Home » Blog » self-love

Tag: self-love

Seven Tips for Self-Inquiry by Scott Kiloby

By Scott Kiloby.

  1. Simplify thoughts down to either words or pictures. If you look into your experience, you can see that thoughts arise in one of two different ways—either as words or as pictures. Words are literally things, such as “Scott” or “I am a victim.” Pictures are mental images, such as the memory of sitting yesterday and feeling alone, or the picture of a body part or a knot. It is good to see the difference between words and pictures. Notice exactly which of these is arising to give you the sense of a separate person. It may also be helpful to frame the particular words or pictures. For example, imagine the words “I’m miserable most of the time” inside a picture frame in your mind, or on a road sign. Stare right at the words. Keep looking straight at the words, and then ask, “Are these words me, the victim?”
  2. Refrain from trying to answer the question “Is this me?” intellectually. Don’t think about your answer. Don’t analyze the question. Don’t refer to other parts of your story to find the answer. Just look directly at whatever is appearing, by itself, whether it’s a set of words, a picture, or an energy. Look at it in the same way you would look at a color without naming it—directly, with bare naked observation. From that direct observation, ask, “Is this me, the victim?” Intellectually, you may understand that words or a picture are not the person (victim). But these inquiries have nothing to do with an intellectual understanding. When you are looking at words or pictures, pay attention to your body. Notice when the body reacts with an emotion or a sensation. This is the body’s way of letting you know that, on some level, you believe that you are those words or that picture.
  3. Keep your answer to the question “Is this me?” to a simple yes or no. Don’t add detailed analysis to the answer. For example, if you are truly a victim, and if that victim is here, present in and as your body and your mind, then it shouldn’t be hard for you to find it. You should be able to find it right away, in your direct, present experience, without the need for elaboration. Take the example of looking for a pair of shoes in a closet. If you pick up a shirt, there is no need to give five reasons why the shirt is not the pair of shoes. You know that it isn’t the pair of shoes. No elaboration is needed; you just keep looking for the shoes. Treat this inquiry the same way. Stick to simply trying to find the person, with a simple yes or no.
  4. Remember that you’re looking for the person, not for evidence of the person, or for thoughts that point to the person, or for parts of the person. During the inquiry, it may seem as if every set of words, every picture, and every energy you encounter is “part of” the person, is evidence of the person, or is pointing to the person. Don’t settle for this kind of thinking. Go deeper. Look for the person itself. If all these temporary things point to it, then where are you—the real, permanent, separate, actual victim? If all words describe it, then where are you? If these appearances are merely part of it, then where are you? The you—the actual victim—is what you’re looking for. That’s what is unfindable when you look for it directly instead of thinking about it. For example, if you’re looking for the victim you take yourself to be, then it may seem as if the words “Life treats me unfairly” are part of the victim. Forget about finding parts. Look for the victim itself. Are the words “Life treats me unfairly” you—the actual victim? That’s the proper question. We often assume that these kinds of thoughts are describing or pointing to an actual, inherent victim that is really there, underneath the thoughts. To prove that the victim is not there, underneath the thoughts, just drop—relax—any thoughts that seem to describe or point to the victim. Notice that if you relax these thoughts, you can’t find the victim when you’re directly looking for it. But you can’t find it when the thoughts are there, either. You find only thoughts, one after another—no actual victim.
  5. If you’re looking at words or at a picture, and if the words or the picture seem to be the person, then this always means that there is some energy, some sensation or emotion, arising with the words or the picture. If the body reacts in any way to the question “Are these words me, the victim?” just say, “Yes, this is me.” Then bring your bare attention immediately into the body, and experience the energy directly, letting it be exactly as it is, without trying to change it or get rid of it. If you find your mind labelling the emotion or sensation with words such as “sadness” or “contraction,” ask yourself, “Is the word ‘sadness’ me, the victim? Is the word ‘contraction’ me?” If not, then relax all words and pictures for a few seconds, and experience the energy without any words. Simply rest with the raw sensory experience itself. And then ask, “Is this energy, by itself, me, the victim?” If you see that it is not the person, then let it be as it is, without trying to change it or get rid of it. This frees up the energy to move and change naturally, and it often dissolves. But the point is not to try to get rid of anything. That’s just more seeking. The point is to see that the energy is not the person. Once you see that no words, no picture, and no energy is the person, it no longer matters as much whether these things arise. Any appearance can come and go, yet the victim is never found. This allows the story and the emotions to quiet naturally and effortlessly. Suffering, seeking, and conflict show up in our experience from our unconscious belief that these appearances form a separate person.
  6. If an energy—that is, an emotion or sensation—in the body seems to be the person, this always means that there are words, pictures, or both words and pictures arising along with the energy. If this happens, notice the words or pictures that are coming up with the energy. Then look directly at those words or pictures and ask, “Is this me, the victim?” An energy seems like the person only when words or pictures are arising along with it. Pay particular attention to those subtle mental pictures, such as images of body parts and other forms and shapes in the body, that appear to contain certain emotions and sensations. If you see a picture when you’re experiencing energy, then ask whether that picture, by itself, is the person. For example, is this picture of a knot the victim? You can even imagine a frame around the image, if that will help you see that it is only a mental picture, not a person. Observe the picture directly until it begins to change on its own or disappear. As you see that these are just mental pictures, and that they are not the person, the pictures tend to change or disappear on their own. Even if they stick around, it won’t matter as much, once you see that they are not the victim. Don’t skip the mental pictures that may arise around emotions and sensations. They are very important in these inquiries.
  7. See that words, pictures, and energy are not actually welded together. When you think you are a separate person, notice that words, pictures, and energy seem welded together. For example, when the words “I’m a victim” arise, it can feel as if the emotion of sadness is welded together with the words, and that a picture of the stomach, for example, is welded together with the words and the sadness. All three appear at once, as if Velcro were holding them together. This is called the Velcro effect. Really pick apart the words, pictures, and energies, and for each one, each time, ask, “Is this me, the victim?” This is a powerful way to untangle the experience of words, pictures, and energy being welded together. When you’re not able to find the person in any one of these words, pictures, or energies, and when you allow these appearances just to be as they are, you undo the Velcro effect, and your suffering is released.

To read more about Scott Kiloby, click here.

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.

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.

Where Inner and Outer Worlds Meet

By Paul Galewitz.  

I had grown very tired of my own inner dialogue concerning world events. I had and still have my own beliefs around what’s going on in the U.S., and these beliefs tend to range from dark to darker. My inner state was spilling over into my overall demeanor, and that was what I was growing so weary of. There is no telling when this particular brand of madness will end, but I needed to check out what was going on inside me, so as to bring some equilibrium and balance into my life despite what is swirling around in my head.

That morning, my wife asked me if I knew what was underneath the magnetic quality of my own attachment to my beliefs. I didn’t know, so I decided to find out.

With the help of a very gifted and patient facilitator, (Helen Luce) I finally sat down and checked out what was going on inside my gut. Most of the sensation was located in my gut, as many of my more intense sensations seem to be. At a certain point, after inquiring into many words and sensations, I was presented with a visual of what was going on. I could actually see a mesh-like field that was a representation of this magnetic quality and attachment that drew me into this swirl of current events. Now comes the humbling part. This mesh was my wanting to be right about these events, what was driving them and how they would play out.

And what was even below this mesh-like field of attachment to being right? Fear. There was a small ball of fear at the very core of my gut. At the time, I didn’t know what this fear was about, just that as I thanked it for being there, and offering it to stay as long as it liked, it didn’t seem to want to leave. So I have continued to allow for its presence, not wishing it away, but becoming more aware of it as I go about my days. As I write this, I can feel it stirring, and I can feel its primal nature.

Paradoxically, as I sat with all this later on that day, I realized that seeing this about myself made me more compassionate towards myself and others. Wanting to be right seems to be the ego’s prime directive, and in that we are all in the same boat. It’s a good reminder not to be negatively judgmental towards myself, as I simply carry that into my experience of “others.”

So has my inner work made any difference in the world? I have no idea. In fact, I really have no idea what is going on in the world, despite all the opinions racing through my noggin. I’m actually tired of thinking that I know what’s going on. I can say it has made a big difference in my own inner world. There is more space and openness in my inner environment. I am quieter inside. That alone made this exercise worth doing.

When these strong feelings arise within, I consider it an act of self-love to give them their due, invite them in and ask them some “mining” questions if called for. It’s the resisting them that causes suffering.

Life seems impossibly poignant right now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

To read more about Paul Galewitz, click here.