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Being Alone

By Sumitra Burton.  

This little word “alone” can be terrifying, perhaps second only to the word “death.” We naturally feel threatened by these ideas of being alone in life or of dying. And sometimes the sense of being alone feels worse than death. Also there can be a big difference between feeling alone and feeling lonely. Often after sitting for a while in deep rest or meditation, there’s a sense of aloneness that is very peaceful. 

And, of course, during this pandemic time for many the sense of being alone and/or lonely is greatly exaggerated. Those of us who live alone have been spending much more time by ourselves than ever before and many of us will even spend the winter holidays alone. It can be easy to sink into a space of feeling separate, alone and lost.

In more normal times I have inquired into this idea of aloneness a number of times for myself, and have facilitated sessions with others who have felt plagued by the thought of it on an ongoing basis. A sense of separation from others and from life itself can freeze us to our core, making life feel unbearable at times. We may feel exiled from life and nourishment. 

Our first strategy is often to look outside ourselves for the connection we so deeply crave. The problem with that, of course, is that the relief we find outside ourselves is temporary and dependent on others.

What’s the worst that could happen if I were truly alone? I’d have to care for myself, to find relief and connection inside myself. There would be no one to give it to me from the outside, to hold or to save me. I might feel frozen and terrified. I would have to face that gripping sense of emptiness inside myself.

Can I take a moment to feel that emptiness just now? What’s it like?

It feels like a hollow void in the center of my body – just above the belly (solar plexus area), very intense and with a strong grip. When I sit with the sensation and feel into it, images arise of past experiences of being “left alone” by others, rejected, abandoned, etc. I look at each image to see if they prove I’m alone. I can see they’re simply images from the past and hold no threat in this moment.

As I notice that sensation of the hollow void in my center just now, I say to it, Thank you for arising, I feel you; you are welcome to stay as long as you need. This helps me to relax and turn towards the sensation. Sitting a while with a sense of embracing this hollow void and allowing it to be as it is encourages it to soften a bit.

When I look at the word “alone” and listen to the sound of it spoken aloud, it seems a little less threatening now. I take a few moments to come to a sense of rest and take a few deep breaths.

I check to see if anything is left of the sensation. I say aloud, I am not alone, and check in with my body to see if there’s any resistance there, anything that seems to argue with those words. 

An image comes of me as a little child wanting to be held by my mother when she was busy doing something else. I welcome this little child to be with me in this moment, and imagine holding her on my lap, with full attention. She seems surprised to be acknowledged, and cuddles up, loving the attention. You are welcome to stay as long as you need, I tell her softly. 

How amazing to find that I can hold my own aloneness and allow it to be felt so deeply inside. “Alone” tends to melt into a feeling of “all-one.” There is no lack of connection now. Nothing else is needed than simply holding the sensation, listening to its words, and feeling deep compassion for its sense of separation or lack of connection. And in that holding and listening, real connection is experienced and the gripping sense of emptiness loosens. Nothing outside is needed after all. 

Turning towards my fear, being willing to hold it while it reveals its sorrow, feels magical. Welcoming what once seemed terrifying – to come home, to be held and heard – allows a real sense of connection. I can rest here now, with this sense of relaxed connection.

Old and more frightening experiences can certainly be more difficult to inquire into than this simple example, but the process is generally the same. There are times when it’s helpful to have a facilitator hold the space for us, while we gradually learn to inquire on our own. 

And also, it’s important to find ways during this pandemic time to connect with others in safe ways.

 

To read more about Sumitra Burton, click here.

Scum Of The Earth!

By Sumitra Burton.  

My first thought upon waking when I was sick recently was, SCUM OF THE EARTH!

It had been a way-too-short sleep in a series of similar nights due to being ill with a sinus infection, and I felt wretched. The words “scum of the earth” seemed to describe me in that moment. I recognized this as a perfect time to take a few minutes to sit and rest and take note of all that was coming up.

I’m really Angry! Nothing is going right!

I can hardly breathe….

I don’t really like her (a friend).

I can’t swim (pool is closed because of the virus).

Some of my kids are struggling financially.

I’m still overweight – even more now that I have to be home all the time.

It’s hard to meditate, because it’s so hard to breathe just now.

My back is twisted and needs an adjustment, and because of the virus, I can’t have treatments.

Everything’s wrong – I’m Really Angry!

Scum of the earth….

And so I sat, first of all to simply rest and allow everything to be felt and heard. I took all the words and – in my imagination – placed them tenderly into a basket. I sat with the basket full of words and felt the grumbling in my belly and the pangs in my heart.

Thank you for arising, I love you; you are welcome to stay as long as you need. This welcoming phrase allowed the softening to begin, the tender holding of all the feelings, with no need to change anything; just to hold them was all that was needed.

Of course you feel miserable, my darling (self). You can’t sleep long enough to be refreshed, and you can’t breathe properly. It’s okay to simply feel it all, to allow it all to be exactly as it is.

Tears flowed. Letting go, surrendering into the misery. No need to change it; simply holding it all. I could see the basket with all the thoughts carefully held in it. I allowed my arms to feel as if holding the basket – tenderly and with loving compassion. I’m here with you….

Gradually a sense of release began to be felt and the sense of the words began to shift:

I’m so grateful for the quiet times allowed by this stay-at-home order.

My home is comfortable and my yard with a canal and fountain in the back offers me space to exercise and breathe the fresh air and listen to the soothing sound of water splashing.

The baby plants I have started from seed on my deck call to me, to be tended and loved.

I am free to choose which friends I wish to have contact with, when to be quiet and when to connect with others.

I have enough money just now for the simple blessings of food and shelter and some extra to share.

As long as I don’t get the virus, I’ll probably live through this difficult time. And if I don’t, at least the struggle to breathe will be over!

All these words I added to the basket. I sat some more with the basket of thoughts and felt the peace of being able to accept and hold it all – for better and for worse. All part of the vast human experience.

A sense of Peace gradually came from the willingness to face and experience all these feelings that simply needed to be heard and felt, to be held. As I stayed with the peace and allowed it to seep into every cell of my body and mind, a gradual relaxation followed, into what felt like Love. I remained with this sense of Love for a while longer, taking it in deeply.

Renewed, I was ready to meet my day.

To read more about Sumitra Burton, click here.

How Full Is Your Well?

By Lisa Meuser.

Almost daily, I journey with clients who are beating themselves up during these Covid-19 times for not being more productive, so I thought I’d write a little about it.

I think it’s worthwhile to consider why we might not be as productive as we think we should be. I think it’s useful to be reflective and ask ourselves questions…

  • What do we need in order to be productive?
  • What helps us to be able to be productive?
  • What gets in our way or diminishes our abilities to be productive?
  • Why does it matter to us if we’re being productive?
    and
  • How full is our internal well?While I love the terrain of the first questions, I’m mainly going to be focusing on that last question: How full is our internal well?

For most of the individuals that I’m speaking with, we have noticed that before COVID-19 came around, their well was already dry, or mostly dry. This is really common because we live in a culture that overworks, that over-thinks, that over-demands, and underneath it all, doesn’t value self-connection, self-awareness, self-love, nor the nourishment of our hearts, our minds, and our bodies. In fact, many in our culture won’t even have the luxury of considering their internal well.

When our wells are dry and then a pandemic strikes, we might immediately ask ourselves: “is this really the right time to think or expect ourselves or others to be productive? Does that really make sense?”  While it’s hard to counter those dominant narrative[1] thoughts that we hear all day in our own heads, and from the collective, it’s essential for our well-being that, if we are able[2], we slow down and ask ourselves questions.

Again I ask, “When our wells are dry and then a pandemic strikes, is that really the right time to think or expect ourselves or others to be productive? Does that really make sense?” Or, might it be a time to instead slow down and acknowledge that our well is empty, and first we need to, at least, begin to fill it. Perhaps it would be a radical act to get clear and name this, if at all possible, before we take on anymore: we need to tend to our depleted wells.

Yep, I know, easier said than done – those internalized, dominant narrative thoughts are strong, and scarcity fears and realities are intense at the moment. But, if you are someone who is wondering why they’re not more productive in this time, and if you are able to slow down… I invite you to ask yourself how full your well has been. Was it full before Covid 19? Was it full for a year leading up to Covid 19? Has it ever been full? If your well has not been full, please know this isn’t your fault. Please don’t think it’s one more thing to beat yourself up about. This is an outcome of the systemic, dominant narrative that we are all a part of that ignores our wells.

If you are beating yourself up for not being productive, or for having an empty well, I have an experiment for you. If you are able, choose to consciously decide to not be productive in all the ways. See what is possible to walk away from for a few weeks. Put the X away. Put Y aside. Acknowledge that this just isn’t the time. Give yourself permission not to be productive as you think you should be, knowing that any other expectation would just be a set up for more self-judgement. Additionally, give yourself permission to ask for help from friends, family, and/or from local service providers who are working in mutual aid.

As you put X aside, take up this curious question: what is it that fills your well, just even a little bit? What happens as you put aside X, and take up Z instead?? I took this question to heart. Slowing down to connect to the micro within moments, has been filling my well – watching the beak of a bird eating bird seed, examining the unfolding of a leaf or flower bud with my eyes and nose, experiencing a micro movement of breath within a breath, watching the tongue of my cat, feeling the aches of my heart, the growth in my garden, hearing the witty and wise comments out of my daughter’s mouth, taking part in community meditations, listening to the movements of leaves, the sound of feet on the floor…   All of these various “Z”s have been contributing to my well. What about you?

If your well is not full, the time of a pandemic is not the time to push yourself, judge yourself, pressure yourself into being a more productive human being. Instead, if you are able, gift your mind, your heart, and your entire being, the nourishment needed to let your well begin to fill[3].

When your well begins to start to fill again, it may be the time to take on some of the questions I posed at the beginning: What do you need in order to be productive? What helps you to be able to be productive? What gets in your way or diminishes your ability to be productive? Why does it matter to you if we’re being productive? Once your well starts to fill again, you will be tempting to engage in the very same behaviors that empty your well, so before you do that… I invite you to go slow, and stay connected to yourself.

I came into the pandemic with my well mostly full, as I had just taken four days off with practices and people who fill my heart, mind and being. After those four days, returning back to life as I had known it was tempting – my caregiving and fixing conditioning can be loud, and the dominant narrative seductively started blasting through organizations I was a part of, through my Facebook newsfeed, and through my very own psyche as the pandemic hit full force.

Fortunately, I am committed to seeing through the destructive ways of the dominant narrative and how I partake in them, and are surrounded by others who are too, so I immediately started to ask myself the questions I posed above. I keep returning to those questions and continue exploring whenever the “productive bug” gets in my ear.

In the spirit of tending to my own well, which I am being very mindful of these days with regards to how full (or empty) it is, I will resist the urge to share more, and instead keep this blog short.

I invite you to stay curious, stay connected to your well, and reach out for support as needed. These are challenging times for most, and you do not have to muddle through it alone.

To all my survivor friends, I love you, I care about you, I see you. You are worthy just as you are. I imagine us breathing in Love together and letting that breath be enough, knowing that we too are enough, just as we are.

To read more about Lisa Meuser, click here.

[1]  I’ve written about the dominant narrative here and here

[2] Unfortunately, many may be in predicaments where, due to a variety of reasons, they do not have the time/space to slow down, ask such questions, or even consider their well.

[3] Again, it is important to acknowledge that many people will not have the privilege to consider their own well. If this is you, or someone you love, please look into your local area’s support services as many communities are forming mutual aid groups to help care for those who are in need.

Just a thought…

By Luke Hey.  

Do you know what I love? Finding new ways to inquire!

And being a facilitator of the Living Inquiries has afforded me the opportunity to find many different and interesting ways to unhook the velcro of thoughts.  I want to share with you some of these ideas to use as techniques during your own inquiry. Think of this as a tips and tricks guide to keep the mind on its toes.

I hope to write this within the context that inquiry can be used in other ways, and at other times, rather than just when we are suffering. It seems more often than not that inquiry is something to pull out when we are in the throes of suffering, rather than as an interesting perspective to see daily life.  Using inquiry in this way has some unexpected benefits, but I will let you find this out for yourself.

I am not claiming ownership for any of this, nor do I imagine that all of this is new to you. Most of the insights about this have come through self-inquiry and inquiry with clients. I am also happy if you want to comment or email and tell me what you think and what your experiences are. So without further ado, here’s the first inquiry.

Where is the ‘my’ of my hand?

When I was younger I used to stay at my aunty and uncle’s house. They have a son the same age as me and we got along very well and went to the same university and work.  Their house was much closer to both places, than my parents’ house, so I stayed there most of the week.

Now this family is a very Christian family, with very strong values and ideas about Christianity.  This was evident in the way they lived and their reference to the bible and Jesus through daily life. On Sunday evenings around the dinner table they would bring out the bible and discuss passages together as a family. It was very interesting to me, although not, I guess, for the reasons they would have hoped.  I would stop them at times, asking various (and probably very annoying) questions. Some of the ideas put forth didn’t make a lot of sense to me (and still don’t) and at the time we would have some interesting discussions.

This came to a head one evening when I asked my uncle how it is he knew there was a God. He looked at me a little exasperated, then looked around for an answer. Finally some recognition came to his face and he beamed at me. Just look around, he said. Look at your hand. And we did. He continued on about how God gave us the use of this wonderful appendix, but I had stopped listening. I had taken what he had said literally. Of course! Why couldn’t God be found in my hand! If she is somewhere here at all why not there. Needless to say, I spent lots of time from then on just staring at my hand, looking for God.

So…sitting here now, I look at my hand. It seems to be my hand but what is it that tells me that? It seems familiar, small like a hobbit’s with stubby little fingers. I recognise the lines on the palm, the fingernails. But all of these are just thoughts that come through the mind. When those thoughts fade away, what do I see? Where is the ‘my’ of my hand?

Maybe they aren’t my hands, but God’s hands.  Maybe not.  But it’s probably worth a look at least.

Just a thought…

To read more about Luke Hey, click here.

ENOUGH

By Sumitra Burton.  

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of “enough” lately. What would it take to make me feel safe on the planet, to be able to relax and feel at ease with daily life? How much money would it take? How much food? When would I feel I have given enough, that I am enough?

My parents were young during the Great Depression and learned to be very frugal, both with money and other resources. I also grew up with frugality – only so much food, a few clothes, very few luxuries ever. We didn’t waste anything. Our homes didn’t contain as many things as homes do now, and life was simpler.

I started working early in life, babysitting from age 8 and then other jobs as I learned new skills. My siblings and I were expected to buy most of our own clothes starting in middle school, and to supply our own money for entertainment, makeup, etc. Money was considered “precious” in a way – and very much respected as essential for survival.

One of my inherited beliefs has been that money is not easy to come by. And sometimes it feels like money is a kind of god in the sky, looming over me, that I am trying to appease, seeking a way to gain its attention so that my pleas for success and safety can be heard.

This morning I did a self-inquiry session in which I asked myself how I felt about my relationship with money. Right away I noticed a tightening around the surface of my belly. The word hollow was there and a corresponding sensation of hollowness in my belly, and then the words unknown / unsafe. These words resonated as true in my body – what was unknown felt unsafe. I can’t see the future; it’s all unknown and can have an unsafe quality about it when I try to imagine what the future will bring.

I live at the mercy of Life happening. Again the words brought a sense of being out of control, of not having control over my life and resources. How can I be at ease when I have no control? Therefore, the tightening of my belly was making great sense. Hold on tight, don’t let anyone convince me to let go of this tension in my belly. I could feel my belly tighten a bit more and my eyes squeeze tightly shut, as if the tightening would make me safe, hidden.

As I felt into the tightness in my belly and eyes, an image arose of the internal belly – a tan-colored box with the texture of bricks. The words alone – tight – hiding were there. I stayed with the image, and it began to change shape, almost as if it felt embarrassed to be seen, as if its fraud had been caught, simply by being seen. Staying right with the image, I watched the boundaries of it shatter and dissolve, allowing the contents to spill out into open space.

As the image dissolved, I brought my attention back to the sensation in the belly. There was no tension there now, and it felt safe to be open. I rested there for a while, absorbing the wonderful sense of safety and trust.

Out of that openness another image arose – this time a moving image of me in a meadow filled with flowers on a sunny day. I very much enjoyed the scene of gathering and tossing flowers, as if tossing/ spending money with ease and delight. No worries about whether there was enough; only a sense of ease around trusting the direction and flow of the universal order in my life. Trusting – safe – respectful were the words that resonated with the scene.

I’ve found that I can drift along for periods of time in a constant state of light anxiety around money or other issues if I don’t stop and take time to practice inquiry. Just taking a few minutes sometimes – to notice what’s here, to turn towards the feelings and words that are hanging around, to watch and listen and feel what comes up – provides the magic of returning to peace and calm, coming home inside my body. What an amazing gift. When I feel at ease, at peace, there is no question of “enough.”

 

To read more about Sumitra Burton, click here.