I’m Confused

“I’m so confused,” you might say to someone else. “Something in me is so confused,” you might say inwardly to self. So what about this confusion?

The dictionary defines confusion as a lack of understanding; uncertainty, or as the state of being bewildered or unclear about something in one’s own mind. When I am feeling confused, there is a lack of clarity. Murkiness abounds. And that feeling state of bewilderment and perplexity is there too.

It might also feel very dense, all tied up, or turbulent as though it is impossible to unravel the threads to gain understanding. It can be difficult to navigate confusion. What to do? Bring your presence, neutral space and time and empathetic listening.

Give yourself a moment to center, perhaps take a breath letting the exhalation last a little longer than the inhalation. Then say to it, “Hello, I see you are there,” with interest and curiosity. Take a moment and sense how it reacts.

If your “hello” engages it in a neutral but friendly way, take some time to describe it. How it feels, its texture or quality, or its shape. It may show you or tell you something.

If, on the other hand, it feels tense and tight as though there is not much or no space or air, back off a bit. Take another breath and bring your awareness to the ground your feet are touching and how that supports you. Sense your hands. Fingers, palms, and back of hands. Now as you take another breath allow your awareness to follow its journey through the nostrils, down the throat, into the chest and even further down to stomach and belly. Notice how it feels to arrive there.

Now, say inwardly, “I am the space big enough for whatever needs my attention. Sense the space. Back off a bit more, if needed. Sense the space again. Sense and see if something that is feeling confused is still there. Good, It is. Say “hello” gently or if that feels like too much. Just inwardly acknowledge its presence like you might inwardly acknowledge the presence of someone you don’t know who sits down next to you on a bus, train, or plane. Now, giving it lots of space, take some time to describe it. How it feels, its texture or quality, or its shape. It may show you or tell you something.

As you take your time and give it space, the feeling of confusion may change. You may notice that it is not one thing but maybe two or more things. Each thing that arises has its point of view and is wanting your attention. It wants to be listened to gently, deeply and without judgment.

Sometimes, when we sit down and keep this feeling of confusion company, we are struck by a sense of the unknown. This sense of not knowing can feel scary. That’s ok. We can reflect back to it what we sense, saying inwardly to this something, “I’m sensing you are not knowing and I sense you feel scared.” This kind of active and open listening is exactly what it is wanting.

Often, when working with a sense of confusion, two or more things arise. We may sense that they are engaging in some kind of dialogue, sniping, or acting out a tug-of-war. This kind of back-and-forth is wanting the wisdom of our presence to step in and say respectfully to each one. “I am here with you and will listen to you. You will have your turn.” Once you ave given this inner invitation to each hold all of them in the space and sense which one is needing your attention more right now. This way each part will have time and space to be with your full and open self so that it can be heard. Once heard in all its intricacies, its forward energy will release and confusion will transform into an appropriate action or understanding.

When we engage these practices of open and focused presence, of giving our attention, and listening deeply without judgment, confusion transforms. It shows us something from which clarity opens to us.

About Eating

How does it feel to eat? Someone once told me, “When I eat I sense something grasping and gnawing inside of me. It feels like there is something desperate in there!”

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This person was really in touch with how it felt to eat for her. Eating is a complicated activity working at many different levels of our experience. It can tell us a lot about how things are going for us in that particular moment. When we are eating, it is a good time to pause and check inside to see how it is for us right then and there.

Eating is so basic and so complicated. It often brings forth in us something that is wanting our attention; something that is wanting us to deeply listen in a curious and respectful way. But, this something wanting our attention often goes unnoticed as our attention is elsewhere. Perhaps it is on the TV, on the phone, on the computer, in a book, in conversation with another. Or, maybe we are “zoned” out somewhere far from what we are doing in the moment, eating!

Pausing is a good idea. Some people say grace or a few words of remembrance before eating. Growing up, the custom in our family was to say grace. Even as a kid, there was something about that moment of being together in thanks that felt really right, a sense of appreciation for the food on the plate and being together.

Now when I pause in thanks before eating, I do it from the inside out. I bring my awareness inside to that whole middle space that will receive this food, the throat, stomach, and belly and check what’s alive for me in this moment of eating. Perhaps something is wanting my attention right now. It may need just a moment of respectful acknowledgement or perhaps it is something that is wanting of bigger chunk of my time and space. In that case, I say hello to it and let it know I am willing to come back to it when it is needing my attention.

Pausing in this way changes my eating. It slows me down. It increases my enjoyment of the food. And, it brings me in touch with situations, feelings, and emotions, triggered by food and eating, that are wanting my attention. This is a gift for which I am grateful.

A Very Difficult Person

Perhaps there is someone in your life whose actions and or words you find difficult, perhaps very difficult. If this feels right, you might do the following. Taking a few minutes gather together a piece of paper and a pen. Now, find a quiet place where you can sit and write.

Open green book with pen on white background.

Sitting, let your body take its most comfortable position.  Feel your feet and what they are touching. Sense the seat beneath you and how it supports you. Notice your hands and what they are touching, how they, perhaps, hold the pen and the paper, too.

Now write the person’s name at the top of the paper. Perhaps the person’s name is Jane. Write ‘Jane’ at the top of the paper.

Now bring your awareness to your breath. Just the way it is. Breathing in, pausing, breathing out just breathing as it is right now. No need to change it. If it feels right take a deeper breath.

Now bring your awareness inside your body to your inner knowing of what feels right for you. Take your time. Sense your more spacious and whole self arriving inside. As you do, you might become aware of something in the throat, chest, stomach or belly, or somewhere else. Just notice what’s alive for you right now and acknowledge that it is here.

Now bring your awareness to what’s difficult about this person and invite it to be present. You might say to yourself, “I’m inviting that whole thing about [name of person] and [describe briefly in a couple of words the difficulty]. Here’s an example. “I’m inviting that whole thing about Jane and how she treated me in the meeting to be here now.”

Acknowledge what comes. It might be a picture, video, feeling or emotion. Whatever comes acknowledge it gently with respect and empathy. You might say something to yourself like, “Ah, hello, I see you are/it is here.”

Now, taking your time, invite three good qualities of this difficult person to come forward. You might say. “I’m inviting three good qualities of Jane to make themselves known.” Perhaps only one or two good qualities will come forward. That’s OK, too. Write each one down. Even if there is only one good quality, write that down on the piece of paper under the name of the person.

When you have finished writing, put the pen down.  If it feels right take a breath, feel your feet and hands and what they are touching. Feel the support of what you are sitting on beneath you.

Read the first good quality to yourself. Now, sense how that good quality feels in your body. Let that feeling be there as fully as it wants to be. Now read the second good quality and sense it in your body letting it be there as fully as it wants. Now do the same for the third quality. Notice how your body feels now. Perhaps something has changed. Perhaps there is more space or a flowing or lightness. Just notice.

Seeing the good in someone, even in a difficult person, doesn’t hurt and can help you feel good, too.

“You’re No Good”

A voice inside is saying, ” You’re no good.” Pause and take that in. You might notice how you feel when you hear this.

You might feel that it’s true, that you’re no good. If this is what comes, now is a good time to sense your feet grounded on whatever they are touching, to feel your body supported by whatever you are sitting on, and to take a breath as you pause.

You might invite yourself to be curious, like a scientist or an explorer. You might even say to yourself, “This is so interesting. I am curious about it.”  Now, bring your attention to this something that says, “You are no good.”

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Sense how it is it right now inside your body, especially in that whole middle area of the body.  Inside you might feel tense, tight, narrow or some other way. Notice how that is.

You may notice this sense of constriction in some specific part of your body, perhaps in the throat, chest, or belly. Notice where it is. You might say to yourself, ‘I’m sensing something in my <part of body> that’s feeling <tight, constricted, or some or way> and it is saying, “You’re no good” <or whatever criticizing thing is saying>.”

Now, just as you might say hello to someone you pass on the street, you might say ‘hello’ to that something in you that is saying that you’re no good. You might say something like, “Oh, Hello, I see you are there.”

You might be thinking now, “Say hello? Don’t be ridiculous. This is just me, my mind. It’s is always saying things like this!  I just try to ignore it.”

But, rather than ignore it or push it away, you might just give this a try. Say ‘hello’. Now pause and feel how that is when you say hello. Maybe something relaxes or melts away or perhaps you sense it is wanting more of your attention. If that’s the case, bringing your awareness to it in a pleasant and nonjudgmental way is a good way to start to get to know it.

Letting it know that you know it is there is a first step to coming into a relationship with it, just as you might say hello to someone as a first step to beginning a conversation.

When you stop and pay attention you may notice that it’s not coming from inside your inner body. It may seem to come from just over there, outside your skin envelope, maybe a little to one side or the other or behind you. That’s OK. The body goes beyond the skin. It radiates out into its environment.

This something that is criticizing you, is just trying to protect you. It’s really afraid that something bad is going to happen to you. Remember when you were little and your mother would warn you that if you didn’t wear your coat when you went outside that you were going to get sick? This voice you hear is like your mother’s. It’s worried something is going to happen to you, so it says something bad to keep something bad from actually happening.  It is trying its best to protect you.

But guess what! Even though it is doing its best, it actually can’t protect you from anything. And, if you keep it company and listen to it like you would a friend, it will know that you can take care of yourself and it will relax, let go, and after awhile melt away.

Its releasing may not happen quickly. You may need to spend some time with it. If this feels like a big job, you can say to yourself. “There’s plenty of time. I am the space big enough for whatever needs my attention now.” And, if you need to bring your attention to other things in your life, you can let it know that you are willing to come back to it if it needs your attention. That way it knows that you’re not just trying to get rid of it. It can trust you.

Try this out the next time a voice inside is criticizing you and let me me know how it goes for you. I welcome your comments and questions.

On Autopilot?

Mostly, we go about our day on autopilot. It makes sense that we do not consciously have to decide moment-by-moment, what next. We just do what we do. Every day, we get up, get dressed, brush our teeth, wash our faces, get our kids off to school, go to work, eat, drive, and so on without thinking about what we are doing.

This is not a bad thing. Imagine the effort we would expend to consciously and repeatedly make the same decisions and navigate the same minutia of the same activities day after day. Perhaps exhausting.

On the other hand, when on autopilot we cannot savor what is right here, right now for us; we are not fully present and alive. We might be missing feeling the joy of even the simplest activity. Or, we might be missing something that some part of us might be trying to tell or show us.

What? you might be asking. Who cares!  And, you might also be sensing some budding curiosity in discovering what might come forward by spending a little time with something that doesn’t seem to need any attention at all.

How about bringing your full attention to some routine activity: Brushing your teeth, drinking a coffee or eating a doughnut or bowl of cereal, getting dressed, or driving to work?

Exploring bringing your awareness to something simple that we all do, like brushing our teeth, is a good place to start. Let’s do it.

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Notice how you pick up the brush, apply the toothpaste, and turn on the water. Really pay attention as you hold the brush. Be aware of which hand and kind of grip you use.  Sense how it feels to hold the brush. Now, squeeze the toothpaste onto the brush. What do you see? How would you describe the toothpaste going onto to the brush? And, the water? What do you notice?

Now bring your attention to brushing your teeth. Notice your stroke. Maybe you go up-and-down, side-to-side, round-and-round or some other combination of moves. Sense what it feels like as the brush contacts the the teeth and gums. Notice the texture of the toothpaste mixing with your saliva and how it tastes. What’s your tongue doing?  Do you swallow? Tune into how it feels inside, in your body.  Be aware of looking in the mirror and how that is. Notice when you decide to stop brushing and how that feels.

Be aware of how you finish up.  Perhaps you rinse your mouth, or not. Notice each step you take to clean and put away the brush. Notice your hands and how they feel as you do this.

Perhaps take a moment now and reflect. How was this different from brushing on autopilot? You might be surprised. Welcome whatever comes to you.

Perhaps your senses of taste, sight, touch, hearing, and smell have woken up. How was that? Maybe you noticed something you enjoyed or something that felt unpleasant. Take a few moments to describe what has come for you.

If something pleasurable is there, take your time and let it be there as fully as it wants to be. Now sense how that feels inside, in your body, having done that.

Perhaps it has brought forward something that is wanting your attention, something that doesn’t feel quite right, stuck, painful, or out-of-place.  It might have come as a feeling, a memory, an image, or a story. Check that out and see if something like that is there for you. If it is, you might say hello to it and let it know that you are willing to come back to it and spend time with it. Now notice how doing that feels inside.

This is it. Even the simplest, most routine and mundane activity is alive for us when we pay attention. And, by paying attention what springs forward may be pleasant and flowing and/or open us to something in us that given our compassionate attention and active listening moves us forward in our lives with just rightness.

Why Don’t You Eat A Cookie

I was deep in a Focusing session the other day, spending time with something in my lower belly that felt so young, alone and scared. I sensed that it was vulnerable and that I should go slowly and be very gentle. This something didn’t say anything but it showed me a small, wrinkly, brown nut-like thing. I could see that there was a lot of barren earth around it. I sensed what kind of contact it would like from me and it let me know that it was OK to just be there with it.

With this invitation to stay with it, I sensed how cold and alone it was and also that it would be Ok to observe it more closely. My gentle presence was with it more closely, almost as though I was looking at it through a magnifying glass. I noticed how furrowed one wrinkle was and how it appeared cracked and parched.

Just then as I was doing this something else popped up to the right side of my abdomen and outside my skin envelope. I sensed that even though it seemed to be outside my body, it was really in my body. It was in my energy body that extends just beyond the physical skin barrier.

I sensed it was very anxious and it said quickly, “Why don’t you eat a cookie.” I replied, “Oh, hello, I see you are there.”

It followed up, ” Just eat it.”

I mirrored back to it, “I’m sensing you’re saying, ‘Just eat it.’

“Come on. Just eat it. You’ll feel so much better.” I could really sense how anxious it was and how everything felt like it was speeding up. I noticed a churning in my belly like with a thick, harsh wooden paddle.

Caramel cream

Everything felt like it was both closing in and churning. The space felt tight and anxious and swallowed up. There was no getting out. Then it came to me that perhaps it might not even know that I, my larger, spacious self, was there. Perhaps my larger self had merged with it, so to speak, leaving no separation between it and me. So I sensed if that felt right. I invited it to let me know if it knew that I was there. No response, just the tight, anxious, tight churning. This was a wonderful discovery!

In Focusing it is important to be with, acknowledge and build a relationship with whatever is there needing our attention. When we merge with some part of us it is not possible to do this because there is no space between the something and us; there is no separation; we feel that we are the something.

So, I slowly felt my feet on the ground. I felt the backs of my legs, my buttocks, and my back in contact with the chair I was sitting on. I brought my awareness to these points of contact and noticed how the chair held my body. I kept my attention there for a time so I could really feel the support and allow my body to settle into it. I then brought my awareness to my breathing just as it was, noticing the in-breaths and out-breaths and the pauses in between. Then I brought my awareness inside my body and into that whole middle space that includes the chest, stomach, and belly. I took my time like I was arriving to some new place and looked around. And, as I did this I gently said inwardly, “I am the space big enough for whatever needs my attention now.” Then I brought my awareness to the space again. I could sense the space and how calm it was.  Then I sensed freshly in my body inviting what wanted to be known about “Eating a cookie”  and waited sensing if it was there or not, or if perhaps something different was there.

Perhaps you have had this experience. You feel you are the something that’s going on inside. You are the emotion. You are the reaction. Noticing this is a gift; it is a signal to step back and bring your awareness to your body in the space around you, to what is supporting your body, to your breathing. And then you respectfully bring your awareness inside your body, sensing that whole middle area and gently reminding yourself that you are the space big enough for whatever needs your attention right now. This is how you bring yourself into presence. When you are in presence you sense and say “hello,” be with, and build a relationship with whatever comes, no matter how it shows up. And, if and when you need to you replenish your presence of self, you take some time to do it gently and respectfully.

An Important Discovery – The Felt Sense

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At one time or another you may have experienced something like this in your body: A vague physical feeling that comes in response to some situation or aspect of your life. Perhaps it has come as “something in my chest that feels really tight like a drum,” or as “a hard knot in my stomach,” or “as a big lump in my throat.” Perhaps it has come in some other way. The ways that it can show itself are endless.

Perhaps you are saying, “Yes, I’ve felt something like that.” Perhaps you are curious now and are wondering what it is all about. Or perhaps you say, “So what!”

If you’ve felt something like this before then you are on the brink of discovery. And, if you haven’t you are also right there, too. You just need to turn your attention inside and sense how your life is going right now and wait for something to show you in your body. Your attention might be drawn to some situation or activity.

For example:

You might sense how it is going with friends. Perhaps a friend has canceled an outing you were looking forward to or something else is going on right now.

Or you might sense how it is going with your children. Maybe your child has just shouted, “Leave me alone! I hate you.”

At work, perhaps another colleague, and not you, has received acknowledgement for a project you worked very hard on.

Or perhaps there is something that you are wanting to do and for some reason you don’t do it.

These are some examples of how your life may be going right now. You may feel bad in some way or that something is not just right about a situation. And that vague, unclear feeling that feels “like a metal ball in my belly” is part of you that is wanting your attention about all that.

So bring your attention inside your body to that rich middle area that includes the throat, the chest, stomach, and belly.  Sense inside your body for that vague, physical feeling. When you sense it, say hello to it. Let it know that you know it is there. And then, once again sense how it feels in your body. You might notice a little shift or you might notice that it is wanting some company. If it is wanting some company stay with it listening deeply. It may share more with you.

What you have discovered is the felt sense. It is something to welcome. It is something that we all have! It is like a lamp at the entrance of a dark alley. It is something that draws our attention and guides our awareness. Getting to know our felt senses is how we can tap into what is important for us in our lives. Stay tuned for more.