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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.

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.

I Want It Now! Inquiring With Cravings

By Sumitra Burton.  

When I have an intense craving for something sweet, there’s often an urgency to have it NOW! Don’t try to reason with me, don’t tell me No, don’t stand in my way! My gut is contracted, my whole body is tight and I can’t wait!

I WANT IT ….. And I WANT IT NOW!

It feels like if I don’t get that cookie right now, … what? What will happen if I don’t get it now? I might explode? I’ll have a nervous breakdown? Maybe I’ll simply die. In the moment there’s no reasoning, no reasonableness, no room for questions. Or so it seems.

And the old familiar response of going ahead and eating the cookie has created a habit that feels stuck in stone.

Where did this craving first arise in my life? When I look back to my earliest days, I realize that I was fed on a timetable as an infant – every 4 hours – not picked up if I cried before that time. My parents didn’t play with me or hold me much; Mom was always busy taking care of the house and we kids played with each other.

And my childhood happened just after the big Depression – resources were scarce, there was just a certain amount of food and it needed to be shared with the whole family, nothing extra. Food was precious.

My grandmother baked oatmeal cookies for treats when I was young, and so did my mom at times and even my dad, later on when food was less scarce (he always added peanut butter to the recipe). Comfort food. Food for special times or simply for comfort. Food with sugar that would soothe the craving for sweetness.

It’s easy to see that the patterns were laid early on for me to crave sweets when I needed comforting. Food became my great friend, my comforter. When life was uncomfortable, there was always food to turn to. And there was plenty of discomfort as a young adult, as I became divorced and a single mother.

The body remembers. It stores trauma and unquestioned beliefs in the unconscious. Inquiry brings these unresolved experiences out of the unconscious to be acknowledged, accepted and even cherished. Great power is available in these stored, unconscious energies, power that can be used for transformation once they are revealed.

I WANT IT NOW!

What if I could actually wait?

I CAN WAIT FOR FOOD (trying out the “Reverse Inquiry”).

What comes up when I hear those words, when I take them deep inside and really hear them? I CAN WAIT FOR FOOD…. Oh, maybe that’s true, come to think of it. The body relaxes and I wait, wait to see if I’m really hungry and want a cookie. For the first time in like forever.

To read more about Sumitra Burton, click here.

Two Little Fussbudgets

By Sumitra Burton.  

This morning I was facilitated in an inquiry session where I was feeling “desperate” about needing to earn more money. Old, familiar story!

There’s enough money for today, tomorrow and probably a couple of years. But what about after that? I need to earn more, to save more, to build a large savings account so I won’t be a burden to my family in my old age!

I could feel the pressure of desperation in the left side of my belly, two small balls of energy there that seemed to know this was true – that were actually pushing me to try harder, to do something more, to earn more money. I sat with these energies, the two little balls, and allowed them to be felt, with curiosity. What were they all about?

And then, there they were. I could see these two little fussbudget owls, right there in my belly (I had seen this image of the little owls online earlier in the week). I could both see and feel them, fussing around, trying to stir up some energy. The more I stayed with these little fussbudgets, the more they became like cartoon characters. I started to laugh, and so did my facilitator. Their energies were contagious – so authentically busy, and at the same time going nowhere fast.

The laughter allowed me to relax a bit, and as I brought my awareness back to my body to look for this “desperation to earn more money,” these little owl fussbudgets had softened and become quiet.

It was clear then that whenever I wanted to be a fussbudget and worry a bit about money or anything else, these little owls would be there to “fuss” with me. We could stomp around, fluff our feathers and make squeaky noises all we wanted. And when we grew tired of fussing, we’d become quiet again and rest.

Ah, the wonders of inquiry!

To read more about Sumitra Burton, click here.