Have we found an inner space where we feel peace and well-being, love and compassion, calm and kindness? This place can be our inner refuge in times of nervousness and challenge. Such an inner space is our safe haven. We can recharge and retreat and reappear later with more clarity and fresh energy. This can be our most precious resource.
Like our daily moments and paths, our emotions, feelings, and thoughts are our constant companions. Having found a place of peace, compassion, and calm, we are connected to a strong inner orientation and stability. As long as we haven’t found this haven within, we tend to look for a similar resource in our environment, either consciously or unconsciously. We might know people for whom difficulties seem to be less challenging than for us and we might wonder how they are doing that.
Feeling Tone on Waking
Often we wake up with a certain feeling tone in the morning. Some days are easier and positive, others are heavier and somewhat challenging. Then we experience different situations, joys, and disappointments during the day. And we have thoughts and emotional reactions towards those. On days that begin with a positive tone and pleasant experiences, our reactions tend to be different than on days that start with difficult feelings. According to our inner orientation that day we tend to receive the behaviors of others differently and somehow end up in situations that reflect our feeling tone.
Doubt and Shame
Trying to hide our authentic feelings can cause new difficulties. We might have physical symptoms and we might not feel well and content. Dominant factors in our Western culture are the feelings of shame and self doubt. We know the attitude “we should not have these feelings or reactions” and the fear to be exposed and shamed. At the core of our insecurity and self-doubt is the worry that there is something wrong with us.
Kindness Towards Our Self
Often it does not come easy to us to respond to these challenging aspects of our normal humanness with kindness and understanding. A lack of self-confidence often goes along with a tendency to feel shame, self hatred, and a lack of self-worth. Negative self-talk like this happens mostly beyond our conscious knowing. We know the tone, but it can be very hard to see how it was created.
From the standpoint of the inner haven described above, we can observe and respond to difficult experience with awareness and openness. From there we can open to it and look deeper into what is actually going on there. We can learn to understand.
An Alternative View
What does our emotional life look like from a viewpoint that is not involved in it and does not try to avoid it either? If we see our own difficulties and the difficulties others experience with kindness and compassion, we are starting to connect with the resources that are already within us. But often it is much easier to accompany someone else with their difficulties in a loving way than to accompany ourselves.
Seeing our own current difficulties and the habitual reactions which follow, can we simply notice them with open awareness without giving in to judgments and further reactions? Certainly we can try; we don’t have to be perfect at this. Even to attempt this kind of nonjudgmental attention will help us to connect with our peaceful and kind inner space.
Feelings are Naturally Impermanent
All kinds of feelings, emotions, and thoughts naturally appear in our consciousness. They come and go and most of them come again soon. They can only stay if we keep them! They can’t stay if we merely notice them; watch to see if this is true:). They can’t stay if we merely notice them because their nature is impermanent. They’re constantly changing, but they can be repeatedly showing up.
But if we do more than merely noticing, a tiny feeling appearing in the background of our consciousness can be followed by a scary avalanche of thoughts and emotions. This is our habitual and automatic process. And it’s mainly unconscious.
We all have sensitivities and risky topics. Pouring oil on those fires can cause an inferno in a moment. We can watch these dynamics happen in ourselves and others. Haven’t we all seen and experienced sudden bursts of strong emotion? How does that happen?
Noticing how moving into certain views can bring about destructive emotional experiences, we can see how our own internal dynamics are part of the creation of our emotional reactions. Looking freshly we can find other alternatives.
No Solution, but a Healing Approach
How would kindness “approach” these scary stories and issues? What does compassion “feel” in the face of insecurity and self doubt? Do they deny or discard these experiences, or do they move towards them?
In the nonjudgmental openness of our own kindness we can learn to forgive ourselves. This is healing tendencies towards low self-esteem. We can forgive ourselves for feeling self-criticism and self-doubt. But in order to do this we need to allow for tenderness, kindness, and compassion for ourselves first.
We will know the appearance of kindness because we will feel our suffering decrease, even by a little, a little release of held tension.
Forgiveness comes naturally when we see that we can’t really know what we are doing and what we are heading towards. The approach described here encourages us to see what we are doing first, and to find other more pleasant approaches from there. Which approach would I like to choose: do I want to feel reactive and adverse or would I like to feel more compassion and kindness? Do I want to act from a mind that is caught up in conflict or from a mind that has stability? Usually we don’t feel that we have this choice, but it bears asking, in any moment: Can I choose right now to feel a little more compassion?
Self-hatred and a feeling of worthlessness, these are part of an unfriendly inner atmosphere, and this atmosphere is so widely spread in our Western culture. But self-hatred has no hope to understand our inner experience; it’s much too biased. Sometimes the only thing we need is to see more clearly what is actually going on inside, with a little less bias. With a lessening of self-hatred, spontaneously a more gentle and empathetic approach with ourselves comes from the heart.
Feelings of attachment and rejection, desire and envy, happiness and sadness, are part of everyone’s experience. There are so many feelings! But the approach with which we meet these feelings determines the influence they have in our consciousness, and with that, in our life. We can choose, modify, and train a kind approach again and again. The understanding offered here is that we very definitely have a relationship with ourselves and our experience. It’s not automatic, unless we think it is. As soon as we recognize choice, we have choice.
Finding and cultivating an internal place of well-being, love, kindness, and compassion will establish an inner refuge we can come back to, especially in times of difficulty and conflict. These positive qualities are aspects of our humanity in the same way as the challenging ones. As with so many other things this starts with a simple conscious change in our focus.
“The more you accept your humanity, when you bring that fragile human into your heart just the way it is, it doesn’t define you or confine you. Then the human part of you can begin to unlock capacities it didn’t know it had.”
Have a pleasant week, maybe with some interesting discoveries about your own spontaneous feelings and inner reactions and how those change according to your attitude towards them.