Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post written by Albert from UrbanMonk.net. I hope you enjoy it. Please share your experiences and leave your feedback in the comments section.
When we honestly look at our pursuits, one thing quickly becomes clear – underneath so much of our endless searching, the real goal is simple and almost universal: to be happy.
And so, two slightly controversial opinions, to lead you into a different, more genuine, approach. The first: happiness comes from the inside. The satisfaction we get from external sources – getting rich, or powerful, or indulging in sensual pleasures – is temporary. Soon afterwards, we begin craving it again; it is an endless pit that can never become full.
What happens if we lose what we have worked for? Of course, this is not saying we should drop our goals, deny ourselves a little fun. All this is saying: lasting, unshakable, happiness does not come from outside.
The second opinion: If one acknowledges the source of happiness as internal, how do we find it? There are many ways, but in my experience, one of the most satisfying is simply to turn around and face our pains and our sorrows – all the things we have been running away from.
What does one do when they are upset? How does one react when they are angry, afraid, or overwhelmed by despair? Sometimes we express it – and then regret the consequences. Other times we repress it. We drown it out in alcohol, obscure it with smoke, or blur it out with the dancing lights of the television and the computer.
But our feelings are simply there to be felt. Doesn’t that make much more sense? To stop running internally, to face everything that has made us anxious, sad, and angry. And in that focus we begin to heal the nightmares… and watch as the dreams begin to come.
How Do We Face Our Sorrows?
So: relax into your pain. Be completely still with it, without trying to turn away from it, without judging it, without acting on it.
Spend a few minutes practicing this mindfulness now; it is a skill, a way of living, that will serve well. Think of something that makes you fearful, sad, or angry; someone you hate, perhaps. And just be aware of what arises in you.
The first step is to realize that we are not our emotions. We are not sad; there is sadness inside us. We are not angry; there is anger inside us. In this way, we slowly become less identified with them – we slowly reclaim control of ourselves from these emotions.
The second step is to relax into it. These pains come in various ways – emotions almost always have a physical component. Focus on your upper torso and your head. Perhaps you feel a heat, a “softness”, a tingling. Maybe your muscles begin to tense up, or you feel cold and clammy. Relax into these sensations, welcome them. Drop the tension in your muscles, breathe deeply and slowly.
The third step is to then avoid believing your story, your thoughts. Emotions often come with urges, a story, sounds, images, and words. Relax into them, welcome them too. Let them float pass without believing in them. Anger, for example, can come with thoughts of violence or revenge. Let these float by – they are just thoughts, and you are not your thoughts. If we become identified with them, we sometimes act on our urges, and the consequences are painful. Naturally, some physical reactions, such as crying, curling into a ball, or punching a pillow, are fine, but please exercise common sense and safety for yourself and those around you. And while I have never heard of dangerous bodily responses, these can be possible. If you begin to feel physically uncomfortable, take a break, and take things in small, manageable steps.
But that is all. In our conscious attention, our feelings begin to dissipate, to lose their grip on you. They begin to pass by us, just as they are supposed to do. When we make it a practice – for fresh emotions, or by revisiting old wounds – we begin to feel lighter, less burdened.
Some people have trouble with this. I have a friend who had been depressed for years. Her therapist told her she had to grieve her losses, and her response was strong – “What do you think I have been doing all these years?”
But she wasn’t really allowing herself to feel sad. She had been thoroughly miserable, yes. But the entire time, she was fighting it, resisting it – she didn’t want to be sad. But turning around and facing the misery was different – she had to let herself be sad, even to want to be sad. Our feelings are as much a part of us as our bodies are. Denying them is self-violence. Accept them, love them, isn’t that only logical?
Other Ways Our Minds Fight The Healing
Beyond this overt resistance, there are more subtle ways we block the process. An in-depth analysis is beyond this article, but here are some quick ones to guide your inner explorations.
- Societal “shoulds” and “should nots”. These often get in the way: Men don’t cry, women don’t rage.
- Pure instinct. When you see a gruesome car accident, you grimace and look away. It is the same with your internal wounds.
- Boredom. The mind tells you that it is bored, think about something else.
- Denial. The mind tries to convince you the pain is a good thing, or it is already healed.
- Force. The mind tries to draw you away with irrelevant thoughts, or an intense desire to do something else.
- Comfort Zone. Often we try to stay within our comfort zones – we have become so used to this pain, for it has been with us for so long we think it is us. Like a splinter that has been in our fingers for a long time, the pain has been dulled so much it feels almost manageable. Pulling it out might hurt more for a few seconds, but that is the only way we can heal.
Deepening Your Practice
Begin this practice with a small annoyance, to prove to yourself that it works. This is a practice that is a way of being, when we go about our daily lives. But many make it into a formal meditation. If you do, it might be a good idea to keep a diary of our benefits, for bigger wounds can take some time, and we forget how far we have come – and give up.
In this manner, we begin to go deeper into our own beings. As we heal the smaller wounds, bigger, deeper insecurities and humiliations naturally begin to arise. We all carry a backlog of such pains inside us, weighing us down in our daily lives. Lovingly, non-judgmentally, simply bring our focus on them, and in that focus the healing has already begun. And one day we will find that the things that used to hurt us, no longer do.
About The Author
Albert runs UrbanMonk.Net, a practical personal development blog that has enhanced the lives of many readers, moving them out of suffering and into a life of joy and ease. It draws upon a mixture of ancient spirituality and modern psychology.