I ended last week’s practice with a suggestion to come back to the present moment and to this current breath as a way to manage some of the stress of this time in our collective lives.
One of the practices that I used to teach in the Somatic Experiencing® trainings was to invite people to notice how they “add fuel to the bonfires of activation”. Many of us have grown up in cultures that don’t focus on tracking how we allow our thinking to drag us hither and yon, an experience that generates enormous amounts of suffering. In this time of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s more important than ever to be able to notice when we increase our suffering by allowing our fear-generated thoughts to dominate our attention and experience.
One of the practices that can be difficult but is powerfully important is to hold the intention to come back to the present moment, to the breath you’re taking right now, and to focus awareness on this breath, on this moment. In terms of self-talk, one of the things that’s helpful to say while doing this practice is something along the lines of, “In this moment, right here and right now, I’m okay enough.”Read More “782nd Week: This Breath, This Moment”
I recently saw a brief video about a man in Brazil who, through his focus and efforts over many years, restored a rainforest to an area that had lost its vegetation and water. As I watched the video, it reminded me of something that many people think is only fantasy but that, for me, is an ever-present reality. In my mind, this man was guided by Nature’s Intelligence to plant vegetation in a process that spontaneously returned water to the region where he lives. Here’s a link to his brief, inspiring documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndWyBU9mWlM
The other thing this video brought to mind is how powerful one person’s daily commitment and activities can be. During all the years this man planted vegetation on his land, his neighbors didn’t understand why he was doing so, and yet—through his persistence in heeding the call he felt from the land—he restored an entire ecosystem one small act at a time. For me, this speaks to the ways in which each of us can play an active role in caring for, and restoring, our world. Read More “722nd Week: One Person Can Make A Difference”
For those of you who prefer a meditation with images, here’s our YouTube version of this meditation:
One of the things the Internet has given us is more access to connecting and communicating with one another. This is all to the good when the communication promotes the well-being of everyone. It becomes a problem when it allows people to feed their fears. We see this phenomenon around the world in those groups that seek to oppress or eliminate other groups of people who may be different from them or in some way represent a threat.
As a trauma specialist, this got me to thinking about how important it is to be conscious of our fears and to cultivate ways to become even more conscious of, meet, and process this powerful emotion. So much of what creates division and conflict among human beings—be they in a one-on-one relationship, a family, a community, a country—is the presence of underlying, and often unrecognized or disowned, fear.
For this week’s practice, I’d like to offer a practice that can be helpful in recognizing and dealing with the presence of fear. Fear isn’t an emotion we can eliminate because it’s an important survival response that we need throughout life. It’s essential that fear can motivate us to jump out of the way of a bus we hadn’t seen, or remind us not to walk down a dark alley alone in the middle of the night. The problem is that we are often afraid of things that aren’t threatening and, when we act on these kinds of fears, we often generate even more trauma in ourselves and others.Read More “747th Week: The Power of Fear”
900th Week: Wishing People Well (and Yourself, too!)
As our human world continues to experience polarization and suffering and, in the United States at least, a lessening of civility and empathy, I’ve been thinking about the importance of cultivating a practice of wishing people well. I find that when I move through the day wishing people well, I automatically tap into an attitude of heart-oriented awareness. When I pay attention to my heart brain and take time to listen and feel into how my heart interprets the world, I automatically feel more generous toward my fellow humans.
Media and entertainment programs so often focus on competition, problems, aggressive behaviors—on what is dramatic, and much of the time negative. Because of this, we risk developing a habit of orienting to what’s not working, what’s traumatic and upsetting, what’s nasty and contentious and we may not be aware that we are becoming accustomed to seeing life through a lens colored by these qualities.
It’s helpful to remember that we perceive what we believe, that we interpret our world based on the filter through which we experience it. When we move through the world wishing people well, we generate a filter that is more likely to orient to noticing what’s going right, noticing where we see people cooperating, helping each other, interacting in positive ways. I’ve written many times about what’s called solution-focused therapy, where people are invited to notice only what’s going right, to actively seek out what’s going right in their environment and in their lives. This generates a filter that sees even more of what’s going right, just as the more negative filter easily focuses on what’s going wrong.
This doesn’t mean to ignore things that need to be changed or fixed. It doesn’t mean that everything is fine so there’s nothing to worry about. But it does mean not to live there full-time or permanently. Taking action is an important option when we see things that we feel are unjust or just plain wrong. But to live with a perceptual filter that orients to what’s out of place, what’s dangerous, or what’s wrong tends to prevent us from noticing interactions and circumstances that are more positive in nature.
And so, for this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to explore what you experience when you move through your daily activities wishing people well—people you may pass in the street, people with whom you work, people you may encounter in the course of your daily errands or chores. Track the quality of your internal experience as you do this and notice what you feel in your body. Also notice your emotional experience and the tone and quality of your thoughts, including your self-talk.
And, be sure to include yourself in your well-wishes. This could be a whole practice by itself—orienting ourselves to self-acceptance and embracing our wholeness. Notice how you feel when you include yourself in your well-wishes. Notice what you experience when you offer yourself the quality of support that well-wishes naturally convey. Pay attention to what you experience in your body, in the tone of your self-talk, in the quality of your emotional experience when you remember to wish yourself well each day.
A more formalized way of doing this kind of practice is found in the Buddhist practice of lovingkindness, or metta. If you feel moved to do so, here are three links to a lovingkindness practice:
(I ran into a glitch here, so please google “lovingkindness practice” and you’ll find a number of lovely scripts and practices. So sorry that I can’t figure out how to offer just the links, but I can’t seem to include other URLs as part of flow of the written practice here.)
As with all these practices, be sure to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through without your having to do anything about them. And, as always, be sure to make room for mixed feelings, as they are a natural aspect of our wholeness. As you do with judgments, there’s nothing you have to do about these. The gift is to notice them gently as you continue to wish yourself well.
Here’s a recorded version of this week’s practice, if you would prefer to listen…