829th Week: The Imaginal Realm
I’m sure I’ve written about this many times, but here I go again. Where we focus our attention, what we think about, how we engage our imagination has a powerful impact on the quality of our inner life and on how we behave and act in our world. What we attend to matters. What we imagine matters.
This week I want to share some thoughts about engaging what’s called the “imaginal realm”. When we enter the imaginal realm, we aren’t engaging something “imaginary”. Instead, we touch into a kind of language or communication that uses visual and other sensory impressions rather than strings of words. Our culture tends not to privilege awareness that operates in the imaginal realm and yet it’s one of the most powerful creative forces we have available to us.
For example, spend a moment right now bringing into awareness either an image of some beautiful place you’ve been—a place that touched you deeply, or recall a sound, fragrance, or sensation that moves you in a way that is meaningful to you. Since images are my main language in this realm, I often “see” trees that have touched me, such as the giant Sequoia I’m imagining right now. This image generates a powerful felt-sense of awe and heart-filling expansion, with my whole body-mind responding to the memory of the presence of this magnificent tree. Or, I might bring into awareness an image of one of the cats who live with me doing something amusing, something that fills me with delight and touches my heart, as well as generating a smile and a chuckle.
We know from science that our brains register imaginal experience in much the same way as actual lived experience, creating a full experience in the body (sensations) and psyche (emotional and mental states). The only difference is that these experiences and awareness arise and unfold in the imaginal realm.Read More “829th Week: The Imaginal Realm”
875th Week: Finding Steadiness While Honoring Painful Feelings
For those of us in the United States, it’s been a challenging time, as it has also been in Ukraine and many other parts of the world. There is abundant human suffering and for many of us it is a challenge to know how to keep our hearts open when there are so many heartbreaking events unfolding. There are also events that generate outrage and/or despair, and these feelings demand our attention and awareness, as well.
I have a deep respect for our wholeness, where nothing can be left out of the complexity of our experiences, feelings, responses, and reactions to our world and what is happening in it. For this week’s practice, I’d like to offer a brief guided meditation to support being present to everything that you feel about what is going on in your world.
- To begin, take a moment to settle in where you can sit comfortably and remain alert and aware with your eyes closed.
- Notice the supportive presence of your body and also the presence of the support under you right now. Notice how your body receives this support and recognize that, for right now, there’s nothing you have to do or change. There’s just an invitation to be present to this meditation experience.
- Next, notice the place in you where you automatically settle when you follow the next out-breath down to the bottom of the breath. Most often, this place of arriving is where you also find your core presence.
- Here, in this place of core presence, there is a steadiness that is always present. It is an aspect of your wholeness that is never disturbed. It is always just what it is—steady.
- Take a few moments to become aware of this fundamental steadiness and allow yourself to resonate with it. Notice how the effect on your body and psyche when you take time to experience this steadiness—a place in you that is never disturbed. Let yourself fill up with the quality of steadiness.
- Whether you experience the steadiness as a sensation, a color, a sound—however it represents itself, fill yourself up with this quality. Imagine that you fill every particle of your body-mind being with it.
- Next, bring your awareness to your heart space. Place a hand on your heart to offer support and notice how you feel as you bring your awareness to your heart. Whatever is there, offer the support of your hand and just be with the feelings that may arise.
- A key here is to also bring along your awareness of the underlying steadiness of your core presence, the steadiness that is always there, that is never disturbed.
- Make room for both—whatever it is your heart feels and also the steadiness that fills your body-mind being.
- If you feel grief, anger, fear, despair—whatever arises, give it some time to move through you as you recognize that countless other people in the world right now feel exactly the same way. Honor and acknowledge the feeling as it moves through and notice what it’s like not to add anything else to it. It may come with its own words or sounds. Let it be what it is without ramping it up with added thoughts or words.
- Take some time now just to be present to your wholeness, to the truth of all that you feel, keeping in your awareness that the steadiness that is never disturbed is like a container for your wholeness right now. Also notice your hand as it supports your heart and recognize that you offer yourself the gift of your presence, of an acceptance of all that you feel, an acceptance of your wholeness.
- End this meditation orienting to the steadiness, allowing it to come into the foreground. Lean into it and feel its support in whatever ways make sense to you. It is always there in the background of your awareness. You can return to it, drawing it into the foreground in any moment you choose to do so.
- When you’re ready to come back, open your eyes if you haven’t already, wiggle your fingers and toes, and take a moment to allow your eyes to land on something that your eyes really enjoy seeing.
As with all these practices, please remember 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 with or about them.
These are times when our practices are very important companions along the way, as we are challenged in countless ways. Remember that in our wholeness we have everything we need to remain steady. It’s a matter of noticing what is in the foreground of awareness in any moment and that if we feel overwhelmed we have the ever-present steadiness to turn to, to draw on, as needed. It’s a powerful and useful resource to cultivate, so I recommend that you practice orienting to your underlying steadiness so it will be there when you need to bring it into the foreground of your awareness.
712th Week: Meeting Fear with Your Heart
There is no question that we live in a time of intense crisis and disruption. I think of the indigenous prophecies I have heard about this time and the one that constantly comes to mind is about how we are in the darkest time of a “dark age”. I don’t remember where I heard it, but it may be a Hopi prophecy or from some other indigenous nation and, when I heard it, it struck me that being at the apex of a “dark age” implies that there will eventually be a swing into a new cycle.
At this moment in time, and this possibly feels more extreme because we are globally connected via the Internet and are much more aware of what’s happening in other places on our planet, it seems that fear has become an even stronger driving force behind much human interaction and activity. It’s not the whole picture by any means, but it seems to be what is in the foreground of awareness much of the time. Read More “712th Week: Meeting Fear with Your Heart”
877th Week: Cultivating Kindness As a Habit of Mind
I’ve been reading a lot about social justice lately, as well as the challenges of moving out of the assumptions and institutions of white supremacy. The process has been yet another reminder of the importance and impact of unexamined perceptions and beliefs. I’ve written many times about engaging in acts of kindness and my recent reading has brought to the foreground of awareness the importance of cultivating and orienting to thoughts and self-talk focused on and arising from kindness.
Our habits of mind matter more than we may realize. In a sense, they are a form of ongoing self-hypnosis through which we program ourselves and emit the quality and tone of awareness and being that characterize how we move through the world and how we feel about, and treat, ourselves. The goal of the following practice isn’t to create an internal battle, argument, or conflict when noticing the unkind thoughts and actions that we may do without awareness. Because I have such a deep belief in wholeness, I understand that there will always be things arising in me that I may not enjoy experiencing, but they are part of an unbroken wholeness that is true of everyone.
Many times, I’ve written about the foreground/background dynamic of our wholeness. Sometimes something pops into the foreground of our thinking or behaving that we don’t particularly like, something that arises as one of the habits of mind that comes with years of conditioning. The good news is that anything that pops into the foreground can be invited into the background and replaced by something we would rather experience and/or express. It’s a matter of cultivating the kind of awareness that can compassionately notice when we’ve gone off track and that can then gently call us back to ourselves.Read More “877th Week: Cultivating Kindness As a Habit of Mind”
755th Week: Choosing Frequencies
In this time of intense social and global activation and distress, it behooves each one of us to be mindful not only of our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, but also to keep in mind that, in a collective sense, our way of being in the world matters. Here’s a quotation I recently posted on the Devadana Sanctuary page, and it got me to thinking about how we manage what becomes our contribution to the collective referred to:
“The world we are experiencing today is the result of our collective consciousness, and if we want a new world, each of us must take responsibility for helping create it.”
~ Rosemary Fillmore
One of the most basic practices that can make a difference in the quality of our internal life is to notice what we orient to in our thoughts and feelings, and what “frequencies” we tune into as we move through the day. For example, if you orient your self-talk and day-dreaming toward worry, you are—in a sense—dialing in the quality of “worry”, connecting with it not only in your own imagination but also in the collective worry carried by us all as a collective consciousness.Read More “755th Week: Choosing Frequencies”