Here’s a Yummy Relaxation Exercise to try:
Here’s a Yummy Relaxation Exercise to try:
Emotion is as natural for humans as breathing.
I don’t make my breathing right or wrong, so why do it with my emotions?
It’s been an interesting week; I have spent more time than I care to remember in my swamp. By swamp I mean a sticky, tangled, mess of uncomfortable emotions within myself. I don’t like my emotional swamp much – a lot of what I experience in the swamp sucks – it hurts. And then I add to my pain by judging myself for feeling this sticky, yucky crap in the first place. I would love to avoid my swamp.
Isn’t life supposed to turn into bliss and pure joy when I open up to more consciousness? Have I failed because I still get triggered after all these years of mindful awareness training? Am I doing this consciousness thing wrong if I still get pissed and sad and scared?
But, wait a minute! All humans emote about their experiences – even beings as aware as Gandhi and Jesus felt emotions. Our bodies are wired to flow with emotion. Emotion is as natural for humans as breathing. I don’t make my breathing right or wrong, so why do it with my emotions?
Every experience I have can trigger emotional reactions, not just the yummy experiences. Where did I get the idea that becoming conscious meant never being triggered, never feeling “yucky” emotions? Isn’t that just a really sneaky way to judge myself and find myself lacking? Just what I need – another way to beat myself up and make myself bad or wrong. NOT!
And what if being more aware in each moment elicits even more emotion within me? All those sensations about this moment that I used to block or ignore are now available to me in my new state of awareness. What if those sensations trigger MORE emotions as I respond to all the new information I am now aware of? Is that somehow wrong?
And isn’t it just another form of judgment to label emotions good or bad, acceptable or repulsive? How is it going to help me to label my emotions as OK and not OK? Can I let go of the idea that some human emotions are a sign of unconsciousness or inferiority?
We are emotional creatures. Trying to stop emotion is like trying to halt the flow of water. Can I allow my emotions to flow without stuffing them? And can I stop judging myself right or wrong for feeling the way I feel in each moment?
What happens if I embrace it all – my grief, my anger, my fear? Can I allow my emotions to be waves washing through me? What happens if I embrace ALL of me – even the parts I don’t like – in every moment?
“It’s not that you won’t be triggered anymore.
It’s that you won’t have a problem being triggered anymore.”
“Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment.
This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light,
every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee),
every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression,
every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath.
Every moment is the guru.
–Charlotte Joko Beck
My experience of awareness; I take Dog Goddess Brigit on a walk by the river. We walk the same path almost every morning. On many occasions, I have returned from our walk and realized that I didn’t really notice my surroundings at all that day. I have been completely lost in my thoughts, unaware of what was right in front of me. I have been wrapped up in planning my future or ruminating on my past and the river slipped by unnoticed by me.
But some days are different; some days I actually focus on the path and my steps and the sounds on the wind. I notice the feel of the leash in my hand, the smell of some bush or tree nearby. And those moments when I am actually present and aware are so potent! On my aware days, I notice many new things that I never noticed before – even though it is the exact same path Brigit and I walked yesterday. An aware walk is magical.
It is as though I am more alive in aware moments. Awareness amps up my sensations and makes everything richer and fuller. For me, even awareness about something heavy and hard like sorrow or pain beats feeling half alive. I’ve learned that numbing out and avoiding yucky emotions and sensations comes at a price – if I numb out, I will also lose the yummy sensations and emotions that make my life sing.
Meditation teacher, Jon Kabat-Zinn describes awareness as being mindful, being present with whatever is in this moment. He calls it the art of “falling awake”. Ram Das tells us to Be Here Now. Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of dwelling in the present moment. Not just living… dwelling in the moment. Seems like a very simple idea. And I find it very difficult to pull off most days!
Modern life seems to be about distraction rather than awareness; we distract ourselves by turning on TV shows we only half watch. We woof down food we don’t really even taste. We walk around dreaming of tomorrow or lamenting yesterday. We surf on the internet, popping from screen to screen without really taking any of it in. We pride ourselves on being able to do 3 things at once, even when we can’t actually remember much about doing any of them! Is that living?
I suspect that Dog Goddess Brigit is at least 100 times more aware than I am on any given day. My big, “superior” human brain gives me the ability to analyze and plan far beyond anything a dog can plan. And those same human abilities complicate the simple act of staying present and aware in this moment. My strength is also my weakness. Can I stop planning and analyzing long enough to notice what is here, right in front of me? Analysis is as useless as a dog chasing her own tail when it comes to being aware.
I wonder how much I miss when I am walking through my day half aware of what’s around me here and now? What would it take for me to double or triple how many moments of the day that I am actually present? What if I stop analyzing EVERYTHING and put my big, silly human brain to work sensing and perceiving what is here in front of me? What is the value of analyzing what happened yesterday if I miss today? How much richer can my day to day reality become if I make awareness my priority?
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Wow – it’s been almost 3 months since I spouted off here in my Blog.
That’s a LONG time for me to go underground. But I have a very good reason for going all “Turtle” and disappearing from view – I moved cross-country this fall. Moving from one state to another is tough even for a flexible, go with the flow type chick like me. (My husband is laughing hysterically right now about my “go with the flow” description of myself. But hey! This is my Blog and if I want to view myself as easy going, he should just learn to hush up… 🙂
So, more about moving. Any change is tough – most humans do NOT like things in their life to shift around or change much at all. But I have always prided myself on enjoying change. I used to do corporate change management work, for God’s sake! This move cross-country was a change that I pushed for and WANTED. And yet… this move was unsettling to say the least (pun intended).
It always takes me awhile to find ground and establish a new routine whenever I move, even just across town. But, silly me – I thought a much anticipated, much desired change would be easier. Hah! Maybe it’s because I’m an Earth sign (Taurus); I tend to root deeply into each place I live. Or maybe all those therapists are right when they claim that moving is one of the top three stressors in Life for everyone. Even good change is hard and stressful.
After our move, I felt unmoored, ungrounded, unsettled, off-balance. Like the least little breath of trouble might blow me right off my feet. It took me weeks to feel at home and truly relax in this new place. I knew what I needed – I needed to find gound. Hah! So it’s time to practice what I preach all day long to my clients, huh God?! I’m supposed to know how to do this, right?
What finally worked for me? What helped me find ground and settle in this new place? Meditating and consciously grounding my legs and hips helped me immensely And walking in the mountains was a God-send for me. The energy of the Rockies is very grounding (go figure!). And oddly enough, the simple act of unpacking our treasures helped a lot. Having boxes everywhere is very unsettling for me.
Yesterday I came across an essay named Finding Ground that I wrote a few years ago And I laughed to myself as I read it – if only I could have accessed all the wisdom I expressed in it during my “unsettled days” this fall.
My new home is good – I’m the one grinning from ear to ear every time I look outside and see the Rockies. It’s going to be years before this “flatlander” takes living in the mountains for granted.
Life is good here. Probably because I am finally completely HERE.
Much love and hugs from the mountains.
I encourage you to also read “Finding Ground”, with the hope that it might help you
face the chaos of change in your life.
Stressed out? Having trouble sleeping? Feeling on edge?
This is an audio Podcast of one of my guided meditations. It is absolutely wonderful for calming and grounding in the body. I developed this meditation for my Flow classes. It has become a favorite with my students.
I personally love it.
Last week I went for a walk in the woods. There is a path near my house that I love. It winds through the woods next to an untamed year-round creek. I’m wandering down the creek path and I know a big thunderstorm is coming. I saw the storm brewing before I left home, but I love my time on this trail, so I risk a walk in the woods anyway.
I am walking and keeping an eye on the storm clouds that are rapidly building in the north sky. But I’m enjoying my walk so much that I extend it a bit, and then a bit more. I get cocky and misjudge how fast the storm is rolling in. And for my cockiness I ended up getting rained on. Not drenched, just a little damp. Just a gentle schooling from Mother Nature, thank God!
That’s how I hope to weather all the storms in my life; maybe just a little damp but not drenched and no permanent structural damage. I don’t want to end up in chaos at the epicenter of any storm – I have no desire to end up like those Japanese fishermen downwind from a broken nuclear power plant, or those folks in Joplin with no basements where the tornados decided to touch down a few weeks ago. Most of us really cannot handle being at the epicenter, can we? Most of us have no urge to fly right through the eye of the hurricane in a small metal plane. Oh yes, the epicenter is exciting and enticing. Some people love hanging out there. It whispers a siren song that I definitely hear. I’m the one walking in the woods with a thunderstorm brewing on the horizon.
This is one lesson that I have learned the hard way when doing energetic healing work. How close do I want to be to the center of the action, the center of the storm? Through years of trial and error, I have learned that I cannot stay healthy and alive if I hang out in the epicenter of a client’s healing storm. My job is to be an anchor point of calm, on the edge of the action rather than trying to ride the wild energies at the epicenter. I stay healthy and my clients do amazing healing work when I anchor and hold the edges of their dance floor. A client who is emotionally or mentally thrashing through a traumatic release or change needs a calm, deep anchor NOT a dance partner. I picture a giant old sycamore tree anchored in the earth next to this path I love. She’s a calm anchor!
I go visit Grandma Sycamore every time I walk the Mill Creek path. She’s a very cool tree. But on this particular walk, on this particular day, I notice a big chunk of bark lying behind her trunk. When I stop to examine the trunk, I see that the core of Grandma Sycamore is now decaying, rotting away. She has a huge hole at her center. Her time is almost finished here at the edge of the path. Soon she will fall and make way for new trees. I am sad to see this – I have grown to love this tree – I will miss her. She had many years here; wide and tall, majestically anchoring this piece of earth. Now her time is ending.
The same organic cycle of birth, growth and decay happens with everything in Nature. EVERY living thing – including the civilizations that man builds – springs up from the decaying earth left behind from those who came before. We are born, we grow and flourish, then decay and die out. Life on Earth is all about cycles.
Change is inevitable. And change can be very scary, like a huge thunderstorm brewing on the horizon. But If I get still and watch and listen – if I use my senses to really observe, I begin to notice that change is coming before it gets here and I can protect myself. When I slow down and look, I notice that the core of the tree is rotting long before it gets so unstable that it falls on me. In stillness I can see the change coming just like a big storm building on the horizon.
I see a storm coming for my country. I am troubled by the chaos that the US seems to be spiraling into. A US dollar with no gold behind it, massive debt, medical treatments that make people poorer and sicker, grocery stores full of food that isn’t really food, politicians that pontificate and never really change anything – it is so easy to turn into a completely paranoid pessimist. Yet even my more rational optimistic self cannot deny the growing rot at the core of our economy, of our food supply, of our healthcare and our political structures. Beautiful proud strong Grandma Sycamore weakens with age and eventually rots at the core and falls to make way for new life. And our proud beautiful strong US culture seems ready to do the same just like the Mayans and the Romans and the European empires of earlier times. I try to remember that it’s not a good thing or a bad thing, it just is; cultures grow and flourish and then die out just like trees.
I stop and look around and see a world that has swung so far into the yang, active, doing energies. We are too active, too busy, too focused on owning and controlling everything we see. America has spent so much energy trying to conquer and master everything. Straightening rivers, digging holes in the earth to pull out energy to burn, building more and more of the biggest vehicles and buildings in the world even though they consume energy like some giant ravenous beasts, processing the fruits of nature until they don’t even resemble fruit anymore… I could rant on and on. This country is so deep in Yang energy, it cannot seem to stop to even catch a breath!
US cities like Chicago and LA and New York feel like Yang energy on steroids to me; busy little ant humans running here and there on foot – or even more Yang yet, zooming from place to place in little metal cars and big metal planes. We get instant news and entertainment 24/7 on our TV’s and computers and iPod’s and Blackberries. Could we be less still, less receptive??
It is the nature of all organic systems to pendulum back and forth between yin and yang states, constantly seeking a balance point somewhere in the middle. And Western civilization is an organic system; civilizations seek balance and homeostasis just like our own body systems do. So a pendulum shift in this country away from yang seems obvious and inevitable to me. The obvious correction for this organic system is to pendulum back toward yin receptive quiet energies, qualities or ways of being. And the pendulum swing is inevitable; ALL organic systems do it. So I look around and know a shift is coming our way. And I also sense that this cultural shift could get quite chaotic and messy. I want to spiritually embrace and encourage this worldwide natural shift back into receptive mother yin energy. And I also want to protect my family in what could be a wild chaotic storm.
So I close with the questions that my husband and I find ourselves wrestling with this year; What can I do to help my family prepare for this storm? What can I do NOW, before the storm gets here, so that my family can emerge from storm just a little damp? How do I best help my friends and neighbors do the same?
And just as important to me; what do I want to shift towards? Even in the worst storm I have choices about what’s best for me, my family, my country. What is the new vision I want to anchor in and hold for my family, for everyone I love, for America? What seeds can I plant now so that they will sprout into life and flourish after this storm passes?