Just as there is not a way to force a plant to grow, there is not a way to force the inner life force to appear and perform according to the demands of our mind. What there is, is to purify, toil, honor, humble one’s self. This is done bit by bit; recognizing the many obvious, and sometimes very subtle, ways we demand that life be the way we want it to be. As if we have any say in how life goes.
It is a fierce journey, this life, and not for the weak of soul. We can plant many a seed to no avail. A storm can come out of nowhere and wipe out all that we have sown. Droughts and floods do happen. Heat and cold are not in our control, except in the false environments of our homes. The homes of the “lucky” few, that is.
To be willing to come face-to-face with all that is possible, both for and against life, takes something. As already mentioned, humility is first and foremost. Courage and integrity, the proper use of our free will, qualities that are deeply intertwined, are vital.
Life does not go our way, it goes the way that it does. We can, if we are humble and courageous, if we are exquisitely self-responsible, if we can let go our pride, decide through our free-will what response is being asked of us. Which response is with life rather than against?
Sometimes we are asked to trust life in the face of fear. Perhaps there is a letting go, perhaps a fighting for, perhaps a being with, just as life is in the present.
There is no map, no perfect set response, no recipe.
Even in our deepest prayer and meditation, life may show up or not. Just as our best seeds in the richest soil may not produce. This is where faith comes in. Faith is easy when we get our way, when life seems to give us just what we want.
Our work is to continue to plant, over and over, deep into our innermost being, a prayer to be aligned with life. Amen.
If challenging feelings are simply allowed to be felt, instead of resisted, the entire body lightens. Sometimes immediately.
The natural energy of every feeling itself is always fluid. It is only our resistance, the locking down against the fear of experiencing our feelings and emotions, that causes blockage.
More challenging feelings and emotions, like depression and rage, have a dense quality to them. But they still move. It is only our resistance to these feelings that causes blockage in the form of tension, tightness and heaviness – which we experience as suffering.
Different emotions move at different levels of fluidity. Take anger, for example. Although perceived as one of the most negative emotions, when anger is true, it moves through the body with a quick and precise energy. It is only when we resist the anger, perhaps due to guilt, blame, shame, fear, etc., that it becomes a problem. However, when anger is simply expressed appropriately, the body becomes light and expanded, comfortable.
Difficult things happen in all of our lives. No one is spared. A death of a loved one, an accident, a betrayal, the loss of a job or damage to a precious belonging. These are the harsh realities of life. They cannot be avoided.
When they do occur, if the sadness, or anger or grief is simply felt in the body and allowed to be expressed appropriately, the body will let go of the energy. And then something else can come in. We can return ourselves to joy, bliss, new possibilities.
This is our birthright. We refuse this because of our childhood-born perception of all or nothing. In this way of thinking, everything is always 100% right or 100% wrong. And there is a profound impatience. If I can’t have it now, I don’t want it at all.
The child in us experiences any negative emotions as wrong and unfair. Why should I ever have to be unhappy? We feel picked on, unfortunate, doomed by fate. We compare ourselves to others and believe what happens to us is worse than what happens to them. These childhood-born habits of perceiving the world keep negative emotions locked in our bodies.
It is the demand that we be happy all of the time that causes most of our unhappiness. It is our childish, immature refusal to allow for what is that keeps us from our greatest joy.
It took me a while to understand the difference between these two motivations to perform a task. Most of us, without realizing it, go about our day acting out of in order to. We get up in order to go to work or take care of our children – not for its own sake but in order to pay the bills or fulfill on an obligation.
By acting out of in order to, the richness of life is missed. Imagine a day during which all, or even just some, of your activities are performed for their own sake. From this perspective, the activity is pure and unencumbered by the automatic ego needs. Any action or creative expression done only for the ego falls flat. The ego is never satisfied. The ego only wants more of every single thing and it wants it now, if not yesterday.
I am talking about one aspect of the ego here. The ego in and of itself is not a bad thing. In fact it is necessary to have an ego; you just don’t want it to be in control of all aspects of your life. And, this is the point. When doing something for ego reasons in order to (get more, have more, be more, etc.), there is less inner fulfillment and more of the constantly comparing, judging and assessing.
For its own sake comes from a higher level of consciousness. Unlike the ego, this is not automatic, at least not in our culture. My hope is that, with practice, lots and lots of practice, this way of living life can become more automatic.
So what is the feeling of doing something for its own sake? Complete, enough, calm, flowing, natural, and organic are words that come to mind. This does not mean perfect, exact, finished – these are words the ego would be looking for.
For its own sake has a meditative quality, a knowing that there is no beginning or ending, there is just now.
For its own sake is giving and receiving seamlessly. There is no expectation of reward because the action (or non-action) is the reward. There is faith that whatever outcome may come from a particular long-term project will find its way … or not; however; this does not lessen the preciousness of the action being taken now. For its own sake doesn’t require patience; it is patience – not a superimposed demand for patience, but a patience that comes from knowing that all things are in perfect balance and it is only the ego that tells us otherwise.
Practice watching, or more importantly, feeling, the energy behind the actions taken today. Try to find some small way to do something for its own sake. The reward for this kind action is the prize in the Cracker Jack® box.
At some point we all make mistakes. Unless one is a sociopath, guilt and remorse are felt, experienced and possibly expressed. Forgiveness is asked for and usually given. But what about those deep, vague, internal mistakes – the kind that are made over and over again unconsciously – mistakes against oneself that were habituated long ago?
We hold life against ourselves on such a subtle level that there are not exact words to describe, just a feeling in the gut. The belief that I made a mistake, did something wrong, am something wrong, or do not deserve to have a fulfilling life is pervasive and unconscious. It determines virtually our every movement and yet cannot be quite described or understood without bringing consciousness to it.
How does one transform one’s self on this level? One cannot just change their eating habits, exercise more, drink more water, learn to act more appropriately, communicate more honestly and clearly on top of this so subtle energy and expect different results. I watch so many people put all of the effort available to them to this task of transformation and the results are not forthcoming. Frustration takes over and there is more proof that life is not going to give what is wanted and worked for. How does one get to the most subtle of energy that is the real boundary?
Mindfulness is key – watching the thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes you hold toward yourself in each and every situation. Watch what your mind tells you. There is a war going on, and you are your own prisoner.
Compassion is called for. Beliefs and images about who you are were determined at a very early age and then never readjusted. Consider all of the mistakes a three-year-old might make and realize that you are still punishing yourself for these mistakes. Add to that the way your parents interacted with you about these mistakes, and you may begin to see what it is you are up against in this internal war.
So much of the stress we experience today around relationships, career, self-esteem, lifestyle, etc., has more to do with the unexpressed emotions from these tender years than from the present day. The level of fear, anger and frustration, when observed honestly, does have a childlike quality.
We know this on one level, and so try to cover up our childish behavior by giving more energy to the current situation than is rational. We embellish, hyperbolize and dig in our heels to prove our position. All of this because it feels safer to continue to make the same mistakes over and over than to risk going back, feeling the emotions that, at the time felt life threatening, and risk making a new mistake.
We hold ourselves hostage rather than take a risk that could open up new possibilities. I invite you to make a new habit of watching your emotional reaction to everyday occurrences and to be willing to see them for what they really are. Then, in your own time and way, allow yourself to feel the true emotions underneath. Be willing to forgive yourself, forgive earlier and current authority figures, forgive life and live a life of new possibilities.
Free yourself from your own internal war.
A meditation practice is just that. A practice. People who are new to this practice may go into meditation with some preconceived notions, as in all new endeavors. What comes to your mind when you think about meditation?
Some believe that it is a way to “stop thoughts.” After a few attempts, one might realize the impossibility of stopping thoughts, come to the conclusion that meditation is impossible or “not for them” and then stop all together.
It is just about as impossible to stop thinking as it is to stop breathing. In short bursts, it’s even harder to stop thinking. You can hold your breath for 30 seconds. Try not having a single thought for 30 seconds.
With consistent practice, you can have more and more facility with being able to watch your thoughts and possibly create a new relationship to your thoughts. This is the true possibility in meditation.
Another belief about meditation is that it has to be done for a specific amount of time. The novice will insist that they sit perfectly still for, say 20 or 30 minutes. If attempted, this approach turns into torture. Again one could conclude that meditation is just not for them.
The practice of meditation is not about control or time. Ironically, control and time are the ego-driven values that mediation is designed to soothe! The demand that mediation be done perfectly, in a particular way and for an exact amount of time is what stops many from allowing themselves the experience.
The intention to meditate is a conscious act. The invitation is to allow for whatever is, and breathe. By taking time on a daily basis, even for a single moment, to sit (or stand, or lie down, or walk) and breathe into whatever is with an allowing attitude is a most powerful practice. To be with whatever life has given you today, just as it is, with no need to do or change or make wrong, and take a deep breath, is the beginning of freedom.
The practice of this freedom leads to a relaxed interest in life, as opposed to carrying the notion that something is bad or wrong (usually one’s self) and needs to be fixed.
As this practice grows organically and naturally, what is possible is that this holding of life with an accepting curiosity becomes infiltrated into everyday living. By purposefully declaring the intention to commit to being with whatever is in your heart today with compassion and acceptance, and sitting with that declaration, something new is possible.
If you breathe this declaration deeply into your body, noticing as you go where this is difficult, your body can relax more and more. As your body relaxes in the face of whatever is there, new strength is gained.
As you practice being with things just as they are, an ability to go with life is learned. As the tension is soothed, movement toward life becomes creatively active. Then you can take whatever action might be necessary with a fresh knowing. The practice of going back over and over a billion times to whatever is here in this moment, and taking a deep breath (nothing is life-threatening), and taking another deep breath (set an intention), and taking a deep breath (and allowing something outside your mind to realize that intention), when practiced throughout the day, leads to a life based more and more on creative interaction.
As life is designed to be. A practice of meditation.
Once we have either determined to find a way to health, well-being, purpose in life, or any kind of spiritual or higher development, we all make the same mistake. We demand that the outcome of our endeavors show up in the time and fashion that we want.
This is rarely, if ever the case. The path is the path and it takes us in places we may or may not like, enjoy or feel vindicated in. How we do this is by using on the path the same techniques that got us where we are.
This where we are is not a bad place, necessarily, but one that no longer gives us what we want in our lives. The turning point has come, and we make a decision to go for it. I am going to lose weight, or meditate, or find the partner of my dreams. I am going to find a fulfilling career or stop drinking. Any of these could be a very good choice, depending on your life’s journey.
But how is it that we get from here to there? One way I can tell you that never works, is to use the same behavior that got you where you are now. A new path requires a new wiring, a different set of eyes, a fresh reaction.
All of this means it is imperative that attention be paid. The questions could be; how do I see myself now, or how do I feel about myself now or what behaviors do I participate in that are not in line with my new desire? This shift in beingness takes time, it takes being mindful, and, more than anything, it asks for acceptance. No behavior can be changed out of fear or judgment. That much I know is true.
Sometimes progress is excruciatingly slow. There is even backsliding; the old way rears its head and demands your full attention. Hopelessness comes in and it feels like all is lost. This is so difficult, I do know so well. And this is the time to bring yourself home to yourself and ask yourself what is it that you are really committed to?
Sometimes we do not want to acknowledge that we actually enjoy our misery. We get off on being the worst one, the loser. Or we feel like we deserve this one dirty little pleasure. Or that we will just never get what we want. It doesn’t make sense that a part of us really does not want to change for the better.
This is the human condition. It just is. We find ways to survive as children, which no longer make sense as an adult. But we continue to do them despite our “best” efforts. It is because this behavior, at one time, served a great purpose. In order to let go we have to go back and see what this purpose was. This can be a painful exploration, but it is vital.
Once the behavior makes sense from that perspective, we no longer hold it against ourselves. Then we can make a different choice. Then the path is not so twisted and full of pitfalls. Then the possibility of making a significant shift, or creating a new life for oneself, becomes a reality.
The reverberating NO! At some point in our young lives something happens to which we respond with a deep, powerful energetic NO! This something could be your mother walks out of the room just as you are reaching out to her or a pleasurable experience with a parent is met with some violence or inappropriate sexual response.
The experience is relevant only to the individual child. One situation stimulates a response in one child which does not even occur in the other’s world. The “what happened” is not the vital piece to know.
What is most vital to know, see and feel is the reaction to the stimulus. This reaction is held in the body and transmitted out into the world so that it generates in the world the same experience over and over again.
This is how this problem of “what happened” is solved. Until one understands this and looks for the reoccurring theme, life can feel very much like punishment. If, on the other hand, one were to be curious and interested and simply observe the overall theme of life experiences and witness the co-creation of such experiences, life will provide the clues as to where to look for the solution.
Instead what frequently happens is we feel as if life happens to us and we have no control whatsoever. We become victims or martyrs, or persecutors as a way to defend against this ongoing pain.
The way out is the way through.
Pay attention via a daily review of disharmonies. See the thread that connects the way life is defended against with the internal environment. Where do you demand that “this should not be?” Where do you point to the other and say “this proves what I have always known?” Where do you cut yourself off or aggress toward the other?
All of these are important clues to the original pain against which you defend yourself. This original pain is that of a child, but we forget that as we “grow up.” In the area where this pain lives, the child is still in control. This is why this is so frustrating. We watch ourselves throw tantrums and feel out of control, which is deeply embarrassing. The next automatic response is to defend, deny, blame, or judge ourselves for acting so childish. This only reinforces the vicious cycle. The original pain against which we are fighting is put back underground where it renews itself and grows stronger. Then the same thing happens again.
And again. Until this pain is recognized for what it really is, a child-based refusal, and allowed to be felt as the fear or sadness or anger that it originally was, it will find a way to express itself in some twisted way.
While we are living in the NO! the freedom that lies in being with life fully is beyond our ability to experience. Only by seeing this NO! can you begin to say yes. Quietly at first, because it is scary, but then more and more life opens to this positive energy, ultimately turning toward a genuine yes.
I am the mother, daughter, sister, wife, lover of heroin addicts. This does not make me an expert, just a person with life experience.
The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman has hit hard. The usual human reaction is to try to determine “why.” If we knew we could avoid it next time. As if there is something over there that we could change, fix or at least manage so as to avoid our own discomfort. As if “they” have something that we do not, and if we figure out exactly what that is, we could irradiate that and feel secure.
As a drug addict who, by the grace of some power beyond my knowing, survived thus far, I can tell you that there is nothing different in the heart and soul of an addict. Life is difficult. It is the human condition to take this difficulty personally.
We all, to some degree or another, take what is handed to us as punishment for some wrong doing. As children, we internalize everything that occurs in our world and hard-wire the belief that we had something to do with the experience. We then find solutions to the problems with our limited minds. We believe these solutions to be life-saving, because at the time they were. We then generalize both the problem and the solution in our lives. When the pseudo- solution no longer works, we blame the other and dig deeper into our belief that something is wrong out there.
We suffer from the frustration and this deep gnawing that something is horribly wrong and if we act just so we will get the response from life that we have been searching for. This negative cycle is what kills off life.
In an interview, I heard Phillip Seymour Hoffman talk about the absolute demand for perfection in his craft. He said there is nothing like the feeling of having done his job well, and failure was both constantly imminent and unacceptable. This is the vicious cycle we all, addict or not, want to see in ourselves. This is what kills our creativity, our passion, our joy and sometimes our very selves.
If you watch your thoughts, you might see that in the background there is an absolute DEMAND that you be perfect. This perfection might look different from person to person, so let me give some examples.
The house must be a certain way, your body must look the way you want it to look, you have to eat only certain foods, you must treat others in a particular way. You have to be kind and only supportive of your children, partner and family members. You must sleep, exercise, work, drive, celebrate the holidays, all in accordance with some law which can never be spoken, but must be followed to the letter. Does this sound familiar?
Now pay attention to the resistance you have to the particular place in your life where you feel you cannot possibly live up to the law. This is where, no matter how hard you try, you will fail.
It is impossible to be perfect. We all know this logically, rationally. Notice how you are thinking right now “well, of course!” But, on a very deep level, the demand lives and dictates our behavior.
We hold our imperfections against ourselves. Or, we blame the other, life, our bosses, parents, our circumstances, for our failures.
We believe we, or it, should be some other way than what just is. We make life wrong and hold this against ourselves because we know this whole process defies logic.
Sometimes, actually often, we preempt our disappointment with this lack of perfection by being miserable, annoyed, angry, irritated. We look for reasons to prove we have a right to be upset, and they are always easily found. This side-steps our responsibility in the matter.
We point to “reality” as proof that the way we are being is not our fault. And around and around we go.
There is a way out.
Life is difficult. Suffering is discomfort multiplied by resistance. Perfection lies in our ability to be with imperfection.
Watch your thoughts. Watch your deep emotional reaction to everyday occurrences. Feel where it is that you resist what is happening. Notice how you hold yourself against yourself and demand that you, or life, be some other way.
In just noticing this internal war, it loses its power. Just by being aware of the lies we tell ourselves, the truth can emerge. This truth can set you free of your internal dictator.
By allowing what is, without the demand that it be another way, we develop the strength to change what we can and the wisdom to trust life to teach us what it is we are here to learn.
Resistance never works. And, it is human nature to resist. We want what we want, period the end. When we don’t get what we want, we look for the reason “why?” We blame life, our partners, our parents, life.
We resist not having with all of our might. We throw tantrums, usually internally, and make bigger demands on others and on ourselves which are never realized. The not having is no longer the problem, the resistance and the vicious cycle of blame and self-pity become the block to whatever it is that we truly desire. Internally we judge, usually ourselves, and make it a personal attack that our so-called needs are not being met. The shame of the inner knowing that we are our own worst enemy keeps this process going.
The knot inside, the pain, frustration, anger, loneliness, the not being recognized, grows like a three- headed monster which then dictates our actions. This is the root of the root. This is what has a well- educated, successful, otherwise emotionally stable person indulge in insane behavior. This painful knot causes one to overeat, over spend, work too hard, and so on. This resistance to life, just as it is, is what we turn against ourselves and become our own worst enemy.
As a personal trainer, I teach resistance training. One of the first concepts I teach is that if you let the resistance control you, you have lost, and the resistance will hurt you. I also teach that to resist where you are on your path to a better relationship with yourself and your body, your resistance will kill whatever motivation you have.
Again, it is human nature to resist. So, start where you are. In resistance.
Feel the pain of not having exactly what you want right now.
Feel the frustration of the possibility that you may never have exactly what you want.
Allow yourself to accept that you may be sad about what you have done to yourself up to this point.
Allow all of it.
This allowing stops the vicious cycle. Then, and only then, is real choice available. Then the three-headed monster is no longer in charge. You are.
Yes, there is resistance – and there always will be. It is part of being human. Allow it to lead you to an inner strength.