How Past & Future Affect Our “Present” ~ and How “Fascination” can Helpby Stephanie NashThe Past and the Future are only present in our thoughts. We often fill our days with these thoughts - totally missing our Present moment experience. And often, when we do "arrive" to what is happening right now, the emotional feeling flavors in the body, that have been stimulated by the reflection or planning, linger like the ring of a bell after it's been struck. We are usually totally unaware of how those feeling flavors in the body subtly (or not so subtly) affect our perception, our interpretation of our perception, our motivations, and our resulting behavior.
Usually the nature of the past/future thoughts that we repeat to ourselves is unpleasant or negative - like regret/guilt/anger over what did happen, or anxiety over what might happen. And this isn't because we are just too negative, damn it! (which, of course, is the process of applying a negative judgment to the fact that we have negative judgments! - a never ending downward spiral) - but due to the fact that our brain is evolutionarily designed to hear negative over positive to help us evolve - although that is a gear we need to evolve out of as it is no longer helpful.
So, in recent classes, I have been playing with the theme of noticing the feeling flavors in the body that were activated by and left behind from any negative thinking - to allow us to accept the physical fact of those sensations with an open allowing - thus helping the feelings (and the corresponding thoughts) flow - and get DIGESTED (by which I mean we extract the nutrients and get rid of the waste.) And yes, it can be that simple.
It can actually be quite amazing to discover how much EASIER it is to let go of things than to hold on to them, but that is only discovered when one actually does it. No matter how many people tell you it is so, from the place of holding, tension, judgment and frustration it seems almost impossible to conceive of much less attempt - and there seems to be no reason to trust such a wild concept - "You mean I should open up to and allow unpleasant feelings??" Yeah. Tightening up and turning away never works. The only answer is to open up and turn towards, to accept, allow and let it flow, let it flow, let it flow.
So I will often encourage meditators that I'm working with, to notice (in that magical moment of "waking up" from thought to the sensory reality of the present) what feeling flavors linger in the body. Those sensations are probably familiar and may or many not be pleasant. And I encourage an acceptance of and relaxing around and through these feeling flavors - which almost always being to "flow" (move/change in some way), and shift into a kind of energy that is not necessarily unpleasant. Sometimes it's quite pleasant. (And I will also usually encourage a gentle, fascinated exploration of these sensations, which can be a way to help let go of the resistance - which is what locks the "ick" in place.)
Once someone has had the experience of this, they know the way - and there is a higher probability that they'll be able to do that the next time and the time after that - each repetition creating a new habit (and corresponding neuro-pathway in the brain), so that it can start happening when you're not thinking about it - like a default.
But before such experience is had, there may be a strong resistance to attempting to accept something that is unpleasant. A storehouse of judgments about that whole notion may be released.
So I use fascination to address this. I like fascination. There is a man who puts a quote from me at the bottom of his emails, "If you can get concentrated, get fascinated. ~ Stephanie Nash" - and yes, I used to say that a lot.
I love getting people fascinated in their sensory experience. I will often guide meditations that are 40-60 minutes long and afterwards most people say it felt like 20 minutes - that's because they stayed concentrated and, (especially considering I always have newcomers), that's because they were fascinated. I find it interesting and I play tour-guide and point out all the interesting nooks & crannies of sensory experience - be it sight, sound or touch - be it visual experience with the eyes closed or the flowing nature of physical sensations.
And when we get into emotional sensations in the body, fascination not only helps you stay concentrated (and actually emotions tend to do that naturally), but the fascination works here to BY-PASS the resistance. So whatever emotional sensation you may be experiencing - especially if it's icky, sticky, post-negative thinking - explore it like a 4 year old explores a lady bug. (That's my favorite analogy for the open, curious, non-judgmental mind - but until I come up with a new metaphor, I'm sticking with that one.) To the 4-year old, everything is "Cool!" "Whoa, look at that!"
So the body feels icky - where? What's the texture? The intensity? Are there different areas? Is there movement? As you started paying attention to it, did it start to move or dissipate or spread? And soon the natural flow it it starts and you just by-passed the judging resistance and got straight to the flow.
And then the urge to hold the thoughts of past & future have less "fuel." And it becomes easier to let them go and return to the present. (The present is actually more interesting and relevant, but the HABIT of chewing on thoughts is what we're disecting here.)
So, no matter what your strategy for letting go of the habit of spending your present ruminating about the past & future, check out what's going on in the body in those moments when you "wake up" and if you can turn towards and investigate, or get fascinated, or simply accept and relax around whatever sensations are there - you help those feelings that DRIVE the thinking mind to DIGEST, to PROCESS, to release - freeing you up to the Wonderful World of the Present Moment once again. It always awaits with open arms.
Stephanie Nash | June 16, 2015 at 6:21 pm | Categories: Practical Applications, Working with Emotions | URL: http://wp.me/p3d87r-i6
Our dreams don't always come true, but by pursuing them, sometimes we come true.
Liking without wanting is Heaven.
Wanting without liking is Hell.
Autobiography In Five Chapters
by Portia Nelso
1) I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost...I am hopeless.
It takes forever to find a way out.
2) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I'm in the same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
3) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in...it's a habit.
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
4) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I walk around it.
5) I walk down another street.
Hope," by Victoria Safford.
"Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower;
nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense;
nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through);
nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be all right.”
But a different, sometimes lonely place,
the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition,
the place of resistance and defiance,
the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it will be;
the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle.
And we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see."
Lord it is night. The night is for stillness. Let us be still in the presence of God. It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done. Let it be. The night is dark. Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you. The night is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace. The night heralds the dawn. Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities. In your name we pray. Amen.
This is from the New Zealand Prayer Book
Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely. Karen Kaiser Clark
It's gonna happen. It happens from time to time to almost everyone who is committed to a regular discipline of mediation and/or prayer. In the last week and a half, no less than 7 of my clients have reported to me that their spiritual practice had stalled or become irregular in the holiday period.
The first thing to do is--let go of the guilt! It's gonna happen. Especially at this time of year with travel and extra responsibilities added onto already insanely busy lives. The important thing is to get started again right away. And remember that the benefits you have gained from your practice are not going to go away.
Meditation teacher Shinzen Young is fond of saying, "If you can't be disciplined, be clever." Here are some hints you might try to cleverly get back on track with your practice.
1. Set a goal where you are sure to succeed. Even if you were meditating 45 minutes twice a day before your practice stalled, when you restart your practice set a goal that you know you can meet, say 10 minutes, 5 times per week. It will allow you to feel good about your practice again and will help you build momentum naturally for longer periods of practice. And you might want to reflect if you stalled because you were biting off more than you can chew in terms of time spent in practice for your current life and circumstances. It is exponentially more effective to practice regularly for shorter periods of time than to practice for longer periods of time irregularly.
2. Make yourself accountable. Make a deal with your sangha, spiritual director, life coach, teacher or a friend that you will let them know that you have met your goal. Do this weekly, or even daily, until your practice is re-established. It can be really simple like sending them an e mail or a text.
3. Is the reason you are not practicing is because you are bored? There is no reason to be. A conversation with an experienced teacher can help you identify ways to modify or refine your practice so that you will be energized again. You may also try some of the many guided meditations available on line. (See my Youtube channel for some of them.)
4. Last, but perhaps most important, many times we stop practicing because our practice is about to reveal something about our lives that some part of us would rather not look at. If you go ahead and practice anyway, you will probably find that what is revealed is not nearly as scary as you unconsciously feared. So, if you become aware of the need to practice, but you find yourself resisting, check in mindfully and deeply for a moment to check if there is any reason for the resistance. It will be enlightening.
About the Author
Rev. Arvid Straube has been helping people grow spiritually for more than 35 years as a Unitarian Universalist parish minister. He has been practicing and teaching Vipassana
meditation for over 20 years, studying with many teachers including Joseph Goldstein, Thich Nhat Hanh and Shinzen Young.