Beyond the suffering mind lies love

In the last post, I quoted the following, “I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments” (From The Invitation, Oriah Mountain Dreamer). It can be scary, those empty moments. We can fill the day with all sorts of distractions, but it is often in the empty moments, like after sleeping or on awakening in the middle of the night, or in a walk by oneself, or while waiting, or at countless other moments, when a small voice inside almost like one’s conscience reminds us of that which troubles us. At the moment, for many, it is things around the threat from pandemic illness, but it might be something else. We might, despite all we know and all our best efforts, find ourselves descending into the familiar pit of our suffering. We might scramble to get out, but the sides keep falling in and there we are, stuck with our pain. That can be when one despairs.

These times come to test us. They can keep coming until we find a way to manage them. For some it can offer a way through to greater peace, but for others it just keeps coming. There can be many reasons. It might be our own personal process that we are working through but it might also be circumstances outside of us. In troubled times in the world we may also feel the pain of others and it can seem as if it is our own pain, when in fact we’re taking on others’ suffering. Now can be such a time.

Using awareness of suffering

This is where self awareness is important, to be able to enquire within as to what it’s about, and to be able to discriminate between our own pain and that of others.

I’ve suggested before that these “dark nights of the soul” can be very scary, but they can also be instructive. It can depend whether we are willing to embrace the situation and see it through to the important understanding that it can offer.

It is also be useful to be able to have ways to release ourselves from that which is troubling us, and each might find their own way to learn what the pain is about and how to release ourselves.

Understanding the mind

The Buddha said that Pain is certain. Suffering is optional. Humans suffer, unless or until they gain a mastery over it. Then they can be the observer of pain but not caught up in it. This is where understanding the mind is important.

Left to its own devices, the mind can take us all over the place. It’s very powerful. We can go to the heights of elation and the depths of despair. We can make up all sorts of things, about other people, ourselves, what’s going on. You name it. If we let it.

The mind is very creative. What we we think, we are. What we focus on, we draw to us. It’s the law of attraction, like a magnet. So, if you or I keep focusing on something, it’s more likely to happen. If we let it. Hence we have choice. It’s an option.

Use mindfulness to manage the mind

So, it’s important to stop. Use the skills of mindfulness

  1. So notice what you are paying attention to. Become mindful of it. Notice you are thinking a certain thing. Become aware of it.
  2. Step back from it. Put distance between the thought and you. This is where the will is important.
  3. Notice it, like you are now the observer of it. As we say, witness it. Be the witness of your ego at work, but not caught up in it.

You are not your thoughts. You, and I, are so much more than our thoughts, the “sweaty ego”.

When we step back and witness our thoughts, we have true power.

The other side of fear is love. That’s who we are, in whatever understanding you have of that.

When we step back and become the observer, we let can love in.

This is why these dark nights of the soul are so important, to know the space beyond suffering.

Then rest in the witness. Rest in the awareness that you are love.

Need, expectation and jealousy are the three love destroyers

The three love-killers need, expectation and jealousy are a powerful trio which both singlely and all together can wreck relationships with others. Sometimes they are obvious, at other times subtle and insiduous, and we may not consciously know that we have shifted into one or more of these states. The challenge in self awareness is to recognise when they are present and “get off it” and let them go.

It can be sometimes very difficult to disentangle need, expectation and jealousy from love but they can cut across the clear, simple, unconditional caring for another and poison it entirely.

Need and neediness

Need can include wanting from another as if one’s happiness and even survival depends on it. “I must have this in order to feel OK”. So it brings in things like deficit need, an unsatisfied emotional need that festers inside and won’t go away despite what others might do. In fact whatever they might do is “not enough” and there is this sense of there “not being enough”. Need can get very clingy, or others might feel they are being sucked dry emotionally. People might want to push a needy person away. Need might show itself as “What I want” in a forceful or underhand way rather than a clear self-expression without attachment. Another way is to be very focused on getting one’s own needs met, often without much regard for others except as to manipulate to get the desired result.

Expectation

Expectation can be similar, as all three of these are variations on egoic desire. So, to expect things of others is to place conditions or standards on their behaviour, another person’s standards rather than their own. It’s rife in business of course, but we’re looking at emotional expectation here. There’s an expectation that people will show up in a particular way, and meet another’s needs. Again there’s a dependence on another’s behaviour for one to feel OK. If you are at the receiving end, you might feel you are always dancing to another’s tune, and your needs aren’t getting much of a look in.

Jealousy

Jealousy can be more of an angry emotion, if emotion is the right word. For example they might have what you want. There’s perhaps the sense you don’t match up to them and you resent it. You might think they are “better” than you, or have more than you, or have higher status, or are more successful, or are more beautiful, or have the “better” partner, or are richer, etc. It is aimed at the other person and can get very nasty. Love jealousy of course is a particularly strong example, when someone you fancy fancies another, or you think they do. The classic story of love jealousy is Shakespeare’s Othello, where the successful general Othello is poisoned by his so-called faithful servant Iago into believing that his innocent and beloved Desdemona is unfaithful: “Beware the green-eyed monster, that doth mock the meat it feeds on”, Iago cynically warned.

Love is absent, though we may not know it

With all three, need, expectation and jealousy, love has got distorted, even to the extent that love might be entirely missing. One might think it is about love, but these feelings are quite different. They can of course destroy relationships.

It can be usefull to reflect on what we can take responsibility for, what we are creating, and what we can potentially choose to let go, so as to connect once again with the pure simplicity of love for its own sake. And to remember, you and another are One.

In memory of a very special person

I was very sad to learn recently that a major inspiration in my life, a very special person, has just died of a heart attack. Graham Browne led a very powerful program, Turning Point, that I attended at a very low point in my life in 1989 and it was through the work that followed that a very rapid transformation occurred for me. Many people have come out of seemingly nowhere to confirm what this man, with his fellow teachers, has achieved for them too.

It’s one of those very big occasions when people sense another turning point. When someone important for us like this dies, or for comparison a present or past leader or other major figure, we are likely to be very impacted and to stop and think very seriously about what the person has meant for us. How many of us for example had a sense of a major transition when Princess Diana died? It’s about what that person meant for us.

In Graham’s case, he was for me a very charismatic workshop leader who had a rare capacity to facilitate people’s process in a group such that he could identify exactly what was their “growing edge” in their personal growth. It was a brilliant example of insightful coaching in a group situation, well before the term was commonly used. Except that Graham’s work was more like therapy than what we might conventionally call coaching, although there is no clear or agreed demarcation. Rather like Fitz Perls’ “hot seat” approach in Gestalt, the work he would do impacted not only the person concerned but the group as a whole. Such is the power of this kind of group work. It is as if this person’s journey is our journey too. It was through watching Graham work that I was inspired to change my career from teaching and learn what I now do. What I learned and what I do isn’t the same. Graham’s skill was arguably unique to Graham, as each of us has their own style and way of working, although he very successfully trained his successors in his approach. I went my own way, but what I’m saying here is that it was Graham’s work that got me thinking.

I want to stress that it is very important to watch others at work and see how they do things. NLP would call this modelling. In turn you might then go on to explore and use other ideas too. I went on to study Gestalt, which also powerfully uses “in the moment” processing.

Graham also worked with the group as a whole from a Transpersonal perspective, and without going into detail, he accessed a whole range of techniques to help people to get in touch with and release emotional blockages and learn more of their real potential and of who they really are. It was during one of those processes that he led, a guided visualisation, that I had a extremely powerful spiritual experience, and it was perhaps this that has stayed as the most powerful moment I had in working with Graham. I had the enormous sense of God’s love beaming down, a great big massive ball of deep gold, vibrating with energy, with great strands of energy powering out all around, beams coming on every side of me, and such that All there Was was this deep, unconditional love. Everything seemed to dissolve into this love.

What more is there to ask for?

I feel tearful now, in a very positive way, remembering that moment, which seemed to go on for ever.

Thus can people be gifts for us, angels that come, as they come in many forms, and so did Graham that day.

So I thank him from the bottom of my heart, a true gift, acting in pure service, unconditionally, in love, for so very many evidently very grateful people. What more could people ask for?

So, let’s just pause and remember the gift of our fellow humans, and perhaps for yourself bring to your mind some special person who has been of service to you or helped you in some powerfully positive way, and give thanks to them, and give your love to them.

Om shanti.

Seeing perfection in what seems imperfect

When things are messy and it feels like it’s all gone wrong, it can be very hard to get that it’s also just perfect. Seeing perfection in the midst of adversity goes right against our belief system. It could be that despite what’s going on for you right now, where you are is perfect.

Usually our belief is that we’ve “got to get it right”, “be better”, in other words live up to some imagined external standard which is more likely one we’ve internalised. Of course, there may be people in your world who want it to be better than it is, and usually we need to deal with that, but what I’m getting at is where we are dissatisfied with something according to our own standards. It’s just “not good enough”. The inner driver here can be one of perfection, and we put ourselves under great, if not enormous pressure. To be less than perfect is a failure. So we can be very self-critical, about what we do, what others do, or don’t do, and also about ourselves, finding fault with ourselves even.

So, when things “go wrong”, we give ourselves an extremely hard time, and probably others too, if not directly then in our minds.

To see the perfection in imperfection requires a shift of awareness, a letting go of judgement, and an understanding that everything is perfect. This can seem like a complete contradiction, given the above.

So it is worth looking at the understanding of perfection. From a divine perspective, all is complete, at one. When all there is is love, everything is just right just as it is. You love all of it, and all of yourself. Then it all feels perfect, and imperfection is unimaginable. For example have you ever been so utterly in love that somehow everything was well with you and with the world? People do have these experiences. This is Who we really Are.

When things are perceived as imperfect, we are comparing something with an absolute, sometimes a seemingly unreachable standard. So we are making ourselves separate from the divine, a good old ego game.

So, as you go about your day today, maybe catch yourself giving yourself a hard time (and others) about things “not being right”, breathe deeply and let go of the thought, and allow the possibility to be present that wherever you are, is just perfect, just as it is. All is OK with the world, and with you. It is only your understanding that is currently stopping you seeing that.

How is it that what you truly want eludes you?

When you try to grab hold of it, it isn’t there. Have you had that experience, really pushing to get hold of what you truly want and it keeps eluding your grasp?

No wonder people get cynical about life. It doesn’t seem to deliver. The more we want, the more we don’t get what we want. What we get instead is wanting.

I was giving a talk last night to a group of interested people about how to connect with inner peace and one questioner expressed the dilemma she experienced of having seemingly spontaneous feelings of contentment and yet when she tried to hold on to them, they vanished.

Even worse, if we try to feel happy, all we get is what we are unhappy about. One is separate from the other.

I explained to the questioner that once we become aware of something like the feeling she described, that whole inner beauty of who we really are, what we yearn for, we disconnect from it. We separate ourselves from the experience. Our rational thinking selves kick in. It becomes subject and object. Here’s us and over there is what we want. Wanting and needing, our ego stuff, gets in the way.

In a nutshell this is a big part of the dilemma of being human. Being in our ego selves, we think of ourselves as finite. After all, the ego is about survival and it fears it won’t survive. So it fights to hang on. Thus we separate ourselves from what we really want, at a soul level.

This is the contracted or limited self, disconnected from the divine in us. The task is to reconnect with the One.

Let go and allow to Be

By being more self-aware, at the fundamental level of awareness of Being, we can learn to let go and allow things and ourselves to Be. This is the creative power of the universe. We’re no longer driven by ego behaviour. Thus many seekers use meditation, to be present and connect and be At One, instead of Alone.

It is often said that our biggest ego barrier is fear. Contemplating the void is scary big time. Yet when we find the courage to let go, embrace the fear, and step into the unknown, we become safe beyond measure. Feeling separate makes us feel afraid. Yet when we embrace fear, it dissolves. After all it is False Evidence Appearing Real, F.E.A.R., an illusion.

So a major self-development challenge in learning to know and be who we really are, is to learn to let go and trust, and through our practices and living a more wholistic life have more of the experience of Being at One.

What you truly want is really love, which is the experience of being at One. All the other things we desire are nothing compared with That.