Letting go of beliefs

There is a distinction between beliefs, preferences, and thoughts. Thoughts flow through the mind unencumbered when we don’t resist them, they don’t disturb us, and they don’t leave a mark.We only resist them when we have a belief about them. Preferences are lightly held desires or opinions, they are released when they are satisfied, or put aside when they are unattainable, they don’t leave a residue. Beliefs come with tension, limitations, separation and suffering. We accept them as true; we justify them with other beliefs, and use them to distinguish ourselves from others. We build our identity with our beliefs, and then defend and protect it. Beliefs are sticky, and dense, and they do leave a mark.As I sit here my head feels open, thoughts are flowing, I hardly notice most of them, they are not sticking, the ones I write are released through my fingers, then they are gone. As I write about beliefs my attention begins looking through the mind, searching for something that feels more solid, dense, tight. I can’t find anything. This doesn’t mean that I won’t find more beliefs at another time, but for now the mind is empty. I know beliefs feel solid, dense and tight, because I have had so many, and have worked hard at releasing many of them, others I have watched dissolve, and others I only noticed in retrospect when they were gone.When I was younger I had the belief that I was not very smart. The result was that I pretended to be smart, and felt ashamed, self-conscious, and like a fraud. I had to get a PhD...

Thoughts About Emotions

We are raised in this culture with beliefs about certain emotions. The beliefs vary some from family to family; but there is general agreement that the goal is to feel good and happy as much as possible. This implies a sub-goal of not feeling negative emotions. Anger, fear, and sadness are generally banned from most families. What if this is not the goal, what if the goal is to feel all the emotions, or maybe there is no goal.  If we had no goal the emotions would just flow through undisturbed. They wouldn’t be resisted, judged, or denied. As a child I was fairly quiet, introspective,  sensitive, and somewhat moody. Which means that I felt a wide range of emotions. In my family anger and sadness were not allowed. I learned to keep sadness to myself, but anger would burst forth no matter how hard I tried to repress or deny it. I was judged so harshly just for being angry, that expressing anger carried a dark taboo. Since I couldn’t seem to get rid of it, I felt tremendous shame. It felt like anger had a life of its own. It was my fault that it was inside me, and it was my job to keep it from exposing itself; but I just couldn’t stop it from spurting out of my mouth. With much work on myself, psychologically and spiritually I began to accept anger as a natural expression. I learned to make room for it without judgment. Interestingly the more I relaxed around it, the more energy I had, and I began to feel less anger, as...

Intrigued by Fear

I wrote about fear the other day, but I really didn’t give it justice, so I’m going to try again. I’m going to focus on fear but this is true for all emotions, the ones we like as well as the ones we think of as bad or dark or negative. (You may want to check out the Fear blog from a few days ago) As humans we are wired to have all the emotions, we are also wired to become aware of ourselves as boundless. What does that mean? When we know ourselves as boundless there are no boundaries or limits to our sense of self. If we feel into or look for where we end and where what seems to be outside of us begins, we can’t find the membrane that separates. There is no border, no edge between the self and the world. So how is fear experienced from this perspective? For me fear is experienced without a container, as if it is on the inside and outside at the same time. More accurately, it is as if there is no inside or outside. There is also no label for it. Fear is a movement of energy arising in an uncontained field. I only know this because I was able to give fear room to take over, without resisting, controlling, judging, or rejecting. When an emotion can be felt completely, totally, without holding back, and yet with full awareness, it transcends the limited labels within which it has been packaged. That is what labels do; they put things in boxes, contain and limit them. Once this...

Fear

When I first thought about writing about fear, I thought, I really can’t because I don’t know fear that well. Not as well as sadness, shame, even anger. But as I reflected I realized that I do know fear. What makes us afraid? Certainly our deepest fear as humans is death. Mostly we don’t let ourselves feel that fear, we allow ourselves to feel lesser fears. But ultimately all fears with stories attached are about the future. Since we cannot know the future we make up stories about it and then scare ourselves with these stories. I didn’t think I felt fear much because I am wired to feel other emotions more intensely; sadness, shame, guilt, anger, and of course joy, peace and happiness. But fear is not one the main ones. I don’t make up stories about danger, or possible physical threats. Many people whose primary emotion is fear make up stories that start off with, what if that happened, or what would happen if, or because this happened that will happen next. Someone might break into the house, there could be an earthquake, not eating organic food will lead to cancer, a virus might take over the world, etc. These thoughts become things to dwell upon and for which to make plans. Because I generally don’t think like that I didn’t see at first that I am just as familiar with fear. My kind of fear has been to worry about having said the wrong thing, hurt someones’ feelings, or been uncaring in some way. The story that got spun, was that I would be rejected, not...

What is Self-Love?

In our culture self love and self image often go hand in hand. And it is common for most people to believe that it is important to love yourself and to have a positive self-image. But what does this mean? What does it mean to love yourself? In order for this to be an issue we have to have feelings and thoughts of not being loved, or loveable. We may even have feelings of self-hatred, which comes with thoughts and stories about how awful we are. The thoughts and stories feed the emotions and vice-versa, creating an agonizing internal environment. We are told in order to counteract these bad feelings we should tell ourselves positive stories. To make this seem authentic we remind ourselves about all of our good or exceptional qualities. This has the unconscious, unintentional affect of making loving ourselves conditional. Once love is conditional it becomes fragile and impermanent. One wrong move and it is taken away, and there is the self-loathing again. So we work on never doing the things we see as bad and wrong so that we can love ourselves more.  This is such a trap, and a vicious circle. Love has been such an important part of my healing and my spiritual journey. I never really thought about needing to love myself, but I did feel self-hatred and shame. I did all the things I mentioned above. I tried to focus on the aspects of my personality that I thought were redeeming. I cultivated them, exaggerated them, and believed in them; which ultimately made them inauthentic and fake. There were specific behaviors...

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a theme that comes up for most of us. I know it has for me. I dealt with it as self-forgiveness and other-forgiveness, and I have worked with people on and around this dilemma for many years. Why is this so important and so complicated? The issue of forgiveness comes up when we feel the pain of blame and understand that to be free of blame we have to forgive.  We blame someone when we perceive that they hurt us. This is painful in so many ways. We believe what they did caused life to go in a way that we don’t like, and that if life went our way we would be happy. Nestled in the feeling of blame is the belief that they had a choice and could have acted differently. This gives them power over our life, and creates a sense of me against them; a very painful separation. Many of us have a story about our life that explains why we are the way we are. In the story there are people to blame, usually our parents, and things that happened that caused our suffering, and justified our reactions and behavior. As our life unfolds we can accumulate other people and events to blame. When we first begin to work on ourselves we don’t think of our life as a story, we see it as a true description of what happened to us. I call this process of describing the events of our lives a story because it is usually not just factual, it tends to include interpretations, beliefs, emotional responses and reactions,...