902nd Week: A Practice for Healing Collective Fear

902nd Week: A Practice for Healing Collective Fear

One of the things that comes to mind just about every day, as I listen to the news, is how powerfully fear motivates actions that cause suffering to so many. It might be fear of difference, fear of losing power, fear of the “other”. Whatever the focus of fear, it can become a motivator for lashing out, tearing down, striving to get rid of or destroy that which is feared.

One of the practices I’ve used over many years now is a derivation (my own “translation” of the process) of the Buddhist practice of Tonglen. As a trauma therapist, there have been many times where I’ve sat with someone working on an overwhelming trauma and what has offered me support in staying steady and present over all these years has been this practice of Tonglen. It allows me to keep my heart open in the presence of suffering and pain and has helped me not to be overwhelmed by what clients have shared over these years.

A number of years ago, I realized that Tonglen was a beautiful example of a subtle activism practice—of a practice I could use regularly to help metabolize collective fear and hatred. When I do this practice as subtle activism, I focus on fear because of my belief that this state of being is the source of hatred, violence, and so many other ways in which we harm one another.

And so, for this week’s practice, I invite you to explore the following guided process of using Tonglen (my derivation of it) to contribute to our collective healing. If you haven’t done this kind of practice before, let me say just a few things about it. Pema Chodron, the Buddhist teacher, has wonderful material on Tonglen. You can find her in her books and on YouTube. One of the things I heard her say early on in my explorations of Tonglen is that the light of the heart is fiery and is capable of neutralizing negative energy. She has also said that the more we do this kind of practice the brighter the fiery love in our heart becomes. I have found this to be true and, at this point in my life, I deeply trust the fire in my heart to be able to neutralize or transmute negative energy.

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901st Week: The Importance of Self-Compassion and Self-Kindness

901st Week: The Importance of Self-Compassion and Self-Kindness

For many of us, the idea that we can’t truly love others until we love ourselves is a long-standing piece of advice. Lately, I’ve been hearing more about self-compassion and the research being done on it and its companion, self-kindness. When I heard someone talk about self-kindness, I began to think about how readily we will, at times, treat ourselves in ways we would never imagine treating someone else and that got me to thinking even more deeply about the importance of self-kindness. I also got to thinking about how, when we are accustomed to treating ourselves with compassion and kindness, we are more likely to automatically express these qualities to others. 

Without question, most of us walk around with a certain degree of negative self-talk going on, even when we don’t pay much attention to it. Developing a habit of orienting to self-compassion and self-kindness asks us to pay attention to our self-talk and intervene when we discover that we are treating ourselves in unkind ways, replacing critical or negative thoughts with those that reflect active expressions of self-compassion and self-kindness.

One of the things that helps support being kinder to ourselves is something I’ve written about before—the inevitability of our wholeness and the foreground/background dynamic that unfolds in our process from moment to moment. When we can accept that we have a wholeness that contains everything a human is capable of expressing or doing, we can recognize that our ongoing practice can be one of noticing how we move through the world and then learning ways to bring into the foreground of our experience those qualities and states of being that reflect and express compassion and kindness.

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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…

2022 December Meditation

2022 December Meditation

This month’s meditation, the last of the year, focuses on connecting with the frequency of inspiration. It invite us to connect with the experience of the frequency, the quality, of inspiration.

Here’s the audio version of the meditation.

Here’s the YouTube version, if you prefer to see nature images as you move through the meditation…

899th Week: Your Unique Energy Signature and the Spaces Around You

899th Week: Your Unique Energy Signature and the Spaces Around You

Whenever I begin any kind of group, I invite people to take a moment to follow the next out-breath down inside and find the place that is their natural landing place, their internal center of gravity. This is the place in us where we touch into a couple of very important aspects of ourselves. One is the steadiness that lives here. It is a steadiness that can never be disturbed. Another is arriving to an awareness of the quality and tone of our inherent core presence, the unique energy signature that we radiate throughout our bodymind being and out into the world around us in every moment, without exception.

We live in a world that appears to be solid and yet is actually comprised of an infinite variety of frequencies of energy. As Einstein says, “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. This is not philosophy. This is physics.” 

If our human senses were more attuned to these frequencies, we would be aware of ultra-violet light and color, x-rays, and so much more. We are aware of a very small range of frequencies that are present and part of our physical lives.

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898th Week: Adapting with Compassion

898th Week: Adapting with Compassion

During my morning stroll through Facebook, I came upon the following story, posted by Upworthy. As I read it, I began to think about how important and uplifting it is when we can adapt to adversity, change, or unexpected developments with new, creative, and compassionate responses. Here’s what I read on FB:

“My dad has a massive vegetable garden and it is his life. Whenever I ask how things are going, he tells me about the garden. Periodically he will text me a picture of the things he’s harvested and ask when I’m coming to pick them up. And for a while, the biggest bit of garden gossip has been his nemesis, the gopher. This gopher was consistently ruining his day by pilfering the best of everything just before my dad could harvest it. Anytime I talked to him, all he had to tell me about was ‘that damned gopher.’ He dreamt about killing the gopher, his truest enemy. He tried to train the dog to hunt the gopher, but the dog is a pacifist. He led some of the barn cats to the holes, but the barn cats have unionized and refused his offered rate. He then laid no-kill traps (can’t risk having poison near the crops) with eventual gophercide in mind, but then suddenly he was faced with a cute and terrified animal and didn’t have the heart. He released it. ‘He was SO scared, he’ll never come back.’ The gopher was back the next day, with a vengeance. That was some weeks ago. Today, my dad sent me pictures of his garden, and I saw a squash gently laid by the gopher’s hole, like a package left on the doorstep. I said ‘Dad, what’s that squash doing there by the gopher hole?’ He said ‘Oh, he likes squash best.’ In an effort to appease the gopher, my father now gives him a little squash everyday, like leaving an offering for a garden spirit. This apparently works well as a compromise; the gopher has stopped stealing, content to have his meals delivered to his door.” Originally posted on FB by filmnoirsbian.

Notice your response to reading this story and, in particular, notice the response of your heart-based awareness. Next, imagine how your life would be, or how our collective life would be, if we all could arrive at this kind of resolution. In the story above, a response that embraced collaboration rather than combat arose, with some compassion thrown in.

This story reminds me of the inescapable fact that we live on a planet that thrives on cooperation and active collaboration. For sure, there’s also competition but as Elisabet Sahtouris, the evolutionary biologist found, while young species may emphasize competition, more mature species move toward expressions of cooperation and collaboration. 

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