“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.”
We learn many different strategies to find our way in this world. The behaviors and qualities we have developed until now enabled us to survive, grow, and even thrive. But now is a special moment, because we can choose how we wish to continue. Perhaps the last few weeks might have inspired both feelings of gratitude and also wishes for change.
It isn’t unusual that our days and weeks rush by and we don’t find the time and serenity to open towards aspects of life that we really cherish. And if we do find the inner space and time, it is sometimes not easy to reflect in such a way that we really “see” something in a new way. To find inspiration and a supportive mindset, we might grab a book or our diary. But how do we begin an honest and truly beneficial reflection? In the quote above the famous poet Rumi describes a place where we have the freedom, inspiration, and serenity to recalibrate our activities and our life. There we can access a space in which everything can be seen and is allowed to be exactly as it is. In this space, sensations, thoughts, and emotions can naturally find integration.
Space of Awareness
Usually when we are thinking about something, additional commentary soon follows. We have opinions, critical views, and self-criticism as well. Very soon we can end up in a huge inner argument or comedy.
But if we are able to catch the beginning of the first comment, just stay with it and merely feel it, it will move on all by itself. Thoughts only stay a few seconds if we don’t follow them with our attention. If we don’t grasp or feed them in this way, they naturally disappear and we can experience the space of our awareness again. It’s not an easy adventure, because our ordinary mind moves constantly and fast, and we are used to running after it. The meditations and exercises I’ve suggested in previous posts help to discover this space of awareness.
Reflection Like a Mirror
As we settle a bit and find our way into a more calm and serene mode, we can notice what is going on in our life at the moment. Thoughts appear in front of our inner sensing. There are loud thoughts and others that are more subtle. We can notice what’s going on there and just “listen” with a friendly attention. We don’t have to fix anything or argue with them. We’ll see how easily they can pull us along; the challenge is to just stay listening. This allows us to get a good overview of what is moving us in the moment. All of this is reflected in our inner space, in our awareness.
Sometimes when we do practices like this we can get confused about how to observe, how to listen. Is it like observing from a great height, completely unaffected? Or is it like listening very close, as if to a whisper in the ear from a loved one? My experience is that it takes practice just to be there and notice. Naturally if we don’t like a feeling or thought we might try to get away from it internally, but if we do that we’re missing it. And naturally if we like a feeling or thought we might try to get very close to it or multiply it, and that will also prevent us from just seeing it as it is. We can just notice this leaning towards and shying away from.
Staying in our awareness, we are actually safe; kindness and compassion are naturally there. If we have trouble noticing or experiencing this natural kindness, then it may help us to do practices that generate or reveal it. We need this “sweet spot of our practice,” kindness and compassion towards ourselves. We need kindness and compassion to not follow and not reject our thoughts and feelings. The right “distance” is actually no distance at all, just being with it as it is.
Integration of Parts and Opposites
We can notice, allow, and give space to the different stories and our reactions towards them. We’ll see different sensations, emotions, and thought chains arise and allow them to just be as they are without following them. We can notice their different intensities and other sensations or images going along with them. This enables us to gain deeper insights into our inner experience, like getting to know the different actors in a theater play. We can experience the different reactions and emotions appear and leave the stage.
Sensing these different appearances very gently on the levels of sensations, thinking, and emotions develops the ability to allow them all to be present with each other and in our experience. With openness this leads to integration, a kind of inner harmony.
The repeated integration of physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions within our inner space opens the pathway for more integration during our days. We learn to understand this inner language. In real time we’ll notice how we are when we feel tired or energetic, need a break, or can start another activity right away. If we notice that we are in some kind of need, we can have understanding and compassion right there and see which might be the right way to care for it.
Many new methods in the healing arts aim at establishing more awareness, integration and presence. Different professional trainings in all kind of fields are now teaching these methods. Many of these methods arose from ancient meditative traditions.
Applying these techniques, we can use nearly every moment of our life to train inner pathways that allow us to find balance again. Our breathing is always right there as a helpful focus. We don’t have to wait until we can start meditating at home or on retreat, though these activities are very helpful. Yoga, Tai Chi, and other mind-body practices are very useful aids in deepening our ability to live an integrated life as well. In this way we can find a more refined and natural life style.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
I wish a colorful Spring week full of interesting discoveries, inner awareness, and friendliness for all of you!
P.S: A beautiful talk by Dr. Daniel Siegel about Integration: