July 31, 2015

Slow the Pace

As you view this post, you might have an uneasy feeling, a thought in the back of your mind: I have a lot to do; will this take long to read? These nagging thoughts can plague us on the busyness treadmill, where everything feels urgent.

I know that urgent feeling. It can happen as I prepare a mindfulness class. It can happen when I take a photograph. It can happen in my meditation. It can even occur when my schedule is open and free. 

On Tuesday I wrote these words on a piece of paper: slow the pace. This resonated with my whole being. I'm tired of the striving and judging--old habits that sneak in when I'm not looking; when I don't fully see my life. Instead of striving, I want to slow down and be patient: while in the car, I slow my speed; while walking, I notice sounds around me; when washing my hands, I take my time; as I write this, I deepen my breath. Each of these reconnects me with myself and the present moment--reconnects me with gentleness. When I rush, I tend to judge. When I rush, compassion is hard to reach. But when I physically slow the pace, I'm gentler with myself and others. In this way, the quality of my work improves, because I work from a place of love.

July 27, 2015

Working with Difficult Emotions

It's human nature to resist pain. Evolution trained us to push away the difficult, to just survive. These habits are well-grooved, but they're no longer necessary. And they block true healing. As Carl Jung concisely stated, "What you resist, persists." 

When I resist pain, I only create more pain. If I resist my grief, anxiety, shame, or fear, I strengthen the hurt not the healing. But when I make space for difficult emotions--when I invite them in and look more closely--there's a release. It's counter-intuitive, but it works every time. After years of practice, I have a new relationship with fear. It's no longer a scary monster in the corner. Now it's a known companion. It's a signal: look inward and be gentle.

Michele McDonald created an acronym for this process: RAIN (Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Non-identify/Nourish). First we must recognize our situation--what is my direct experience in this moment? Exactly how do I feel uneasy? (This takes time and inner-reflection.) The second step is a big leap: allow for the feeling; allow for the experience, as is. Here, we release our grip and let the feeling flow. (This can be done in small, safe ways; it's a gradual process.) Investigation is the third step. Once we allow for the emotion, we bring curiosity--not in a heady way, but in an embodied way. How does this emotion pulse in my body? What are the sensations and how do they change? (This investigation is worthy of a lifetime.) The last step is resting in awareness, in presence. Our emotions don't define us. If we allow for difficult feelings, eventually they morph and settle, and we sit in a centered place. From this place, we can apply self-compassion and nourish our hearts.

This path is both brave and beautiful. It takes strength and kindness. If you'd like to try, I'll be your guide. This meditation applies when you're in the midst of difficult emotions:

July 22, 2015

Hug Someone

Connection is a basic human need. We long to belong. And though social media connects us across oceans, it can disconnect us from those in our own home; it can disconnect us from our own heart. The Internet makes communication easy, but doesn’t encourage deep listening. It’s a fuzzy line between actual connection and mindless surfing. Handheld devices make the line even fuzzier. Some questions to guide us: Are we really present with the people right in front of us? Are we really present with ourselves? These connections must be cultivated.

I encourage you to get offline and make an in-person connection. Listen to someone’s story. Look people in the eye. Share a hard truth. Sit in quiet reflection. And, if it feels comfortable, hug someone. Hug a friend. Hug yourself. Hug your pet. Hug your loved ones, even if you’re not the hugging type. Hugs connect us heart to heart. They fill a basic, beautiful human need.