The Edge Between

Have you ever had this experience? You are feeling stuck and frustrated.

You sit quietly, feeling your connection to the space around you and inside of you, sensing the earth energy flowing up through you, and how you are supported by your breathing, the space around you, and what you are sitting on. Now, bringing your awareness inside the body, you invite this whole thing of feeling stuck and frustrated to come forward.

Something comes forward. You feel something is tight somewhere in the body. You go to it. It wants to hide away, or go inward, or it is rolled in a tight knot, or something else. You say hello. You sense its inertia as it goes round and round in a circle. You sense it feels alone, lost or something else. You stay with it, opening to it. It lets you know that it has to dig down deep to protect something. You let it know you hear it.

Then something else comes forward, something or a place in you that wants to go out into the world. It wants action and acceptance out there. You say hello. You sense its bursting energy and anger. It lets you know it is not wanting to miss out on life. You let it know you hear it.

Now you sense that both are here. That place that feels lost and inward and that place that feels angry and wants a life in the world.  You hold both and sense the edge between them. You sense a stalemate there. It might feel as though one foot is on the gas and the other is on the brake. This is a rich place to be.  Have you ever spun a coin and noticed that as it spins, you can see both sides?

This is where you are now.  You are with both sides. This is the time to feel how your body is supported and how whatever comes is ok; that there is plenty of room for what is here. This is the moment to put lots of space around both and be curious!  The stalemate reflects their relationship with one other. Until each feels it is heard with deep listening, the stalemate will continue. Be patient. Sense if one or the other is wanting your attention more. If you don’t get an answer or you only sense the friction between them, turn to each one individually and let it know that you are here and you will give it your full attention. That there is plenty of time and space for both and you will give your full attention to each.

This is the time when your open and neutral attitude, your curiosity and interest, and deep listening is all important to your process. Acknowledge both. Take time with each one. Unraveling takes time.

Sometimes at this point in your process you may or may not be aware of a little hurt thing. If sensing a small one is here, acknowledge it letting it know you are with it. And, remain with the two sides of the coin listening deeply, allowing them to open and release their energy. Only then will the small thing be accessible to continue the process until it, too, unfolds with life forward energy.

Through this open and deep listening, what is right for you will emerge. You’ll feel its forward and bright energy. Go with it. This is your authentic self. Bon voyage.

The Hyper Self-Critic

Oh, those nagging, hyper-critical voices in our heads! They make us feel so bad.

Sometimes there is just one voice; sometimes many. They go round and round, repeating themselves over and over. They have a rhythm, ebbing and flowing and then rising in a crescendo. When they are in the background, we hardly notice them or ignore them, and then something turns up the volume and they consume our attention and energy.

Their themes are consistent, too. “You are not good enough,” “You are bad,” “You should be ashamed,”  “You are wrong,” to “You are not worthy,” “You are broken,” “You are selfish,” and so on.

These voices  and their messages are not happy or helpful. They derail us from our work and enjoyment of life. They shut us off from our friends and family. They make us feel small, judged, and useless.

We try to shut them off, bury them forever, and hope to never hear them again. We push and push. The more we push, the more insistent they become.  Finally, exhausted from pushing, we succumb. We believe them.

For a moment, consider this. They are very alive. They come from a part of us that got stuck in a moment when we were unable to discern how to respond in wholeness. Often we were children, little children. It is that little child in us who got stuck in that moment of criticism or trauma. And, sometimes, they stem from events in our adulthood.

This happened to me. After an ectopic pregnancy that hemorrhaged and many subsequent and unsuccessful attempts to become pregnant again, I was depressed, defeated, broken, and vulnerable. On a visit to see my mother, she said,” The only reason you are not getting pregnant is that you are too selfish.”  This judgement struck me like a bullet in my gut. My whole body froze in that moment. The wound was deep and lasting. And there it was, that voice in my head repeating, “You’re too selfish.”  It took me a long time, deep investigation, and much suffering to learn how to release this hyper-critical, damning voice and move forward in my life.  This is how to go forward.

Start here. Try this with patient and gentle goodwill for yourself.

Find a quiet place. Your office with the door closed. A bench in a quiet corner of the park. Your bedroom. Or, some place else.

Sitting quietly, bring your attention inside. You might have your eyes closed. This usually helps you to be at home inside your body. If the voice(s) is not active in the moment, graciously invite it to come forward. You might say something like, “I’m inviting that whole thing about feeling judged selfish… or whatever it is to come forward.”

Gently, say “Hello, I see you are there,” in a cordial and neutral kind of way. Perhaps in a similar way to how you might say, “hello” to a stranger passing you on the street.

Pause for a moment too, putting your full and gentle attention right there. You might feel a little space open. Be patient. Let your breathing relax.

Be curious and interested, but not overly eager. This voice has something to say and show you and needs space to unfold and share with you.

Notice your bodily sensations and their texture and quality. You might sense tightness,orals, rose colors, or hear something being said, or an image might emerge.

Sit with it for awhile and listen. No rush. There’s plenty of time. No judgement. There’s not good or bad, right or wrong.

Other thoughts and sensations may come up. Go with whatever is wanting your attention right now. The process is like peeling the layers of an onion. All unwinds given space and time.

Keep listening openly. And when you hear something, see something, or feel something, acknowledge it. You can say to yourself, “I’m sensing something in me that …” and as it shows itself more you can acknowledge by saying “It’s letting me know …”

If it feels right, find a guide who can support you and your process.

The unwinding happens at its pace, and you will notice little steps, small openings, and energy release like a breath of fresh air. This is your healing unfolding.

 

 

 

We Are Like Sprouting Potatoes

To live, to produce more potatoes, the potato’s inner nature, its wiring, says sprout when conditions are sufficient. So when there is the darkness of a cellar or of the earth, potatoes sprout. In this way we are just like sprouting potatoes in the dark. We, too, have an inner knowing to live our lives forward when conditions are sufficient. This forward growth direction is a characteristic of life’s process.

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Life is process. We may feel like solid things, buffeted by situations and our environment, but we are not. We are process interacting with our environment. Consider the breath that keeps us alive. The breath is interaction with the air around us. We are not separate from our breath. We breathe and it feels right. The potato is not separate from the darkness—the darkness is intrinsic to how the potato lives forward giving us new potatoes. So, too, we are not separate from our situations and environment.

So how is it that we experience stoppages? That we feel stuck? That we are unable to live the lives we feel are right for us? When young and growing, we may not have the inner capabilities to live forward through a situation. The mother that ignores us. The parents that criticize us. The war that surrounds us. The illness that takes our loved ones away from us.  The people who are cruel to us. These are the kinds of things that can cause our inner process of living forward to stop, to get stuck.  As we grow older other situations may occur creating a stoppage or reinforce one from our youth. We may experience separation from loved ones, illness, or the harmful effects of a bad economy. Perhaps criticized as a child, as an adult, we feel inadequate and struggle to move forward in our chosen career. Or something else.

And when there is a stoppage, when something in us doesn’t live forward but remains stuck in some place in us, in our tissues, in energy channels, in our very being, then we feel that something is not right. Something may not be happening that we want to happen. We may feel our thoughts and emotions circling like wagons against attack. Something in us may rebel or capitulate. These are all signals that there is something that has not been able to process. Something in us lacked the resources and support to move through a situation and now we feel stuck.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. By coming into presence, feeling our wholeness of body, feeling how we are supported, by bringing gentle and curious awareness to that something that doesn’t feel right we begin our healing. It will emerge and come forward as something in our body that at first may not have words to describe it and yet by acknowledging it and bringing our gentle and loving presence to it, little by little it will show itself. And, by staying with it listening and reaffirming, we allow it to release its stuck energy and move forward with  a sense of rightness in life, just as the potato sprouts in the dark.

 

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.

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.

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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.

Worried Sick?

Worry, like anger, joy/sadness, grief, and fear is a natural emotion. For thousands of years, we have recognized the energy of worry as that energy which triggers thinking. The feelings of worry–uneasiness and concern– move us to think how to satisfy the worry.

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In its natural form, worry is healthy. And like all healthy emotions worry moves.  Worry moves us to think. Thinking moves us to a solution. Then worry releases leaving as naturally as it arrived in us. This movement from worry to thinking to solution is something we do every day.

Suppose that we live by a river. In the spring, we notice that the rains swell the river.  Sometimes the river becomes so full, it overflows its banks. Our house is right there and we notice that when the river overflows, the water approaches our house. We notice that it comes close, just to the border of our garden.

Now, worry arises in us. We worry that the water could flood the house! So what happens? Our worry leads us to think how to protect our house. “What can we do to protect the house from being flooded by the river’s waters?” We ask ourselves. “Ah, we can bring sand bags to protect the house; or we can put the house on stilts; or we can work with others in the community to build a higher levee to protect our homes.”

Our thinking gives us options;  we have three here already. It also helps us to see which one fits best. Ah, sandbags seem best. We discover that the city stocks them every year for residents just like us. We make note of where the city stockpiles are and how to get there on several different routes. We note that the sandbags are within five minutes of our house. Deep breath. We have a solution and a plan to implement it. No more worry.

But suppose instead of leading us to this kind of constructive thinking, our worry leads us into a negative kind of thinking–a circular and repetitive thinking that feeds upon itself. If instead of problem-solving thinking, we careen off into this negative kind of rumination, we might think like this.

“There’s nothing I can do to stop the river from flooding. This is futile. What do I do if the water starts rising. What if I can’t get away from the water. What if the water ruins all my belongings. I have no place to go. I am alone. What do I do if the river floods? I can’t stop it. I’m alone. What do I do? I’ll lose everything.”

And, so on and on in a circle that traps the worry and gives rise to a sense of hopelessness and isolation. We become depressed; everything seems dark and flat and negative. No matter which way we turn we end up in the same place, in the same circular pattern.

From time to time, we all may find ourselves slipping into negative rumination. Then we catch it!  But, if we don’t it becomes oppressive. We feel trapped. Worry is now a concern because it leads not to problem solving but to negative, circular thinking that makes us sick.

The expression, “I’m worried sick,” comes from our collective human experience of worry gone awry. We become anxious, depressed, isolated. We stop caring about our lives; we refuse to see our friends. Stuck worry makes us sick and we suffer.

So what can we do? We can bring awareness to our worry and then turn to our body, sensing and accepting what comes. We can acknowledge it, keep it company and listen compassionately without judging.

“How does one do this?” We may be asking. Mindfulness meditation, BodyTalk, and Focusing  are three practices that help us to do this. In all three  we focus our attention, receive what comes compassionately, and acknowledge non-judgmentally.