I had a hard day. You all know how it goes – something doesn’t go as planned, people don’t respond the way you’d like, you were just “off” and didn’t come across as confident or maybe even competent, your child threw up or is having a rough day, someone was critical of you even though you were really really trying to help. We’ve all been there. The specifics don’t matter. (No really, they don’t matter. Keep reading!)
Today, I could feel the sting in my heart, the tightness in my throat, the defeat in my slumped shoulders…all before noon.
I started down the path of aversion and separateness: “Well, I’ll never help them again!” And judgment: “Who do they think they are?!”
I got into the car. I sat there. Tears were welling up. Not the tears of hysteria and wild emotion, but the quiet tears of defeat.
I knew I needed to hear my own voice. I turned on my iphone (god, I love this thing!), went to the voice recorder and clicked “record.”
I sat there, pausing, breathing. I know that explaining, complaining, and analyzing don’t do jack to heal us. They aren’t the healing balm to suffering.
And I wanted HEALING BALM. Not some bandaid B.S. I am over the “treating the symptoms” kind of approach. I go for true healing.
So I decided to “go back to the basics” of my mindfulness practice:
I just started naming whatever was in my present moment awareness.
Any thought, emotion, memory, sensation…whatever came into my awareness, I named it.
“Now this layer of defeat.”
“Now breathing. Now I am exhaling.”
“Now tightness in my throat.”
“Now thinking of memories from childhood.”
“Now this layer. Thought. Trying, trying sooooo hard. And being misunderstood. Feeling like crap.”
“Now ‘old belief’ – ‘I try and no one notices.”
It went on like this for 20 minutes. Just naming whatever came into my present moment awareness. No judgment. No “going into the story.” No analyzing the sensation, thought, memory, or emotion. Only right here. In the now. Space. And Breath.
Gradually, I noticed this:
a sense of resiliency
an okayness within me
no desire to change what was
letting go of blame, hurt
a sense of connection
Gradually, there was less gripping. My heart felt restored. My body — calm. My emotions — soft, even.
I thought of Lao Tzu’s words: “Can you wait until the mud settles and the waters become clear?”
The water was becoming clear. Settled and clear.
That’s all I did. I took a “N.A.P.”
This is what heals. This naming “what is.” This spacious allowing. This kind presence. Too often we get caught up in the weeds of our emotions and thoughts, when, really, all we have to do to become untangled from them is to look up and breathe in the expansiveness of the sky. We get caught up in the waves of our thoughts and emotions instead of allowing them to just rise and and fall on their own…instead of remembering WE ARE THE OCEAN.
REMEMBER WE ARE THE OCEAN, as Tara Brach says.
Bitterness. Confusion. Gone.
In their place: a gentle, compassionate, spaciousness for holding the deeper hurt within me – holding and regarding what longed to be seen within me.
But had I not just “allowed” and softened and breathed and named whatever it was that came into my awareness and held it all with gentle, gentle presence…but instead got caught up in the “weeds” of judgment, blaming, separating, I’d still be feeling like crap. Maybe I would’ve called a friend and they would’ve been like, “Oh that bites, Lisa. Wow. They don’t know what a good thing they got! You are an incredible………….” And I would’ve felt “better.” For a moment.
But what was needing my attention most WEREN’T the particulars (the waves, the weeds) of what happened. It wasn’t OTHER people’s reactions or behaviors that needed my attention. IT WAS ME. The parts of me in need of some healing balm.
So I found myself THANKING these experiences of today – and all the people. They woke me up to tend to ME. I found myself BOWING to life and the SIMPLICITY and the ease to which we can suffer less. Just a bit of spaciousness, naming, allowing, and gentleness.
Doing very little. And yet healing a lot.
I didn’t change my experiences (or the people around me!). I changed how I related to them. And THAT cultivates peace. THAT is what, as the Tibetans say, brings on the lion’s roar: the capacity of heart to be with whatever arises.
I did call a friend. Well, she happened to call me. And I sat there telling her NOT about the particulars of the day but rather this process and the clearing and the CALM within me now. She gets it. We said very little. Still tender, I went home, lighter, softer, whole.