Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Oasis Within

“We don't spend a lot of time reading and we are not at all methodical...
we follow the Teaching as it is revealed in the moment”

Jewel (Julia Day)

Lately we have been practicing being patient with the ‘felt sense’ and noticing the images arising from our unconscious mind. This has been very helpful to the process of letting go of ideas and belief systems that have held us in a vise and cause us pain. Most of them live below the surface activities of our everyday lives and we have found that it is essential to slow down and pay attention to their message.

Gathering to study and compare our experiences has been extremely useful. Regular joining has enabled us to draw upon events in our daily lives that illustrate how outworn ideas have been stored as energy in our bodies. Once we are able to become fully present and relaxed, the felt sense shows us where parts of us are stuck and want to be released back to wholeness.

This process has brought all of us a great deal of peace as we become less triggered by the events in our lives. We are constantly learning new ways to see these events as opportunities for healing. While it is useful to draw upon the teachings of various traditions, Light Tree gatherings give us the opportunity to practice them in our everyday lives.

Christine’s reflection on this mandala shows how the process of being present with her inner guidance brought new energy to some outworn patterns in her life.

“I had a pleasant surprise today!

Abundance and growth in the form of three tiny hearts has appeared in the centre. This feels much lighter in contrast to the heaviness in my heart when I entered into the mandala this morning. Now, when I look at the lightness, brightness and colour of the central garden, I can connect to feelings of joy within my Self.

Stepping back, the outside turquoise ring looks like mindless drones marching around I a ‘same ole, same ole’ pattern that seems to represent the busy-ness of the outer world. I notice that I am distracted by the same old self limiting messages. As my eye moves inward, a spacious stillness, no-thing-ness Is where the brilliance & abundance of Truth breaks through”

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Felt Sense

“There is perhaps only so much energy the nervous system can expend pushing down powerful emotions that cry out for expression…At some point…{our} nerves may lose their ability to renew themselves…”

Gabor Maté, MD. When the body says No. (2004).

At The Light Tree We have been looking at stress and trauma in order to understand how we have given priority to our beliefs by ignoring our basic instincts and body sensations. I have noticed that disregarding body sensations throughout my life has had a profound effect on my nervous system. This has almost certainly created or contributed to my experience of the collection of symptoms we call Multiple Sclerosis.

We have been reading Steven Levine’s work on trauma and it’s been very insightful to understanding how ignoring body sensations can lead to illness. In the following article, Annie describes her own experience of ‘the felt sense’ and how it contributes to increased spiritual awareness and a greater sense of peace.

The felt sense:  what’s it got to do with anything spiritual?

 Am I wrong or do “spiritual” people (let alone people generally) avoid the subject of feelings and the felt sense? Feelings, after all, are transient, fickle, unreliable, volatile, turbulent, deceptive, destabilizing, and basically not to be trusted.  So what do feelings, especially the so-called negative emotions, such as anger, grief, guilt, and terror, have to do with spiritual awareness?

On my healing journey, I’ve come to regard the felt sense as lying at the heart of the matter.  The felt sense is the path of the heart.  When we talk about the difference between head knowing and heart knowing, aren’t we talking precisely about the difference between thinking and feeling?  The challenge, in our heady society, is getting acquainted with the felt sense.  What is it? What does it actually feel like?  How do we recover our connection with it?  We need to start trusting it.

In a recent A Course In Miracles healing circle, one of the participants said with frustration:  “I am fed up with my feelings.  If I give in to them, I just wallow in anxiety, depression, loneliness, despair.  Why would I want to indulge them anymore than I have to?”  My response is this:  Yes, a person may be dwelling in the full-blown drama of strong emotion, but simultaneously she is actually resisting that emotion like crazy.  With every seeming fibre of her being, she is bracing against what she does not want to feel.  She is screaming (usually just on the inside):  “Get me out of here! And now is not soon enough!”  In ACIM terms, it’s the ego that’s doing all that resisting.  And where the mind goes, the body follows:  it is as tight as a drum and riddled with a morass of resistance or holding patterns.

What would happen if we did the opposite, that is, stopped resisting feeling?  What if instead of turning on our heels and running, we stopped for a nanosecond and faced the disquiet or pain.  What if we recognized this as a threshold for the most key decision we can make: to run or stay put.  And if we choose to stay, we might actually greet the disquiet with:  “You know, I’d rather not feel you, but I’m going to anyway.  I can at least name you.  And depending on how safe that feels, I can perhaps soften into you a little. I can be curious about you, rather than attack and hate you. I could fall open to the feeling of you.   I could even dwell with you for a bit.  I could rest right here.  I will forget about the story behind my emotion, unless that helps me feel more fully, and instead keep my focus on the feeling itself.  I might even extend the invitation (only if and when it feels safe) to feel fully whatever I have withheld in fear. 

And, here, in this place of non-resistance, this place of fearlessness (fearlessness does not mean without fear, it means willingness to face fear), this embodied place, this place of authenticity, this place of deep present moment awareness, this place of unconditional love, this place of direct knowing, I can invite Spirit to show me, teach me, guide me.  It is here, in this place of alchemy and transformation, that I will be guided to authentically forgive and release my imaginings that there is any power other than love, light and oneness. Misperceptions, and the emotions they engender, start dissolving.  I am home, resting in the felt knowing of expanding peace, tenderness, and true joining, ie. love.

I encourage you to pause here, to notice what your breath is doing right now (without changing it or “fixing” it in anyway)........  And in the slight delay that occurs when you check in with your breath, you perceptibly switch from the thinking mode to the felt mode.  Your awareness travels within, perhaps dropping below your neck as you feel your breath rise and fall in your chest.  Here, in this embodied place, dwells your felt sense and the authenticity meter of your healing journey.

aka Annie

18 March 2012

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Believing Our Thoughts

I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always.”

Byron Katie, Who Would You Be Without Your Story? (2008).

Our work at the Light Tree has invariably led us to ask the eternal question, “what do we do about suffering?’ We have been using mindfulness meditation to practice noticing our thoughts and being curious about how they operate to control our experience.

The central core of our awareness springs from knowing that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. When we get stuck we remember that being in human form is challenging and foreign to our true nature. If we continually return to the thought that all we are is love, joy emerges to affirm that the only thing that appears to injure us is our beliefs about a situation.

The good news is that we can change our thoughts at any time. We just need to be willing to notice them and forgive ourselves for believing that they have any real power to hurt us. We are challenged when unpleasant feelings arise that seem to disturb our peace. When we start to feel annoyed, resentful and angry toward others we can be sure we are projecting our own experience onto them.

Taking responsibility for every thought we think, every belief we hold sacred, is the first step to freedom. The crucial thing is to remember that we are healing and to be gentle with ourselves. We find it helpful to have friends who continually remind us that none of our beliefs are true, unless they reflect love. Joining in criticism or attack only deepens the wound and prolongs suffering because it makes a false idea seem real.

As we are healing, we notice that we drift between feeling deep peace, joy and love, and sensations of unworthiness, anger and fear. Its okay, this is to be expected. We stay with the feeling as much as we can and do not try to distract ourselves from feeling it fully. The more we are willing to sit and experience everything the discomfort is trying to convey, the more it dissolves into nothingness. It releases its hold because it’s only F.E.A.R., False Evidence Appearing Real.

Every experience is a new chance to unravel patterns of self-denigration and cultivate loving kindness toward ourselves. There are always opportunities to forgive ourselves for being sucked in by our thoughts yet again! True freedom is dissolving the urge to be bullied by fear and returning to what is real.

From there we find the joy that always abides within our hearts.