“Don’t blame a horse for his life circumstances.”, Buck Brennanman.
I love this notion. It seems so logical and obvious. It could apply to humans as well, specifically perpetrators. I believe they are a product of their environment over which they had no control. Perhaps this idea then becomes less logical and obvious.
When I think of the unthinkable tragedy of yet another mass shooting, I can’t help but wonder about this man’s life story. I’m sure he didn’t envision this as his mark on the world when he was a child wondering who he would be when he grew up.
Thich Nhat Hanh would say that we failed him. We as a community didn’t give him what he needed. And I wonder how I would feel if it was my father or spouse or co-worker or neighbour. How many people were there who heard him reach out for help in all the unskilled ways there are to do that?
No one is born with a heart that hates. That comes from the horrifically hard knocks of life. I think what is called for now, from all of us, is to give this man what he needed as a child and needs now, which is namely love and compassion. I know it’s not an easy task but do we want to continue to live in a world that offers hate when what is transformative is love? I want to live in a world where we feel compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves and this man must surely be one of those.
I want to live in a world where we see beyond the behaviour and look deep into the underlying causes. The reasons that drove this man to this terrible crime, theses are the conditions we need to address. These changes are the place we need to direct our anger, rage and grief we feel at this senseless loss. When theses situations change, then we will have a world of peace. Then there will be the kind of love in the world where these things simply can not happen. We will have evolved into a loving community including everyone.
I’ve noticed lately that I have been struggling and I believe it’s because I am attached to the outcome. It feels hard not to be, especially when it seems I’m working on being myself and asking for what I want from the universe, from my life, from myself. So it dawned on me, and I must say that I love when this happens. When suddenly a great idea pops into my head, seemingly out of nowhere. I’d like to know this place and have access to it much more often.
Anyway, the idea was to be in the mystery. And I love that idea. I felt relief right away. And that’s when I recognized that I was being attached to the outcome and I needed to let it go. And so I did. At least for a time. It’s an unfamiliar place, this place of waiting to see how it will unfold. But I think it appeals to the curious part of me. The part of me that wants to see what will happen next. I think it helps that I am also working on cultivating patience. So then I get to a place where it’s a bit boring. I mean at least when you take actually action, how ever unwise it may turn out to be, you see the effect right away. In this new place it takes time for it to unfold and again I get to practise patience. I find I am willing to do this because I really do want to see how it’s going to unfold. It’s a mystery.
I find this really is the best idea that I have. I can see that my other ideas really aren’t that productive and likely won’t end with a result that I’ll be satisfied with. So I am willing to trust that there is a plan in place and my job is it wait and be in the mystery.
I notice that I am walking more slowly.
So I have been welcoming my negative emotions and sitting with them. The other day I was off on a new adventure and was feeling nervous about it, so I said welcome nervousness, come along with me. It occurred to me that those feelings will be with me no matter what. They just are. I noticed that when I acknowledged that they were there and invited them along, I actually felt better. It was ok that I was nervous, in fact it totally made sense, and I think in this acceptance of the feelings there was less of a struggle with them. They had been recognized, heard and accepted which is exactly what they want, so they were no longer trying to get my attention.
I also noticed this week that spending time with negative emotions can leave you with residual feelings that can affect your view of the rest of the day. So, now I am adding some time feeling positive feelings. I heard on tv the benefits of positive daydreaming. I’d never heard this term before and it was perfect timing. I think of things that make me happy. It can be something that actually happened, something I did, some nice thing someone did for me, something someone said, or it can be rewriting an ending to something that happened in a more positive way. There are lots of ways to do this and it’s been fun rewriting my interactions.
This week, when I feel some negative emotion, often worry, I have been saying, I notice that I feel worry in my body. Welcome, worry. I’ll take good care of you. Then I may ask questions with curiosity. What more can you tell me? And then I listen and acknowledge. I might say, oh, I see, or yes, that seems familiar. Then I go about my day knowing that I am bringing worry along with me and that I am ok with that. I mean, let’s face it, worry will be there regardless, so I may as well accept it. I’ve noticed that I feel more calm. I think it stems from not fighting the feelings. I can see now that what I used to do, which was try to calm them, actually feels more like pushing them away or wanting to change them or reframe the situation, when really what feelings want is to be heard. Period. Nothing else needs to be done. When I honor them, accept them and let them be, then they don’t have to keep popping up wanting attention.
I think my old ways were just adding another layer of discomfort because I would feel angry that worry was still there. And that just adds to the fight and I feel even more uncomfortable and end up saying things that turn people off. Whereas when I say hello worry. Sit down. What’s up? Worry feels heard and doesn’t have to keep trying to get my ear. Then I can have a more peaceful experience.
See Experiment for details.
I’m finding it a challenge to honor my feelings, to just sit with them. At first my instinct was to run away and my mind does wander, then I remind myself to come back to the feeling. Another day I will notice I am comforting myself against the feelings and I remember not to do that. Another time, I will notice myself reframing the situation. I do believe these are useful strategies to use to manage my feelings when I’m in public or with other people, however this experiment is to take the time to be with my feelings, as difficult as they may be.
What I am able to do now, is to be curious about my feelings and to ask questions like: Where do you feel that in the body? Does it have a colour? When did it begin? Is there anything else you can tell me about it?
I find it helpful to be the witness or the observer. This taking a step back lets me be present without being consumed by the feelings. It also helps my younger self feel like she doesn’t have to do this alone. It’s good for her to know that I am there for her, that I care and I’m looking after her. When she feels safe, the feelings will arise and can be processed.
I think this might be a bit of a process for me but I do believe it is very worthwhile. Even though I can’t really say what the result are yet, I do plan on continuing.
I’m not the kind of person who strives for material gains. Ok, I do have a fondness for shoes but only comfortable, sensible ones. Anyway, I don’t have a lot of things but the one thing I do desire and strive for is to be happy. It’s come to my attention that perhaps the striving is what’s in the way. The question is, would it be enough, if I were able to be mindful in every moment? So I’m thinking about it. I do know the times when I remind myself, ‘this is a peaceful moment” that it actually does become a peaceful moment. So if I truly lived every moment that way – a big job, I know, but if I could, would that be enough? Would I have a satisfying life? I want to do an experiment and see. If anyone else wants to join in and share your experience, I’d welcome that.
You know that saying about enjoying the journey? I have never really understood it, until the other day. But to tell the whole story, I have to back track a bit first.
I was at a meditation workshop and one of the exercises was to walk really, really, fast. Luckily we were in a school yard so there was lots of room. So I was walking very fast and noticing that I was feeling very important. I clearly had somewhere I had to be and I didn’t have time for anything else. When we came back in and reflected upon it, I realized that I often walk briskly and often pass people and I have asked myself where I am I going to in such a hurry. And of course, I’m going nowhere that is time dependent. But I realize that I am in a hurry to get there and when I’ve completed the task at hand, I’m I a hurry to get home. And it doesn’t make any sense except from this class I realize that I feel important and everyone likes to feel important, right? When I was thinking about the exercise and watching myself go so fast, I had to laugh at how ridiculous it was. I cold see myself as a kid marching off somewhere feeling very important indeed. And here I am now as an adult rushing off to get more bread or whatever the reason and it suddenly seemed so comical to be rushing around for no real reason. And I wondered if after having this chuckle at myself, I might stop taking myself so seriously and just slow down.
So the other day when I was walking to or from somewhere, I again noticed how quickly I was walking. So clearly the meditation exercise did not stick with me for very long. And I said to myself, can you slow down and enjoy the journey? And I thought wait a minute, is that what they mean? That our lives take us here and there to do this or that and if we are able to slow down and enjoy the view, then we can add some pleasure to our day. And it might just be a moment but a life time of moments can add up to not such a bad life after all. I mean isn’t it this multitude of moments of small pleasures that do make our day more pleasant. Perhaps somebody opens to door for us or gives us a how do you do, or the bird sings as we go by or the sun peeks out from behind the clouds and the warmth of the sun makes us smile. These are the things that at the end of the day you can say, yeah that was a good day.
I’m sure now that is what they mean by enjoying the journey and I’m glad that I have finally gotten to understand it.
Initially, when I found myself walking fast a part of me asked myself can you enjoy the journey? it was a conscious choice to tell myself this is a peaceful moment and to look around and slow down. Then when I asked myself that question and I simply answered yes. And now when I am walking quickly, I ask myself, can you enjoy the journey? and I feel myself slow down my pace, I take a big in breath and I look around at the beauty that lies before me and it’s a peaceful moment. It feels like a more integrated, less conscious choice. And hopefully the next stage will be to continue to be in the moment, with peace.
I notice that I’ve been living in the future with a lot of uncertainty, worry and fear. It is not a pleasant place to be and yet over and over again that’s where I find myself. The longer I stay there the more it becomes hopelessness and helplessness, which is an even more unpleasant place to be. So, eventually, I asked myself what are the techniques I have used to get out of this place and I remember ‘this is a peaceful moment’. I must say I am shocked and delighted at how well this works, every time. I feel myself take a breath, my shoulders relax, I feel the tension slip away. Sometimes, before I know it I am back there again. Sometimes, I remember quickly, other times it takes me longer. I recognize that it is a choice and I choose the peaceful moment. I remind myself that it’s a practice and the important thing is that I continue to practice.
I’m struggling in my meditation practice these days. My mind is not settled and this may sound like a bad thing but for me it means I’m at an exciting point in my practice. For me, meditation is about getting to know myself deeply and intimately. So when my mind is not settled, its time for exploration off the mat. At this time continuing to sit on the mat for longer will only lead to frustration. My mind is offering me a gift. It’s telling me something is up that requires my full attention and openheartedness. This is the time when I will go to art. I will ask my younger self what materials it wants to work with drawing material, paper, construction paper, tissues paper, collage. The list goes on and on and I ask until I get a positive response. It’s like the part of me that needs attention isn’t always able to say what it wants, so offering suggestions is useful. And once that is decided, I sit quietly and observe my feelings and watch what comes out onto the paper. Sometimes preparing to touch this place will bring me to tears and I will get information about the current struggle. Other times I will notice my mind desperately search for something else to think about, anything else, everything else, and this is when I need to be more persistent and patient. I remind myself that I am safe, that I am here, and open to feeling the feelings. It’s hard work. Ther is no doubt about that, however, not doing the work only makes things more messier. The relief that comes when I am able to move the feeling is definitely worth it.