Acts once performed with the intention of loving kindness have become just additional burdens of mindless routine every little task now resonates with resentment self-care disfigured and transmuted into self-harm Somehow I turn even healing practices into poison to punish myself for not meeting my own expectations what is there inside me that turns self-love so sour? why doesn't putting in the work work for me? Tools I was told would transform me if I was patient were twisted into weapons of perfectionism just more masochistic mutations of all the miracles I used to think would some day save me I'm so tired of this futile self-improvement project called me the pearls of ancient wisdom I've turned to soot within my fingers the internal pressure of trying to get better is the terminal illness of my inner-most essence
Stones in My Shoes
Walking around with small stones in my shoes because I am too busy to dump them out my subconscious is soaked in this silent shout the mindless unkindness I continue to choose I gnaw at my fingers to pacify my agitated mind perpetually impatient and in a rush my hands are covered with small burns and cuts these subtle seeds I sow when I don't have time This body I abuse and push past its limits prevent unconscious punishments from piling up silent reinforcement whispering, "not enough" sometimes we need boundaries even from ourselves I wouldn't dare to treat others in this careless way would never make my children wear stony shoes or rush so much that it made others bruised so why, when it's me, is it suddenly okay? I let even the thoughts that harm me repeat the sweet pain of memories I clutch as they cut bringing up the thought of you feels like a must embracing waves of lacerating emotion at my feet But if anyone else would bring you up as much I would cringe from the cruel agony inflicted would wonder why I am always the victim those friendships all withered and shriveled to dust I've neglected the inner child still in my care I'd like to apologize and change things now if I could it's become blatantly obvious that I should I wonder after all I've done if that small self is still there
Sometimes sickness is a blessing because it softens my sharp edges I can more easily surrender to what is My inner flame is subdued allowing me to offer gentle energy and loving kindness in place of judgement Finally an opportunity to slow down to enjoy giving myself comfort and care as I patiently nurse my tired inner child No longer able to resist much needed rest settling quietly into soft stillness I may like to stay here for a little while longer
Tips If You Struggle with Staying Present
I’ve noticed that a lot of people, including myself, that have tried breathing exercises or mindfulness practices come away from them feeling as though they don’t work. For a while it was a mystery to me why some yoga classes or meditations felt so much more healing than others. I realized that the practices that weren’t able to recenter me were more like going through the motions rather than truly being present. I may have been meditating but my mind was wandering and/or my breath was short and shallow the entire time. Sometimes the internal experience does not mirror the outward manifestation of mindfulness practices.
Some days you’ll find you are just not able to focus as easily as other days. However, this does not mean that you shouldn’t try breath work or yoga or that these practices don’t provide any benefit. One thing I’ve found that helps me stay in the moment if I find myself struggling is imagining I’m writing a story. When the mind is very busy, stopping all together can feel impossible. Instead, try to describe the tiny sensations, sights, sounds, feelings that are happening around you that you normally wouldn’t pay attention to.
For example, say you are taking a quiet moment to connect with the earth. Rather than merely trying to force your mind into focusing on the breath, start writing a mental story as if you are trying to explain everything you are experiencing in that moment to someone else. Are your feet in the grass? What does that feel like? Where is the sun in the sky? Is there a breeze blowing? What sounds are there around you? Be as descriptive as possible. If you find it hard to keep your mind on this task as well, you can even bring a notebook and physically write it out on a sheet of paper.
When you start to put seemingly bland or uneventful moments into words, you realize just how much is actually going on even in stillness that you might not have noticed before. I always find this practice very soothing and pleasurable. Even if it feels like you have no time or your mind couldn’t possibly stop racing, set a timer for just 1-5 minutes. It doesn’t take long for your to settle the mind and body. You may even find you enjoy it so much that you make a little more time than you thought you’d be able to devote to this little mental, emotional, spiritual break. And if not, be grateful that you at least gave yourself one minute to rest. You deserve it.
This body is not an ornament or a toy to break and replace it is the holy vessel that holds me and tethers me to this world A useful container that houses the soul perfect and precious because it is uniquely mine the one thing I fully own, my true home the most important gift I could be given How ungrateful I've been for the mortal flesh that supports me my personal window into reality an unconscious effort that keeps me living Belittling all that this body does based only on shallow self judgement centered around outward appearance as if that even matters The frightened animal form my consciousness has been assigned to protect and take care of offering only criticism and neglect May I be a better steward to this living temporary temple and learn to speak to it with gratitude and soft caresses of loving kindness
The True Self
My multitudes are mercurial the ever shifting sand of self spills through tightly clenched fists scattered by hot wind into oblivion Not fully embodied by either the single granular piece nor the expansive vastness of the dunes rather residing somewhere in between The jarring duel perspective of being the witness and the subject simultaneously surreal surveillance of mind and body fabricated force of strained separation Taking action is a distraction over-the-top over analyzing of reality obscures the resounding hum of here and now learning to let go and simply allow Releasing the tension of assumed control setting down the false shield of ego to finally reveal the safety we've been seeking was hiding behind the fear of full surrender
Fear cannot infiltrate a heart filled with gratitude protected from unnecessary pain by the weightless armor of grace crafted from loving kindness Withholding joy is an act of self-harm in a misguided attempt to avoid it the impermanence of these moments does not make them meaningless the soul's spark lies within that fleeting nature Leaning into the sharp edge of emotion is the spiritual practice of a lifetime a struggle worth savoring as we stumble forward into perpetual uncertainty a precious lesson of forgiveness and self-love Enjoying the journey simply because it is ours alone a unique experience of endless expansion artfully unraveling our own soul's wisdom with curiosity and compassion
Surrender to the seasons of your life learn to sit with whatever you find within what resides inside your childish heart let it resonate and ring through your ribcage The feeling of fully embodying each moment navigating the quicksand of resistance that binds us to what we fear most cultivating that counterintuitive current Can you learn to honor uncertainty and discomfort to keep your heart open through every storm allowing the thick, stagnant energy of ingratitude to flow through you and be released This life is about collecting lessons soul of soft clay, continuous transformation trying to capture and confine good feelings so clever in our self-inflicted suffering Forgetting that each moment adds up to make a life far from what we had intended justifying, defending, and doubling down on the things that destroy your peace Etch your true intentions on your heart trace the tender grooves daily whisper them into the air, a gentle prayer have faith that you will find your way
The Rush to React
Nothing is ever as pressing as the one who’s pressing would like you to believe. And I am content to walk a little slower, because there’s nowhere that I really need to be.The Difference in the Shades – Bright Eyes
The sensation of being rushed or in a hurry has been chasing me around for years now. I don’t remember how or when it began, but that fluttering, panicked sensation in my chest seems to always be with me. I start jerking myself violent forward through my day from the moment I wake up. The last few days I’ve been lingering for just a few minutes in bed after my alarm sounds to caress and snuggle my sweet animal children, and it’s been amazing to see just how much my mind tries to resist that and tell me I don’t have time for something so precious and worthwhile. My consciousness leaps straight from the peaceful oblivion of sleep to a three-alarm fire of strict routines and to-do lists in an instant.
While I particularly struggle with giving myself the time to just live and experience the life around me without frantically lining everything up for the next moment, I think a lot of other people have this same problem. Sometimes waiting feels as frightening as death itself. If someone makes a comment, if I get an email, if I’m invited to do something, or even have an idea I feel compelled to focus my entire attention toward responding or taking immediate action. It feels strange just to remind myself that I don’t have to react. Certainly not immediately, but often times, not at all.
It’s easier to see the error in this way of living when I watch those closest to me. It’s painful to watch someone continue to leap into awful decisions just because they feel they have to pick from the ones in front of them in each moment, that waiting is not an option. When you find yourself in a situation where both paths laid out before you are unappealing, it’s okay to decide not to choose either one and wait for other opportunities to present themselves. There is so much value in waiting, in stillness, in just observing, in watching patiently, mindfully. In a world where only bold, immediate action is given any acknowledgment, we are quickly losing sight of the quiet talent of simply being.
Even when the external world isn’t keeping us busy with stimuli to force a fast response, our inner world is. I make my emotional experiences so much more painful by feeling the need to do something about them. When I’m sad, I intensify that despair by trying to claw my way out of that feeling in any way that I can. When I’m anxious, I compound that frenzied energy by running from it, wondering about it, and trying to “fix” it. Even happiness sets me off on a quest to somehow bottle it and ensure that it stays with me, rather than just giving myself permission to enjoy it while it lasts.
Our emotions are often helpful, valuable cues. Even so that doesn’t mean they always require intervention or conscious direction. Emotions and internal experiences or mental states are there to be noticed and observed. Sometimes it helps me to pretend I am just a passive observer watching the external and internal events in this life. Then I don’t feel so much pressure to get involved with every little thing. I become aware of the benefit of simply watching everything unfold with openness and curiosity.
There is nothing wrong with slowing down and giving yourself space to experience whatever comes in the moment. This moment, no matter what it holds, is the only place we’re meant to be. Don’t miss the beauty of it, the uniqueness of it, by trying to get to the next moment faster. This moment is where your whole life is happening, take the time to notice it, savor it, enjoy it with playfulness and curiosity. There is nowhere else that you need to be.
What Am I Making This Mean
Our thoughts and inner chatter come at us so quickly that it’s hard to realize what is an objective truth and what is a distorted or biased perception of that truth. The events that play out in front of us don’t necessarily have an emotional undertone or meaningful significance, yet we are so used to assigning these things to every little event in our lives that they feel inseparable. The rejection we might face from a loved one is so immediately followed by our thoughts about what that rejection means, that it feels impossible to distinguish between the two.
I don’t think it has any immediate benefits, but I do believe in the long term just making a conscious effort to pull real moments away from our automatic perception of them is a valuable practice. It can feel pointless and frustrating to do so at first. Just cognitively realizing that rejection, for instance, does not mean we are unworthy of love, doesn’t make our conditioned reaction feel any less true or painful in that moment. This is just the first step though. Eventually once we’ve worked on recognizing and accepting that distinction, then I believe we will be able to move on toward challenging our painful perceptions and subconscious convictions.
It has been interesting for me just to notice how violently my mind resists the very idea of my immediate reaction being a choice or something I could view differently. There is a physical sense of revulsion in my body. My heart closes tightly. My mind attempts to shut down this new direction in my thought patterns. Despite how painful a belief might be, I find myself clinging to it desperately instead of being open to reevaluating the situation. Isn’t that a curious thing. Why am I so stubbornly trying to maintain a way of thinking that causes me so much suffering unnecessarily?
I think the answer to this question is that somehow, part of me has developed this stimuli/reaction cycle as a form of self-protection. It doesn’t seem to make any sense how genuinely believing someone couldn’t or shouldn’t love me could be protecting me, but that scared little animal inside of me must have some basis for mistakenly thinking it will. Even our most hateful inner voice is ultimately just trying to keep us safe. It is just afraid for us. It’s up to us to work every day to push through that fear and show ourselves that we don’t have to hold on to these harmful inner narratives any longer.
One way I’ve learned we can distance ourselves from the intensity of these upsetting thoughts is to speak to ourselves as if we were someone else. Internally addressing ourselves in the third person, saying our own name instead of I, can provide a mental cushion of space between the emotional energy of the thoughts and our conscious awareness. A question I’ve been posing to myself in this way is: “Rachel, what are you making this mean?”
Framing the question in this way is actually a reframing. It has become so automatic that we’ve lost the original question we’ve been answering which would be “what does this mean?” After being confronted with an uncomfortable reality such as rejection, the small voice of fear inside whispers this follow up question in it’s desperate attempt to make sense of things and create a story around what’s happened. Our well worn response to the situation is our answer to that question.
Even though I might feel as though I am constantly doubting myself, I never seem to doubt these explanations and narratives I create around the moments of my life. Why not? Part of the problem is I’ve somewhere along the line lost the ability to recognize I am the one creating this particular meaning. After years and years of unwitting reinforcement, the voice that tells me how I have to think or react doesn’t feel like it’s coming from me anymore. It doesn’t feel optional. It feels like a hard and unavoidable truth.
When I ask myself “what are you making this mean,” it is a reminder, however surreal it may seem at first, that I’m deciding to add qualifiers and opinions to otherwise neutral events. The way I see a situation is not the one right way, or the only way to see it. Really there are an infinite number of possibilities when it comes to interpreting the experiences we have in life. It might feel like those possibilities are extremely limited at first, but the more we encourage our awareness of their existence, the more we will feel capable of pivoting our perceptions towards ones that better serve us.
At the end of the day, I don’t believe there is necessarily any objective truth in this insane experience we can life. All that matters, all that is, is what you believe. It’s not easy. Sometimes I don’t even feel like it’s possible. But even so, I do believe it is worth the effort to help ourselves see the world and our own lives in a way that brings us joy, peace, self-love, and equanimity. What else could be more important or meaningful? Even on the days were my battles with inner demons and mental illness feel like a living example of Sisyphus, I know the only thing to do is keep going.