What puts people at ease?
The Practice:Give none cause to fear you.
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Have you ever severed a relationship, but even though the person was no longer in your life, you still continued the relationship in your head? Consider that the very act of keeping it alive even if only in your mind means you are still in it. Perhaps that happens when you feel a relationship is unrequited, and you’re not letting go, or you’re nursing a resentment because you won’t, or lack the self-awareness to see your part in the dynamic.
This is not about self-blame at all. It’s about self-accountability and freedom.
Well, one thing you do, is you acknowledge that you feel ‘closed.’ That’s the first thing. You don’t make believe you’re open hearted, which most people do much of the time. They’re making believe they are open-hearted, while they’re aloof a little more than they’re feeling themselves to be. They always end up feeling a little hypocritical.
First thing is to acknowledge what you’re feeling: “My heart is closed.”
I’ll tell you there are numerous practices for this, and you have to find one that’s comfortable for you. For example, I work a lot with my breath, and I breathe in and out of my heart, and when I’m breathing out in my heart, I allowed whatever love I can muster for anything to be offered to people, to beings around me, and when I’m breathing in, I’m taking the existence of the universe into myself, and I keep feeling this breath going back and forth, and the breathing out is, “May all beings be free of suffering, may all beings be peaceful, may all beings be happy,” and I say:
“Hard-hearted though I am, and closed hearted though I am, I am going to use my energies to the extent that my mind and my heart can do it for the benefit of others. I’m gonna wish them well.”
There are many fears we humans suffer.
On different lists they put in first place a number of associated fears. One says our greatest fear is Failure. Another, underscoring that we are animals of a pack, says the top fear is Loneliness. Psychology Today says it’s public speaking. They blend into each other: we fear an alteration in our group status.
The interesting one shows up as Number Two on almost all the lists: fear of death.
“In the midst of life,” wrote the cynic Ambrose Bierce, “we are in death.” Jesus tells us no man knows the hour and day of his death.
Where does death rate on your scale of fears?
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” ---Norman Cousins
It is impossible to change the relationship we have with the world around us without changing the relationship we have within ourselves. This is the secret teaching of the ages.
Our task, if we want to be free human beings -- if we want a life in which we no longer carry around with us "what he did," "what she didn't do," "what never worked out" -- begins with discovering that there can be no real freedom for us until we understand the nature of the tyranny of the past that still lives within us. And one of the main areas of this unchallenged dictatorship that still holds us captive is our inability to forgive.
Do you know people -- maybe who aren't even alive anymore -- that you haven't been able to forgive? Are there certain events in your life you just can't release? You should know by now that what you can't release isn't the person or the condition that you see as being the source of your pain. What seems to be "stuck" isn't an old situation you can't release; it's a thought.
Are you feeling unneeded pain?
Reduce painful experiences.
Painful experiences range from subtle discomfort to extreme anguish - and there is a place for them. Sorrow can open the heart, anger can highlight injustices, fear can alert you to real threats, and remorse can help you take the high road next time.
But is there really any shortage of suffering in this world? Look at the faces of others - including mine - or your own in the mirror, and see the marks of weariness, irritation, stress, disappointment, longing, and worry. There's plenty of challenge in life already - including unavoidable illness, loss of loved ones, old age, and death - without needing a bias in your brain to give you an extra dose of pain each day.
Yet as on a prior JOT explored, your brain evolved exactly such a “negativity bias” in order to help your ancestors pass on their genes – a bias that produces lots of collateral damage today.
Painful experiences are more than passing discomforts. They produce lasting harms to your physical and mental health. When you’re feeling frazzled, pressured, down, hard on yourself, or simply frustrated, that:
I first learned about Dr. Gabor Maté through his groundbreaking book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, which explores his work with addicted individuals living on Vancouver’s skid row, as well as being an exceptionally comprehensive delineation of just what the hell addiction is, its causes, its effects, and so, so, so much more. Aside from that, Dr. Maté is a renowned speaker and bestselling author, highly sought after for his expertise on a range of topics, including addiction, stress, and childhood development.
I’d heard that Gabor believes addiction is not the problem but rather a person’s attempt to solve a problem in his or her life. I reached out to him because I wondered, among other things, how he would define addiction and what his perspective was on people using addiction to solve their life problems.
Forgiveness for others becomes possible when we’ve held our own being with great compassion. This short talk and guided meditation brings forth our most awake and tender presence as we ask for forgiveness, offer care to the woundedness within us, and then extend forgiveness to another who has hurt us. (from the Spring 2018 IMCW 7-day Silent Retreat)
Join Tara in a 10-day online course on forgiveness available through Insight Timer: Free Yourself From Blame & Resentment.
Do You Care?
Compassion is essentially the wish that beings not suffer — from subtle physical and emotional discomfort to agony and anguish — combined with feelings of sympathetic concern.
You could have compassion for an individual (a friend in the hospital, a co-worker passed over for a promotion), groups of people (victims of crime, those displaced by a hurricane, refugee children), animals (your pet, livestock heading for the slaughterhouse), and yourself.
I can’t breathe. F#$k. F#$k. F#$k. I can’t breathe! My eyes pop open as a full-body panic attack sets in. Through my haze, I see my hands strapped to the bed. Oh, f#$k. Not again. I’m gasping for air.
There are tubes coming out of my mouth. This is new. I raise my head and realize I’m in a hospital. But where? How did I get here? What the f#$k happened? That’s when I see my parents sitting in chairs at the end of my bed, near a window. The heartbreak and despair in their eyes are unmistakable. A nurse stands nearby. She’s telling me to calm down and let the tubes do the breathing for me, but I’m too panicked. I begin thrashing in the bed, trying to break the woven nylon straps that are keeping me from ripping the tubes out of my mouth. Later I’ll find out this is the reason I was restrained in the first place.
Because I have lived so much of my life caught in a cycle of addiction, recovery, relapse, repeat, a quote from Zen master Ikkyū Sojun—Sometimes all I am is a dark emptiness—sums up and shades much of my experience. I’m no stranger to relapsing and the pain, shame, guilt, confusion, and heartbreak that come along with it. Nor am I a stranger to detoxes, rehabs, emergency rooms, jail cells, and psych hospitals. What is strange for me is that after my last relapse, I began to care about relapsing. In the past, when I found myself in a place where I was willing to pick up a bottle of vodka or succumb to depression, I didn’t give a damn about the consequences. Fights, handcuffs, lies, withdrawals, self-cutting, hospitals, vomiting, and pissing blood—none of it mattered. I meant nothing to me.
When you feel as though you have given so much to those around you, and you feel that it hasn’t been reciprocated in return, it can feel unfair.
Perhaps you feel disappointed, hurt or betrayed.
You can let it close your heart, shut you down and make you bitter.
But remember this:
You cannot cheat the universe.
Everything you give and every action of loving you have taken is seen by the universe. It is seen even if no one sees it.
When you give, it may not come back to you from the people that you gave to but rest assured it will come back to you, even if from a most unexpected source.
Everything found in the universe is made up of energy. This goes for both physical and nonphysical objects.
Basic physics and chemistry tells us that a physical object, such as a building, a tree, or this book, is made up of billions of individual atoms—little energy bundles that interact and bond with other atoms into many forms including water, metals, plants, soil, plastics, wood pulp, and other raw materials used to manufacture physical objects.
It’s well known, for instance, that our brain waves are a form of intense energy that can be easily detected with standard medical equipment—and that can interact with our physical world as any other form of energy would. Perhaps you’re wondering, what do I mean by “interact with our physical world”?
I know, I know. I know what happened yesterday. An American woman joined the royal family. Yippee!
I actually got up to watch Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding. Yes, I did. I watched it because I’m a romantic at heart. I just love love stories, and theirs is an especially good one because it’s about more than just two people in love. It’s also about acceptance, race, second chances, overcoming differences, old rules and new traditions. That’s what love can do for you. It can let you see the world again with a fresh set of eyes. When two people take a stand for love, other people can see the world differently through their example.
Meghan Markle’s story is quite the American story. She is a child of mixed race who grew up in California. Now, she is the Duchess of Sussex and a woman recognized around the world. Markle has a huge opportunity in front of her to rewrite the definition of a royal for young women everywhere. My hope is that she continues to use her voice for causes she believes in and that she uses her American grit and strength to overcome whatever balls get thrown her way (because there will be many).
Everyday life proceeds along no matter how terrible circumstances become. But when traumatic events occur, everyday life doesn't solve them. Time alone cannot heal deep wounds. One after-effect of having something bad happen, whether it is the loss of a loved one, a bitter divorce, the outbreak of war, or being the victim of a crime, is anxiety. Millions of people suffer from anxiety and seek help from the billion-dollar market for tranquilizers or, less legitimately, opioids.
Anxiety often feels mysterious to those who suffer from it. Instead of being linked to a cause, such as being anxious to get to work on time when your car dies in traffic, modern anxiety is often free-floating. It's like a chronic condition that needs no immediate cause or is triggered by tiny causes that normally don't justify a feeling of anxiety.
To get at anxiety, there has to be an understanding of fear, because anxiety is residual fear. Despite the seemingly normal, untroubled activities of everyday life, something deeper down is generating the response of fear. So what is the role of fear as a human emotion? There is more than one function that fear plays, as follows:
“Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s one of most common reasons people procrastinate on taking action toward their goals. We fear failure, or rejection, or being embarrassed, or disappointing or angering other people, or getting hurt. So we play it safe and avoid taking risks or trying new things.
Fear is natural. But where does it come from?
The answer is that it comes from US – from our own minds and imagination. it’s important to remember that, as humans, we’ve evolved to the stage where almost all of our fears are now self-created.
We scare ourselves by imagining negative outcomes to any activities we pursue or experience. But just because we imagine these things happening, that doesn’t mean they WILL happen, or that they will be as painful as we think.
That’s why psychologists like to say that fear stands for “Fantasized Experiences Appearing Real.”
Because fear is all about what MIGHT happen – not what WILL happen.
Throughout your life you have had experiences that were painful. Those experiences made you first feel unsafe and when you feel unsafe fear arises. It is a natural reaction. You live with expectations that you will be loved, kept safe, be accepted and made to feel worthy, but there are people and circumstances that shake that belief. As a child maybe you were punished or spoken harshly to. Maybe you were made fun of by other children. Maybe as a teen you were rejected by a friend or embarrassed or you failed at something. As an adult you might have been cheated on or divorced. Maybe you lost a child or a spouse. Now the world doesn’t feel safe and loving.
These experiences created pain and that pain became personalized. You recreated yourself to be more loved, accepted and worthy. You hid the parts of you that were rejected by others or what you saw as your flaws. Your pain was the thorn that moved you from living in love to living in fear. It separated you from others because you felt you couldn’t be yourself, authentically, and still be loved. But most importantly the fear separated you from your Self.
It can arise when a birthday party happens. It can surge when the weekend rolls around. It can pop up when the phone doesn’t ring. FOMO is the fear that results when you think your peers are having more fun than you.
It can stir up beliefs that you are not good enough. It comes from wondering if they’re experiencing life’s best face when your face isn’t around.
Truth be told, FOMO is a widely experienced phenomenon. You’re not alone. The problem is that it can lead to an obsession with social media, create high levels of anxiety and contribute to your happiness. While FOMO is experienced by lots and lots of us, it is totally beatable. If you’re caught in a FOMO cycle, you can break the chain.
Fear of missing out can be caused by many things: an imbalance between your home and work life, loss of sleep, loss of autonomy or a deep need for more competence. At the end of the day, however, FOMO is derived from the fear of unhappiness. So, really, the fear of missing out is just that: fear.
This week in Alaska we have been blessed with blue skies and picturesque snowy mountains. Our Spring has been amazing. I have witnessed behavior changes in the birds. The moose are walking across frozen water ways that will soon be ponds, streams and rivers. I have sat in the light, marveling how it is with us a little more each day. With the welcoming of Spring I get excited about hiking with family and friends. I also have more energy to begin new projects and live a little more vibrantly.
This Spring also brings the high school graduation of our second daughter. It helps close the chapter of her childhood. The relationship with my ex-husband will also change. Seventeen years ago, I moved to Alaska with two very young children, determination and faith. I was set on making my move to Anchorage, Alaska a success. I was in a completely new climate. I lived pay check to pay check. I was concerned my ex-husband would not allow me raise my daughters in Alaska. I worried about paying for food and day care. I remember feeling incredibly close to my children, even with the challenges. It was us against the world.