Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more of our daily experience was positive? Wouldn’t our feelings towards the future be lighter if we knew that we could be open, and maybe even fearless, about what is coming?
We may have noticed during the past weeks that we have myriad thoughts running through our mind. They can make falling asleep and many other things a challenge. Observing more closely what’s going on, we may notice that our thoughts today are the same as 98% of the thoughts yesterday. Yesterday’s thoughts were similar to those of the day before and so on. Places, situations, and people might change in the forefront of our mind, but in the background the same questions, themes, and worries remain.
If it’s true that feelings of dissatisfaction and aversion are a natural part of human experience and not a sign of personal failure, could there be a wise way to live with them? They are deeply intermingled with our daily functioning. How can we respond with more ease and clarity in the face of daily confrontations? There may be no easy solution, but this natural process can be understood and positively influenced.
We can use a simple method called RAIN:
R stands for recognize
A for allow
I for investigate
N for natural presence
In the first step we notice what’s happening, that we are affected, and pause. A little breathing exercise from Jon Kabat-Zinn might be supportive for that.
In the second step we soften and accept that this is what is happening right now.
A further step can be to look inside with kindness and observe more closely what we are feeling and thinking. Maybe we would also like to feel into the outer situation (right then or later) and try to investigate why we tend to act as we do, and if this is how we wish to be.
A fourth step can be to direct our attention to the openness and the space in which all of this is happening. Often in stressful situation we feel claustrophobic. Can we feel the space around us? Can we feel the space within?
A little story from old China:
A farmer had only one horse with which to plow his fields. One day the horse ran away, and the neighbors came over to console the farmer over his terrible luck. But the farmer said, “How do you know it’s unlucky?”
Some days later the horse trotted home, bringing with it a small herd of wild horses. The neighbors became excited over the farmer’s good fortune. Such lovely strong horses! The farmer said, “How do you know this is good fortune?”
While attempting to tame one of the horses, the farmer’s son was thrown off and broke his leg. The neighbors were very distressed. Such bad luck! The farmer said, “How do you know this is bad?”
Later in the year a war began, and the young men were conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer’s son, because he had a broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer. “How do you know this is good?” said the farmer.
In most situations we follow our habitual ways of thinking and feeling. Only seldom do we give ourselves the time and mental space to enable a broad and balanced perspective to arise within us. If we allow this time and space, we might experience more freedom within situations. Pausing and taking a breath can begin a mindful process that leads to different feelings and a new outcome. Our days, our nervous system, and our mind can be infused with more openness and space. These elements lead to the experience of peace, freedom, happiness, and even to liberation. If we can move into states that are more calm and open, we naturally have access to more options and a different, broader view.
If you’d like to find out a bit more about the RAIN Method and meditation, here are two links to materials shared by Tara Brach:
I hope you’ll have an interesting and open week!