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Archive for the ‘Calming Down’ Category

Photo by Sol Young

A remarkable thing happened to me on Friday. One of those graced moments when the light bulb goes on, when the click clicks.

I had a solitary week. I had aimed to clear a lot of time for writing, but I cleared too much.

Around 4pm on Friday, I started to crave people, bigtime. Social connection. Community. Belonging. Friends. Interaction.

We had no real weekend plans. Often we don’t. I’m not sure what I’ll be in the mood for so I plan nothing, and then I get stuck in a kind of resentful loneliness.

As I wrapped up my work, I started to worry. What would we do tonight? Many of our friends were out of town. Others were already booked.

We live in a big city. There’s no Cheers-type bar we can walk into where everybody knows our names. We don’t go to a church, or synagogue, or roller rink. There’s no way we can access insta-community.

I was walking home, full of longing for connection, frustrated and worried about our lack of plans. This is usually the moment where my train of thought launches way out into space, like a rocket ship, visiting pseudo-relevant subjects like these: Why don’t we belong to a spiritual community of some sort? What will we do about that? Why didn’t I make plans earlier? Why don’t I know more people? What will we ever do about the fact that my husband is an introvert and I’m an extrovert? Those are the kind of helpful places my mind goes.

Today, something different happened. Just like a split hair, as one train of thought started to go into that painful litany of questions and complaints, another train went somewhere else. It said, “Oh well, this (craving to see people) is just a feeling. It will pass. Maybe it will be satisfied tonight or maybe not, but it will pass. And you’ve lived through many a feeling not being satisfied before.”

Just a feeling? I had read that phrase in Zen books here and there, but I had never spontaneously thought the thought before. Certainly not in a moment of emotional difficulty. This “just a feeling” consciousness was relaxing, it came from somewhere in my spine, not from my head. It was felt, not abstract.

I was free, I realized. I could work to address the feeling or not, but I wasn’t all caught up in it. I wasn’t identified with it. I didn’t think it was anything bigger than a feeling. I could see it was temporary, unpredictable, rather arbitrary and, get this– kind of unimportant – not because it was about weekend plans, but because it was just a feeling. One more like or dislike, one more desire or aversion, in the grand, life-long parade.

As I walked home, exploring my new discovery, I thought, this is why I read the spiritual books. The ideas go into us, in their own way and in their own time, and they make a difference. They really do.

It’s just a feeling. You are so much bigger, more still, more vast than that. There is the wind, and  there is sail, and  there is the ocean floor.

Love,

Tara

*****

Please share in the comments –

Have you had your own “just a feeling” moments?

Are you up for trying out “just a feeling” consciousness this week?

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Recently I’ve been writing more about my history, my life-long romance, we might say, with leaving myself and going somewhere else.

I realize that may sound like crazy California-speak. What do I mean, “I leave myself”? Where do I go?  Am I referring to one of those “floating up above my body” experiences?

Not exactly. I mean something more subtle, something that is hard to put in words.

I’ll tell you how I know it. I know it when I go out of my way to say something that will I think will please the person I’m with, instead of saying what’s true for me. I think what Joe just said is very boring, yet I nod empathetically and say, “hmmm, tell me more.”

I know it when I stop feeling able to share what I want, and instead become a kind of sliding, slippery goo that flows with whatever others want. I’ll be asking you whether you want to go for a walk or meet for tea, when I in fact would like to have tea with you, at 10am, in my neighborhood, this Sunday.

We all leave ourselves in different ways, in different situations. Take a moment and consider: when is it difficult for you to stay with yourself?

One clue most of us get that we’re leaving ourselves is the urge to reach outside ourselves for something. Reaching for another person’s attention or agreement. Reaching for new shoes. Reaching for a grande decaf sugar-free vanilla latte. Reaching for the blackberry.

Next time you feel that urge to reach outside of yourself, see what happens if you press the pause button, come back to yourself, and simply get present.

What does it mean to come back to yourself and get present? It is so simple that in our culture we often overlook it. We assume something so basic couldn’t have much power.

Simply notice where you are at, what’s happening in the universe called you. What’s the current weather? What’s happening on the landscape?

Here are three different ways to tune into that:

  1. Become aware of your body. Spend a few moments breathing, feeling your breath, and scanning your awareness across your body. Simply notice what’s happening there – notice any areas of tension or pain, notice which areas feel loose and spacious, notice whatever sensations are happening.  Do this for a few minutes until you refreshed, reconnected to the present moment and to yourself.
  2. Become aware of your feelings. Pause. Breathe, and check in with what’s happening emotionally. What are you feeling? You may be very surprised about what you find – upset about something that happened this morning, anxiety about something coming up. You don’t have to get caught up in any drama around those feelings, or solve the “problems” they may be about, but for your own wellbeing, you do need to give them a space to be. Bring compassion and non-judgmental awareness as your response.
  3. Write. Take out a pen and jot down an inventory of what’s present for you. This can be a stream-of-consciousness, disorganized, zig-zagging list. This is not beautiful writing, not even prose. This is just for you. For example, it might sound like this:

Resentful about having to go to three a clock meeting. Excited about trip. Miss Richard. Feeling self-conscious about body but optimistic about personal training. Really excited about positive response to my project pitch. Overwhelmed by feelings about visit back to hometown. Happy to be up and writing this. Grateful to here.

You might write a page or two or just a few lines. Write until you feel like you’ve connected with what’s important and what’s present for you in the moment. Notice how your state of being changes, even during the writing.

You don’t have to wait till you feel disconnected to do these practices. You can make a routine of doing them, of having short “check-ins” with yourself.

Why Does It Matter?

I think that’s a really good question. What happens when we don’t slow down and connect with ourselves? A lot of pain. We miss out on our own inner wisdom. We don’t notice the hurts and frustrations and disappointments that need our attention and healing. We don’t get to feel the hopes and dreams underneath those hurts – and those hopes and dreams are actually the roadmap from which we are meant to design our lives.

We get really, really lonely. We are actually lonely for ourselves. We can’t give to others, because, paradoxically, by going “over there” toward them, we’ve left an emptiness in our own chair – leaving the person with whom we are interacting without a solid, separate, whole person to connect with.

See the costs?

This week, I invite you take these three steps

  1. Start a practice of noticing. When do you leave yourself? What does it feel like for you? What are the symptoms.
  2. Experiment with the three tools here to reconnect to yourself in those moments: becoming aware of your body, becoming aware of your breath, and writing an inventory. See what impact that has.
  3. See where you get resistant to slowing down and reconnecting with yourself, and get curious about the source of that resistance.

Let me know what you learn.

Love,

Tara

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Over a year ago, I wrote a post called Loving Reality. That was in the days of 38 or so mighty readers. This morning I was reminded of this piece because it was republished in Soulful Living. I remembered how much I love this piece, and how important I think this idea is. So I’m sharing it with all of you again here.

Ideas show up when I’m writing and often they are as new to me as they are to you when you read them. This piece was that way for me. It provoked my thinking. It introduced the new idea of Loving Reality into my life.

It speaks to where I am right now. I wrote last week about how I’m more and more leaning into the present. I’m actually savoring quiet. I’m choosing to meditate, because I am actually enjoying it. Whoa. I’m taking time to enjoy things, to be in the moment without any ambition or urgency about getting to the next task.

Just like the weatherman will sometimes say, “we haven’t had a storm like this in 15 years” I’m reporting, “I haven’t had a calm like this in 15 years.” Truly.

Calm is only possible when we make peace with reality. And if we can love it, trust it – find a way in the midst of pain and tragedy and oil spills — if we can, paradoxically, love reality– then life opens up its secrets to us. We open ourselves to receive its everflowing gifts.

Loving Reality

In our culture, when we talk about love, we typically talk about loving another person: I love Sonia. I love my grandfather. I love Louie.

What do we mean by that?

When we love others, we treat them with compassion, kindness, and patience.

We perceive their gifts and beauties and power. We champion and affirm what is best in them.

We support and nurture and care for them.

We forgive them, and we do so regularly.

We give up the false idea that there is wrong with the people in our lives, and liberate them to be exactly as they are.

When we love ourselves, we do the same.

We treat ourselves with compassion, kindness, and patience.

We perceive the gifts and beauties and power in ourselves.

We support and nurture and care for ourselves.

We forgive ourselves, and we do so regularly.

We give up the false idea that there is something wrong with the truth of ourselves, and we liberate ourselves to be exactly as we are.

Less frequently in our culture, we speak of loving a particular thing, activity, or creative expression in the world.

When we speak of that, we usually mean that we deeply enjoy it, we draw great pleasure from it.

As a result, we want to experience it, to be near it.

We perceive its gifts, beauties, and power.

We have a mysterious and inexplicable special connection to that thing.

Let’s take everything we know about what it means to love a person, an activity, thing in the world, and ask ourselves, what would it mean then, to love reality itself? To love the way things are, they way they happen, the way they will happen?

To love reality itself. That would mean….

Treating reality with compassion, kindness and patience.

Perceiving the gifts, beauties and powers of reality and championing and affirming them.

Somehow supporting, nuturing and caring for reality.

Forgiving reality and forgiving it regularly.

Giving up the false idea that there is something wrong with reality, and liberating it to be exactly as it is.

Deeply enjoying reality, and as a result, wanting to experience reality, to be near it.

Possessing a mysterious and inexplicable special connection to reality itself.

For this lifetime, reality is our home. You can experience your home as a small tent on a violent battlefield, or you can experience your home as a soft sun-streamed ocean full of myriad delights. You can experience your home as rocky and dangerous shore where at every moment sharp cliffs, strong waves, or hungry predators threaten your life. You can experience your home as a playground, created for your delight. You can experience your home as a warm embrace, knowing that you are carried by the universe as you were carried by a loved on in the first few days of life.

Most of us live our lives trying to shield ourselves from the dangerous parts of reality, working to game the system, control the outcomes. We have all kinds of expectations about how reality should be. We believe that we have to struggle to get what we want and fight to prevent what we hope to avoid. We live in a rather adversarial, fearful relationship to reality. You could say that underneath it all, the real sources of stress in our lives are our underlying beliefs about reality itself.

What if we lived in a entirely different kind of relationship to reality? A relationship without that sense of needing to control, without fear? What if were able, somehow, to lean into reality, to trust it fully? What about taking a stance of curiosity to reality- an interest in following it, studying it, to see how it unfolds? What about loving reality?

An essential part of living a juicier, more fulfilling lives in relating to reality in this more open, pliant, trusting way, because reality is our guide on the journey. If we are open and willing, reality will provide the perfect curriculum for us to grow, and create a life of greater joy. It will supply all the sustenance and aid needed to get us through each step on the journey.

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