Home » Blog » Embodiment

Tag: Embodiment

Our Stories Are Sacred

By Lisa Meuser.  

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”  Rumi

I gently breathe in this quote. It has taken me a long time to know Rumi’s words. Most of my life I hid and denied my wounds, concealing them not only from others but also from myself. I repeatedly and systematically attempted to suppress, re-write, and/or rebuff the stories of my life experiences. This started when I was young.  I made excuses for and reframed others’ unhealthy and abusive behaviors. I learned to keep secrets to keep the peace.  Over time, I innocently abandoned myself as I learned to pretend that “all was well.”

I know I’m not alone in this. The majority of people express that they’ve had a great childhood. And yet, after a few questions, it is clear that what they are choosing to remember is coming from an act of self-preservation: it can be difficult to face the reality of our lived stories when we’ve denied them our whole lives.  We often prefer the story of “all was well”, even when it means we have to splinter ourselves to maintain that story.

While many of us always had a roof over our heads, food to eat, and clothing to wear, our more basic and fundamental needs such as emotional guidance and heart connection may not have been tended to. From the outside, I had an ideal childhood. And yet no one in my family was emotionally available or willing to really hear my stories, and after a while I disconnected from my experiences, from my stories, and made myself invisible as a way to cope. Maybe you too were a caretaker of others’ stories, as it was too hard to be with your own?

As I grew older I was bombarded with various social, political and spiritual messages that encouraged me to further forget about the past, and focus on the positive. Common phrases used in our culture include: “don’t dwell on the past”, “let bygones be bygones”, “look to the bright side”, and “be here now.”  Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that those phrases don’t have some wisdom sprinkled through them. But when we hold onto those mottos so fiercely that we aren’t allowed to be with our experiences, we violate ourselves. Over, and over, and over.

Would it be an act of loving kindness to tell a young toddler who has scraped their knee to “get over it”, or “just focus on the present!”, or look to the bright side of the experience? No. A kind heart would console, support, love, and guide a toddler through their pain, through their accident, all the way to the “other side”- however that may look.  A loving approach would ideally allow for the child to retell the story as many times as necessary, until it felt complete for them. We’d empathize. We’d listen. We’d help tend to the wound. We’d support them until they were ready to return to the playground. And they likely would. We’ve probably all seen that when a child is held and heard, they quickly resume playing, their needs having been met.

And yet what we often do with ourselves is pretend our scraped knees aren’t scraped (or that our hearts aren’t breaking). We often pretend that everything is just fine, and then to add insult to injury we judge ourselves when our hearts continue to be broken – which we then take as proof that “we’re broken.”

In my direct experience, it is never that we are truly broken[1]. I have never met a client who is broken. Rather, it is the way that we’ve learned to connect ourselves that is broken (and we can see how this is a cultural imprint, as culture does not connect with the wellbeing of mind/body/spirit, and instead often does the opposite).

Of course the way we’ve learned to connect with ourselves is broken! Most of us didn’t live in households that provided the level of emotional care, nurturance and guidance that we needed, so we never learned directly, or indirectly what true love and care was.

Even though we’re adults now, the need for a kind and loving response, the space to tell our story, and our needs to be heard and supported, haven’t gone away. They may have gone underground, or been buried, but our biological need for connection and love remain.

Shame kept my stories hidden, from myself and from others, and I see this with almost all my clients.  What I also see is immense freedom when people feel safe enough to honestly connect to their stories – to their actual lived experiences instead of the pretend life they held onto in their minds. This freedom multiplies when they feel safe to share their stories out loud in a safe container.

Repression is oppressive, and oppression is traumatizing. Telling our stories has the opposite effect. Telling our stories, first to ourselves, and then to another, has a liberating influence that leaves one feeling a sense of real empowerment – maybe for the first time in our lives.

Naming our stories to ourselves is deep work. It takes time, because it’s counter-intuitive based on all the strategies we’ve learned to keep silent. Naming and then believing our own stories takes courage. It takes time to develop the safety to be in our truth, after giving it away for so long.  For me, being heard by someone I trusted was an immensely important part of that. I was so used to doubting myself, that I needed a trusted guide to support me as the stories met the light of day, outside of the realms of my mind.

This is why we know it is crucial that as we heal from our wounds, we find safe spaces and safe people who listen to and believe in our stories – to our sacred, lived experiences. This produces a beautiful fertile ground “for the Light to come in.”

Find safe spaces. Find safe people. Your stories are the hallowed ground of your being.  When you find a safe person or group to share in, consider honoring your stories by connecting with what you need as your story is shared.[2] Our sacredness doesn’t need to be fixed, and yet a fixing paradigm is very common in our culture.  You may want to let your listener know that you don’t want your story to be treated as something to be fixed or changed, and instead received, as if your listener is being given a gift – because they are.

When stories are free to live in the light of day, something unanticipated often happens. As we release what we had been resisting all our lives, as we allow the stories to live and breathe, the stories themselves start to disintegrate. But this time it is from Love, not from denial.  This will happen on its own, although it’s often counterintuitive. I’ve found that the process can be supported and then integrated  through the guidance of an embodied somatic therapist, facilitator or guide.

I have experienced – directly and in my relationships with my clients – the immense freedom that comes when stories and wounds are allowed, named, spoken, expressed, and felt.  It is something far beyond what the linear mind understands, and births a sense of empowerment that is known from  being. Neuropathways shift, one’s sense of safety in the world changes, and relationships with life are transformed. Possibilities we couldn’t even imagine reveal themselves.[3]

It has taken my whole life to fully understand that that wounds and their corresponding stories are truly sacred. These days I experience wounds, and the stories of wounds, as sacred, grace filled, and also as the way Home.  I will be leading a deepening course this spring that will provide safety to explore our sacred stories. Please contact me to learn more.

I leave you with a poem I wrote after being given a prompt “If we could write a tomorrow which is wider than wounds we have worn”. Much love to you, as you share your sacred stories, on your way Home.

 

Stories Return Us Home

If I could write a tomorrow,
it would be wider than but include the wounds we have worn…
it would include my wounds,
it would announce my wounds,
it would put my wounds on display so that others too
could include, announce and
display their wounds,
as we move into tomorrow.

If I could write of a tomorrow,
it would have less denial, less hiding, less pretending…
By naming and sharing our wounds,
we would weave something so bountifully amazing,
taking us wider than the wounds we have ever worn.

If I could write a tomorrow,
I would use my wounds
and all that I have learned,
to springboard into creating a world where
community and connection is paramount,
from birth to death,
woven into the very ways we value the
ways we spend our days
and deeper into the way we view
our very selves.

If I could write a tomorrow,
humans would not be commodities
or things.
Worth would not be earned but known.
Sharing would be common place and
love would be given,
not bought or sold in the guise of
consumerism and exploitive capitalism.

This may be my soap box, but it doesn’t feel like an
impossible dream.
When I
slow down
and
take a look
towards pain and suffering.

I look at it in the eye,
feel pain burrow into the
caverns of my heart.
As I do
something widens
and deepens.
Something called Love

takes it all,
filling me with a sweetness of now that
exists at the very same time as
sorrow, sometimes in the very same place.
Reminding me another way is
indeed possible.

I write of another way…
where we know and
live knowing that,
in our shared plight of
being human,
there is Love.
The joy, mystery, pain, and
beauty of
being human.

I write of
lessons
being learned from the
wounds of yesterday.
Creating an amazing
tomorrow to be a part of.
I commit

to staying with
these wounds, honoring these wounds,
taking responsibility for these wounds,
and the wounds that my foremothers and forefathers
were born from,
have created,
which birthed me
and which I have birthed.

I write of a now,
inviting all to share
unique dreams and unique pains.
To share without needing to fix or problem solve
but to celebrate.
A recognition that each
story is sacred and powerful
in its very essence,
as we return Home.

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

 

[1] And yet, I honor the phrase “broken hearted”.  The sense of the heart being broken references the wound of which Rumi writes, and is, in my experience, our ticket home in the telling of our stories.

[2] You might, for example, ask your listener;  “please just listen,” or “please validate what you’ve heard,” or “please say you believe me,” or “please hug me when I’m done.”

[3] “Every time you tell your story and someone else who cares bears witness to it, you turn off the body’s stress responses, flipping off toxic stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine and flipping on relaxation responses that release healing hormones like oxytocindopamine, nitric oxide, and endorphins. When we tell our stories and others bear witness, the notion that we are disconnected beings suffering alone dissolves under the weight of evidence that this whole concept is merely an illusion.” – Lissa Rankin

Longing For Love

By Sumitra Burton.  

While looking back over my life recently to see what kind of “credentials” I had gathered along the way, I recognized a core thread that has permeated my experience from the very beginning: a passionate longing for love.  Somehow I had never been aware of it in quite this way before.

As a little girl, I was deeply moved by a picture in our church’s entryway of Jesus in his long robe with children around his feet.  Jesus was looking at the children with deep love.  I can feel now the sense of longing that arose in my heart to experience that kind of love in my life.

Early on I somehow got the idea that pleasing others was the best way to find the love I so dearly wanted.  I tried to make them happy, so that they would love me.  My mother once said to me that I was selfish, which struck me deeply as I took this to mean that “I” was selfish, rather than simply my behavior in that moment.  The desire to not be selfish translated in my young mind to mean that my own personal needs and desires must be subdued in deference to others.

I married very young (19) and was excited to feel loved by my young husband and the support of a dream that we would somehow live happily ever after, loving each other unconditionally (those were the vows we took when we married – through sickness and health, joy and sorrow, etc. – right?).

It wasn’t long, though, before this dream started falling apart as I often experienced a lack of love in our relationship.  We were both so young, and my husband had had a traumatic childhood and needed lots of support.  Neither of us had the skills to communicate our feelings and work through the difficulties that arose.  Over the years we had four children together, were separated many times, and actually married and divorced twice.

By the time of the second divorce, I was totally devastated – confused, grieving and alone.  I had tried so hard to love him, and had failed, and my longing for love (still very strong) seemed to have reached a dead end.  The harder I tried, the worse things became.  I had given my all, and it wasn’t good enough.  Something was deeply wrong, and I was convinced there was something deeply wrong with meI must be unlovable!

I stayed alone for the next 30 years after the second divorce, practiced yoga and meditation as best I could while being a single mother, eventually living and working in an ashram retreat center for many years.  I found a sense of peace while I would sit to meditate, but in my daily life there was still much confusion and even desperation as I tried to make others happy so that I would feel loved in return.

One day I remember so clearly, a spiritual teacher remarked, “We have to love everyone, including ourselves.” I was shocked to hear the part about “including ourselves.”  Of course, this made perfect sense, and why had it taken so long for me to realize this?

From that moment I began wondering what it would mean to love myself – and very gradually began to explore how to do this. There wasn’t much support in those days for this kind of endeavor. I found myself eventually gravitating towards a philosophy of relaxing more into who I already am, rather than the old paradigm of disciplining myself to become a better person.  I began to have glimpses of being okay as I was.

When I finally discovered the Living Inquiries and the tools of resting and inquiry, the old beliefs of “unlovable” and “not good enough” arose dramatically to be explored, and slowly began to unwind.  It’s been a dynamic process over the past seven years of working to unravel these old beliefs and learning to relax into my natural sense of being-ness.  A main component of this quest has been the gradual shift from looking outside myself to looking inside for the love that I long for.

While there is a sense that the inquiry process will always be needed (no end in sight!), there is also a deepening awareness that innately I am okay and lovable.  Any time I notice I am looking for love outside, I recognize the old feelings of unworthiness creeping in.  Deep inside there’s a growing understanding that not only am I lovable, but that I am actually Love Itself. No separation.

This morning I am taking time to simply allow the longing to be felt.  The intensity of the longing is immense, filling my whole inner torso like a vacuum in a cavern.  It feels like I will be engulfed by it if I allow it to be fully felt.  Go ahead, I say.  Let me be consumed by that longing!  As I sit with the sensations, an image of a gate appears.  And as it opens, Love is Here.  Love is calling me Home.

To read more about Sumitra Burton, click here.

Listening Beyond Ourselves

By Lisa Meuser.  

 

Listening to Life

I have been in a deep creative flow for quite a while, spurring my productivity on, and on, and on. Writing, working with clients, my own self-study and learning, parenting, and completing tasks and projects… It has felt effortless, aligned and in integrity, and I have been conscious and appreciative of that. I have had immense gratitude for the ease of flow, my capacity to receive, and the Source from which it comes.

And.

Ha! You knew there was an “and” coming, didn’t you?

And, the holding pattern of a self/personality can be extremely subtle.

Amidst all this ease and flow, productivity and growth… along with a deeper sense of inner agency and resourcing, that I have worked so diligently over the last years to come to know… Amongst all this evolution had come a subtle sense of forgetting, or what I sometimes refer to as amnesia when I forget my deeper relationship with what Is.

In the ease of flow I had innocently moved into a state of amnesia with regards to where all of this ease, movement and so on was coming from. While this amnesia moved in, so too had some movement back into identification and self-importance.

This is very normal for us human beings, particularly on the embodiment journey. Agency and inner resourcing can feel so utterly empowering… that it can almost seem like they are in charge of it all, giving the illusion that it is “me” that is responsible for all the yum in my life. So subtle – this flow and yum made me feel good, with a deep purpose.  Caught in this current, I hadn’t noticed that hitching a ride was also an increased sense of drive and worth.

Again, this is all the stuff of being human. There is nothing wrong with feeling good, having purpose, or having worth. And – this can easily rev up a machine within us that starts to resemble something along the lines of self-reliance, arrogance, ego, and/or, self-importance, and an absence of humility. In the process of becoming empowered, I had forgotten what was truly empowering me.

 

My Body Stepped In

I wasn’t seeing any of that, however, until a virus stopped me in my tracks. I was midway through my day when I started to feel “invaded.” I power-housed through, as is typical for me. By the end of my day I was exhausted from head to toes, with a fever, and chills. I have a couple of “tried and true” remedies that seem to quickly push illnesses out of my system, or at least giving me enough relief to keep my normal work schedule, so I figured I’d be fine the next day. Except that this was the second virus in two months… something very unusual for me. This got my attention…

 

It was Time to Listen

Maybe I was supposed to slow down… and actually cancel my sessions and meetings for the next day instead of pushing through as usual.  Maybe I had been pushing myself just a little too much? Maybe it was time to just stop, for a bit?

I have to admit, I had an ulterior motive for considering a break.

I was still thinking I was in charge.

Have you ever done something, because you think that it will lead to a good outcome? I assumed that if I just stopped for a bit, I’d quickly feel better. The hidden subtext of that was: and then I could quickly “get back at it.”

But I didn’t feel better.

I felt worse.

And then I felt worse-er.

I could handle the fever and fluctuating temperature, but the pain in my legs was overwhelming. When I was a girl I used to get menstrual cramps so intensely that I would squirm restlessly on my bed until the pain medication kicked in. It was like that, except that there was no pain medication coming.

I couldn’t find a comfortable position. I couldn’t find comfort, period.

I like comfort, and instead I felt restless and powerless… and worried. I don’t know about you but when worry comes into the picture so does suffering. And, well… I’m not a big fan of suffering.

This all let me know that something was going on, and that I needed to listen – sincerely listen.

What I heard was a call for deep surrender.

 

Giving it all up, while staying Open

It was time to stop producing. And it was time to stop trying to push myself into feeling better, as trying to prod myself to feel better (so I could resume being “me”) with all my amazing remedies had to cease, as that had taken on a fighting and gripping kind of energy, too.

Letting go of trying to heal myself (in the way I was inclined to) was not easy but once that revving engine in me started to pause I was able to “lean back into it all” and I felt a wide web holding me. From here I tenderly connected with that gripping energy through gentle somatic inquiry. I discovered that behind that fighting energy was a me trying to be in charge of a body that was quite committed to doing its own thing. This was utterly humbling in such a way that something further softened in my being.

As the gripping softened, space opened up and I continued to gently explore. I discovered that there was an underlying fear in my system, stemming back to when I was very young, and was often forced into a doing mode of being. I was able to study the inclinations of my being to open, and then close to protect. Open, and then close to protect. I felt this in a physical way in the muscles in my chest. As I stayed with that, the early traumas unwove themselves as it became clear that my system simply wanted to be honored, not pushed in any kind of way[1].

As these energetic happenings unwove within my being, they were unwoven within my psyche as well. It became overwhelmingly clear that it was safe for me to stop doing, pushing and fighting, and turn towards deep being.

 

Deep Surrender

No producing. No writing. No sessions. No pushing or forcing or any kind. A fervent processer, I was in too much pain to even think. Watching tv or reading were also out of the question. I was invited to deeply surrender into that which was larger than the body that was in pain, the personality that was used to producing, or the conditioning that was used to pushing.

I was very gently and compassionately guided to truly stop trying to be in charge.

Language gets tricky here. What is it that is larger than my personality, than my physical form, than my conditioning? Atheists might call it space, the gravitational field or some kind of base level of intelligence/physics that acts on its own accord. Deists might call it god. Spirituality might call it the tao, the field, or love. Non-dualists might call it awareness. Whatever we want to call it, without the distraction of writing, reading, clients and other tasks, including thinking and processing, I was brought to a deep rest. In the process, I found myself out of resistance and struggle, and into a clear connection with/as “something larger than myself.”

It was at this point that I was able to clearly and humbly see and name that I had gotten swept away in my ability to produce, my resourcing and agency to process, and my capacity to “keep going,” and this had innocently given me, as a personality, a sense of worth.

As I was writing this blog post, I found something my friend Trikaya Olliffe had written that expressed this in such a clear and beautiful way.

Love is the part of us that gives us the ability to chose, and we will choose whatever we feel is the greatest love because we will always seek what we love. So, if we love processing, we will always choose something to process. If we love power, we will always choose power. If we love safety, we will always choose what is safe for us.

Unbeknownst to my conscious attention, I loved processing so much that I had made it my god.

He continues:

There is a difference between processing and Presence. We can process emotional and mental patterns to evaluate them to gain knowledge about them. And while this is good, it is not Presence. Presence is a state of being that is more like an observer of a process rather than the action of processing.

It was both freeing and inspiring to experience the clarity of that, as a first step for me is naming what has been out of my attention, which then empowers me to take a step back, notice more and reconnect with what is most important in my life.

 

God[2]/Love/Awareness First

Being forced to slow way down, so as to avoid that sense of restless pain, allowed me to study my patterning with fine attunement. The simplicity yet immensity of this “something” was humbling.

I felt deeply at home, and my intrinsic worth as a human being – just lying there and breathing – was self-evident, pardon the pun, beyond a doubt.

There was something sobering about lying in a bed for hours every day, knowing that my true worth had nothing to do with my level of production or actions in the world. I had value, just by being, and I felt the truth of that through every part of my being.

To feel the truth of that was a delightful by-product of that virus, and I set a conscious intention to stay aligned in this way when I was back to feeling better.

Again, I hadn’t been doing anything wrong in my life, perhaps per sae’, but my relationship with Life had become imbalanced, and while there is nothing erroneous with having personality or a sense of self[3], I had subtly put my personality before that which supports and guides life.

I love the wisdom of one of my guides, MaDar “There is a fractal wisdom in the universe: God first, God in me, and God in other.” While wisdom of this truth has been my direct experience, it is my daily practice which sustains this seeing.

 

Presence over Productivity

I have to admit that my life is full of so many amazing things that it is easy to get lost in doing and producing. Post virus, I can’t seem to “get away” with some of the strategies I’ve used in the past. Although this can be disconcerting to my personality, it is ultimately a good thing as it has brought about deeper freedom.

I continue to be humbled by the wisdom of life, as well as the conditioning that subtly (and sometimes overtly) rises up. I remain aware of the dance between this larger invitation of surrender and my personality/the culture that I’m a part of that values doing above being.[4]

While there is nothing bad about producing, being aligned with purpose, or with experiencing a sense of worth from either, there was a wisdom in my system that was being called to that was letting me know that I was getting a bit lost, and I had been too lost to notice. My body helped me wake up.

 

Sometimes our bodies get a bit loud so that we slow down to listen

My client shared this with me today:

It is so hard for me to say no to champagne offered me, even when I say “I’m not going to drink it this time.” It’s like I go into automatic pilot and just drink it. But the other day I felt off with a headache, and drinking the champagne didn’t smell good like it usually does so I choose not to drink it. That ability to pay attention and choose is new for me.

He usually isn’t able to slow down his habitual movements so as to check in with what he really wants to do. It took a headache for him to connect to his body, but once he was there he could connect to himself in a different way and consciously say no.

This reminded of my own illness, and how it took my body to “be off” for me to listen to it. Wouldn’t it be great if it didn’t take our bodies feeling “off” for us to pause, listen, and really tune in?

I know this is possible. But it does take some conscious work.

 

What might help us to listen?

Our bodies are wise, and are speaking to us. How loud do they need to get to be heard? Ideally, not very loud!

In order to listen it is useful to experiment with a daily practice of including my body/whole being, and connecting with it in a conscious and cognitive way. Asking questions is a beautiful way to develop relationships with others, and it can be a beautiful way to develop a relationship with ourselves as well.

I take time throughout my day to ask myself gentle questions, such as:

  • What does my body need/want right now?
  • Am I/my body being pushed or hurried too much? Do I need to slow down so that I can listen? Is there a call to soften- mentally and/or physically/physiologically?
  • Do I need a 5 second break to connect with breath/being? (Or a nap?!)
  • Does every creative thought have to be put into form? (This is a big one for me generally speaking as I have a lot of creativity coming at the moment.)
  • Recently I have discovered a speaker who is very catalyzing every time I listen to him, so I have stopped listening for now so that I can complete what is already coming into form. I can come back to him when it is time. I know the timing will be perfect!)
  • Am I feeling overwhelmed? Would it help to be more selective of what is getting into my attention? (social media, tv, etc)
  • Would it be useful for me to be still with the energy of creativity instead of immediately acting?
  • Am I experiencing a lot of flavors of ease and simplicity, or is there more urgency or command-type energy?
  • Are the flavors mingling with ego in some way?
  • Is there (white) savior[5] energy happening?
  • Are there things going on that have to do with my worth?
  • Am I getting caught up in what I’m doing, and forgetting to lean back into that which occupies my being?
  • What is the quality of my personal relationship with or as god/love/awareness right now?

Gently asking myself these questions can be useful in connecting with intention, grace, and usefulness/necessity of action. Asking these questions can also help me to be more receptive of divine gifts that are coming my way.

 

Listening to Life’s Teachings

The illness I experienced helped me to listen with a different set of ears, and opened me up to receiving a very sacred and profound gift.

I received the gift of knowing in my being, from head to toes and beyond, that I truly am enough, in every way, by merely being alive.  Deeper still was the embodiment of knowing that I am on Love’s journey, not my own. It is impossible to convey the humility and freedom that came from this teaching, and I continue to integrate it.

I am left with a deeper knowing of trust. I feel more connected to the actions that I partake in, and I feel less compelled to engage in ways that are not of Love. Lastly, I feel a sense of simplicity in knowing that as I slow down and listen, my capacity to create and guide others will be for the greatest good, as opposed to for my personality or sense of self.

I have immense gratitude for the support of some very loving people in my life who encourage me in my full commitment to stay slowed down and turned towards Love.

 

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

 

[1] Relevant to mention, I had just spent a month studying “should energy (I wrote about this last month ) particularly as it flowed through my family of origin. I can’t help suspect that this was synchronistic in preparing my system to go deeper within itself to connect to patterns and other operating strategies that I had developed in my young years. Those energies, often so loud for me throughout my life, had recently become quite quiet. Where there had been “should energy” there was a deepened space of allowance. The spaciousness from the should explorations seemed to pave a different way of being that was in alignment with trusting the wisdom of the journey and letting go of the outcome or destination. Again, this was huge for me, and I find it fascinating that it occurred before the virus and before this deepening.

[2] If the word “god” triggers you, I totally get it. After exploring my religious wounding I am surprised to have an affinity for a word that I used to have immense resistance to. For me, God is synonymous with Love/the space of awareness in my direct experience/knowing. Please use the word that works best for you- love, presence, the tao, light, mother earth, divinity, breath, star dust, flow, awareness, consciousness, source, space, life, etc.

[3] In my experience, it’s not either or: it’s not either personality, or being attuned with/as awareness. In my experience they can and do co-occur within one’s conscious direct experiential attention.

[4] I just happened to find a bookmark that my child made somewhere in her single digit years. Quoted on the book mark, from her teacher: “Life is doing.”  Urgh. It’s everywhere!

[5] This is something I’ll be writing more about. For now I’ll say that it has a self-serving egoic energy, while I might be telling myself that it is altruistic.

Out of the Head, into the Body: How Simplifying can lead to Self-Love

By Lisa Meuser.  

 “How do I get things to be different? How can I be different? What can I do? What did you do?”

These questions come my way, in varied forms, almost every day. While most of my blog pieces share the intricacies of my own journey – belief systems, trauma and conditioning – this blog piece is going to be more about tools and practices that helped me get from there to here.  I hope that some of what I share here will support and empower those who are looking to increase their level of well-being and build a loving relationship with their self.

 

What if?

A client was exploring their need to seek out solutions – to constantly go to their thoughts (or self-destructive actions) every time life felt hard. To my client, it felt very much like they were either living “in their head” or trying to escape from the thoughts in their head. They lived a life of varied compulsions and endless seeking. And while they were successful by culture’s standards, they were dissatisfied with their life, and often depressed.

As we worked together, something started to change in how they met life. The compulsive need to “go mental” shifted as, over time, they learned that they could bring attention into their body and feel, instead of automatically turning to escape habits or thought strategies. It was slowly becoming their reality that being in their body was a far safer place to be than trapped in their “hamster-wheel mind“ looking for solutions to problems that thoughts would never be able to solve.

“What if, as a child, I was taught or guided to feel, instead of immediately look for solutions”, they pondered. “What if I had learned to spend even just a moment on feeling before jumping into looking for possible solutions or engaging in harmful actions?”

They had been discovering first hand that there were feelings under all the “hamster-wheel thoughts” that simply wanted to be felt. These feeling had always seemed like “too much” but with practice and guidance, were actually quite safe to be with. They had just needed to experientially learn that their body was indeed safe to feel. This opened up the world to them, and shifted their perspective with themself. What had been sentiments of self-loathing and shame slowly transformed into feelings of compassion and acceptance.

 

 It gets complicated, real fast

  • When we don’t know how to be with what we’re experiencing and feeling, we don’t know how to value it.
  • If we don’t have worth with what we’re experiencing and feeling, we can’t value or find worth in ourselves.
  • When we can’t value ourselves, we can’t love ourselves.

Ouch.

We look for value and love elsewhere – anywhere. And when we can’t find it from another person or people, we often numb ourselves, because we’re wired to feel love and it is painful to be separated from love.

This pain makes it even harder to be in our bodies, and so we continue to try to escape into our minds or away from discomfort.

 

What a predicament

Sure, it sounds good – to not have to live in one’s head most of the time. But it’s not that easy. In fact, it’s down right hard when we’ve been raised to value thought over feeling, or when we’ve never made friends with our feeling body. And it becomes even more difficult when we have pain in our bodies that overwhelms us every time we get close to it.

 

Good news!

The good news is that there are simple practices that can help you to slowly learn that it is safe to connect with your body. We can learn new ways of being that will shift the old neural pathways and the habits associated with them, into new healthy and loving habits[1].

The journey to loving ourselves requires us to get to know ourselves, bit by bit, and there are simple practices that we can participate in to facilitate and foster that.

If you’re interested and willing to engage in some new practices, read on and find out for your self[2] what’s possible!

 

Beginning by honoring your uniqueness

Everyone is in their own place on this journey of being human. Some of these practices will be comfortable and easy, while others may be awkward and uncomfortable.  Some of the practices may not feel right for you, some may stretch you in a good way, and others will feel perfect.

Making these recognitions is part of the journey to self-love.  It’s necessary to know what your nervous system and body likes and dislikes. It’s important to be able to acknowledge when something feels useful for your well-being, and when something feels harmful. It is loving to honor that recognition, and move forward accordingly.

Forcing yourself to do something that increases a sense of overwhelming pain or brings about more anxiety is not self-love. Yes, push your edge a bit, but love is not aggressive or violent.

 

If you want different experiences, try living differently

Some of these invitations may seem useless or nonsensical or even stupid.  We often want things to make sense and to know why we’re doing things, but sometimes we have to be willing to just play and experiment. Entering into a space of “don’t know” or “beginners’ mind” has been and continues to be a very practical and wise approach for me, and I invite you to lean into that space.

Treating each moment as new yields the ability to discern that each moment really is different. Meeting life with child-like wonder and curiosity yields a life that feels more wonderful and curiosity-filled. As much as possible, bring new eyes and ears into your experimental playtime. Your neural pathways will thank you for it!

 

Safe places, safe spaces, safe practices sometimes hide in the simple

In my experience it is practical and revolutionary to name places, practice and other things that increase a sense of safety in my unique being. Learning those increases your relationship with yourself and in turn supports you in developing a sense of love with yourself.

Simple things often go over looked. Everyone is different, but here are some possibilities where simplicity may live in relation to your body:

  • The area of the feet
  • The fingers or hands
  • The arm pits
  • The pelvic floor
  • The rhythmic movement of the breath
  • The buttocks on the chair
  • Receiving of sound
  • The tongue lying in the mouth
  • Air moving through the nostrils
  • Air on the skin

Find areas of your body that are easy to rest with, and spend time there as resonates for you. Bring curiosity to these areas. The invitation is to curiously and gently place attention on areas of our body so as to increase the sense of friendliness and safety we have with our bodies.

Discovering simple practices that feel good, and that at the same time are healthy for your nervous systems/bodies, are instrumental in creating a loving relationship with your self.

Here are some of mine. Yours will likely be different, but I share them as examples.

  • Heat: hot beverages, baths, showers, water bottles, etc are very fondly received by my nervous system. Your nervous system may appreciate cold temperatures, or a mixture of hot and cold. Honor your uniqueness.
  • Walks outside
  • Listening and watching birds and squirrels from inside my house
  • Listening to music, depending on my mood
  • Smelling certain scents, either through flowers, candles or essential oils
  • Playing with animals at the animal shelter
  • playing with my cats
  • Watching TV shows that touch my heart or make me laugh
  • Journaling
  • Taking supplements and eating food which support my nervous system
  • Sleep and/or naps and/or lying down
  • Being mindful of my electronic use
  • Reading – different kinds of genres depending on my needs of the moment
  • Speaking or connecting with friends or support systems.
  • Exercise of some kind

Identifying safe places is useful to. Do you like to spend time in certain chairs? Do you like a particular park? Do you like to hang out in the bath tub? Be curious about what you naturally gravitate towards, and utilize the wisdom of your body in knowing what it enjoys or appreciates.

 

Slowing down, noticing  

We live in a fast-paced, complicated culture. Slowing down, getting curious and simplifying are essential in deepening your relationship with yourself and in learning how to love yourself.

What if we slowed down, paused, and took a moment to be here, right now?

Yes, right now, right here. No, really, right now.

  • After reading this sentence, let your eyes gently close, feel your body in the chair (or wherever you are situated), take a breath, and take a moment to notice what is going on in your direct experience right this very moment.

Are you able to notice what is here, right now, without judging or critiquing? Our brains are geared towards contrasting and comparing, evaluating and assessing. It’s perfectly normal to judge or critique, AND it is useful to know when we are doing that. It is also useful to play and experiment with observing our direct experience without an assessing narrative.

The present moment, direct experience, is filled with objective, neutral happenings. Qualities and attributes are noticed for what they are, but not judged for being what they are. For example, in direct experience I may notice the hardness of my chair on my back, cold air on my face, and a gripping sensation in my jaw. Those things are “factually occurring” so to speak. The mental thoughts about the direct experience come outside of direct experience – judgments, resistance, or narrative arguments about the hardness, cold and/or gripping.

Being aware of the difference between direct experience and the thoughts about direct experience can help you to know yourself – particularly how the brain and thought structures work.  Which brings us to inquiry.

 

Inquiry; asking curious questions without an agenda

Learning how to inquire into our experience (for example, recognizing if we’re connecting with direct experience or the thoughts about direct experience) can help us immensely in getting to know our self and make friends with our self.

Transformative inquiry is an art that gets developed through practice. It begins by pausing, and asking simple, factual questions about your experience.

  • How is it to be sitting in this chair? Said another way, what is being experienced as I’m sitting in this chair?

We can ask simple, straightforward questions like this throughout our day. Our mind may quickly make these questions complicated, so it’s good to be aware of how fast that typically happens. After spotting the mind’s tendency to complicate things, play with gently and curiously returning to something very simple, practical and somewhat factual that is happening in your direct experience. The invitation is not to stop the tendencies of the mind, but to re-connect over and over and over to curious and gentle looking so that we may notice our direct experience without the burden of critique.

 

Somatic practices

We can start to safely know our body by including our body in our simple inquiries and including our bodies into our field of attention.

  • Start slow, gentle and curious.
  • Ask questions into your “now experience” that include aspects of your body’s experience. (See the chair example above)
  • Steer your attention towards simple, easy and safe
  • Keep returning to simple, over and over.
  • Play and practice for short periods of time at first.

Play and experiment with what is already here, with what you are already doing. Simple inquiry can be introduced into activities that you habitually do. You can bring simple inquiry into washing the dishes, for example – spending more attention on the experiences of your hands, arms, legs, feet, butt and breath. Most of us do habitual behaviors like washing the dishes, going to the bathroom/taking a shower, or driving while on “auto pilot”, absorbed in our thoughts. Play with being aware of your body’s direct experiences instead of getting lost in your thoughts.

 

Noticing more, changing habits

Continue to bring simple inquiry and noticing into more activities of your life. After starting with simple and neutral activities (like washing the dishes or watching television), gently start to include bringing inquiry into more challenging or complex terrain. Take time to notice how fast the mind creates meaning from what you’re seeing, thinking, and experiencing. Invite your attention to routinely connect and reconnect (over and over) to the aspects of your experience as applicable.

Ask yourself questions, including:

  • What am I seeing?
  • What am I thinking?
  • What am I smelling
  • What am I touching
  • What am I feeling
  • What energies or visceral sensations are present?

Ask the questions from simplicity, without analysis or even to get a decisive answer. Be curious. Invite your attention to zoom in, and know the intricacies you are experiencing. Invite your attention to zoom out, and notice the wider space in which things are happening. Continue to practice noticing if you are in direct experience, or being drawn into analysis and evaluation. Remind yourself that this is a practice, and learning is happening. There is no arrival or destination.

Continue to ask curious, gentle questions:

  • Am I judging myself?
  • What is it like when I judge myself?
  • Can I allow the judging, but also gently bring some attention to something simple that is here? Be open to the answer being yes or no, or maybe some yes and some no.
  • Can I curiously rest in that which is simple? Be open to the answer being being yes or no, or maybe some yes and some no.
  • Is it time to stop inquiring and do something else?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Imagine you are a scientist and you are your own science experiment. Discover what you notice. Listen to yourself. If possible, don’t try to change what you discover, simply notice it. Honor what feels nourishing for you along the way. Be aware of the flavors of kindness and self-love. Notice the flavors that don’t feel loving or kind. Adjust accordingly.

 

Final contemplations

What if we could see that that we incessantly try to figure things out because we haven’t learned that there is a different way to be? What if we understood that we turn to the mind, because we haven’t learned that it is safe to turn towards what exists below the chin?  What if we knew that self-love is something that exists in our relationship with our self and is something we can learn? I invite you to ponder these questions. I invite you to come up with your own questions as you engage in some of the practices I share, and come up with new practices of your own creation.

I hope that this blog post has helped you connect with your life in new ways[3]. When a person experiments with their experience, magic often happens (ie their neural pathways change, which means other things change!). As you practice getting to know yourself, you will discover what feels supportive and evolutionary, what feels loving, and what does not. I’d love to hear what you discover!

 

 

[1] It takes neural pathways anywhere from 18 to 164 days to shift, so repetitive engagements with new practices increase sustained shifts.

[2] I am assuming that you have a sense of inner resourcing and agency. These practices are meant to gently bring you into a deeper relationship with yourself, and are not a replacement for direct care. If you are in crisis, or in need of medical care, please pursue specialized or 1:1 support.

[3] There is much else to be said. Feel free to check out other past blogs posts as I share practical information in almost every blog post. I also have free audios available and a youtube channel with some instructive videos. Lastly, check out www.thelivinginquiries.com for lots of audio and video resourcing.

 

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

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.