Staying Safe

self-criticism, self-image, image, safe, self-love

Some things are so much a part of who we are we barely notice their existence.  Self-criticism can be like that – so pervasive, so subtle, we hardly know it’s there eating away at confidence, corroding the quality of our life.  We can counter self-criticism with words we label positive – fling ourselves into a diet of affirmations and positive thinking.  But Awareness has a better solution than setting up yet another duality of positive versus negative.

Self-criticism is really self-judgment.  We judge all the time.  It’s the way we’re wired and it helps us navigate our world.    We categorize and compare constantly, instantly.  It seems almost impossible to look at something, a chair for example, and not make a judgment about it – the color is attractive or unattractive, the height too squat or just right, the shape sleek or cumbersome…in other words positive or negative.  Everything is positive or negative.

But look at the same chair without judging any aspect of it and a whole new world opens up.  We can see curves and angles, textures and shapes previously obscured by the rush to decide whether we like it or not, the rush to judgment.

Then try this exercise looking in the mirror.  The face looking back is neither beautiful nor ugly…nor anything in between.  It’s not fat or thin, oval or round or square.  It just is.  Suspend description, suspend words, suspend thoughts.  It’s the best way I know to find love beneath self-criticism.  But like meditation it requires practice, over and over again – a bit like self-criticism.

The Spiritual Mind

The spiritual, or in the Christian tradition, the contemplative mind is a way of seeing and processing life.  Mind, in this context, is far greater than the cognitive function of thinking and problem solving.  It’s more like the Hermetic principle that “The All is Mind”.  The contemplative mind is an element of the universal .  So what are the elements of the contemplative mind? 

For me there are five:

  • Awareness
  • Living in the Moment
  • Trust and Openness
  • Embracing everything without judgment, including what is painful
  • Non-Dualism

These elements all work together.  Sometimes we’re more in one than the other – we can be aware, for example, but not trust so easily.  That’s ok because in the spirit of non-dualism, that doesn’t matter.  What is, is.  I’ll be dipping into all of them over the next few months, but although they work together, the fundamental skill is Awareness.

Awareness is spiritual literacy and my favorite proponent of awareness is Anthony de Mello.  De Mello’s book is not for the faint-hearted.  His take on awareness is uncompromising.  It demands a level of honesty that cuts through our most cherished values and beliefs and leaves us standing spiritually naked before ourselves.

Too much to jump into all at once?  Maybe we could start dabbling a little for starters.   

Any thought on awareness, what it means, how it works in your life?

What is Breathwork? (Part 4 of more)

We can see what’s happening on the outside of a breathwork session. 

But what’s happening on the inside?

Well, sometimes it’s physical.  The breather may feel tingling in their hands or feet, changes in their body temperature or localized pain.  They may experience waves of energy moving upwards, gathering in intensity until they come cascading back downwards after reaching the head.  The breather may see fabulous swirling colors, hear sounds, experience deep relaxation or feel their whole body vibrate with aliveness and vitality.

Sometimes there are memories from the distant and not-so-distant past, memories that have been forgotten and ones that have never been forgotten.  These memories are more real than anything we normally recall because in breathwork they are multi-dimensional.  In other words, it’s more like reliving than remembering.  Although the memories can be very real, the breather always knows where they are – lying down in their breathwork therapist’s consulting room.

And here is where breathwork takes us to one of the basic spiritual experiences – the reality of paradox.  Linear time disappears.  We can be deep in the past and fully in the present all at once.

There’s a place for emotions –sadness, fear, anger, pain of loss, disgust.  But also joy, exuberance, contentment, peace or satisfaction so intense it’s physical as well as emotional.  The end result is a growing sense of lightness, freedom and well-being.

And there’s a place too for mind.  In the same way as our sense of time dissolves into something more fluid, the usual limitations to thinking also fall away.  We cease to think in the forms and structures of everyday life and the results can be valuable and profound insights into ourselves, others and life itself.  These insights are like little epiphanies, moments of real and lasting change.

In other words, breathwork is a spiritual experience that integrates all the parts of who we are – mind, body, spirit – and connects us with the Life Force in a very real, tactile, experiential way.

Tell us about your spiritual practice?

Everyone has something to teach.   Share your wisdom – make a comment.

The Mystic Emotion

Albert Einstein once wrote, “The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science.”  Mysticism is an old and beautiful word.  It predates terms like peak states, out of body experiences, mojo. 

It means the experience of aware union with the life force…feel free to substitute whatever term you like to use (god, Allah, Krishna, higher power, Great Spirit, Christ…).    When we become fully aware of that union our perception of everything changes.  Or to quote Einstein again, “The…feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.”   This is a scientist’s perspective.  Yours might be worded differently.  But the wonder and awe and beauty, the love and rapture are the same.  This is the experience at the core of religion before the edifice of church and sin had been built upon it. 

We access mystical experience by being open to it.  It’s not about trying, but about surrendering.  It’s not about making it happen but about letting go of what prevents it from coming to our awareness.  And in our culture of acquiring and striving, surrendering can be a lot more difficult than forcing something to happen. 

This is where spiritual practices come in.  Breathwork is the most effective spiritual practice I know, but other forms of meditation, contemplative prayer, being silent in nature, yoga, walking, dancing, writing…whatever does it for you, are equally effective.  If done regularly, they help us surrender, often despite ourselves.   

Everyone has something to teach.   Share your wisdom – make a comment.