MARIAN LANSKY

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Those pesky negative emotions – part two

The concept of prayer is not something I grew up with. My parents believed that religion was the opiate of the masses, so there was certainly no talk of spirituality in my house. Although it made my life harder and my childhood more desolate in some ways, I’ve been happy about this, because I found my own way without having to dismantle any huge and frightening religious belief systems in the way some of my friends have struggled to do.

When I was a little girl, having constant nightmares and night terrors, I’d “pray” to a being I called The King, to please not give me a nightmare tonight. Of course he was male and somewhat of a scary, controlling ogre, like my father. I promised him the things my parents asked of me. I would tell him I loved him over and over, something my parents seemed to need. I promised I would be good and do whatever he asked of me, and so on. It never worked. But I kept on trying for a number of years. I didn’t call it prayer. I didn’t even know about prayer! But this type of beseeching seems to be built into our psyches when we feel most powerless.

As I grew up I discovered the Tao Te Ching, and then Buddhism, and then the Seth material, and then A Course in Miracles and non-dualism and many other great teachers and teachings and I’ve taken what I needed from all of them to give myself a way of interpreting my experience of this world. But through it all, I never prayed. I meditate, I contemplate, I look inward and ask for help and inspiration, but it never occurred to me to call any of it “prayer.”

The idea of prayer always seemed a little silly to me, as though there was someone “out there” who could grant your wishes. The implications seemed ridiculous. This has been true even though if someone asked me if I believe in God, I probably wouldn’t explain about non-duality, I’d just say “yes.” I’d say yes because it feels better to say yes.

And lately I am entertaining the idea of prayer, rolling it around in my mind like a lovely stone I’ve found on the beach, for the same reason. It feels better to believe in prayer. I’m beginning to understand what it means, for me, to pray.

And what am I praying for? I am praying for forgiveness. Forgiveness for the parts of my mind that still feel anger and envy. For the parts of my mind that harbor fears and worry. For the times when I seem to be unable to not identify with my ego and I become lost in irritation or impatience. For all the contents of the cardboard boxes under the cellar stairs—the ones that are covered in dust and cobwebs and contain not a single fond memory. I ask forgiveness for the times I have hurt other people and hurt myself. For the times when my values have been fucked up.

My goal lately has been to expose all the repressed nonsense I’ve been steadfastly burying in my subconscious. I’ve avoided that because once I write it out, and it’s out there, although I’d feel some relief, I had no idea what to do with it afterward! Now all this basement crap is living with me on the first floor! And I’m not happy about it. I’m ashamed of most of it, which just makes it all multiply, like gremlins.

All That Is, Our Source, God, does not judge. Judgment doesn’t exist outside of this human mind. It’s a human folly to judge one thing as good and another as bad. Because of our human nature we are not really capable, most of us, of being non-judgmental. We are capable of suppressing our tendencies towards judgment. They’re still there, but we don’t let them get in the driver’s seat.

I’ve been doing this for years—keeping my ego out of the driver’s seat. It takes a lot of energy, like a parent driving a bunch of rowdy seven-year old boys, yelling “don’t make me stop this car and come back there!” Non-resistance, observation, witnessing, it all takes a lot of energy.

I’m tired. My friend, Dana, sent me something this morning from a book called The Only Prayer You’ll Ever Need, which is based on A Course in Miracles. This is the prayer: “please heal my fear-based thoughts.”

Maybe that’s the same thing as asking for forgiveness. It’s asking for the contents of all the dark boxes to be unpacked and laid out in the sunshine. Brought into the light and healed. I can’t do it myself.

This is a lot like Abraham-Hick’s process in which you divide a piece of paper in two and on one side write down the things you’re going to take care of today and on the other side you write the things you’d like the universe to take care of. It’s nothing new, of course. But for me, the word prayer has new, sacred meaning and right now, I need that sense of the sacredness of this process.

Those pesky negative emotions – part one

Dealing with negative emotions—anger, shame, guilt, fear—is something I don’t do very well. In most cases my way of dealing with them is to deny that they exist. I almost always know that they’re unreasonable, or that they’re rooted in some kind of past trauma that shouldn’t be coloring my present circumstances, ancient being that I am.

I’ll put them in the basement of my mind, shove them down the cold cellar stairs until I hear them hit the floor and then shut the door on them. Of course I don’t really do this consciously. I do it by trying to be “positive” in the face of negative emotion. I do it by trying to be a good person, who sincerely wants to create a positive reality. I do it by knowing, for sure, that I am not a victim, that nobody else is to blame for my circumstances. I do it by understanding fully that my anger, directed outward and expressed, might be destructive. I even do it by simply observing them as they arise, incredibly enough.

I once lived in a first floor apartment that had a big old dark, damp basement beneath it, where the landlord stored all sorts of old furniture and detritus, including rolls of used carpeting and area rugs that lay on the floor, continually moist and squishy.

Those rugs, to my surprise and horror, actually grew mushrooms. I have no idea what kind of mushrooms they were, but there they were, growing away in the basement.

When we don’t really know what to do with negative emotions and we side-step them or talk ourselves out of them in order to avoid experiencing and possibly expressing them—in order to avoid allowing them to create a negative reality—they can wind up in the basement of the subconscious mind, having eventual effects.

Negative emotion avoided doesn’t go away. It accumulates. And eventually, if, like me, you tend to be a perfectionist, people-pleaser, it can build up to the point where the door to the cellar is bulging out and the mushroom and mold situation demands attention.

In my case, it demands attention by creating physical symptoms. I experience TMS, or tension myositis syndrome, which is NOT an actual physical ailment. It’s a description of how the subconscious mind tries to distract us from the the dangerous negative emotions it has taken upon itself to keep in the basement where we threw them.

The subconscious mind takes very seriously our directive, which we learned as children, to not express anything unacceptable. It knows exactly what we consider to be a dangerous emotion. It creates pain in the body by disrupting circulation to nerves and tendons, using the autonomic nervous system to tense muscle fibers. The pain of lack of oxygen to nerves and muscles can be quite extreme and chronic.

In doing this, it fulfills its mission of shifting our focus away from the unacceptable feelings, and helping us to stay nice.

Crippled with back pain, headaches, neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis, fibromyalgia, digestive disorders, tendonitis of every variety, sciatica, and so on, but nice.

This syndrome is also called AOS—autonomic overload syndrome. Same thing.

It feels, when I experience an attack of pain, as though there is something seriously wrong with my body. And western medicine might agree! It would say that I have a ruptured disc, or fibromyalgia, or any number of incurable pain syndromes.

But there’s nothing wrong with my body. There’s no structural reason for the pain. We all have bulging, misplaced discs and all kinds of weird deformities in our spines. They do not cause pain in the vast majority of cases. The pain is usually TMS.

I’m still a beginner when it comes to learning to deal effectively with negative emotions. It doesn’t help to express them. I know perfectly well that expressing my anger is only going to compound the problem by adding shame and guilt into the mix. Complaining is certainly out… it creates a general air of victimhood that creates more of itself. Pivoting away from negative thoughts to positive thinking and positive thoughts can work, but with these kinds of dangerous emotions which we have unconsciously repressed, no amount of positive thinking will have an effect.

So what do we do when expression and suppression both cause problems? People like me who want to be seen as “good” and who are sincere about awakening—who know they create their own reality—often have a basement full of anger, shame, guilt and fear. I can go for months with no pain at all, and then a series of stressors might arise during which I’ve done a lot of repressing, which put my subconscious, autonomic system on overdrive.

Sometimes, when a pain symptom arises, I can actually say, “This is bullshit. I know this isn’t real.” I can ask myself what’s actually bothering me and the answer will pop into my mind and within minutes, the pain will be gone. I have even removed pain in seconds by firmly telling my subconscious mind, “Stop the pain, it’s unnecessary. I’m dealing with the emotions. Stop the pain!” This is a trick I learned here and by golly, it’s magic.

Other times I know that the sheer volume of emotions I’ve repressed will have to be dealt with more skillfully and I’m going to have to sit down and journal—write honestly and allow all the mess in the basement to come spilling out. What am I pissed off about? What am I ashamed of? What am I afraid of? What do I feel guilty about? The healing power of just admitting all this stuff… letting it be seen and heard in the light of day, is amazing. Nobody else has to read it and I can even burn it when I’m done if I want to.

There then might be conversations that it’s obvious will have to happen, or changes I need to make in the way I’m doing things, but those are extremely clear once the dark hoard is out of the basement.

It’s really hard to be human. We’re in animal body-minds that feel strongly. We want to lash out, but we know that for the sake of our civilization and our awakening, we must not. However, we have to give the animal nature its due. I find that writing it out helps relieve the pressure and dissolve the pain. Then I can meditate, or ask forgiveness or whatever else I need to do to soothe myself.

What I have learned is that until I can admit, fully, and really feel—even honor—a dangerous negative emotion, self-forgiveness and the freedom it offers, is not available.

If you’d like more information about TMS: Read any book by John Sarno, MD: Healing Back Pain, The Mind-Body Prescription, The Divided Mind. Take a look at the TMS Wiki — lots of help and resources here, and the success stories are especially encouraging. Pain Free For Life, by Scott Brady, MD, a six-week program for overcoming AOS, which pays tribute to Dr. Sarno—who treated him for pain and later became his teacher—and then somewhat expands the definitions to include a wider range of emotions and self-treatment ideas.  There are many, many other books now, but between Dr. Sarno and Dr. Brady, you’ll learn the basics of self-treatment, which are quite simple.

The Mechanics of Memory

A few months ago I got involved in reading about the early days of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and hypnosis. Pretty fascinating stuff. Gets you to look closely at the actual sensory experience of your own mind at work. Kind of like in-depth Vipassana meditation. The premise is that once you see how your mind works, you can change it.

I won’t go further into it here. It has some limitations, but I did learn to look more closely at how my mind works.

One area with which I’ve struggled for years has been self-forgiveness. The opposite of self-forgiveness is guilt and shame. And whenever I found myself feeling the slightest bit of guilt and shame, my mind would immediately roll out memories to match, catching the spark of guilt and trying to fan it into a conflagration.

I was talking to my son a few days ago about memory. He was telling me that he has some memories from his childhood— times when he was mean to another kid, or challenging in relation to me, that filled him with shame and guilt once he was awake enough to look back and see them objectively.

And then he said something really interesting. In essence, he said he realized that if you have a memory that isn’t positive and joyful, you are implying an idea of control that you actually did not have. You’re losing lucidity in that moment, forgetting that you have a choice, actively creating a time and space that doesn’t exist, and making the dream real. Something else has gotten into the driver’s seat.

The question is always, he said, “what serves you right now?”

I realized that although I’m pretty good at not identifying with thought, and coming out of thought into the present moment, I’m not so good at coming out of memory—especially memory in which I caused pain to someone else.

A friend of mine is going to India to do a retreat with Sadhguru. I don’t know much about him, so I googled around and came across some short talks. In one of the talks he was saying the usual things about letting go of past and future, about bringing the mind into the present moment, into awareness of the breath. But instead of saying “the past,” he said something like “let go of memory.”

That’s so much more helpful. How can we let go of something that doesn’t exist, like the past? But memory is a very present and indulgent sensory experience.

When I looked at my experience of memory (thanks NLP) it felt quite different from my experience of what I considered to be thought. Everyone’s mind works differently in terms of how it experiences the world. In my mind, thought ordinarily feels as though it is a stream occurring somewhat to my right. It is largely verbal. When I notice myself listening to or identifying with it, I come out of it by coming to the center of my awareness spatially, to the breath.

But memory is something that seems to occur right in front of me, playing like a movie, with color and sound. It’s much more immersive and evocative.

I have treated it in the same way as the thought stream, coming out of it or trying to—by leaning back into awareness of my breath in the present moment—but I’ve found that it often doesn’t lose its power. It can remain triggering and heavy, especially if it can evoke shame and guilt in me.

How do we maintain lack of self-forgiveness? What I do is I replay those same old guilt-and-shame producing movies. Internally this builds up a feeling of pain. What is it that wants that pain? I like Eckhart Tolle’s idea of the pain body—that aspect of the human being that actively craves suffering and feeds on pain.

As a human, the pain body can feel so familiar as to almost feel “right.” We’re comfortable with what we know. But when I see that it’s my choice to maintain a sense of unworthiness by playing shame-movies on my internal screen, it makes it easier to shift my attention away from that show. I don’t have to resist it or struggle with it. It’s just the pain body doing what it does.

I’m able to see the truth of the idea that if a thought hurts, it isn’t true. And now I am looking at the idea that if a memory hurts, it isn’t true either.

Anyway, here’s my new blog! I missed the old, simple days, of just having a place where I could write. So, welcome. Instead of comments I have a contact form, if you want to chat about anything. But I may add in comments later on.

Surrender

Inner silence is an active force for good. In the teeming cacaphony that is our collective human mind, it creates a tiny pocket park… an oasis of quiet that strengthens the same silence in others.

Years ago, I saw to my horror that my thoughts were not my friend, and that the mind I had identified as “me” was actually a destructive, fearful mass of conditioned thought forms, which, if they could, would entangle me in supposedly self-protective behaviors that turned out to be energy-wasting addictions, or which would involve me in endless rounds of fear and preoccupation, interspersed with endless rounds of searching for relief and thinking I’d found it.

I could see very clearly that the doctor within me that was prescribing the antidote to all my problems was the very one that was giving me the poison. It was obvious that within the conditioned, thinking mind I knew as “myself,” there was no way out.

I felt that the human mind, the one we all share, our fears, hopes and dreams, was like a virus. Viruses are incomplete strands of genetic material that can’t reproduce without a host. They commandere the DNA of the cells they inhabit. We beautiful, magical, human beings are the host to this viral mind. It takes us over and we do its bidding. It renders us incapable of reaching our actual potential. It creates, through its energetic reflection, a chaotic, meaningless world.

I have now seen this idea elucidated in other places, most succinctly and clearly in Carlos Castaneda’s “The Active Side of Infinity” in the chapter, The Mud Shadows.

When A Course in Miracles says that the thoughts in our minds are not our real thoughts, and that they are attacking our invulnerability, it’s speaking literally.

I also see a reflection of this idea, yet one that is created by the viral mind itself, in the myriad fear-based conspiracy theories that are currently rampant, saying that our minds are being controlled by Reptilian aliens or the Illuminati elite.

Self-protective fear and preoccupation are both the goal and the very character of this viral mind. As we identify with it and believe our thoughts, we actually feed the thought forms that cannot exist without us as hosts.

Now for the good news. There is a way out. The way out is the silent mind. This is the choice we have and it is to this that we surrender.

Our predatory mind never stops chattering—it never stops trying to fix the situation even while it creates and recreates the situation it is trying to fix. You remember the old TV gimmick where the character would have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other? Our ego, our predator, the viral mind, is both. It is all of our thinking.

I love this quote from Leonard Jacobson: “It is better to remain in a state of not knowing than to go into the mind in search of an answer.”

Every precious moment spent in a state of inner silence, in which the mind stops its doing and searching and fixing and defending, is a moment in which our true awareness, our true energetic potential, begins to grow back. The thinking mind is continually pruning it away, eating the leaves and sprouts of our energy and never giving it a chance to blossom.

The state of surrender is a state of faith and trust. Not trust in a concept, but trust, in the deepest felt sense, in the mystery that is our Source in this present moment, now. Surrender is not a doing, it’s a not-doing. A stopping.

When we become one with whatever is happening, rather than pushing against it or resisting, we rise above the battlefield into a place of power—a place of awareness.

In the peace of that silent awareness we understand that we see in the world exactly what we are focusing on in our minds.

The Thought Swarm

Imagine sitting in the center of a vast space, maybe the size of a football field. You’re sitting there alone in the center of the field. And all around you is an array of screens of various kinds, each one playing a separate program. News, sitcoms, sports, disasters, dramas, comedies, spiritual programs, talk shows analyzing current events, spiritual talk shows, youtube videos, ads, authors talking about their books, teachers teaching, music videos, and so on.

And then there is you, in the center, seated. The living being. Consciousness.

This is a bit what it is like being human. We are sitting, or existing in our minds, within a swirling array of energetic thought forms, even when we are totally alone and all of our devices are shut off. Each thought form is like a screen playing a story. All different kinds of stories, from porn to religion. And we can’t shut them off.

The normal human mind is nearly unaware of itself sitting in the center of all these thought forms. It believes that it IS the thought forms and that the thought forms are its own, its identity. My thoughts. It tunes into one after another of the stations, following along and having an emotional reaction to each of the stories. Its attention is caught by one thought after another according to its own unconscious reactions to the previous thought, or its unconscious reactions to something happening in physical life. It goes from what to have for lunch to the ways in which your birth family didn’t understand you.

As the mind becomes more settled and focused through the practice of meditation, the awareness of the hectic and disturbing and constantly shifting nature of the sense of self as it follows along with one story after another becomes more and more evident.

I don’t know if I’ve written this here or on another website, but as a child, one of the scariest things to me was that I couldn’t control my own thoughts, what I thought of at that time as my own thoughts. They seemed, at times, malevolent, and of course in many ways they were. They caused me distress, and I couldn’t seem to stop them. Thought causes great suffering when you can’t control it. And control here means the realization that you are NOT it. Not your thoughts.

There is even a pathological condition called “unwanted thoughts syndrome,” which is an identified mental illness. Yet the truth is that we are all suffering from this condition to a greater or lesser extent. How many times have you awakened at 2 a.m. to a racing mind full of anxiety and outlandish tales of impending disaster?

When I was a teenager smoking pot in the late 60s, it used to astound me that at one moment I’d be in the room with my schoolmates and at the next moment I’d be off on a thought tangent in my head—tripping, we used to call it—and I had no control over this movement in my mind.

Still later on, as I believed the thoughts in my head, I searched and sorted and judged and suffered a lot, finally suffered enough. And then I began to wake up.

So it’s like the normal human consciousness in the center of the football field of blaring screens gets mesmerized by one program after another. Eventually, as the mind becomes trained and gets under control a little, it’s like being able to focus the attention on one or another story at will. Not having to focus on the horror show if you don’t want to, or on the news if you don’t want to. The consciousness begins to perceive itself as being separate from the thought forms. It no longer has to fight with them or resist them or agree with them. It knows itself as not them.

After a while you get to a point where you begin to see that all the screens are playing variations of the same thing, at the same level, and none of them mean anything. They’re all meaningless, as ACIM says. They’re all noise, all just the static accumulated from eons of human talking and thinking and going round and round with words.

Then, in the football field of screens analogy, it’s like being able to leave the field at will. Or get up and shut off the screens, one by one. And then, perhaps, create your own programming. Or not. Or discover what lies above or beyond the arena of thinking.

For me this has been a gradual process. I still sometimes find myself believing in (identifying with) a thought form or a line of thought that is stressful, and not being aware of it until it shows up as physical pain, or an unwanted manifestation. Things play in the background and can snag my attention in that way. And yet, gradually, I’m able to leave the field more often and come into the silent safety of the present moment. The programs are wearing out and shutting down from lack of attention, and I feel less and less important. My sense of self is more porous and diffuse. What a relief!

The other day I suddenly saw—knew the truth of, rather than just understanding it intellectually—the fact that none of us is special. None of us is special or more important than any other one of us, and yet we are all necessary to the whole. Sometimes, as the mind gets quieter, awareness will just kick in, unanticipated. Like there is suddenly enough change in the vending machine and it automatically dispenses some felt sense or understanding beyond words.

Yes it’s true that most people are still entrapped, still enthralled by the swarm of screens, still believing that they are their thoughts, that the programs are real. And yet, even in their entrapment, in their seeming destructiveness and their suffering, they are intrinsically as important and completely unimportant as any other being.

When we first become aware of the suffering caused by the ego, which is the identification with the thought-swarm, it’s pretty horrifying. And yet, it must be a necessary step, a necessary aspect of the whole. To believe otherwise is like thinking that the flower is more important than the root of the plant, or more important than the manure in which it grows.

The Archer With No Arms

Having a human mind is a little bit like having a disability.

I saw a video a while ago about a man who was born without arms, who decided that he wanted to be an archer. Not just an archer, but a good archer—a world-class archer. Without arms.

So he spent hours, days, months, and years working out how to hold and shoot a bow with his legs. His focus was unwavering, and now he is a world class archer.

The human mind, in its state at this point in time (perhaps it is different in different time-spaces, but I can only speak from my experience now) is not prone to focus. It doesn’t easily concentrate. At least mine doesn’t.

So getting it to leave its addiction to thinking, distraction and entertainment, and focus on an object of attention, like the breath, for twenty minutes a day, is a challenge. No matter what time we waste in our lives, that precious twenty minutes every morning becomes something we have a hard time giving.

This is truly a developmental disability, this resistance to focusing. I was telling a friend last week about my experience as a student nurse, during a rotation spent working with people in a sheltered workshop. The particular client to whom I was assigned was a young woman whose job within the workshop was to tie a bow in a piece of ribbon. I can’t remember what the ribbon would be used for, but that was her job.

In order to teach her to tie a bow, I had to break down the steps to a degree that I hadn’t imagined possible, and then repeat them endlessly, or they’d disappear from her mind. There wasn’t any such thing as “cross the right over the left” or even the way you do it with a neurotypical kid and make some kind of a game out of it. The steps had to be broken down even further than that, over and over.

This is how it is with us and meditation and learning to focus the mind in the present moment. The difference is that we actually have a choice, but we so resist going to that place of inner quiet that we’ll come up with any number of excuses or distractions to avoid it. And yet learning to focus the mind and direct the attention is the only way out of our default human setting of chaos.

When I sit down to meditate, the first thing that happens is that I become aware of what my mind has been chewing on in the background. It’s like discovering that your dog has found a shoe and gone off to gnaw it in secret. I become aware of the latest load of opinions and fixations it’s been working on. I can see exactly what I’ve done to encourage that mindlessness.

But when sitting down to meditate, none of it matters. None of the content of the mind matters—opinionated thoughts, brilliant thoughts, whatever they are, they’re just thoughts. Resisting them or judging them, strengthens them. So I just shift my attention, again and again, from the thinking to the breath. From the human stream of internal chatter, to the breath, over and over until my mind is quiet. Ahhhh.

At first the shifting part is sticky. My mind had been chewing on that shoe in the corner and is loathe to give it up. That’s fine, that’s just the way the human mind is. But through persistence, like the armless archer, I keep on coming back to the breath. Eventually the mind begins to settle. It drops the old shoe and stays with this new object of attention. And then there’s quiet.

I don’t berate my mind. That would be like scolding the young woman at the sheltered workshop because she couldn’t tie a bow, even after several days of concentrated instruction. Things just are the way they are, and training is possible—but it takes persistence and dedication and a desire to bring the human mind out of its darkness and chaos, one mind at a time. Why? Because untrained minds cause a lot of suffering.

Once More in a Nutshell

I bumped into an old friend the other day who mentioned that he’d become interested in meditation and was looking at the nature of habitual thought patterns. That conversation inspired me to write a basic outline post about my experience with taming my own wild mind.

When you get a really good look at the ego—the swarm of thought forms that masquerades as a self here in this material world—it is easy to see why it’s called ‘the enemy within.’ It’s a mechanism gone unchecked for eons, and is quite capable of landing us in a deep well of suffering.

When I first understood that the thoughts going through my head were not mine, and furthermore didn’t necessarily have my best interests at heart, I was stunned by the implications. I’d been identifying all my life with something completely spurious.

As we begin to observe the maelstrom of conditioned thinking, it is so loud in the background of our minds that it feels out of control. With practice, though, and at first this practice is extremely clumsy and approximate, it quiets down a bit. It gets a little bit tamer.

In my experience, so far, it doesn’t actually go away. What happens instead is that our muscles of attention begin to develop. That’s our choice—where we place our attention. Attention is the magic wand in all of this. Whatever it touches, grows.

So learning to isolate the muscles of attention and pull the camera lens and microphones away from the constant internal chatter, the constant stream of thought, and bring them into the mentally silent present moment, becomes the task—the continual, never-ending task. This is what I call “coming out of thought,” over and over, all day long. It’s the same as mindfulness, but that word, to me, doesn’t really describe the process.

In the beginning, the muscles of attention are so atrophied that pulling them away from the internal chatter and into the silent safety of the present moment is like trying to stay awake when you’re completely and utterly exhausted. The draw of the thinking mind is so deeply addictive and seductive that we can barely resist it, much less wake ourselves up out of it.

The present moment feels empty, shabby, boring in comparison. It seems as though there’s nothing here. It feels flat and not the least bit as delicious as falling into the dramas and storylines of the thinking mind where there is color and sensation and emotional juiciness.

After continued practice, however, the present moment begins to have a draw of its own. At first the draw is that it’s a place of relief. It’s like a vacation from your mind. It’s like turning off the TV and shutting off your phone and just hearing the sounds of nature. The simplicity and lack of distraction, which at first felt like poverty, begin to reveal a quiet charm—subtle at first, but deepening with experience.

From this place of inner quiet, it’s possible to observe the nature of the human mind and question our beliefs and choices. It’s from here that you can get to a place where you sense the origin of a thought by how it feels. And eventually to a place where it seems as though no thoughts are actually true in the way we think they are. Truth doesn’t dwell at the level of human thought, although thought can light up the path.

At this point it begins to be possible to stop reacting against thought as though it is the enemy and you, its victim. Eventually it begins to seem likely that until this internal bully is seen as no threat, and is greeted with understanding, or even friendliness, it will continue to assert itself. What we resist persists.

When I say understanding, I don’t mean indulging the content of a thought. I don’t mean analyzing, or following along with it, or letting it get in the driver’s seat. I also don’t mean diving into the past to decipher its cause in an attempt to fix things—that, too, is one of those wild goose chases that the ego loves to involve us in. I mean just observing without commentary.

My favorite way to describe this is the Abraham Hicks buffet analogy.

In the buffet of the mind, there are many different offerings. Some may be so unappealing and even poisonous that we automatically know to steer clear of them. When they arise, we don’t need to do anything other than make a different choice. But if we begin to feel as though the yucky things shouldn’t be there, as though they are dangerous or threatening, or must be eradicated or purified, this makes the situation even stickier and harder to deal with. Resistance strengthens the very thing it aimed at eradicating, through the magic-wand effect of attention.

All resistance, no matter what is being resisted, seems to be part of the thought-swarm. All resistance, even against so-called evil, is itself the ego. Truth does not resist. It has no conditional judgment within it. Every aspect of reality is greeted with acceptance—with yes, instead of no.

Acceptance doesn’t mean that you have to taste everything in the buffet, or have anything to do with it whatsoever. It’s the opposite of being a victim. It’s a realization of the creative power of your own mind, of your own magic wand of attention, and its ability to influence external reality.

Here’s a quote I love from Byron Katie’s A Thousand Names for Joy: “Not believing your own thoughts, you’re free from the primal desire, the thought that reality should be different than it is.”

As soon as you stop fighting with the dream, you remember that you are the dreamer.

Being Like a Tree

We have a big crabapple tree in our back yard that had a bumper crop of blossoms and crab apples last year. In the spring when the blossoms first appeared in their heaven-scented clouds, migrating bands of cedar waxwings would descend and gorge themselves on flowers. What a lovely thing to witness. During the winter there were all those gorgeous little red globes silhouetted against the snow. All but the most hard-to-reach ones are gone now, eaten by birds and squirrels. We don’t have leaves or blossoms yet in early May, and last week a flock of rarely-seen starlings showed up and polished off what they could find of the last wizened apples.

When I had my first three blogs, before the era of feeds and email subscriptions, people would check blogs when they felt like it, to see if there was anything new. When I had those blogs, I also had lots of readers. There is something to be said for just being out there and letting people find you, when and if they have an impulse to do so. Like a crabapple tree.

Lately I haven’t felt like writing as much, and I finally realized that one reason I don’t want to write is that I don’t want to go through the hassle of creating an email and sending it out. I also don’t like the automatic services that do it for you. I don’t want to send out my crabapples and have them arrive in people’s in-boxes. I want to just put my stuff out there and let people find me if they feel like it.

My marketing-professional friends are probably gasping in horror if they’re reading this, but this approach has always worked for me. I have never found that self-promotion works as well as simply letting people find me on their own. It’s paradoxical, but paradox is my friend, and feels more comfortable for me. I’m not after results, I’m after what feels right to me in the moment.

So, although this is the last post you’ll receive your in-box, I will keep writing, perhaps more often than I have been doing. I trust that you’ll check in again if you feel like it, and together we can prove out the law of attraction.

Click Bait: Mindfulness and the Internet

Remember when, a few years ago, people starting deliberately using click bait? “She opened the carton of eggs and you won’t believe what she saw!” For a brief time, this was quite an effective technique. We no longer need much in the way of click bait, I’ve noticed, because clicking and tapping have become sufficiently addictive and unconscious that it doesn’t even matter. We get our dopamine fix even without any worthwhile content.

Using the internet mindfully is my new goal. Like when I sit down to check my email, I only check my email. I stop there, staying true to my original intention. And if I check the weather, no matter how many interesting news stories or sales pop up, I only check the weather, and only my own weather, not anybody else’s weather!

I can’t remember who wrote this blog article, but it was about procrastination, and he described how he’d sit down to work and suddenly think it was a good idea to get on Google Earth and travel the length of India from the south to the north, just because. I can totally relate.

Now, when I get on the internet, no matter why I am there, I watch my mind. I try to pay attention to the quality of my mind. I slow it down in order to notice if and when my mental feet begin to slip on the slopes of internet seduction.

The internet is a physical-world reflection of our discursive minds. It works by association. More so now that people have figured out how to make money by tracking your interests and appealing to them. So you go to check one thing and seven other things that could potentially interest you appear in the margins. It’s the Law of Attraction graphically displayed.

Mindfulness means not taking the bait, no matter how tailored, or subtle or interesting it may look, unless you are deliberately aware and awake while doing it. It’s a razor’s edge, really, because how many times have you stumbled upon worthwhile things while mindlessly getting your dopamine fix? Several, at least!

It’s the same with thought. Mixed in with the usual sea of crap in our minds is the occasional intuitive impulse from your Inner Self guiding you towards something you’d love, or away from something that might not be so great. We have to learn to tell the difference. Effort and focus are involved in this learning.

People say, “don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry”, meaning that you’ll wind up buying unnecessary items. Things will look good to you that normally wouldn’t because you’re hungry.

The mind, our normal, human, discursive internal dialogue factory is always, always hungry in every way. It is continually seeking for the permanent in the impermanent, believing that it’s just one possession away, one relationship away, one figure away in its bank account, one house, one car, one workshop, one guru, one spiritual teaching, one click, one tap away from feeling fixed, healed, complete.

Our normal human mind is a mindless consumer. It’s a dog in the garbage bin. And it love love loves the internet—the clicks, the taps, the little noises and animations, the tiny surprises, the constant stream of association, the videos of people doing things like squishing jello because it makes a soothing sound… on and on and on until oblivion.

What’s wrong with this? What’s wrong is the quality of mind that results. It’s an addict mind. For example, maybe you woke up today determined to focus on a particular project. Your mind was clear and refreshed with sleep. Then you checked your email. After checking email you felt a little less focused and while you’re there you might as well check Facebook and Instagram, and hey, maybe the news, or your favorite blog, and ooooh look at that, I think I’ll put that on Pinterest, and maybe I’ll mosey over to Youtube and see if there are any new spiritual videos.

An hour or even two hours later you look up. If you could feel the quality of your mind you’d realize that it is no longer focused and clear, even if you found a great video! It’s now flaccid and porous, depleted of concentration, and your motivation to do any kind of meaningful creative work has disappeared. Mindless enjoyment of the internet bloats the mind with unnecessary thought forms and atrophies its ability to focus.

So, what to do. I am not against the internet, in fact I love it. I feel as though this is the natural expansion of the human mind… to learn to be aware of what is happening simultaneously around the globe. And because we are new at this, we suck at it.

Just like when we, in first-world countries, were historically new at having couch-based leisure time in the evening and a surplus of good-tasting, easily available food, we sucked at that as a culture, and became ill and obese and developed eating disorders. Doesn’t mean that abundance and leisure time are bad. It means we need to learn to work mindfully with them. This seems to be happening now, gradually.

At this point in my life, having worked through my own food addictions, I love to go grocery shopping hungry. It enhances the experience for me, and I don’t buy anything extra, because my mindfulness around food has been established and is now effortless. The presence of abundance and diversity doesn’t cause me to lose my focus.

I’m not at that stage with the internet yet. But I’m working on it.

It’s All Good

When seeds scatter from a tree or a flower, not all of them find the conditions necessary to throw down roots and completely manifest a full-grown version of the original.

Some never find those conditions, and return to the earth. Others begin growing but then encounter drought or blight of some sort and become stunted or twisted, or maybe get eaten by deer or bunnies or whatever. And there are others, the minority, that take root and grow beautifully to a ripe old age, scattering more seed before their bodies disintegrate and become part of the earth again.

We tend, as humans, to think of the fully-realized flower or tree as being successful and the one that died young, or became diseased, as being a failure.

In the same way we think of a person who understood the promptings of their inner self at age nine and spent a lifetime perfecting their art or skill as enviable. Or at least I do. Did.

Now I’m starting to see that this comparing mind is completely human—time and ego based—and bears no relationship to truth.

Everything—all experience—is of value. Even experiences we don’t find especially appealing.

Sometimes I think All That Is is kind of like a dog. Dogs have no real prejudices about smells. All smells are interesting, especially smells that we, as humans, find unacceptable. In the same way I’ve begun to believe that all experiences are enjoyable to Source. There’s no resistance to anything because there’s no forgetting that this isn’t real—that this is a dream.

And in that lack of resistance, of course, the experience of the dream improves.

I talked about this in my old blog but I’ll repeat it here again because it was such a key understanding for me.

I used to have recurring nightmares as a child, and one of them was that I was being attacked by a pack of Dobermans. My poor little mom had a terrible fear of Dobermans, which used to be employed as guard dogs where I grew up, and her fear informed my dreams. I always had a vague awareness of the fact that I was dreaming, which stopped short of full lucidity, but was a dreadful sense of ‘Not This Again!’

One night when the dogs were attacking me, I heard a voice in the dream tell me to not panic and just completely relax. As I did this, the dogs stopped biting, backed off, and I woke up. That was amazing to me—my first experience of paradox and how it works.

Within this dream of human life, no matter what is happening, the only way out is to release resistance.

Recently, my son started a business of his own doing a type of craft that is mighty interesting to me, and he’s offered to allow me to participate in some of the stages of creation in whatever way I want to. It’s been a lot of fun for me to be engaged in learning something new but it’s also brought up, at my age, a feeling of ‘oh I wish I were better at this, or had started it when I was younger, or that my old hands weren’t quite so shaky.’

These feelings of resisting the way things are, resisting the actual nature of the present moment, were not only taking the fun out of it for me, but confusing me in other areas of my life.

And then today, thanks to a little bit of mindfulness, I remembered that things are perfect as they are.

The soul seeds itself in time. I think Seth said that. The soul seeds itself in time like a dandelion seed on the wind, to all 360 degrees. Lives take root in the simultaneous, spacious present, in different time periods, all creating and communicating and informing each other. Each life is equally valuable. All probable paths are taken. There is no failure or success, only experience.

And all of it is good.

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