Jonathan Louis Dent: Imagine if we measured success by the amount of safety that people feel in our presence

I want to live in a society that values helping people feel safe. That’s how we all can flourish.

And this is not only about our personal interactions or what happens in groups. It’s also how we structure and set up our society. Do we have social safety nets so people can feel safe from a life in poverty? Do we support people to get the education they want? Do we encourage people to follow their deepest fascinations even if it doesn’t make personal sense to us?

FINDING IT FOR MYSELF

When I notice that wish in me, I know it’s advice for myself.

It’s an invitation to find ways to bring it into my own life.

I can find and choose to be with people who help me feel more safe.

I can help others feel more safe, as best I can.

And, perhaps most importantly, I can support my own inner community in feeling more safe.

HELPING MY INNER COMMUNITY FEEL SAFE

Growing up, I didn’t learn to consistently make my inner community feel safe. I didn’t learn to consistently support and be there for myself and all the different parts of me and my experience.

Why? Because I didn’t receive it from those around me when I was little. They didn’t know how to do it for themselves so they couldn’t do it for me.

So how do I learn to help my inner community feel safe and supported?

The first step is recognizing when parts of me feel unsafe and unsupported. How does it feel?

How do I habitually respond to it? Do I react? Perhaps with some form of avoidance? An avoidance that takes the form of fear, anger, compulsions, blame, shame, guilt, or something else?

What is my conscious inner dialog? How can I change it so it helps my inner community feel safe and supported? How can I do it in a way that feels honest? (Tricking myself doesn’t work.)

What happens if I do heart-centered practices on my images of others, myself, and different parts of me? If I do tonglen, ho’oponopno, or metta? Does something shift?

What are the stressful stories creating a feeling of lack of safety and support? What do I find when I examine these and explore what’s genuinely more true for me? What are my stressful stories about not feeling safe and supported? What am I most afraid can happen?

What do I find when I dialog with the parts of me that feel unsafe and unsupported? How do they experience the world? How do they experience me? What advice do they have for me? How can I best be a friend and ally to these parts of me?

How is it to notice that these parts and experiences have the same nature as I do? That I am fundamentally capacity for it all? That they are happening within and as what I am? How is it to rest in and as that noticing?

MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

As mentioned, I did not grow up around people who knew how to consistently do this for themselves. So I didn’t feel all that safe and supported, and I didn’t learn to do it for myself. And that means doing it for others is also lacking, in spite of my best intentions. So this requires a lot of work and attention from my side. It takes time. I still feel I am just a beginner when it comes to this.

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Dream: Genuinely supportive school class

I sit in with a school class, perhaps 16-17 years old. I feel a little uncomfortable at first, and notice my old school-age fear of being judged coming up. I write down a dream on a piece of paper. One young man tells the class he would like to perform a song he created. He does, and a group of 6-7 other kids stand behind him to be backup singers. After this, another asks me what I wrote down, and I tell him it was a dream. He says he is very interested in learning more about exploring dreams, and seems sincere and genuine. I realize that this is a class of kind, genuine, and very supportive people, and I notice it’s a bit difficult for me to really take it in and feel it.

When I was in school, I rarely experienced this kind of authenticity, kindness, and mutual support. I experienced the contrary until perhaps high school where new people came into my class and the culture changed a bit. The class in the dream is early high school and may reflect my own experience of a culture change at that time.

In many ways, I didn’t feel much support in childhood in general. There was never any material lack, and we had regular mealtimes and so on. But this kind of authenticity, genuine kindness, sincerity, and consistent and real support was absent from my family, school, and teachers. They all seemed to operate more on fear – insecurity, and fear of judgment – and I learned to do the same.

I have more intentionally and consistently supported my inner community this summer, and that may be reflected in this dream. The dream shows me how a genuinely supportive community looks, and that a part of me is still unfamiliar with this and has trouble completely taking it in.

If you see life as a laboratory of your own spiritual evolution

If you think life is about getting what you want, then life will seem to be against you.

But if you see life as a laboratory of your own spiritual evolution, then all of creation becomes the supporting cast, and you will always, always feel supported.

Because the Universe just has this uncanny knack for sending us the perfect experiences to “build character”.

– Nathan W. on Facebook

Life is set up that way. We operate on beliefs and identifications, these are out of alignment with reality, and we will inevitably find ourselves in situations where life makes this misalignment very obvious to us.

We experience this misalignment as discomfort and even suffering. Blaming the world for the discomfort tends to amplify it. If we instead use it as a reminder to look at our own beliefs and identifications, it can be a support in our own healing, maturing, and even awakening.

Most of us use a combination of these two approaches, and the more aware we become the pattern of each, the more we tend to naturally use the second.

Dark night of the soul: challenges & some remedies

The dark night of the soul has its own timing and its own life.

And yet, there are things we can do that can make it a little more bearable, and even align us more consciously with what the process seems to ask of us. (Also based on reports from people who have moved through it.)

Here are some common challenges for people in a dark night of the soul:

We feel that we did something wrong. Or that something is terribly wrong.

We feel that it will never end.

We don’t know what’s happening.

We struggle with and resist what’s happening.

We are caught in painful stories about what’s happening.

We are faced with painful stories surfacing to find liberation. These stories may be old stories recreating deficient selves, perceived threats, compulsions, wounds, trauma, and more. They are unquestioned and unloved.

We may have dread, terror, and trauma surfacing. (To find love and liberation.)

Our identities are “under siege”. Life may put us in situations where our familiar identities don’t fit anymore. (Sometimes, although not necessarily, through loss of relationships, health, work etc)

We experience periods of intense discomfort, perhaps without being able to put a label on it.

Shadow material tends to surface. Whatever is unhealed and unloved surfaces to heal and be loved.

It can feel overwhelming. Unbearable. We can’t take it anymore.

There may be losses – of relationships, health, work, and more.

We may have periods where we are unable to sleep, or get very little sleep.

 And some remedies:

Information. Talking with others who have gone through it.

Inquiry into the painful stories. The beliefs about what’s happening. The beliefs creating the painful experiences that may surface.

Meeting the pain or discomfort with kindness. Holding it in kind presence.

Resting with what’s here. Notice. Allow.

And some more things that may be supportive:

Spend time in nature. Walk. Garden.

Use your body. Swim. Walk. Do gentle physical activities that feels nurturing and supportive.

Eat well. Eat foods that work with your body. Drink plenty of water.

Nurture nurturing activities and relationships.

Receive sessions that are nurturing and supportive. Perhaps massage, acupuncture, craniosacral etc. Find practitioners who are OK with what you are going through, and don’t have a need to “fix” you. (Nothing needs to be fixed, but some activities and modalities can be supportive in this process.)

Find support from others who have gone through it, and are going through it.

Find a guide who has gone through it, and is experienced guiding people through it.

Rest. Get plenty or rest.

Be kind with yourself. Ask yourself what would someone who loves themselves do? (The answer may be very simple and for that moment.)

Be a good steward of your life, as much as you can.

Ask for guidance. Ask for support. Ask for your will be done. (Ask life, the universe, God.)

Let go of limiting ideologies, if they create stress and don’t seem to work for you anymore. (This includes ideologies about food, practices, world views, how you should live your life, and more.)

Ordinary human kindness. Ask for kindness. Be kind towards yourself and others, as much as you can.

See also previous posts on this topic, including for a list of helpful resources. (Adyashanti has talked and written about dark nights. Jeannie Zandi writes and speaks about it. There are several good books on spiritual emergencies, which includes a mentioning of dark nights. Evelyn Underhill’s Mysticism has a good chapter on the Dark Night of the Soul, although colored by her tradition and times. There is a lot more information out there.)

Barry: Remember the real support is not from a human being but from God

Remember the real support is not from a human being but from God. God may provide a human being as a means but not the Source. This is about walking through fear into faith and the mystery. It is the ONLY way to get free and deepen your communion with the Divine. You know what you have to do when those sweet moments are present with no fear. Listen to those and when the fear thoughts come, don’t give them power. Remember where they are coming from. Love, b

– Barry, in an email to me

During the recent “dark night” deep, primal survival fears have surfaced. And since it’s combined with chronic fatigue, a sense of dependency and neediness has surfaced.

All of it surfaces to be seen, felt and loved, and recognized as love. It’s worried love. It’s what happens when the love we are is filtered through temporary identifications.

Finding support in exhaustion

I am quite exhausted physically today, mostly from lack of sleep over several days.

So if I resist the experience of exhaustion, there is discomfort right there. I go into a victim mode. I want things to be different from how they are. The exhaustion becomes an Other, a problem, something that prevents me from doing what I want to do.

But if I allow the experience of it, for instance by using some of the Breema principles (body comfortable, no extra), there is a shift. Now, there is an intimacy with the body and the symptoms, and instead of it being a problem, hindering me in doing what I had planned, it becomes a support. The exhaustion is revealed as a deep relaxation, a deep quietness, a nurturing fullness, which in a very practical and immediate way supports me in whatever is happening here now.

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Distractions as support

There are (at least) two main ways of relating to distractions, especially in the context of any form of body-centered, psychological or spiritual exploration.

One is to see distraction as a distraction, and bring attention back to wherever the practice tells us it is supposed to be. This can be helpful in its own way, although can also easily become a subtle battle and create an I-Other split (I as stable attention and the belief that stable attention is desirable, and Other as distraction.)

Another is to work with distraction, see how it is a gift, and follow its invitation for exploration. When attention is distracted, it is only because a story comes up that is seen as juicy, charged, and is believed in. Distraction is then a very valuable sign post, pointing directly to a belief. So we can take its invitation, allow it to go to the belief, become more conscious of the belief, take it to inquiry, and also be with whatever emotions it trigger in a heartfelt way. In that way, distraction becomes a precious teacher and pointer.

The first approach has its benefits in encouraging mindfulness and stable attention, but it also does have an element of struggle and working against the grain. Distraction very easily appears as a disturbance, an Other.

The second is in many ways a far more skillful approach, going to the root of what is behind distraction, investigating it, and allowing it to fall away. Here, distraction becomes a support.

In the absence of a belief in a story, there is no draw for attention to go to the inside of the story and be absorbed into it (unless it has a practical purpose, for this human self in the world). It arises as anything else, is recognized as a thought, and is free to live its own life, which is brief when it is not fueled by beliefs. It arises within the naturally clear awareness, as as a brief form of awareness itself.