Monday, September 28, 2015

Meeting fear with acceptance and wisdom

"If we do not turn inwards and train our mind, but instead expend all our energy on arranging and rearranging the external aspects of our existence, then our suffering will continue." 

We often worry about things beyond our control. So, if there's something I'm ruminating over, I often find it helpful to ask the question "How can I help myself right now?"  

The practice of mindfulness helps us to stay present, for our lived experience. As we practice mindfulness we are learning to respond to life in ways that are helpful, instead of reacting in ways that create suffering. 

In order to help ourselves, we must first be aware of how we are relating, to what is happening our lives. The first place we need to turn towards, is our inner experience. Taking a moment to connect with our lived experience in body, mind and heart is essential. 
Pausing, we connect with the breath, notice the quality of attention. With a real committment to be mindful to what is happening we ask:
  • Is the mind scattered?
  • What are the quality of thoughts? Worried, agitated, restless
  • How is the body? Are there areas of tension perhaps in the shoulders, hands, or face?
  • What about the breathing? Is the breath shallow or tight?
  • Is there constriction or heaviness in the heart area?
  • As you notice what you are holding in the mind, begin to allow thoughts to fade into the background and gently focus on the breath.
  • Breathing in, feel the breath come into the nostrils, chest and belly.
  • See if you can soften tension in the body and heart by breathing in and then softening on the exhale.
  • Relax tension wherever you can.
  • Feel sensations in the body and watch how they shift and change. 
  • If you're overwhelmed, use the breath as an anchor to keep you in the present moment. Breathing in, stay present, breathing out, let go and soften where possible.
  • Use the following mantra by the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh " Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”
As we connect with our lived experience, we let go of living in stories or thoughts about how lfe should be and come to accept it the way it is. This is a very important shift, as we are able to connect, with the aliveness, energy and vibrant body, heart and mind. It is only when we open in this intimate way, that we can help ourselves. Otherwise, we're caught in the trap of trying to fix, rescue, dismiss or avoid what is happening in our lives. We're reacting instead of responding. Ultimately, we are trying to control that which we don't like, or we're clinging and trying to keep that which we like.

Underneath the need for control is fear

Underneath the need for control, is the wanting to know how things are going to be in the future. Questions arise about how long this good feeling, relationship or situation will last.  We want to feel safe and so it follows, that if we know what is going to happen, we can some how prevent it. While there is some truth to this, it's also true that we can't predict every outcome. Nor should we! Life is constantly changing and nothing is permanent. Every day we age a little bit more. People get sick, we lose loved ones, a job or material wealth. Many things can happen, that are beyond our control and this is the nature of life.  We can't predict what is going to happen as we move through our day. We can plan as best we can and then let go. The more we try to control the more we suffer.

In learning to plan and then take our hands off the controls, we learn to be connected to the life that's right here!  In shifting, from future or past, to present moment awareness we can begin to respond from a place of wisdom instead of a place of worry and catastrophizing. So the real question is can you live with the I don't know.

As Philip Moffitt, a Meditation Teacher at Spirit Rock states, "The proper response is when fear is present is threefold: 
  • Continual mindfulness of the fear, 
  • Deep compassion for the suffering it is causing, 
  • Cultivation of equanimity that allows you to stay with it. 
You will find that the dharma will do the rest. 

May you be well 
The proper response is threefold: continual mindfulness of the fear, deep compassion for the suffering it is causing, and cultivation of equanimity that allows you to stay with it. You will find that the dharma will do the rest. - See more at: http://dharmawisdom.org/teachings/articles/freedom-fear#sthash.M3wYxldF.dpuf
The proper response is threefold: continual mindfulness of the fear, deep compassion for the suffering it is causing, and cultivation of equanimity that allows you to stay with it. You will find that the dharma will do the rest. - See more at: http://dharmawisdom.org/teachings/articles/freedom-fear#sthash.M3wYxldF.dpuf
The proper response is threefold: continual mindfulness of the fear, deep compassion for the suffering it is causing, and cultivation of equanimity that allows you to stay with it. You will find that the dharma will do the rest. - See more at: http://dharmawisdom.org/teachings/articles/freedom-fear#sthash.M3wYxldF.dpuf
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