There’s one thing we can know for sure: this too will change.
Whatever it is, yes.
Some days will be easy, others hard.
The morning could be bright and sunny, and by evening there might be rain.
Just a quick reminder:
Whatever you are feeling right now is ok.
You’re allowed to feel it.
You can open up to it. A little, or a lot.
You can make space.
You can take a moment to feel how the body feels. Places you feel any tension. Places where you feel relaxed.
Connect to the breath.
Follow it for a few moments.
Allow it to be as it is.
For as long as you wish.
For as long as you need.
Then choose a valued direction – set an intention.
Return to it when you need to. Or set it again.
Make space for the weather, and remember the sky.
“The greatest and most important problems of life are all in a certain sense insoluble… They can never be solved, but only outgrown. This ‘outgrowing’, as I formerly called it, on further experience was seen to consist in a new level of consciousness. Some higher or wider interest arose on the person’s horizon, and through this widening of view, the insoluble problem lost its urgency. It was not solved logically in its own terms, but faded out when confronted with a new and stronger life-tendency.” – Carl Jung
I stumbled upon this quote the other day, and it really resonated. The way I interpret it: we don’t solve our “issues” – they dissolve on their own. They kind of slowly (or sometimes not so slowly) fade into the background of our lives and minds and eventually perhaps become completely invisible. Something else takes their place. It happens when, as Jung says, a new and stronger life-tendency is there. This life tendency for me means a sense of wholeness. It’s a leaning into self-compassion. It means aligning with what truly matters in my life – how I want to show up – and letting it guide my actions. I also means paying true attention to what is showing up right now.
The point is that if we are always busy trying to escape what we don’t want to feel or busy trying to solve our issues with our problem-solving mind, we lose sight of the things that actually are in our control. Like how we respond to what is happening, how we meet it, and how we choose to move forward. And we have less energy to put into what matters to us – into what really matters to us.
If we stop seeing our thoughts or feelings as enemies – if we make space for them – we have more freedom to go where our heart leads us. What if we see the the issue, our pain or discomfort, as a road sign pointing us to where we care the most? Eventually, we might notice that what we were so busy struggling with is no longer there. Or perhaps it still shows up from time to time, but it no longer rattles us in the same way. It loses its power.
Maybe there is nothing to heal, only things to fall in love with. And in there somewhere, all that is no longer needed, melts away.
Yesterday was the full moon. For me, the moon is a reminder of life’s flow and the ever-changing nature of it, – of everything, including myself. The things I was carrying yesterday – my thoughts, feelings, the stomach ache – they have dissolved into the past. I woke up to a new day, to new and different energy, and new thoughts and feelings. The night gives us that passage, the shift into a new day. But, the shift can also happen from one moment to the next. I’m constantly being reminded of this.
My wish is to not cling to any of it. To trust in the flow of life, and move with it, breath by breath. To let old things die, and new to be born when the time is right. To trust in the moments that feel like they are in-between the old and new, moments that might feel confusing, uncertain, or like there is nothing happening. I trust that there is always movement, even if we can’t always see or feel it.
My wish is to trust in the ache, and also trust that joy will return. Knowing that whatever is happening, this too will change. To be ok with not knowing – to still feel safe, because my safety is within me. While things around us can and will change, we can lean into our inner presence that is there to hold it all. To me, this is freedom.
Tonight we shift into a new year, with hope of something good around the corner. I believe we all have the strength and wisdom in us to meet whatever awaits us. And if there’s anything I wish for in this moment, it’s that we can know freedom. The freedom of being ok in uncertainty. Of feeling safe no matter what is and what’s to come.
Lately, I’ve been writing about remembering.
There is this voice that I hear. The more I unplug from the many voices around me – the many distractions.
This voice grows stronger. Steadier.
It sits in my centre, like on a throne. And it is ready, at all times.
It is ready to bring me back.
To remind me. To let me know when I begin to drift.
It tells me: “No. That is not your way.”
It says: “No. We don’t go back. Those are old ways.”
It reminds me to return.
To come back.
To come back.
To myself. To here. To now.
To what I really know to be true.
It is my anchor. My lighthouse.
It says: “You have forgotten again. It’s ok. Just come back.”
Every time we forget, we can also remember. And we can return.
Breath by breath, we can begin again.
This is the practice.
And breath by breath, our foundation grows stronger. And that voice gets clearer.
Things will still happen. Feelings will come and go. We will have beautiful days, we will have bad days. But we can remember, and we can always return.
We can rest, knowing that there is a truth inside of us at all times.
It is there to hold us.
And that it will never let us down.
Wishing you a beautiful winter solstice. ❤
Awareness brings clarity and empowerment. As we become aware of what arises in us, we can choose what to let go. There is no point in resisting what is already here, but we can practice seeing it all for what it is. By connecting to our presence, we can more clearly see what is ours and what not.
We cannot let go through struggle. Like a clenched fist trying to let go, it happens when the palm is open.
There are a lot of things we can let go of every day through staying open.
We can let go of what does not belong to us. We can let go of ideas and thoughts about who, what, and how we should be. Thoughts created by old, destructive values and conditioning.
We can let go of thoughts that are not beneficial to our well-being – and to those around us.
We can let go of the illusions (like the illusion that we really are our thoughts about ourselves).
We can acknowledge that for a brief while, maybe these ideas did serve us, maybe in some way they protected us. We can honour them, and let them go.
We can remind ourselves that they are based on the past, and that it’s ok to let them stay there.
We can let go of what is not ours. What we are not. What is not our Self.
Letting go is not a one time event, it happens over and over again.
We can put the past to rest, every new day. Every moment even.
We are always in the process of creation, and re-creation.
Something I’ve noticed over the years in the spiritual- or self-development realm, is how easily the path can lead us to self-criticism. This usually leads to nowhere, except possibly to more feelings of shame, and more judging of ourselves and in turn others as well.
Non-judgement is often talked about as one of the most important attitudes in mindfulness practice. But thinking about adopting a non-judgemental approach can make us feel inadequate if at that moment we feel far from it.
Whenever we think that we ”should” feel anything other than what we are feeling right now, we are often on the fast track to self-shame, judgement and criticism.
So here comes a reminder that in mindfulness practice there are no ”shoulds”. If there is anything to strive for, it’s to not judge our judging. This is the actual meaning of ”non-judgement”: to notice when we are being judgemental and to not judge ourselves for it.
Also, here is another, even more important reminder. Love and kindness are the antidotes to judgement.
This is the journey we are on. A call for love.
Here is a suggestion on how to work with these challenging emotions and thoughts.
We practice expanding our awareness of what we are feeling and thinking. This is the foundation of mindfulness practice.
This is the only way we will know when we have stepped into a state of self-judgement or criticism. In time we might learn to recognise the first or early signs of it happening. We might begin to recognise when it tends to happen, and what tends to cause it. When we get more intimate with ourselves in this way, we begin to get to know our common feelings and emotions better.
Next, we practice meeting those feelings with compassion and kindness.
We honour the place that we are at right now.
We practice being loving and kind to that part of ourselves.
We extend our love to these parts of us. They often carry our deepest wounds. It is also where the biggest opportunity for healing likely is.
If love or kindness feels too much of a stretch at that moment, see if you can meet your feelings with a little bit of curiosity. Feel where in the body you can sense the feeling the most? Get a little closer to it. See if you can even try to talk to it?
Why is it here?
Is there something it wants?
Is there something it is asking for?
Does it have something to say to you?
Can it show you something? Can you listen, even for just a brief moment?
See if you could extend love, kindness, or even simply some curious attention, to whatever is arising.
You are not here to remove or improve parts of you that you deem unwanted or unworthy. You are worthy and whole even on the days when you feel fragmented or broken.
We are all constantly in the process of change, just like all of nature and every living thing in this world.
Remember and connect to the place in you, where all of you is equally loved.
“What we call obstacles are really the way the world and our entire experience teach us where we are stuck.”
This quote is by one of my favourite Buddhist teachers Pema Chödrön. It’s from her incredible book When Things Fall Apart, which I highly recommend to anyone looking for wise words on how to meet difficulties in life.
These particular words encourage us to practice befriending what we see as an obstacle, instead of viewing it as the enemy. Pema Chödrön tells the story of how Buddha was sitting under a tree, on the night he was to attain enlightenment. While sitting there, he was attacked by the forces of Mara (illusion, desire, death and rebirth). The story goes that they shot swords and arrows at him, and because of his power of awareness, their weapons ended up turning into flowers.
She reminds us that we call obstacles, are really the way the world and our entire experience teach us where we’re stuck. What may appear to be an arrow or a sword, can turn into a flower, depending on our relationship with ourselves. The first step is being able to acknowledge and willing to meet whatever discomfort or pain that is arising. If we are not open to it, if we just push it away, it will be hard to find any teaching there, and to move through that place where we are stuck. Sometimes that is needed too, and the flower in that situation is just being aware of what and how we tend to push things away.
Mindfulness gives us awareness about when and in what ways we try to escape those difficult emotions (a natural thing we all do). It’s not something we should be hard on ourselves for, but instead see as very valuable information – it’s how arrows turn into flowers. Most importantly we will notice that we can fully meet all these experiences, which are a natural part of life. And that to be truly alive means to never really arrive. There will always be new arrows – but we learn that we can let life have its natural ebb and flow, and still rest in our presence and find wisdom there.
Living a mindful life means waking up from a kind of slumber. The slumber of living solely in the mind – of moving through life on autopilot. To wake up from that autopilot-state, we practice paying attention to, and truly allowing and feeling, everything that arises in us – specifically paying attention to the body. Because the body is always in the present moment.
Meditation and mindfulness are, in a sense, a deeper kind of listening. We listen, not with our analytical mind that wants to come up with solutions, new ideas, or stories. But we listen in a way that connects us deeper to what we are experiencing. In this way, we also get more in touch with the body and its intelligence.
Through listening deeply, and our willingness to sense and be present for it, we create space for all that is arising, for any emotion or sensation that is stopping by. Can we welcome even what we judge as negative, instead of following the impulse to push it away? Can we allow everything to come and go – as it does?
We practice fully observing all that is arising, without trying to change anything. There is no outer goal to attain.
We are simply gifting ourselves our full attention. This in time gives us a bigger perspective, an even greater sense of presence, and courage to meet things that come our way.
This practice also expands our awareness of how we relate to different sensations, maybe wanting to hold on to the pleasant ones, and to avoid the unpleasant ones.
The beauty of mindfulness, is that it is meant to be practiced in our daily life. And essentially, the more we practice the more mindfulness becomes integrated into all that we do.
You can choose any daily activity, like doing the dishes, taking a shower or taking a walk, and practice being as present as possible for it. Pay attention to the sensations or feelings that you are experiencing, especially all that you are sensing in your body. If you notice that your thoughts begin to wander someplace else, remember your breath is always there to guide you back to the present. It can also be helpful to pay attention to the sensation of the soles of your feet against the ground or floor reminding you to come back to your body and here and now.
Explore how you feel throughout your day. See if you notice when you are feeling present in your body, and when you feel less so. Are there moments or activities during your day where you perhaps feel less present? You can always use breath anchoring to deepen your presence in those specific moments.
Through meditation and mindfulness we expand our awareness of the constant flow of thoughts, sensations and emotions that occur in each moment of our life. Through our practice, we also begin to notice the connection between the thoughts, sensations and emotions, and how they are constantly influencing one another. Awareness is key in our practice. In one way, meditation and mindfulness are an art of paying attention. To meditate is to really pay attention, deeply and sincerely.
Once we become aware of, for example, the thoughts that are arising in a given moment, we automatically create a little bit of space between our being and those thoughts, or the mind. In yoga, teachers often talk about creating space in the body. Most of the yoga poses are designed to lengthen the muscles, and as we do them, along with breathing deeply, we are creating more space in the body – so hopefully muscles that were previously tight or had knots in them, become expanded and relaxed. Energy can flow more freely in the body. Similarly, mindfulness and meditation create space, not just in the body and the mind, but it creates a sense of space that expands into all areas of our life. The truth is, this space is always present, but just like the space in a room it can become cluttered with objects so that it ends up being almost unnoticeable. When we have more space it becomes easier for us to notice the more subtle things in ourselves and in our life. We might see patterns in our behaviour and simply notice things we would have otherwise missed. So not only does this space give us a bigger sense of ease and peace, but just like a muscle that becomes stronger and more flexible, we become more and more perceptive, and more skilled in that art of paying attention.
To pay attention is also to focus or concentrate on something. In meditation we work with different techniques of concentration. A common one is focusing on the breath. As I mentioned in the previous post, our breath is a great tool for our practice because it is always there with us. And it connects us to our body and the present moment. Once we start practicing this in meditation, as well as our daily lives, even just by taking a few moments during the day to notice and feel the breath in our body, we will notice that space is starting to expand.
If you want, you can take a moment right now to notice your breath, how it feels in the body, how it is flowing in, and out. Pay attention to the small pauses between each in and outbreath. Maybe close your eyes for a few breaths, and see if you can notice any difference in how your body feels when you open your eyes.
The quote in the title comes from the Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön, and I think it’s a great reminder for most of us – especially in the intense times that we are in at the moment. When negative emotions, thoughts or events are happening in our lives, it’s common for us to think there is something wrong. That somewhere along the way, something has gone wrong, or we have done something wrong – either to cause or to deserve what’s happening. From a mindfulness point of view, this is (in part) not true, but most importantly, it’s irrelevant in this very moment. Of course it’s good to reflect on what might be the cause of things, to know how to make clearer and more beneficial choices in the future. Looking at it from a Buddhist perspective everything does have a cause – it’s the law of karma, of cause and effect. At the same time, there is nothing we can really do about something that is already occurring – if a sensation is arising it’s already here. All we can do is decide how to meet it, here and now. What we do here and now is also what will shape our future moments. I heard someone once say: at this moment, we are completing the seeds of the past, and planting the seeds of the future. So it’s the way we meet this moment that matters the most.
Another point is that it can be very hard for us to know what truly is negative in our lives and what is positive. Sometimes a negative event brings us a beautiful gift. I think that most of us have experienced this in some way? And sometimes we think something really great has happened in our life, only for it to bring a lot of pain later on, or just turn out to be not that great at all. When it comes to our own sensations and states of mind: what we judge as negative, is perhaps (and most probably) rising to the surface to show us something – something we may need to become aware of. This is why curiosity is an important part of mindfulness – as well as non-judgment.
Sometimes non-judgment can look like saying to oneself: “I don’t think I can feel ok with what is happening right now, I’m worried, I feel afraid…” Or whatever feeling it may be. And to not judge whatever that emotion might be, but to observe it, and let it arise, let it be. And let it pass, as it will. Curiosity might sound like: “This is interesting. Let me maybe look at this more closely. I wonder what it would be like, to let myself feel this feeling fully? Where in the body do I feel or sense it the most?” And so on.
Of course, when a moment arises which we feel a strong aversion towards, it’s not always going to be easy to meet it with curiosity or in a non-judging way. This is why we practice. Just like we train in a sport or practice playing an instrument, we practice meeting life and our sensations, thoughts and emotions, in a kind, non-judging, and curious way. With practice and in time, it does become easier to rest in a state of presence and non-judgement. Our awareness of the moment when we are judging (ourselves, our feelings or thoughts or sensations) grows and expands, so it becomes easier to notice and easier to then guide ourselves back to our presence, instead of creating stories around an emotion or a thought.
In mindfulness practice we don’t try to remove unwanted or uncomfortable thoughts or feelings. But when we really pay attention, we begin to notice that our thoughts and emotions are constantly changing, just like life is constantly in flow and change. And we might learn to relate to them in a way that gives us more space, as well as courage to really feel and look at everything that is happening in our life, both the pain and pleasure.
We notice that we can let things be as they are, through all of life’s clouds and different weather.
If you are interested in more wise words by Pema Chödrön, here are two of her talks/courses on Sounds True.
Coming closer to ourselves – How to use curiosity and compassion to befriend your most challenging emotions.
Living with vulnerability – A Training in Making Friends with Your Mind.