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Wisdom Is Waiting For You

By Lisa Meuser.

“I realized that it wasn’t my fault that my mother was emotionally unavailable to me.”

“I have been putting on a happy face to cover up my unhappiness for years.”

“I know I am connected to the Cosmos – I’m not alone.”

“I met a reservoir of grief in me that I didn’t know I’d been carrying around.”

“I experienced a Universe that is good.”

 

These are all personal accounts of amazing insight shared with me by clients and friends.

Mostly experienced in safe settings with a safe person, or in retreats where they were out of the usual daily grind, these moments of clarity were profound. The world appears “changed” in these moments, as if cobwebs have cleared, and it often seems as though the newfound clarity will be everlasting because of how radical it feels.

But what happens is usually quite different… unless there is continued connection with the clarity or insight.  If there isn’t a continued exploration, the clarity and insight will lose its potency and not have a sustainable positive impact.  At best, it will a memory fondly remembered. At worst, it will be forgotten, doubted and disbelieved, or it will reinforce/exasperate the initial patterning.

I knew someone who went on retreat and came back with mind- and behavior-altering revelations.

He’d realized that he’d been mistreating others – a friend of mine being one of them – because of his own shame and deficiency stories. He made many amends for the pain he’d caused, and explained that he wanted to live another way. He wanted to be the person he knew he could be when he wasn’t tangled up in fear and shame.

And then… he went on a two-month vacation.

“When I get back I’m going to jump right into continuing to explore all that’s come up,” he shared with her. He was very excited.  So was she. When he returned two months later, however, he was very much the person he’d been prior to his retreat but with even more walls, fear, and separation from love.  He was more violent and more disconnected from himself than ever.  My friend was crushed – she was truly hoping that this time he’d finally changed. Sometimes we still talk about what might have happened if he’d really dug in deep and stayed with what had been unearthed. We think about how much pain and suffering could be averted if only he’d continued to confront his demons instead of running further from them.

This may be an extreme example, but I have clients with somewhat similar experiences.

They will have one session, feel great, and be ready to tackle the world.  But that momentum doesn’t always stick around. The patterning of our behaviors and beliefs is a fascinating brain and neurological phenomenon. Science confirms: it takes time, attention, and a willingness to engage with one’s patternings (neural pathways) for sustainable change to occur.  In other words, the insight or clarity – that Aha! moment – is just the very first step.  Many many many follow-up steps will need to be taken for that insight to make a lasting impression both neurologically and behaviorally.

I think back to a retreat I went on. The retreat leader shared something along the lines of “Okay, you’ve all had some really great insights into your shadows, your patterning, your shame, your darkness, your trauma, as well as into your joy, your wholeness, your light, love and beauty. Now the real work begins.” And he proceeded to hand out a page or two of somatic-based resources to help with follow-up integration. It took only days for us to understand what he meant. Once back home, in our familiar lives, with our familiar people, and our familiar routines, it took dedication and discipline to not fall back into the same old patterning that we’d just had amazing insights into.

Sound familiar?

We all likely remember times when something felt so profound and real, and we knew we had to make and effort to “keep it going.” But more often than not, for whatever reason, we didn’t… and the profundity disappeared. Lots of intense Aha! moments are short-lived as we go back to what is familiar. In addition, the vulnerability that often comes with these insights can sometimes be too uncomfortable or unmanageable to stay with. We could say “The ego/separate sense of “I” wants to stay in control,” or “Egoic patterning won’t go down without a fight.” But I think it’s generally more useful to come back to brain science and neural pathways.

Insights are like newborn babies.

They must be tended to, coddled, fed and nourished. They will die if they are ignored, and require sustained attention and support as they mature and grow into adulthood (as they are embodied). Science explains this to us through the language of neural pathways: it takes anywhere for 18-200 days (with 66 being the average) for a neural pathway to change, so unless the insight is consciously explored – repeatedly – it just fades away. Conversely, if it’s actively engaged with it will become its own neural pathway, thereby forming a lasting impression and new habit or healthy behavior.

The more profound the Aha!, the more it must be tended to, because initially those are the least comfortable as the grooves of the neural pathways are most deeply formed. It isn’t always pleasant to unearth that which has been hiding in the dark, musky corners of our internal basements. We can experience shame and belief systems that have fueled our dysfunctions that we hadn’t previously seen. We can experience parts of ourselves that we’d, quite frankly, like to re-bury. Without staying with that new vulnerability, the ego or separate sense of self could easily come in and cover it back up, and sometimes even retaliate in the wake of said vulnerability. What may seem like a promising and expansive revelation can quickly turn into defensiveness and attack, as the opening may feel too threatening in its newborn baby state.

As anyone who has ever been around an infant knows, it’s not always easy to tend to a newborn. Infants thrive under stable environments, and so do the caregivers. If a person’s lifestyle and choices don’t allow for the sustainability and integration of those Aha! moments, then they will quickly fade. If a person’s sense of ego is too strong, or if there is too much fear, the commitment to follow up will be turned away from. Again, it’s the follow-up integrative work that allows the insight to “take hold” and be embodied.

What exactly is “follow-up?”

First of all, it comes down to the willingness and readiness to really meet what’s been revealed through the insight, how it relates to the everyday life of the person, and a commitment to continue looking and exploring.

Follow-up can be done many different ways, but generally speaking it takes the form of some kind of active engagement or participation that keeps the insight “alive.”  This may look like: finding and then repeating new and useful behaviors as opposed to engaging in old unhealthy habits, reading something which supports the continued exploration of the insight, and/or inquiring deeper into the insight on one’s own using meditation or other mindful body-awareness approach.

Sometimes we need someone who is trained in embodiment/somatic practices to help us flush out the old gunk and give more room to the clarity received so that it can take up more occupancy in our being. Using the previous metaphor, this would be helping the infant insight grow into embodied maturity, until it is no longer just an insight but a fully-actualized and lived reality.

Patterning and habitual behavior are often buried for a reason.

Sometimes it’s become so routine or “normal” that we have been unable to consciously see our dysfunctional ways. Other times we’ve experienced pain or trauma in our lives that have led us to develop walls of protection which keep us from being truly available to the wholeness of life.  Someone who is trained in exploring trauma and pain body will be able to help in the integration process, enabling the insights to move into a sustained way of being.

Insights and clarity – those magnificent Aha! moments – are gifts. Filled with wisdom, they can enrich our lives, creating a life that we feel at home with and a part of.

Here are a few simple ways to extend the shelf life of your Aha! moments:

Pause: Pause what you’re doing, and take in as fully as you can what has come into your conscious attention. Before jumping to analyze it or understand it (or announce it to the world as a facebook post), just pause.  Breathe in the wisdom of the insight – not from your mind, but from your being.  As we know, god/presence/love/etc does not live in our brain or mind. It is Known experientially. So take a few moments to pause, breathe, and feel what is coming in at the level of Being.

Be curious: After you’ve sat with the insight or Aha! moment, and you’ve taken in all that subtle but profound Knowing, grab a pen and some paper.  Science tells us that the act of writing can help us somatically process and integrate information, so take some time to journal or make notes about your experience. Be curious and open to any further insights that might come from your initial Aha! moment.  All sorts of connections may be coming to you now. Learn about yourself. Learn about your habits. Learn about your strengths, and your weaknesses.  Be curious and learn. Write with abandon – don’t worry, no one is looking!

Feel: As you’re curiously connecting to the tendrils of the Aha! moment and writing about it, feel into your body so that you can write from that space of physical awareness. Feel into where it seems to be living in your body. This may feel good,  or this may feel bad. Write about what you’re feeling. Write about the emotions that you’re noticing. Try to maintain curiosity as you do this. If you don’t like writing, try to make some simple notes or just jot a few things down. This isn’t for publication, it’s for your own continued journeying. If you aren’t able to write something, or you just don’t want to, that’s fine. You may want to record a voice memo to capture it. You may even want to call someone – sharing it with yourself or with others after you’ve taken some time to take it in may help you to further connect with the Aha! moment so it can be explored more later on.

Stay with it: What good is an insight if you don’t do anything with it? There are lots of ways you can stay with insights to see where the rabbit hole goes. Keep leaning into it, and keep learning. Keep exploring. You are a vast ocean of remarkable depths. You can do this as a solitary journey, with a professional, or with a group of like-minded individuals. If you need help finding resources, contact me and I’ll do my best to hook you up with something that meets your needs and interests. There are so many resources out there these days when it comes to embodiment practices!

Get support: We’re a tribal species. We’re meant to connect with others. Again, if you’re not sure where to turn, let me know and I’ll try to help you out. Keep going!

Dive in: Keep on pausing, being curious, and feeling with regards to your Aha! moment, and your continued insights. Get intimate with yourself and your history on this planet. Ask your insight for more insight. Ask for clarity. See what comes. Keep going deeper and deeper. Don’t stop until your mind, body, and spirit feel integrated. I meet so many people who think they have to live with their fears, their grief, their lostness, their misery and discontent. There is always another way when you feel stuck. There is always something deeper, underneath pain and suffering, that is waiting to be discovered. Stay with it, and get support.

 

Remember the insights I listed at the very beginning?

Those were just the first steps in these people’s lives. They were not final resting places – they hadn’t magically found peace. Rather, a door had opened up, and the magic was found when they opted to walk through it.  Most of them dove into their Aha! moments with vigor and found a new and thrilling world waiting for them. It wasn’t always easy, or pleasant, but they were able to safely connect with and detach from belief systems that had been keeping them stuck and in suffering.

You are not alone.
Take in the wisdom that found its way to you, and always be ready for more.

 

 

How to Be Awake but Not Dead

By Scott Kiloby.  

If it seems difficult to be awake, it is even more challenging not to be dead while you are awake.

Being awake is all about recognizing that you are not your thoughts, emotions and sensations.  Like birds passing through the open sky of the present moment, these things come and go but they are not you.

And yet, quite often, this is experienced merely as a head awakening, where the body hasn’t come into alignment yet.  It’s common for people to have this kind of head awakening, ride on the pink cloud of the peace or bliss of this newfound freedom for a while and then to find out that the body takes a while.  You can see it in their eyes if you go to satsang.  They are clearly in the here and now, but the body contains dense contraction, anxiety, depression, addiction or trauma.  Some have even lost touch with their humanness.  Simple human things that used to bring them joy are gone.  The little human quirks that made them unique are null and void.  The aliveness is drowned out because the body is constricted in various ways.  There is a deadness.  This is common, but it is not necessary, if one remains open to exploration well after an initial head awakening.

So here is how to be awake but not dead . . .

If you feel numb or sluggish, most likely it is a story that hasn’t been investigated.  And tethered to that story is an emotion that has not yet been felt consciously and directly.  Feel it.  If you have spent many years avoiding that feeling, perhaps the emotion has now become frozen somewhere in the body as a contraction.  There is dissociation, a turning away from that sensation and towards anything that might numb it out of your awareness.

Explore that contraction with utter love and curiosity.  Sit with it in the infinite patience of the present moment, without trying to get it to go away.  Welcome it.  Make it stay just by feeling it.  Notice the space around it as you do that.  Welcoming it in this way reverses all that resistance to it, all that trying to make yourself feel better, which really doesn’t work because it involves the personal will.  What we resist, persists.  In the head awakening, you noticed that you are not that movement of personal will.  You are not those thoughts that are trying to get somewhere.  Let that seeing come into the body.

Presence is seeing that you are not that sensation.  But the danger lies in saying, “I am not my body” or “I am not this sensation” far too soon.  If the sensation is there and it is running your life in any way, by virtue of a corresponding deficiency story, depression, addiction, anxiety or trauma, then YOU ARE YOUR BODY.  On some level, there is identification with that sensation.  Bypassing is pretending that you see that something is not you, when in fact the identification is still there.  These unexplored sensations steal your joy and peace.  They make you feel dead.  They hush your creative voice.  They create a disconnection from others.  They make you reach for the wine, cookies or the internet as a way to escape.  They make you overcompensate, by developing or following elaborate conceptual frameworks about spirituality, making life far more complicated than it has to be.  A good way to avoid really experiencing spirit is to think about it a lot and ignore that your body is still experiencing identification with form.

 

When these contractions are explored, and not bypassed, you feel alive, vibrant, awake.

 

You are awake but fully human.

You are free but not tied to the idea that you are free.

Simple things in life bring you joy once again.

You don’t mind the quirks of your personality and you aren’t trying to get rid of them or act enlightened.

You feel compassion for no reason at all for others who are suffering.

You feel a connection to others while also seeing that there are no others.

You love yourself while also seeing that there is no self.

You don’t mind these paradoxes at all.

You have a voice that soars because there is nothing blocking its expression.

You have a heart that is open and that doesn’t mind being broken.

You feel everything, are more sensitive, yet you are increasingly free of suffering around those thoughts and emotions.

Your body feels light and transparent and you can truly say with a straight face, “I am not my body” without bypassing.

Your addictions fall away naturally.

Depression seems like a faint memory.

Anxiety is no longer there or lies at a bare minimum because you have faced or are facing every fear.

Trauma is absent because you loved yourself enough to explore every bit of it and release yourself from its magnetic pull.

You don’t mind thinking anymore.  When thoughts are no longer stuck to emotions or sensations, thinking is play.

 

And yes, yes, maybe eventually, you come to discover a sweet silence in which many thoughts, emotions and sensations do not arise anymore.  Maybe you realize a profound peace, joy or bliss that is there most of the time.  But if that happens, it will happen right on time and not a moment too soon.  It will happen naturally.  Trying to make that happen just through a head awakening, before the body has come into alignment with that awakening, will just frustrate you.  It probably won’t happen actually.  It will be like false silence, love, joy or peace, where you are pretending that your body does not have needs or that it doesn’t need to be explored.  That is the deadness.

This post was originally published on the previous Living Inquiries website. 

Encouragement on the Pathless Path – From Initial Awakening through Embodiment

By Scott Kiloby.  

I recently finished the only retreat I conducted this year – a gathering at the Krishnamurti Educational Centre of Canada. The retreat was very different than my day-to-day work at the Kiloby Center for Recovery, which is often about helping people free themselves from the immediate shackles of their enslavement to addiction so they can begin a process of spiritual examination that will lead to greater depths. At this retreat, the energy and center of focus was very different, with many attendees interested in the more mature questions around spiritual awakening as well as embodiment.

The retreat reminded me of a time when I traveled the U.S. and overseas, speaking of this subject. I haven’t done one of those tours in a few years. Since then, my own realization has ripened tremendously. I would have much different things to say these days, if I found myself back on the road. In some ways, this retreat reinvigorated my voice around the subject of authentic spiritual awakening, for I have been silent in many ways in the last few years. Rarely will you see a new video from me. From time to time, you’ll see these blogs. Writing is the way I choose to express myself at this time. Maybe one day, I will go back out on the road. I have a new voice around this pathless path to freedom, where present moment awareness and inquiry converge in a unique, liberating and sometimes painful way.

For those that are new to the subject, “pathless path” refers to slowly giving up the seeking towards future and settling into a profound recognition of “what is” as it arises in the present moment. This is very different than what our cultures teach us. They tell us that the answer lies somewhere down the road. We don’t grow up knowing that the present moment is such a deep and powerful doorway to a greater freedom. So many of us fumble towards a perceived ecstasy that is promised down the road. And many don’t find it that way, for the mind is always seeking something else, something more. It never reaches its final promise and so it lives in a constant state of deficiency or lack. That is the nature of ego – to live in an endless seeking towards future and to never truly feel that one has arrived at a place of contentment and deep satisfaction with life.

The pathless path is the recognition of present awareness as the foundation of our existence (nondual awareness) and includes the allowing of “what is” as it arises. It includes the seeing that nothing that arises is what we are, so that everything comes and goes within or to this presence. This is liberating precisely because the state of suffering carries with it a kind of grasping and identifying with the thoughts, emotions and sensations that arise. To no longer grasp after and identify with these arisings is to live a life of freedom and love.

I cannot offer hope on the pathless path, for hope implies that there is a promised land (or end point) that one will eventually find if one continues seeking. If you peruse the various nondual teachings of the world you will find that one of the hallmarks of nondual realization is a seeing that the present moment is primary. Seeking towards future falls away. This comes in the form of real insights around there being “nowhere to go,” “nothing to get” and “no self to get it.” This insight alone is very powerful, for it not only ends the seeking, but it also brings a deep sense of rest in the midst of all that is happening. It also brings, however, a falling away of many of the previous motivations that once ran our lives. People often report losing interest in ego-based endeavors such as seeking attention, love or acknowledgment from others. Some report a disinterest in activities such as art, work and relationships. They find themselves in a sort of awkward phase where everything that once drove them or enthused them starts to quiet. The old way of relating to others and the world doesn’t seem to work the same way. One can’t quite connect on the level of ego anymore and can’t “get behind” anything, so to speak. But this is just a phase. A new way of being does show up.

This new way of being is where spiritual maturity plays such a big role. If one stays true to the insights and realizations that have shown up, this new way opens doors that weren’t even conceivable in the beginning. In the beginning, it’s often about a deep desire to recognize the stability of the present moment, to end the notion of seeking as well as the spiritual seeker. Some initial recognition or awakening does happen if there is both readiness and skill. Readiness is the willingness to truly examine all the ego-based stuff that is arising and to stick with the recognition of awareness in the midst of all that is arising.

A lack of readiness merely delays the initial awakening. It keeps the focus on worldly endeavors and the rehashing of the past and worry and seeking towards future. But when readiness is there, that’s at least half the battle. The other half is skill. Being able to skillfully examine one’s present experience is so important. It is very easy to be seductively pulled into the old stories of deficiency and lack. These stories have a powerful momemtum to them. Skill involves knowing how to look, how to rest as awareness and how to inquire. Without skill, one can muck around aimlessly for years in a lot of unnecessary suffering, being pulled again and again into stories, compulsions, anxiety, depression, seeking and trauma. When both readiness and skill are present, the initial awakening into present moment awareness is virtually inevitable.

But what happens after that initial awakening is where the proverbial rubber really meets the road. Just as the ego-based way of living is so seductive prior to an initial awakening, the desire to feel as if one has arrived is equally seductive after an initial awakening. This can be a fatal error, sending people into all sorts of weird eddies along the pathless path. The initial awakening is often just a head awakening. The body has not yet come into alignment with this head awakening. So these weird eddies can include continued addictions, depression, anxiety, unresolved trauma, ongoing deficiency stories and a whole lot more. All of these things are the body’s way of trying to get one’s attention, to call out “hey, you aren’t quite done here so don’t leave me behind.” During this time, the disconnection to life can feel very palpable. The loss of interest in life’s activities can feel very real. Addictions can resurface as the body’s way of grasping at survival. In many respects, this awkward phase is just the precursor for the body coming into alignment with that initial head awakening.

At this point, I want to move into my own experience to encourage those on the pathless path to continue examining all these eddies and to drop the notion of being done. Spiritual maturity is about seeing that there is no end point. It breaks us free of the ego’s striving towards some final conclusion. It leaves a raw openness to what is and a willingness to allow the body to come into full alignment with what has been seen “in the head” so to speak.

This embodiment is another creature altogether. And many deny that embodiment is even necessary or that it ever happens at all. I know of at least three teachers who took their websites down after their initial awakening because they had no language and provided no acknowledgement of any kind of embodiment process. Perhaps they too bought into the idea of an endpoint – which is almost always a game of the ego. As people came to them asking “what comes next after the initial awakening?” they had nothing to say. I’ve personally worked with several teachers who experienced a great surprise when they found out that, after their initial awakening, their bodies had not come into alignment. They were dealing with addiction, trauma, depression or anxiety and didn’t have any answers. This is because the initial awakening doesn’t provide all those answers. It only provides an opening to explore the deeper aspects of our conditioning. So, as their own language or the teachings they had inherited, provided no guidance, they felt lost in this new phase of awakening.  They could not provide any guidance or encouragement to others.

I remember hearing criticisms of Adyashanti by some of these teachers. Adyashanti is a teacher who focuses not only on the initial awakening but also on the embodiment and how liberation moves through one’s entire experience after that initial awakening. These criticisms included complaints that Adya was keeping people seeking and that he wasn’t “clear enough” that the initial awakening is all that is needed. And yet, many of these same teachers were dealing with a lack of embodiment themselves, something that Adyashanti could have helped them with if they would have remained open to hear it. The first time I truly understood the value of Adyashanti’s talks on the subject of post-awakening came when the blockage in my throat chakra opened.

I had been exploring a very thick blockage in my throat for a few years. It was quite painful and lied at the root of my “peacemaker” enneagram 9 type. For the first 30-something years of my life, this blockage kept me from truly speaking and expressing myself freely, out of fear and buried, unexpressed anger. The initial awakening for me was mainly in the head and heart areas. It was a complete surprise to find that this throat blockage was so persistent after that initial awakening. Truly painful! But with readiness and skill, eventually the throat area cleared. It was like being given a whole new lease on life, like 50 pounds of baggage dropped. I remember the morning it finally cleared. I was practically jumping in joy. The lightness of being in that area was so obvious that I felt compelled to never speak of liberation again as if it is limited to some initial head or even heart awakening. In that moment, I bowed to Adya and thanked him silently for providing the encouragement I needed to continue exploring and allowing the body to experience the same emptiness I had realized in the head and heart areas, years before that.

Herein lies the paradox of authentic spiritual realization: seeking does die, but the unfolding continues. It’s like the initial head awakening does not become the endpoint. It becomes the opening into the continued deepening in the body. This unfolding, to the untrained eye, might look like seeking, but it is not. Embodiment is not about trying to get somewhere. It is not about trying at all. In fact, much of the bodywork I’ve created through the years is about helping relax all of the trying and the fight, flight, freeze around the various bodily blockages. I have used the term “infinite patience” to describe this process of deep rest in the midst of exploring the body. It is not about pushing the body to awaken. It is about allowing the body to naturally come into alignment. And readiness and skill are just as important during this stage as they were in previous stages. Without readiness, one can hang out for years in those eddies mentioned above that show up after the initial awakening. One can stay in a kind of stagnant state, repeating old pointers or pithy sayings that are no longer relevant after that initial recognition.

But skill is equally as important. The greatest skill, perhaps, in the embodiment phase is the skill of doing nothing. We are so conditioned to try and do something with our bodies to make them feel better or make them feel “empty.” But learning to do nothing on the subtlest levels of our physical existence and in the deepest and darkest blockages is truly a skill. It requires one to bring to light all that subtle or not so subtle trying, to truly see that there is nothing we can do other than to remain aware and let the fight, flight, freeze mechanisms be seen and come to rest on every level. I find that many of the practices people try with regard to the body involve the personal will.  This often keeps people struggling on that level for a long time.

Perhaps the greatest words of encouragement I can give are this: remain open. Don’t fall for the ego’s idea of some final moment of realization. Don’t fall for the idea of endpoints. Don’t fall for the idea that a head awakening is true liberation. Remain open to the unfolding. Let liberation come all the way down into your body and into every nook and cranny of it. If you are still experiencing anxiety, trauma, addiction, depression or even the slightest sense of deficiency or lack, there is something to explore there. Liberation is not a line on a resume. It is not something one brags about. It is not some final doorway that we enter, so that we never have to examine anything again. Liberation is an attitude of complete openness. That openness is the readiness. Once the readiness is there, all you need is to learn the skills that keep you from delaying the embodiment. There is a mature way to work with the body. It has nothing to do with seeking. Embodiment has been the greatest and most liberating surprise in my pathless path.

All those weird eddies die out during the embodiment phase. The new way of being brings with it not only a lightness of being but also a renewed interest in living, exploring, loving and being inspired and enthused about life. But it is different than being interested from an ego-based perpective. You come to find that you get nothing in return for what you are doing. So you don’t live, explore and love with the hope that it will bring you something better. You live, explore and love just for the sheer act of it. It is an act done for itself, by itself, without the hope of reward.

Relationships are naturally more open, intimate and honest. This attitude of openness is precisely why inspiration and enthusiasm start to show up in a new way. You are no longer shackled to the old ways of being in the world and no longer weighed down by the painful sluggishness of the body and all of its stored anxieties, addictions and traumas. With this attitude of openness, you actually feel less and less dense on the physical level, which allows you to move much more freely in the present moment. Don’t miss this boat. Every moment is an opportunity to hitch the ride of your lifetime, to take spiritual awakening to its most depthful places.

This post is republished from the old Living Inquiries site. 

Discovering Your Re-set Button

By Lisa Meuser.  I was lying in bed the other morning- thinking thinking thinking.

Thinking about a guy. Thinking about my daughter. Thinking about my calendar and my clients and my mom and my to-do list and and and and…  Before I knew it I was thinking about thinking, and I was well on my way to being caught up in “it.”

You know “it,” don’t you? I think of “it” as a hamster wheel that moves around and around, containing within it “the shit stack” of life stuff that needs to be solved, figured out, and evaluated.  Oh, this hamster wheel! It has the potential to pull one in when they least expect it.

We all have multiple internal hamster wheels. Some are massive and seem to be made up of the entirety of life itself. Others are small, or less noticeable, and are in and out of our attention. Regardless of size, though, once we are aware that our focus is racing away inside a hamster wheel, we’re no longer utterly consumed by it but, instead, are in relationship with it.  This is an amazing first step – an empowering first step – because from that place of awareness we can then direct our attention towards something other than the hamster wheel…

Said another way, sometimes all it takes to throw a wrench in the works of that hamster wheel is the recognition that our attention is being consumed by it in the first place. Experiencing massive mental activity is the first sign for me – I can literally feel the tension in my head. And then having that awareness of “Oh!!  I am really ‘mentaling’ right now!” allows me to give pause, and change behavior.

With one fully engaged breath, I can change my path.

That’s what happened on the morning I mentioned, as I was lying in bed thinking myself into a flurry. One deep breath, and all of a sudden my system was reset. Did my “problems” go away? Did the calendar empty out? No. Nothing really changed…except my attention. But that changed everything. My body relaxed. My senses awakened. I was present.

We can be so busy in our lives, taking in more and more data as we go.

Think about it- Every cell in our body has a sense receptor, so our bodies are constantly taking in sensory information. We’re quite literally “sense receptor mechanisms,” so it’s no wonder we are overwhelmed by the end of the day! But we don’t have to be, if we can just pay attention.

Due to habit, most of us continuously “tune out” or become dissociative in the face of overwhelm. This is an innocent strategy but is not sustainable, and bit by bit it actually adds to our experience of overwhelm. Luckily there is another way! We can choose to curiously and gently work with ourselves in such a way as to not feel overwhelmed by the end of the day, by simply resetting our systems.

At any moment we can push the reset button.

Pushing the reset button allows us to release old data so that we can take on fresh data.
Pushing the reset button allows us to experience the present moment, instead of living from the hamster wheel of the chaotic mind.
Pushing the reset button allows us to feel, instead of engaging in unhealthy behaviors which keep us from feeling.

How can we push the reset button?

There’s obviously no actual button to push, but we can experience a reset through conscious and mindful attention. Here are a few simple suggestions:

Stop. This is the first step to a reset. Take moments throughout the day to literally stop moving, and/or take moments throughout the day to stop ‘mentallizing’  (e.g. figuring out, analyzing, problem-solving, evaluating, judging, or thinking about thoughts). Stop any engagement in action and do-ing, and bring yourself into a state of “non-productivity.”  While stopped, consciously bring attention to your breath. The breath can reset your system in a variety of ways: it can reset your nervous system; it can put a wrench in that hamster wheel; and it can bring your awareness into the present moment.

Slow down. As just mentioned, slowly bring your awareness to the present moment, through breath (or sensation). It’s impossible to breathe in the past, or to breathe in the future. It follows that, when you bring attention to the breath that is happening right now, you’ll automatically be bringing attention to the present moment. Follow the cycle of breath – all the way from your nostrils, down through your body to your lungs and belly, and then back up. Feel your body being engaged with the breathing that is happening in this moment. Some people find bringing attention to their breath triggering. If this is the case for you, go ahead and bring your attention to physical sensations: feeling into your toes, fingers, or sit bones, for example.

Simplify. Bring attention to the simplest of happenings, right now. Have you ever noticed that the mind loves to complicate everything? When you notice that everything seems extremely complicated, you’re likely caught smack dab in the centrifugal force of the hamster wheel.  Find something – anything – simple in your present situation. Maybe it’s your feet on the floor, or your butt in the chair. Maybe it’s air moving in and out of nostrils. Maybe it’s the sounds or scents being perceived. Or the wind on your face.  Maybe it’s the blinking of your eye lids.

Feel. Feel into the simplicity you’re connecting with. Don’t focus on thinking about your feet on the floor, but feeling your feet on the floor.  Feel the air coming in and out of your nostrils. Feel your ribs move with your breath cycle. Feel the wind/air on your face.

Curiosity. Engage your curious inner child.  Be curious about… well, about anything! Be curious about the leaves blowing in the wind. Or the sound of the birds. Or how you can feel your heartbeat move through your body. Being curious opens the neural network in the brain’s right hemisphere which helps to facilitate awareness and spaciousness. Being curious is not about finding answers or figuring anything out – it’s precisely the opposite. It’s similar to wondering, just for the sake of wondering.

 

Once you’ve stopped yourself in your (mental or literal) tracks, continue to curiously and slowly stay present, allowing your nervous system – and maybe even your day – to reset.  It always amazes me to rediscover how much less stressful life becomes when I engage in reset practices. I no longer feel the pressure to “figure out,” and the tendency to get caught up in “it” loosens its hold.

Please try these suggested techniques next time you find yourself thinking, thinking, thinking away on that hamster wheel. I suspect that with a little practice you’ll find that, as a result, life becomes more fluid, restful, and enjoyable!

 

 

 

Healing the Wounds; Pain Body Parenting

By Lisa Meuser.  “She wants to trap me.”

“She’s always trying to control me.”

“She’s ruining my life on purpose.”

“She knows that what she’s doing is driving me crazy.”

“Clearly, she’s here to make my life miserable.”

 

Let’s take a poll. Who do you think “she” is in the above statements?

  1. The speaker’s mother
  2. The speaker’s partner/spouse/housemate/friend
  3. The speaker’s child
  4. The speaker’s pet
  5. The speaker’s colleague
  6. <<insert anyone, from waitress, to sales clerk, to person driving in front of them, etc>>

Realistically, it could be anyone. When we have a sense that other people trap us, control us, ruin our lives, and make us miserable, then we can’t help but project that onto the people around us. You see, the person above isn’t really talking about another person. The person is talking about his or her own relationship to the world and how it makes them feel. These sentiments are encapsulated by their current interaction, which they then project upon the other and they think, “It’s them.” Chances are good that these thoughts aren’t new, either. They’ve likely been around for awhile, either consciously or subconsciously, and they probably first came on the scene when the individual was quite young. Possibly pre-cognition.

You might be wondering, “Who would think that their infant is trying to trap them?” (particularly if you’ve never had children). Regardless of what you’re thinking, my clients are normal everyday people – people like you, and people like me. In fact, my clients often express things to me that I’ve thought countless times about my own child. As I’ll expand on later, when I was a young mother I was often operating from past hurts and experiences that I’d never processed. Those hurts infiltrated my thoughts, crept into my life, and were projected onto my daughter. So when my clients utter sentiments like you read up top, I understand. My clients are humans who get overwhelmed and feel powerless. I get it. I’ve been there, too.

We can most easily get a sense of these projections when we make the recipient of these accusations an infant. It is unlikely that a sane, rational mind would honestly think that an infant is here to purposely make life hard for its parents. But those thoughts aren’t coming from a sane, rational person. They are coming from a person who, ultimately, is stuck in their own childhood. They are coming from a person who is in pain, and is likely blaming themselves. But blaming oneself feels horrible, and utterly disempowering, rendering a parent even less capable. So the blame moves outwards, as a survival strategy, onto the object that seems to be causing the problems: the child.

Oddly enough, this blaming outwards is the opposite of what we do when we’re young. As young people it’s not safe to get mad at our caregivers. It wouldn’t be a wise move to blame the person who is in charge of feeding, clothing, housing, and – most importantly – loving us. We can’t bite the hand that feeds us, or hate the heart that’s in charge of loving us. So, unbeknownst to even ourselves, in our earliest days we don’t get mad at our parents, and we don’t blame them. Instead, we internalize it all, we experience powerlessness, and then we assume that something is wrong with us to explain why Mom or Dad isn’t there when needed, to explain why they yell or hit, or why they ignore us. We assume it’s something we’ve done when our parents’ attention forsakes us for our siblings, their partners or friends, their job, or even their phone or the TV. We assume that it’s us- whatever is going on, it’s our fault.

Naturally this is disempowering, and we try to regain that power by pleasing those around us so that they will give us the food, clothing, housing, and love that we so desperately need.  We hide our true feelings, and we put on appearances.  But underneath those appearances lies the self-blame in which we’ve become trapped, controlled, crazy, and miserable. We’re still just kids, and we don’t yet have the internal or external resources to acknowledge all of that…but we feel it. And we don’t yet have the internal or external resources to process those feelings…so we repress them. Those feelings remain there. Buried. Deep. This is what Eckhart Tolle calls the pain body.

What or who triggers these repressed emotions and feelings? There are plenty of variables, including how stressed we are or how powerless we feel. It could be the person ahead of us in line, or the people we love the most. When we haven’t become aware of the repressed ideas and emotions that are running the show, we simply can’t help but project our (sometimes paranoid) thoughts onto our lovers, our friends, and even our innocent infants.

I’m sure by now you’ve got a sense of how this projection has shown up in your life – both how you’ve been projected upon, and how you have projected onto others. I’ve been on both sides of this as well. An ex-boyfriend who hadn’t processed his childhood could not help but project all the ill sentiments he had for his sisters and mother onto me. Being the youngest, he felt small in his family in every way.  From his young-self perspective, the women in his life seemed to control him, and one day he decided that people would not get to tell him “No.” You can imagine the toxicity of that relationship: when I said “No” to him, I’d trigger that small powerless child self that still existed within his grown adult self. And he projected his fears onto me from that child self who felt controlled by others. I thought I was dealing with a grown adult man, but often I wasn’t.

I’ll admit, however, that I have done the same.  When I was a young mother there were plenty of times when I wasn’t acting from a mature adult place – I was responding from that overwhelmed girl from my own childhood. When I was a child and I disappointed my mom, she’d be angry, but since anger was not a safe emotion in our household she’d shut down and become cold to me. Then I’d shut down. As such, shutting down to strong emotions became my go-to strategy. As a new mother who hadn’t processed my own childhood, when my daughter would exhibit anger I’d handle it calmly…for a while. But if it continued I’d become overwhelmed and start to feel powerless and trapped. And then, sure enough, I’d shut down. I’d shut down inside myself and I’d shut down to her, making myself emotionally unavailable to her as my mother had done to me. I mirrored behavior directly from my childhood, and projected that onto her.

In both examples the adult in the situation felt controlled or trapped, as well as powerless, and so projected outwardly as if the other person were making their life miserable. From a distance we can see that this came from unhealed childhood wounds, but in the moment the projections seemed completely valid and accurate. It was clearly “them”- i.e. the other person’s fault.

Hearing these stories from clients and reconnecting with my own life stories reminds me of the vulnerability of parenting, of relating, of loving, of being.  I take a glance back in time and I feel the pain of both my child and my younger parenting self – and in that pain, both of us doing the best we could. Wanting to be a better parent, for myself and for my child, led me to explore my unprocessed childhood – my conditioning and my unmet hurts. And even now, with my child in her teens, strong emotions can still start to fill me with overwhelm. Luckily I have tools that I didn’t have when she was a baby, and when I start to feel the overwhelm flag flying I immediately pause. I feel down and into my being. I breathe. And I breathe again. Then from my being I look at her being, from a place beyond personality. And I feel again into me. Only after the flood of immediacy washes past me do I respond. I wait until I’m inwardly connected from a place of wholeness.  And later, when I have the time and space, I go deeper into the stuck places that catch me, releasing the layer of pain body that had arisen.

If you are a parent who finds yourself in predicaments where you can’t help but project onto you kids… please get to know yourself. Through a therapist or your own deep inner work, identify and heal your own childhood wounds. Get to know what triggers you. Then when you start to feel triggered, stop and take care before engaging with your child (whenever possible). When you take care of you, you take care of those you love.  Here are some ways to take care that are designed to support and help regulate stress and overwhelm:

 

  1. Pause what you’re doing and get a glass of water. Not thirsty? Do it anyway. Taking the time to slowly walk to the kitchen, drink some water, and walk back will buy you some time to s.l.o.w. d.o.w.n, breathe, feel, and remind yourself that your child (or any other perceived offender) is not purposefully trying to destroy you. Remind yourself that your child is just a small being on this planet without inner resources. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can with what you have available. As you walk, breathe consciously.

 

  1. Breathe. Consciously. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Bring your mind into your breath. Drop your attention into the actual experience of breath coming in and out of your lungs, your diaphragm, your nostrils.

 

  1. Smell something good. Flowers. Chocolate. Fresh air. Lavender.

 

  1. Go outside, or look outside. My favorite outdoor objects to connect with are trees. I look at the trees. I feel the trees. I become connected with the trees. I breathe into my legs and my own root system. Connect with what resonates with you. Birds, plants, clouds, the sky, the breeze…

 

  1. Ground. Feel into your lower belly and sacral area. Breathe here. Feel here. Center here. Move downward through your legs, to your feet. Center here. Ground here. Breathe here.

 

  1. Pray, set an intention, and/or ask for support. Bring your attention to your heart and silently connect with yourself, your attention, your highest self, or whatever “God” means to you.

 

  1. Know that “this too shall pass.” No moment, no matter how good or bad, ever lasts forever. Breathe.

 

  1. Look – with curiosity – for the innocence of that moment. The innocence of your child’s eyes. The innocence in you not knowing what to do. The innocence of the predicament. The innocence of your exhaustion. The innocence of your love.

 

  1. Hum or sing. Music stimulates the spacious centers in your brain, while humming and singing helps your system “find itself” in times of stress.

 

  1. Make a mental note of what triggered you and what you’d like to explore later, when you have time and support. Write it down or send yourself an email. If you don’t know how to do somatic work, or even if you do, consider connecting with a somatic practitioner to help you connect with your subconscious pain body. Your inner child deserves your attention, too. Your adult self as well as your loved ones will thank you for it.

I think back to the days when I didn’t have these skills, and I feel compassion for myself and my daughter, but also grief. Taking time to sit and feel – sadness, regret, and shame arise. I sit and feel. I breathe. I sit and feel some more until all the stories are gone, and love remains. I feel love for the daughter that I was, and for my own mother who mothered me to the best of her abilities. I feel love for the mother that I sometimes was: angry, scared, and sad. I feel love for my daughter, who was being her perfect child self, caught in the web of my conditioning.

To me and my lineage: I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.

I honor all parents on their path. I extend love and compassion as we do our best to not repeat our parents’ “mistakes.” Just know that we can’t help it when we do.  My heart sends love and compassion and healing to all our parents and their parents, to all our child selves, to all our children, and to all our adult selves as we still heal from our child wounds. Onward, forward, one breath at a time.