Published April 25, 2016
dailyom , learning , life
Tags: awareness, dailyom, empathy, insight, learning, life, thought, understanding
Most of us were born and raised in cultures that value the head over the heart and, as a result, we place our own hearts below our heads in a sort of inner hierarchy of which we may not be conscious. What this means is that we tend to listen and respond from the neck up, often leaving the rest of our bodies with little or no say in most matters. This is a physical habit, which sometimes feels as ingrained as the way we breathe or walk. However, with effort and awareness, we can shift the energy into our hearts, listening and responding from this much deeper, more resonant place.
The brain has a masterful way of imposing structure and order on the world, creating divisions and categories, devising plans and strategies. In many ways, we have our brains to thank for our survival on this planet. However, as is so clear at this time, we also need the wisdom of our hearts if we wish to continue surviving in a viable way. When we listen from our heart, the logical grid of the brain tends to soften and melt, which enables us to perceive the interconnectedness beneath the divisions and categories we use to organize the world. We begin to understand that just as the heart underlies the brain, this interconnectedness underlies everything.
Many agree that this is the most important work we can do at this time in history, and there are many practices at our disposal. For a simple start, try sitting with a friend and asking him to tell you about his life at this moment. For 10 minutes or more, try to listen without responding verbally, offering suggestions, or brainstorming solutions. Instead, breathe into your heart and your belly, listening and feeling instead of thinking. When you do this, you may find that it’s much more difficult to offer advice and much easier to identify with the feelings your friend is sharing. You may also find that your friend opens up more, goes deeper, and feels he has really been heard. If you also feel great warmth and compassion, almost as if you are seeing your friend for the first time, then you will know that you have begun to tap the power of listening with your heart.
Sight is the ability to see the physical world while vision is the gift of seeing beyond it. Sight enables us to take the physical world in so we can participate in it with knowledge. It brings us pleasure through our eyes, which perceive the colors and shapes of all the myriad expressions of nature and human beings. It helps us feel in control, allowing us to see what is coming toward us, which way we are going, and exactly where we are standing at a given moment. We are able to read signs and books, navigate the interiors of buildings with ease, sense and perceive how a person is feeling by the expressions that cross her face.
As anyone who has lost their eyesight can tell you, though, there are things that are clearer when you cannot see the world through your eyes. One of the reasons many meditation instructors advise sitting with the eyes closed is because we automatically become more in touch with our inner world when we are not distracted by the outer world. It is in this state that vision becomes our mode of seeing. Vision comes from within and shows us how to navigate the realms of thought, feeling, and emotion. It enables us to see things that aren’t yet manifested in the world of form, and it also connects us to that part of ourselves that exists separately from the world of form.
As we age, even those of us with perfect eyesight will generally lose some of our acuity, but this loss is usually replaced with inner vision. This is the time of life when we are meant to turn inside and take what are sometimes the very first steps of a journey that cannot be traced on a map. We call upon intuition and feel our way along a path that ultimately carries us beyond the realm we can see with our eyes and into the land of spirit.
Sometimes when we need to make a decision, we can become overwhelmed or feel pressured into coming to a conclusion immediately. Often, a decision isn’t required right away, and the sense of urgency we feel is merely a limitation that we’ve placed upon ourselves. Once we’ve determined that we do have the time to make a wise choice for ourselves, we can release the pressure with a deep breath, like steam from a pressure cooker, and proceed to make the best use of our time.
The best first step may be to gather all the facts we can find. Once we have all the logical information we need, we can allow ourselves to sit with it and soak it up. Like a good recipe, we can allow ourselves to marinate in the juices of intellectual understanding while also adding our own spices made up of our feelings, our intuition, and any other considerations. We can taste the recipe for readiness as we go in order to decide if more time or ingredients are needed. We might want to take time to visualize ourselves playing out the various scenarios to see which feels the best, remind ourselves of our goals, or merely sit silently in meditation, listening for guidance. Any of these techniques can add depth and flavor to the recipe of our decisions.
We can allow ourselves to sit with our choices for whatever length of time is needed, whether it is a day, a week, a month or longer. Doing so gives our hearts, minds and spirits the chance to align, allowing us to make a decision that is right for us. Other times, we may need to let the wisdom of the universe unfold for us at its own rate, allowing our growth and realizations to sync up with the universe’s secret and essential ingredients so that all of the flavors are ready at the same time. When we allow ourselves the time to sit and allow understanding to sink in, we can cocreate the best decision possible for ourselves and for everyone involved.
We experience numerous disappointments each and every day. Our expectations go unmet, our plans are blocked by circumstance, our wishes go unfulfilled, and we discover that our lives are subject to a myriad of forces beyond our conscious control. In some cases, our response is powerful because we must invest ourselves and our resources to overcome genuine hardship. In others, our reactions are far more passionate than our circumstances likely warrant. The tension that permeates our bodies and minds when we are late for an event, interrupted at work, or sitting in traffic is not inappropriate, but it can interfere with our well-being in profound ways. When we stop worrying about relatively unimportant matters, we can be at peace and devote so much more of ourselves to what is truly important.
The small frustrations and irritations wield such power over us because they rob us of the illusion of control. But every problem is a potential teacher—a confusing situation is an opportunity to practice mindfulness, and difficult people provide us with opportunities to display compassion. There is a natural human tendency to invest copious amounts of emotional energy in minor dilemmas and frustrations in order to avoid confronting those more complex issues that are largely outside the realm of our control. The intensity of our response provides us with a temporary sense of personal power that helps us cope with challenges that might otherwise overwhelm us. But it is only when we let the little stuff go that we discover that the big stuff is not really so devastating after all.
In the stress of a singularly tense incident, differentiating between an inconsequential annoyance and a legitimate challenge can seem a monumental task. Ask yourself whether the emotions you are feeling will be as vivid in a year, a day, or even an hour. As focused as you are on this moment in time, your reward for letting go of your emotional investment may be the very happiness and harmony of being whose loss you are lamenting. Needless aggravation is seldom worth the cost it exacts. You cannot distance yourself from life’s inconsistencies, irritations, and upheavals, but you can relinquish your desire for perfect order and gain peace of mind in the process.
Published December 6, 2015
dailyom , learning , life , psychology
Tags: compassion, dailyom, growth, insight, learning, life, psychology, self, spirit
Compassion is the ability to see the deep connectedness between ourselves and others. Moreover, true compassion recognizes that all the boundaries we perceive between ourselves and others are an illusion. When we first begin to practice compassion, this very deep level of understanding may elude us, but we can have faith that if we start where we are, we will eventually feel our way toward it. We move closer to it every time we see past our own self-concern to accommodate concern for others. And, as with any skill, our compassion grows most in the presence of difficulty.
We practice small acts of compassion every day, when our loved ones are short-tempered or another driver cuts us off in traffic. We extend our forgiveness by trying to understand their point of view; we know how it is to feel stressed out or irritable. The practice of compassion becomes more difficult when we find ourselves unable to understand the actions of the person who offends us. These are the situations that ask us to look more deeply into ourselves, into parts of our psyches that we may want to deny, parts that we have repressed because society has labeled them bad or wrong. For example, acts of violence are often well beyond anything we ourselves have perpetuated, so when we are on the receiving end of such acts, we are often at a loss. This is where the real potential for growth begins, because we are called to shine a light inside ourselves and take responsibility for what we have disowned. It is at this juncture that we have the opportunity to transform from within.
This can seem like a very tall order, but when life presents us with circumstances that require our compassion, no matter how difficult, we can trust that we are ready. We can call upon all the light we have cultivated so far, allowing it to lead the way into the darkest parts of our own hearts, connecting us to the hearts of others in the understanding that is true compassion.