“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them“. Thich Nhat Hanh
I talked a little the other day about the experience of not planning while I was in Marrakesh and how this allowed the whole experience there to occur very naturally. Life unfolded and I went along with it and as a result everything was perfect.
I wasn’t without my desires in the situation (for a things like a comfy bed, good food etc) but I was unattached to them. If I got what I wanted then fine, if I didn’t then I was fine with that too. But mostly I was willing to just see what happened each day and not have any particular strong wishes of how things were going to be or what we would do.
There is a sweet spot in each situation. That doesn’t mean there is a right or wrong step to take, it all teaches us something so it is all useful, but there is an optimum step to take in each situation in my experience for maximum harmony and flow.
I find that the more I trust in that inherent harmony the more it reveals itself, and to hear and observe how to move and respond next requires us to have a level of openness and receptivity. This can only occur when we are relatively fearless, relaxed and calm. In that calm open state there is space to listen to life’s subtle indications of where to step next.
However, we have inherited a limbic system in our brains which is primed for threat recognition and responds readily with the responses of fight, flight or freeze.
I see now that my limbic system was my main advisor in many situations in my life and this led me into an awful lot of drama. Angry or fearful responses, attacking or running away rarely led me to harmony, love and joyfulness.
Over the last few years I have learned that this primitive side of our brains with its highly sensitive threat detection system can be soothed and calmed. I no longer have to jump when it says jump, or respond with hostility when it says attack. By turning kindness on ourselves, we can experience the suffering we feel with compassion. We can learn to simply be with it, without contracting swiftly away in the form of reactivity.
The primitive limbic part of my brain is triggered daily, it can be someone cutting me up in a traffic jam, or someone being rude, for example, but now I have some tools to help me accomodate its responses without acting on them.
I demonstrate to myself daily that is is okay to be kind towards myself. I take small actions throughout the day. Even when things are calm in my world I practise activities that show kindness towards myself. Here are just a few of the many ways I am discovering to be kind to myself.
- The breath. To consciously take a long breath is probably the single most important action I have learned. Breath in, breath out and I am back in touch with the present and grounded in my body instead of off with my minds stories.
- A daily walk in the local park. Being around nature is tremendously soothing, especially if we consciously try to notice all the sounds and textures and colours.
- I buy myself lots of different types of indoor potted flowers especially in winter, and I enjoy watching the flowers unfold each day.
- I say nice things to myself when I look in the mirror and no longer criticise how I look
- I observe my tendencies to self criticism and judgement of others and consciously feel compassion for myself and forgive myself when I notice it happening.
- I look after my body and feed it healthy foods. Im relaxed about this though, and also allow treats like chocolate or wine whenever I feel like it. But my desire for treats has reduced a lot as I practise these new way of comforting and self soothing. And the desire to be kind to myself has decreased the desire for unhealthy practices such as smoking or drinking too much or eating junk food.
- I have changed who I spend time, and don’t spend much time with chronic complainers, judgers or those who are abusing themselves with excessive negativity, drink or drugs. (How judgemental of me!)
- I am patient with myself. When our Upper Limits are being expanded there is an ensuing reaction of fear and a wish to sabotage things back to the level of struggle we have been conditioned to expect. I forgive myself quickly for these self sabotage behaviours, and move on with a lighthearted view of almost amusement and a big self hug.
- I enjoy consciously the giving and receiving of love from my lovely old dog.
- I consciously experience gratitude for the abundance in my life.
For me this is a gradual process and little by little I am gently elbowing and nudging out old habits by replacing them with new habits. I am so enjoying watching the new world that is opening up as a result. Some of these practises seem quite small but they all have their place and all help to build inner resilience and muscle for challenging times.