most of us go about our daily lives just getting by. emotionally, psychologically, financially, we all struggle to feel good, to surround ourselves with people we care for and to survive. yet we know there’s more to life than that. more than getting up in the morning, going to work, coming home, sitting in front of the tv or computer and going to bed. here are four steps toward finding your inner truth and discovering the peace and joy within. but first, a little piece of my story.
just when i thought i’d worked through my 1950’s childhood (how silly of me), a particular situation brought some of the old history to the forefront. it had to do with feelings of adoration and attachment toward an individual who possessed the knowledge and serene countenance i longed for. and since this person who embodies these admirable traits is male, i had to question my reactions. was i working extra hard in his yoga class, at times beyond my physical capacity, to prove something to myself or him? did i see him as superior or extraordinary? what was it really? would i have these same emotions if ‘he’ were a ‘she’? and even though the old habit of denying my emotional responses attempted to take control, i made a conscious life choice to discover the truth behind them.
while meditating these thoughts popped in and out of view. and because my mind was clear and spacious enough to allow them their place, i could recognize their past pattern. just because we believe we’re finished with a historical emotional pattern or behavior doesn’t mean we are. years earlier i would have dismissed it as silly or some crazy momentary lapse in who i thought myself to be, or i would present myself as a possible intimate conquest, but i didn’t know who i was then and so i stuffed every supposedly inappropriate, strange, and mysterious feeling deep down under and behind the superficiality of the then me.
today, right now, we can move through four steps of awareness (from The Issue at Hand by Gil Fronsdal) in order to clearly see and feel the emotions without the need to react and allow them to run the show. this process will work in any and every situation where we feel anxiety, fear, anger, discontent, any uneasiness on every level. only when we have a clear mind can we truly see what’s going on in a situation exactly as it is, without past or future memories or expectations – that is the definition of mindfulness.
the first is recognition. we are responding toward a person or situation in such a way that sparks an abundance of past emotions – old baggage. instead of pushing it underground, feeling deep shame or ‘blowing up’, we quiet the mind, take time for our self, and/or meditate which allows awareness, or mindfulness to encircle these difficult emotions, recognizing them when they appear. this can initially be difficult and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it can change our lives if we’re ready to do the work necessary. because the more we see the reactions to our negative history at the moment they occur or soon after, the easier it becomes to not be blind sided by the physical reaction to the emotion and the feelings themselves. when we’re not uncontrollably taken over by our emotions, life becomes more peaceful internally and externallly.
the second step is naming the emotions and thoughts in the moment or after we experience them. in my particular situation i would name the emotions, which were very physical, as powerlessness as well as a form of infatuation. feeling powerless like a small child who needs a daddy to make everything alright and looking to him for reassurance. that instantly dredges up too many experiences to write about here – powerless in a man’s world, as a woman. not that i believe that today, yet there it was – wrapped up in a shiny new male body. naming it allowed me to look at it from outside of myself (so to speak), objectively, with a mind and heart that didn’t take it personally or give it the power it once had.
this can be utilized with any sort of daily upheaval. naming the root of the issue can sometimes be painful because we’re bringing up the secrets and memories associated with the present emotion. but we also know that the memory of past trauma can’t hurt us anymore. why? because it’s in the past. it’s not happening now. what we’re experiencing is an old tape that’s been playing in our heads for years. naming those old recordings brings them out into the light, where they become absorbed by pure light of consciousness, awareness, mindfulness.
acceptance is allowing whatever emotions we’re experiencing in the situation to be. there’s no right or wrong here. they’ve presented themselves for a reason – to see them for what they are, unmuddied by the subjective. not covered over with pain, anger, fear, anxiety, shame. acceptance, with the clear-mindedness of a willingness to see, frees the debris of the past and lets it be whatever it is without judgment. after all, we’re no longer that young child who longs for father’s approval and attention and those emotional triggers can’t harm us anymore. breaking the secrets open also releases the shame. shame of not doing or being a certain way, of not speaking out against whatever took place that we had no control over.
one of the amazing aspects of this four step approach is that once we’re able to remain mindful and recognize the negative historical reactions, they immediately begin to dissipate, allowing the move to acceptance almost automatically and the more often we move through the process, the less fear we have in our lives.
once we’ve recognized, named and accepted the emotions and reactions, the final level of investigation can begin and, in most cases, has already been set in motion. “emotions are composite events, made up of bodily sensations, thoughts, feelings, motivations and attitudes” (The Issue at Hand). look at every aspect of your emotional reaction during the investigative process. don’t take any of it personally, as if somehow we’re lacking in a skill set or we’re ‘less than.’ the majority of the planet are living in oftentimes maniacal, out of touch thoughts in their heads, reacting without awareness, causing great chaos and families, countries, continents tumbling out of control. through quiet introspection or meditation which creates mindfulness of the here and now, we can feel the emotions through bodily responses and see where they originated. often times that origination isn’t as important as just watching what the mind and body does with the emotion, without attachment and reaction. for some, investigation may be too painful, so sitting with the discoveries and watching them loosen their grip on our behavior and experiences will be psychologically rewarding and contagious to our loved ones once they see the changes taking place.
with intentionally remaining open, mindful toward our reactions and utilizing meditation, introspection or prayer, the gifts it brings are countless. it opens the ancient doors and dark passageways of past hurts and fears, clearing the heart, mind and body of unnecessary internal clutter, creating that mindfulness of spirit. it’s called freedom. and when our “heart becomes clear, peaceful, and still like a mountain pool. . .we can see all the way to the bottom.” (The Issue at Hand). try it once, then again and again. each time it becomes easier. and our lives become easier, quieter, richer, and filled with light and lightness.
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