moment, can it simply be allowed right now? Don’t try and find its cause, or its solution; don’t try and analyse it or work out the answers right now. The answers may come in time. The solutions may appear. But right now is the invitation – to know yourself in the midst of this as the wide open space for all that appears, the capacity for it, the home for it – not its victim or slave. Let all feelings be embraced in the loving arms of presence, just for a moment. Even if thought tries to push ‘what is’ away, or judge it, or spins off into planning and regret, notice that even those movements are allowed in the spacious awareness that you are. Notice how there is always enough space here, even for feelings of limitation.

Nothing can distract you from meditation, when everything becomes part of meditation. This is meditation without a path, without a controller, without a script. It is meeting everything not as a separate entity, but as who you truly are.

– Jeff Foster

Backward step

In Zen, they sometimes talk about taking the backward step.

And as so often, it is a metaphor, and it’s also the description that’s close to the immediate experience of it – at least for me.

The forward step is going into familiar stories and images, fueled by familiar emotions and identities. It’s a very familiar territory, and it feels like tightening a knot. It’s an escape from uncomfortable sensations, emotions, images and thoughts. It’s a distraction. It’s an attempt to run away.

And the backward step is to open to what’s here, meet the discomfort that’s here, notice it’s already opened to, welcome it, find what it’s deepest wish is for, invite it to notice what it really is. And it is to notice the images and thoughts that’s here, and inquire into these to find what’s more true for me.

The first is experienced as a forward step because it’s often very familiar, it’s what I have learned to do from our families, friends and culture. It’s also a forward step because it takes me “away” from what’s really going on for me.

The second is experienced as a backward step because it’s – at least at first – more unfamiliar to me, and it brings me towards what’s here – the contraction, the sensations, the images and thoughts as images and thoughts.

Deepest desire

Some aspects of holding satsang with what’s here – emotions, images, thoughts, sensations, discomfort, restlessness, identification etc.


(a) Welcoming what’s here. (b) Notice it’s already welcome. It’s already allowed to be as it is.

This is (a) setting an intention of welcome and (b) clear(er) seeing of what’s already here.

It’s an opening to what’s here.

Thank you.

Thank you for your protection. Thank you for your devotion to me. Thank you for your love.

This is an opening of the heart to what’s here.


I notice it comes from love. It is love. And that makes it easier for me to find love for it.

When I notice it is love, love is already here, love is already found.


How would you like me to be with you? (To the part, what’s here.)

What is your deepest longing? What would satisfy you forever?

Who are you really? How big are you? Do you have an outside?

And when it goes peaceful, and if it feels right: What in your field of experience would like your attention now? (To me globally.)


 These questions invoke a response. For instance, by asking what would satisfy it forever, just that may emerge. It may be helpful to stay with it for a while, feel it, allow it to sink in, and it’s not always needed to put a label on it. (Although if there is a label, it may be rest, love, acknowledgment etc.)

Some of these have more to do with the head center, the clear seeing, noticing what’s already here. Other have to do with the heart center, noticing and finding love. And yet other aspects has to do with the belly center, allowing it to sink in, feeling it, inviting it to reorganize me at an emotional level and in a very human way. And it’s all an expression of natural kindness and wisdom.

It’s an invitation for all the different very human parts of me to wake up to their beauty, their innocence, their love, and what they really are. It’s an invitation for all of these different parts to realize the nature of illusion, the appearances and discomfort created when they are not awake to what they really are, and for them to realize the nature of reality, what they really are. It’s an invitation for them to catch up with the clarity, love and wisdom that’s here globally, and for this global level to realize the nature of illusion and the nature of reality a little further, through the realization of these aspects of the psyche.

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Openining to a pull to tragedy, collapse

Two parts of me I have explored opening to and holding satsang with:

The one that’s drawn to tragedy and drama, especially in my own life.

And the one that sometimes collapses when things get overwhelming. That sometimes goes under when deep wounds, hurts, beliefs and fears surface.

And with each of them:

Can I open to it?

Is it true that opening is not already here? (Before any intention to open or close to it?)

You are welcome here.

Thank you for your protection of me. Thank you for your deep devotion to me. Thank you for your deep love for me.

To the part:

How would you like me to be with you?

What is your function, your job?

Who do you protect? (What may be found: an image of a me, a person in the world.)

Who are you really? (What may be found: an image, label, sensations, protection, presence, love, awakeness.)

Thank you for your strength. I need your strength.

Deep rest

When I ask myself what would satisfy me forever, and ask the same question from subpersonalities, what I or the part long for surfaces.

And one facet of this is deep rest. (Other labels may be home, love, deep acceptance, trust, aliveness.)

How do I find this deep rest? How does it find itself? Here are some pointers that are alive for me now.

Open to what’s here. Open to the discomfort, unease, restlessness, what appears the most dense and dark.

Notice it’s already opened to, before any intention by “me” to open or close to it.

Holding satsang with parts of me. Welcome them. Ask them how they would like me to be with them. Recognizing their innocence, their protection of “me”, their devotion to me, their love for me. Meeting them with love. Asking them their function. Asking them who they protect. Inviting them to explore who they really are.

Asking myself, is this opening that’s already here other than what I am? Is it true that this capacity for what’s here is other than what I am?



Two basic approaches to healing is (a) to fix the problem “out there” in the world, in the body, in the mind, and (b) to heal our relationship with it, and these are complementary.

What I find interesting is that in healing for others (through prayers, visualizations etc.), these two approaches can also be used.

(a) I can ask for healing of a specific ailment. This is how I used to do it, through connecting and then inviting in healing and shifts. It worked, and yet didn’t feel quite right. It comes from an assumption that I know what’s best for the other person, me, and the world. This can be remedied by asking for the “highest good” or “Your will be done”, although it doesn’t necessarily change the basic assumption that I know what’s best. (Which I – as thinking mind, as personality – clearly do not.)

(b) I can heal my (and our collective, cultural) relationship to it in myself. So, in relation to whatever the ailment or problem appears to be, whether physical, mental, social, or in any other area, I can explore the following:

You are welcome here.

I am sorry for having pushed you away. I am sorry for having seen you as wrong.

I love you.

And if it’s in the psyche (distress, anger, grief etc.):

Thank you for your protection of [the person]. Thank you for your deep devotion to [the person]. Thank you for your deep love for [the person].

No matter what it is, I can invite it to a dialog:

How would you like to be met by me?

What is your function?

Who are you really? (Inviting it to notice itself through it’s layers: as a label, sensations, devotion, love, presence, awakeness.)

It is, as Pamela Wilson says, as holding satsang with what’s here, in this case the appearance ailment or problem. Meet it with respect, appreciation, love, understanding.

Not needing it to be anything different from how it is. Not needing it to go away or stay.

And if something comes up in me as I explore this – any desire for it to change, any hesitation, any fears – then that can be met in this way too.

As I meet something and recognize it’s complete innocence and love, it doesn’t have to change. How I relate to it changes. And that, sometimes, allows it to shift and move on, within its freedom to stay or shift.

Opening to what’s here V

When I open to what’s here – discomfort, unease, sadness, grief, despair, joy, exhilaration – it’s a form of inquiry. What do I notice?

As with any inquiry, it’s mainly wordless and what’s found may be labeled or not. The label may happen very quietly, as a whisper, a gentle question.

Here are some of the things I have noticed, reflected in words:

I get to notice parts of me innocently protecting me from opening up. I am invited to notice the fear behind it, images or thoughts saying something terrible will happen, it will be too much, it will get worse. I am invited to notice they are here to protect me, and come from total devotion and love. I am invited to open to these too.

I am invited to notice the fear behind what I am opening up to, it’s innocent protect of me, that it comes from total devotion and love.

I can invite these parts of me to gently inquire. What is your function? What do you protect? Who are you really? What’s your relationship to presence (love, awakeness)?

What’s opened up to becomes an object. From being identified with, it becomes an object within this presence. It’s an object and it’s presence itself.

When it discover for itself what it’s function is, what it’s protecting, what it really is, that it is presence (love, awareness), something naturally shifts.

I am invited to notice that opening up is already happening. Only an image and a thought will say it’s not already opening to what’s here. And yet, the intention to open up, the noticing that it’s already here, makes a difference.

I get to see that the “me” the part of me wishes to protect is an image and a thought, overlaid on sensations, sights, smell, taste, sound. And it’s all presence.

I am invited to notice that the “I” observing and doing this, the “center”, is an image and a thought, and presence itself. This too can go from what presence temporarily takes itself to be, to be recognized as an object and presence itself.

I am invited to notice the pure innocence in identification. It too comes from an intention to protect, it’s pure devotion and love. It’s presence.

I am invited to notice that what a thought may call meditation, inquiry, prayer, and devotion all point to this.


The part of me that feels – and is convinced it is – unloved and unlovable surfaced again this morning.

I can do all sorts of things in response to it. And yet, what feels most helpful now is quite simple, and very quiet and often wordless.

Notice there is already opening to it here. There is already opening to any content of experience – the unloved/unlovable, the struggle with it, the me/I appearing to struggle with it. (All as images.)

Notice it comes from a desire to protect this me/I. It comes from love, and it is love.

Find love for it. Wordless love. Meet it, hold it, in wordless love.

And sometimes, if mind is a little too noisy for the wordless…. You are welcome here. I am sorry for having pushed you away. I love you.

Invite it to see for itself what it really is. (What a thought may label protection, love, presence, awakeness.)

When this part of me – this subpersonality, aspect of the psyche, belief – is met in Satsang, with love, patience, loving and quiet inquiry, it has an opportunity to see for itself what’s more true. And as it feels more loved, I feel the same. What it feels, is what I feel. (Because it’s part of me.)

Opening to what’s here IV

I sometimes have heartache come up, and again notice the benefit – at least right now – of being slightly disciplined in relating to it. I can chose one of the following, stay with it, and perhaps explore another later when that comes to me.

(a) Opening to the heartache itself. By bringing attention to the heartache itself, the sensations, and leave to the side any stories that goes with it, I can open to it, open my heart to it, bring it into my heart. I can allow it it’s life. Looking a little closer, I see there is also opening to it, and also any struggle there may be here around it.

(b) Listening to the fears behind it, and see what’s more true for me. By writing down the stories that goes with it, the stories of fear, pain, victimhood, they are seen and can be taken to inquiry.

(c) Satsang with this part of me. By inviting this part of me to find who or what it really is, there is an invitation for this part of me to recognize for itself what it really is. (Which often can be labeled protection, love, awakeness, although these labels are not the point here.)

(d) Welcome and meet with love. “You are welcome here.” “I am sorry for having pushed you away.” “I love you.”  Notice it’s already welcome, and it is from a desire to protect, it is from love, and it is love.

(e) Holding within awakeness/presence/love. By shifting into what all of this really is (the labels may be similar to above), and holding this pain and heartache within and as it, it’s allowed it’s life and it’s allowed – in it’s own time – to move, to shift into what’s next.

Opening to the pain of separation

When I look, I find that this discomfort and unease  is created from taking images and thoughts as true. It creates sensations, emotions, images and thoughts that a though will say are uncomfortable, and that my best option is to run from them.

The only way out of this is through. By opening to this discomfort and unease, I find what I really seek. That there isn’t separation, and never was.

The initial innocent confusion created pain, and by opening to this pain I can find what I really seek, and what’s always here.

When I push anything away, I push myself away

This is something I first noticed a long time ago.

When I push anything away – an experience, a person – I push myself away.

And it happens in several different ways.

What I push away is my image of what’s pushed away, and that image is part of me, it’s what I am. My psyche is battling itself.

When I push away something in the “wider world”, I push away the same in myself. It’s inevitable.

When I push away something in the “inner world”, I push away something that’s part of me.

And it’s all my psyche battling itself, my mind battling itself, awakeness in its form of appearances battling itself.

It’s uncomfortable. It’s impossible to push anything away. It’s hopeless. It’s a dead end.

And the parts of my psyche I push away feel rejected, isolated, afraid, so I feel the same.

The way out is to go in the other direction.

You are welcome here.

Sorry for having pushed you away.

I love you.

And as always, I am free to take care of myself, to live from loving intelligence to the extent it’s available to me.

Opening to what’s here, finding welcome for it, finding love for it, and noticing that these are already here, opens for living more fully from loving intelligence.

Opening for what’s here III

I notice a habit in not opening for what’s here when a thought labels it “unpleasant”, and also when a thought labels it “desirable”.

For instance right now, I notice something that could be called energy or bliss, and an impulse to do something to distract myself from it or dissipate it.

So I can open to that too, and notice it’s already opened to.

And, if it comes to me, I can also identify and inquire into images and thoughts about the experience and the impulse to run or dissipate.

And I can bring it all into the flame in the soul center in the chest a little over and to the right of the physical heart.

Opening to what’s here II

A few things about opening to what’s here:

If it appears to not already happen, it’s because certain images and thoughts are held as true.

One set of images is about what will happen if I do: Something terrible will happen. I will be reminded of something terrible (in past, future, present).

Another set of images tells me it’s possible to not open to what’s here, to avoid it, to run away from it, to distract myself from it.

And yet another set of images tells me that’s happening. I am able to run from it, close it down, close me down from experiencing it.

By intentionally opening to what’s here, I notice it’s already happening. This awareness, this (apparent) space, is already open to what’s here.

It’s not really possible to not open to what’s here. At most, attention can go somewhere else. It may go away from emotions or images that (a thought tells me) are uncomfortable, or dangerous, and better avoided. And then thought label it resistance, or running, or distraction.

By noticing the opening to what’s here, it’s allowed it’s life. Emotions are allowed their life. Images are allowed their life. And it’s seen more clearly as it is. Emotions are seen as emotions. Images as images. Resistance as a label. Running as a label. Distraction as a label. All happening within and as the opening that’s already here.

And then emotions and images, identification and non-identification, even space and time, may be recognized as images, as a label. And there is a quiet curiosity. What’s really here, without the label?

As with so much else, this can be discovered “globally” or “locally”. It can be seen as if from the outside of what’s here – the emotion, image, thought, sensation –  even if all is recognized as the same. And it can be recognized from within what’s here, by that part itself. For me, this is a quite interesting exploration now. Again, a thought may say that one feels more transcendent (head center, yang), and the other more embodied and immanent (belly center, yin), and that doesn’t really matter.

Sometimes, it may be difficult to find the quietness and stability of attention to open to what’s here, stay with it, notice if it’s already happening even if a thought would say it’s not, and so on. And here, I find it can be very helpful to have someone sit with me, even if it’s just for a few minutes, and if that person has some experience with this for him- or herself, then even better.

Opening to what’s here

I continue to notice (what a thought labels) a faint dread in my body.

And I notice the tendency to run away from it – to distract myself, do something fun, get something done, think about something, sleep. It’s not very satisfying in the long run, and now I feel ready to more consistently meet what’s here, including this dread.

How is it to open to it? To this experience, to what’s here? How is it to open to the dread, the impulse to run away, and any fears and images about opening to it?

Is it true that this opening to it is not already here? How is it to notice the opening to it is already here?

How is it to find curiosity for what’s here? For how it may unfold or (apparently) stay the same? How is it to stay with it for a while?

What’s really here, if I leave the label?

Rumi: At the very moment you become content in affliction

Whatever God gives you, be content. At the very moment you become content in affliction, the door of paradise will open.
– Rumi

I find that too, although I would use a bit more sober wording for myself. This morning, I noticed discomfort in me, in my belly and chest area, a sense of unease, fear. Gently and quietly, I opened to it, met it, welcomed it as a friend, a lover. And it shifted. It was no longer something that the labels discomfort, unease, fear fitted. It was no longer discomfort, unease, fear.

There are many facets or layers to this.

One is to meet it, be with it, welcome it as a friend, stay with it. I can ask myself can I be with this? Is it true it’s not already allowed, already welcomed? Is it true it needs to change?

Another is to notice it shifting, changing, and staying with it, with curiosity, interest.

Another is to listen to it, let it speak to me, perhaps wordlessly, be open to what it has to show me.

Another is to let it speak to me in images and words, let it reveal the fears behind it to me, identify these fears and take them to inquiry.

Another is to explore it all in the sense fields. Where and how does the discomfort, unease, fear show up in sensations? How does it show up in images? Where and how does the me or I relating to it show up in sensations? In images? What’s the “substance” of these sensations, these images? Is it true it’s solid? Is it true it’s lasting? Is it all ephemeral? Consciousness itself?

Another is to notice that in my mind, the unease, discomfort and fear is an image, the I or me is an image, and how this I or me relates to the unease is an image. If there is battle and struggle, that happens among images. If there is peace and welcoming, that happens within the world of images. And all of this happens within and as what is, what “I” am.

And a final facet of this is to notice any impulse to want my experience to change, go away, for it to shift into something “I” desire. Is it true, I need it to change? Is it true, it would be better if it changed? Is it true, another experience is better – for me, others, the world? Is it true, I know what’s best for me? How would it be if it never changed? Could I still find peace with it, welcome it, meet it as a friend, a lover?

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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Practice on the small things

I listened to Radio Adyashanti from last week (August 29, 2012, a very helpful episode for me), and he suggested what I have found for myself.

When there is a slight discomfort in daily life, and I open to it, and I keep doing it in daily life, it’s easier when big things come up. I am more familiar with the terrain. It becomes a new habit. The groove deepens.

Discomfort. There is a slight discomfort here. I am still. Open to it. Notice how it’s all awareness, it’s all happening within and as awareness. I notice the tendency of the mind to try to figure it out, find a solution, go to stories for resolution, and that too is all awareness. Content of awareness is busy. Awareness itself is still. It’s what’s always here. It’s what it all happens within and as.

By exploring a small discomfort in this way, a new habit is formed. I take the 180 degree turn from my old habit of avoiding this stillness, and instead am still, notice it all as awareness, allow the content of awareness it’s life and notice it already has it’s life. If or when a bigger discomfort comes, there is already familiarity with meeting it this way.

It’s the same with just about any other exploration, of course.

Pain. Right now, I find a slight pain in the right side of the jaw. I explore this through the sense fields, noticing what’s there in pure sensations, what’s there in images, what’s there in stories. I notice the pure sensations, and how the experience of “pain” comes when an image (a boundary, a texture) and a label (pain) is added onto it. I notice how it shifts when attention is on the pure sensation.

Then, I explore the turnarounds. TA: It’s not pain. When attention is on pure sensation, it’s not pain. Pain is only a label, reality is something entirely different. TA: It’s pleasure. Can I find where that’s true in immediate experience? What do I find when I stay with that turnaround? TA: I am pain. I am a pain to myself when I believe all my stories about pain, when I take the label as true and the stories about what it means as true.

By exploring small pain like this, I get to see what’s really there. I get to see what’s more true than my initial thoughts about it. And that makes it easier if/when there is a big pain. A different habit has been formed.

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A note on letting yourself be in an emotion

A note on letting yourself be in an emotion. This may mean wallowing in it, it may not. This may mean feeling it, it may not. What I know about letting myself feel an arising emotion is that it sets me free to be authentic, real and deeply honest with myself. If I try to push it away, act like I feel nothing, pretend everything is alright, that hurts. There is nothing wrong with feeling sad, helpless, unsettled, angry, depressed, joyful, happy, excited, afraid, nasty, petty..there is nothing wrong with a single feeling we exprience. My pain arises when I judge what I am feeling to be wrong or bad or even when I judge feeling happy as good..for what am I comparing a good feeling to but a bad one. Feeling is the fire I walk through in telling my truth. If I ignore it or shove it away it costs me more than it is worth. When I search for WHY I am feeling a feeling..whoa..that is painful find out what on earth is wrong with me so I can fix in the suffering…there is nothing to fix..just something to arise and ultimately to drift away. All feeling is comes and it goes..there is an ebb and a flow to it and without giving it a bad or good, right or wrong is just an experience. It is when I tell myself that I should not be feeling a certain way or that I should be feeling another way thats when I get confused and muddled and have the sensation that this..THIS particular feeling right now has been here forever and will be here forever..forgetting that it will move one..this is proven through all of my life..feelings, sensations, states..they come and they go..not one of them last forever..and to hope that they go and never come again or come and stay forever feels like absolute crap..hope is worse than is the death of experience..hoping takes me out of the feeling of the moment and leaves me open to the idea that what I am feeling should not be happening..and it could I ever argue with that.

Now this does not mean that I wallow in it..although sometimes I really, really do. It means that I give the feeling, sensation, emotion a space to live and myself the space to experience as it is…in this moment..without a reason..just FEELING. This seems to serve me better than thinking I have to stop anything that is arising in my experience or that anything could ever be wrong in my experiencing. It is somewhat like resting in THIS moment with nowhere to go and making use of the option to feel what comes. In this space there is no running, no hiding, no lieing, no manipulating, although there is nothing wrong with those things..when I allow myself to really is deep level of honesty and kindness for myself.
– SZ

An inquiry friend of mine posted this on Facebook, and I thought I would share it here – as a reminder for myself.

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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Opening to experience

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

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

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

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

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

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Breath, feel, turn it over

I sometimes “forget” even the simplest pointers, and was reminded of this one today.

When there is a sense of discomfort or overwhelm, I find it helpful to….

Bring attention to the breath, for instance the sensations of the breath at the nostrils, or even the movement of the chest and/or belly. This helps bring attention out of thoughts and to something simple such as sensation. It can also be helpful to bring attention to the heart area, and the sensations there.

Feel what’s here, allow it it’s life, it’s peace. I sometimes ask myself, can I be with this experience? Is it true, it’s overwhelming? Is it true, it’s too much? If I notice a thought behind the fear, I can ask myself is it true? Do I know for certain it’s true? 

Turn it over to the divine, to God.


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Jeff Foster: Rest in peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Beliefs about surfacing wounds

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

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

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

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

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