|Finding Space to Grow In Between a Rock and Hard Place|
But no doubt there will continue to be unhappy people, and in my work, when someone is clearing out an issue, a lot of emotions come up. So I've learned how to be comfortable with other people's discomfort, and here are some tips to help you hold your space in these situations and still be a connected and loving person.
Defining Your Space
I wrote a post awhile ago called "Facing Discomfort on the Spiritual Path." It's an important first step, and it's the key to being able to get comfortable with other people's discomfort. Essentially, the first step is getting to know you. Knowing what is inside you and what parts of yourself you aren't comfortable with is crucial. Until you can grapple with your internal space, the external world will still find those hot buttons in you, and it will continue to push them. I see so many portrayals of men who aren't comfortable with their emotional space in movies, TV, and so forth. Of course, fiction often reveals fact, and many men can't be with highly emotional situations. Some women even manipulate men by becoming highly emotional to get what they want. These men can't be with the discomfort the other person is feeling because they haven't dealt with the uncomfortable feelings inside them. So for this example and many other situations, you have to go within to start defining your internal space before you can really be fully present with people in pain of any kind.
Starting Out: We Are Always Beginning Anew
I have a section on this blog called "Starting Out," but I really want to encourage all of you to consider that every day is starting out again. Letting go of the stories of life is important. This isn't enforced forgetfulness; this is focusing on useful remembrance. Because most of the stories and patterns we remember in life keep us locked up in emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual slavery. That's why it's always helpful to consider that we really are always starting out again each day
Because we are always changing. That's why a regular morning meditation can be so cleansing, freeing, and helpful. It can be a daily way of saying, "Who am I?" And then you listen. You listen to the remaining stories and decide if you're going to believe in them today. You listen and hear that you're a Zumba instructor, an art teacher, a computer scientist, a mother-in-law, a president, a homeless person, a criminal, a slut, and all these other stories. You can listen, and then you can decide if you still want to be those things. You can decide to let them all go and be something else entirely.
A Jump Ahead: For The Awakened and Those With Regular Practices
Okay, so I'm jumping ahead in the story, and I'm encouraging people who are brand new to this blog to go over to that Starting Out section. Come back to this post later after you've read some more about starting out. If you want a specific blog suggestion, then try out the Spirituality Basics post.
For this paragraph, I'm assuming you have a practice. I'm assuming that you have an idea of the issues and patterns in your energy and your life. I'm assuming that you've also got the awareness that if something upsets you or activates you, you can address it. This is important because especially those who are awakened or who are naturally very psychically open, you are going to feel a lot when you around people. Sometimes it's worse in groups of people, and sometimes it's worse with specific people. Sometimes there are just individuals who are kind of our Kryptonite; it's just a bad mix when they're around. For those people, it may be time to put a physical boundary in place. But for the majority of situations, I've learned that a few easy steps and a little visualization go a long way in helping me be with whatever is going on.
- The first thing I do is to notice what exactly it is I am feeling. I look to get a sense of if this feels like it is something that has anything to do with me. (As I said, this really works best after you've developed a spiritual practice with regular self-inquiry)
- If it is something that is linking to me in some way, I just notice the story that I have that is linking into this uncomfortable feeling that I am feeling from someone else or in the general environment. Sometimes, that's enough, and sometimes, a deep breath lets me exhale and disengage from whatever is ruffling my feathers.
- If it's something that has nothing to do with any of my stories, then I may pinpoint the feeling. It's kind of like following a thread backwards. Once I get a sense of who in the room this applies to, I'll cut the thread. Then I'll visualize a filter of white light in between myself and the other person. The purpose of that filter is to still allow connection with the other person, but to remove any of the unhealthy stuff that the person is spinning out (because most people are trying to get rid of their uncomfortable feelings. In more concrete ways, people do this by bitching about work, having brutal exercise routines, or even getting into physical fights).
- If I still feel this discomfort or pain from the individual, I may actually visualize a wall of light between myself and the other person. For whatever reason, the filter visualization isn't working, and no connection is healthy at this juncture in time (keep in mind that these things should be thought of in a temporary way to allow for your own growth as well as the other person's ability to change).
- If I still feel it, but it feels like it's from the environment around me, I may visualize an energy bubble around myself or simply leave. If a place just feels that bad to you, you kinda have to ask yourself, "Why do I even want to be here?"
An interesting thing is going to happen as you pay more attention to the people in your life and your environment; you're going to notice a lot of stuff that you hadn't noticed before. Some of it may be shocking. Some of it may be affirming. But rest-assured, you're going to have a different perspective on things. For those who have awakened, you already have a new perspective, and this will add to it. Looking and sensing your world around you is a great way to embody more of your awareness. Practicing in this way is yet another way to use your awareness and to make it part of you (which is essentially what "embody" means). For those who are really psychic, this can be really helpful to do, but many of you still need to develop a spiritual practice to grow and enhance your understanding and integrity in these spaces. Shortcuts won't help you; you have to do the internal work that you need to do. And for those who have had a spiritual practice for some time, this can be another set of tools in the toolbelt. Some of it may help, and some of it may not. It really just depends on what your natural level of sensitivity and openness is, and everyone is different. Just because one person isn't as sensitive as another doesn't mean that one person is better than another. It just means that you're different.
Dropping In More Deeply With Those in Pain
Those tips that I wrote can help when you are teaching, counseling, or working with people in pain. It can be just as helpful for the relief worker in Rwanda as the high school counselor working with an inconsolable teenager who just lost her boyfriend. The more important part is the overall practice of self-inquiry, healing, and awakening. Because when you know yourself, you won't get lost in identifying with the teen's story. If you haven't done your internal work, you'll be really sad and think about all the bad break-ups you've had. You may also get very drained by the situation (Getting drained by situations is a big issue for a lot of people. I encourage any of you who have had this issue that now is the time to start on your internal work and set more appropriate boundaries in your life).
Furthermore, you also won't be a stonewall and say hard-hearted things like, "It happens to everyone. You just need to learn how to move on." Maybe you still say those things, but it'll come from a different place the more open and clear of internal pain you are. In turn, people will hear you from a different place. It's incredibly nourishing and supportive to me when I get support from someone who has done their internal work. Then, they're not getting caught up in whatever is bothering me, they simply can love and support me as I heal or clear an issue.
Ultimately, I think this kind of loving support is what we all want, but so many of us are in pain all the time, that we have no bandwidth to deal with anyone else's pain. In fact, pain is a kind of culture. It's like when you listen to people talk about the horrible things that have happened to them, and each person is trying to one-up the other with a story where they got more screwed over or hurt. It's sad really. But that's how indoctrinated and ingrained pain is in the human psyche right now, and for some of you, this realization alone will be the main gem that you can take away from this post.
Getting Started, Wash, Rinse, and Repeat
In the post I had about healing on multiple levels, I talked about how you'll heal an issue at different levels. It makes it seem like you're doing it over and over again, but as a friend of mine who was talking about it with me on Skype last night said, whenever he heals something, he suddenly feels bigger, better, freer. It's something to keep in mind. If you feel like you are still dealing with the same issue and don't feel freer, more open, and more loving, then it's time to look and see if you are really dealing with it. Usually if you are, then you will go through these times where it's like hammering on a rock, and then something releases. Then you feel amazing until the next deep dive. That's how your system naturally breathes through healing, contracting down to a core issue, healing it, and then expanding again.
Please keep this in mind as you start or re-start your work. This is a process, and while an awakening speeds things up and helps people to see what is really real, there is still a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to healing. But as you do it, you really do feel more amazing and free. The walls come down, and you can interconnect more easily with others. With that comes added sensitivity, though. Which then adds in more responsibility of learning how to be comfortable with others who are uncomfortable. As you lose your own internal discomfort, you will see how much pain much of the world is in. It is truly eye-opening, but as I said, the less internal discomfort you have, the more space you will have to be with most of the dis-ease that is out there. And that's a powerful place to be in.
Today's picture is a gift from my student, Jenn.