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Suffering and spirituality 2

Discussion in 'Spirituality and ME/CFS' started by Nielk, Aug 27, 2011.

  1. Ember

    Ember Senior Member

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    Since it's topical, I'll post here some excerpts from articles on the Dalai Lama's visit to Montreal. (In one article, Peggy Curran notes that his English not quite up to knowing the word mischief doesnt cut it when you kill 3,000 people.)

    Speaking at the Palais des congrs in Monteral during the Second Global Congress on Worlds Religions Tibets exiled spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama called on China to allow information to flow more freely and create an independent judiciary. The Dalai Lama also warned against corruption in India.

    His Holiness the Dalai Lama is on a two-day visit to Montreal. The Worlds Religions Congress has been organised to ponder over the state of the worlds religions 10 years after Sept. 11 attack in 2001.

    Talking about religion the Dalai Lama stressed the believers of all faiths are more alike than they are different. Proclaiming the wrongness of post 9/11 campaigns that tarred all Muslims for the actions of Osama bin Ladens Al-Qaeda bombers, the Dalai Lama said:

    'If you criticize Islam due to the acts of a few mischievous people, you will need to criticize Christianity or Judaism, too'.

    'If we use religion for division and more solitude, thats wrong and destructive. But its the person who uses it who makes it wrong, not the religion. You dont have to be religious to be a good person. But if you have faith, you must be serious about it. You cant cheat God.'

    The Dalai Lama said that all religious traditions share the same common values love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance and self-discipline. And people everywhere stumble on the same emotional obstacles fear, anger, jealousy, suspicion and hatred. 'We need to find ways to minimize these destructive emotions.'

    'We will not achieve understanding through prayers to God or Buddha,' the Dalai Lama said. 'We have to make an effort to talk to each other', His Holiness said warning that the faithful and non-believers alike have a long way to go to heal old wounds and learn to coexist. (Posted on September 8, 2011 by iSikkim)

    Sitting in an armchair, he spoke about promoting compassion, cooperation and being united, saying you have to be 'selfish wise' and care for each other, instead of being 'foolish wise', by lying and hurting each other.

    The Dalai Lama says we must promote human compassion and that females can show great leadership in this respect, adding that he knows this from personal experience, with a mother who never lost her temper with her children.

    'Certainly a model of my compassion, the first seed, first experience comes from my mother,' he said.

    He said we can go a long way by researching and visiting different countries and getting broader views of the world, and by thinking we are all part of humanity instead of a mentality of pitting 'us' against 'them.'

    'Now what we learned from the past century, violence won't solve problems, only through dialogue,' he said.

    'Twentieth century has become century of bloodshed, now this century should be century of dialogue.' (Posted By: Shuyee Lee 9/7/2011)

    He pointed to his head and said that everyone, himself included, has the potential to develop harmful feelings and its the job of religions to help people keep them under control.

    'Through awareness we try to minimize these destructive emotions and try to increase these constructive emotions,' he said. (The Canadian Press)

    The spiritual leader also said, 'Your enemy is your best teacher,' and that it takes a troublemaker to practice skills of forgiveness, love and compassion. (Global Montreal : Wednesday, September 07, 2011)
     
  2. kurt

    kurt Senior Member

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    Sounds like the Dalai Lama may have read Joseph Campbell....the symbolism of all the belief systems we have discussed here suggests forgiving is important, but sometimes I wonder whether we miss the symbolic meaning and take forgiveness too literally. Humans rarely really forgive anyone of anything in my experience, although we say the words often. But we make them pay, in the legal system, for example, who is ever really forgiven? We extract our pound of flesh, to quote Shakespeare. They will be forgiven after they lose 20 years of their life, pay a fine, etc. And I'm not sure we should forgive very often if that means forgetting and not learning from the situation. Also, by holding someone accountable we have the best chance of influencing them for good, as Dreambirdie did by holding her ground when an abusive ex contacted her (that was a great story, BTW). Sometimes unconditional love, to me, means to NOT forgive until the person has changed and made good. Blatant and blind forgiveness, I see that more as a symbol of how to not let our anger over a situation muddle our ability to think clearly, rather than an actual act of putting something behind us. But then when we do move on we have to live in the present, to use Tolle's ideas, and stop living through a hurtful memory. Is that forgiving? The whole terminology to me seems inadequate to deal with the complexity of abusive and evil situations and experiences.

    The benefit I see in forgiveness is clear thinking. If we can free ourselves from judging people who wrong us we may see clearly how to change our situation. And we are more likely to see the truth behind the act, the pain inside the abuser, and realize that while they had a choice and made a foolish decision, they also were muddled in their own thinking by the pain and abuse they experience.

    Unconditional love on the other hand seems to me like a way of thinking, realizing that even the most vile person is a part of the same universal being we belong to. Which is why we bother to work through the pain with them and try to process things, forgiveness, repent, change, becoming 'at-one', whatever, these are all part of a mono-myth type symbolism of the real underlying process of establishing our own humanity, and learning to deal with the inhumanity of the humans... and we are all inumane at times, 'let he who is perfect cast the first stone' seems to apply to us all, yet another great symbolic statement in the moral literature...
     
  3. Nielk

    Nielk

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    Hi Dreambirdie,

    Thank you for sharing this very personal experience. It sounds like you have gone through so much in your life. It has made you a very wise, understanding, growing soul.
    The fact that you recognized that what your ex boyfriend ultimately told you as a gift, proves the point. Not everyone would recognize this. Accepting that others might not be capable to live up to our expectations and that it is a lack in their own development that leads them to be hurtful to us, is a powerful lesson.
    It is this understanding and acceptance of the abuser that gives us power to go on. I do not think that in this case forgiveness is needed. Like you said it very well "I opt for acceptance over forgiveness".
     
  4. Nielk

    Nielk

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    The quote from the Dalia Lama

    The spiritual leader also said, 'Your enemy is your best teacher,' and that it takes a troublemaker to practice skills of forgiveness, love and compassion. (Global Montreal : Wednesday, September 07, 201tt1)

    Maybe for us, the enemy is our illness.It is our teacher. It has taught me a lot. It has taught me not to expect too much. It has taught me that not every question has an answer. It has taught me that there are so many people out there who care and want to help. It has also taught me that many people are ignorant and want to remain that way. It has taught me that i am not in control of my destiny. It has taught me that it can be very cruel and painful. It has taught me to cherish the better moments.It has taught me to appreciate the people who stuck by me regardless. It has taught me compassion for others going through chronic illnesses.

    I would like to fire this teacher though. I think I learned enough. I want to live free now, unencumbered by this "teacher".
     
    illsince1977 likes this.
  5. Dreambirdie

    Dreambirdie work in progress

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    That is a great list of lessons, Nielk. Thanks for articulating it so clearly and sharing it here.

    "Not every question has an answer" is probably the hardest one for me to accept. I really would prefer A LOT more answers. :Sign Please:
     
  6. Wayne

    Wayne Senior Member

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    The Wonder of It All

    Hi All,

    I ran across this 5-minute video a few years ago and always enjoy coming back to it occasionally. Thought I'd share it here on this thread. It was done by a man with a Christian orientation who has a great respect for all religions and paths.

    Wonder of It All

    Perhaps this contemplative music video will brighten your day; it always seems to be the case for me.

    Best, Wayne
     
  7. Nielk

    Nielk

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    Hi Wayne,

    Thanks for this inspirational video!
    I enjoyed watching it with it's words of wisdom.
     
  8. Mr. Cat

    Mr. Cat Senior Member

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    Thank you Nielk for a very interesting question. I suppose "spiritual" reactions could be considered as "spiritual bypassing" defense if we go about saying things such as "it's all part of God's plan," "my illness has helped me to become more spiritual," or other such things while inside we are feeling all sorts of uncomfortable "unspiritual" emotions such as anger, hopelessness, and a sense that the world is not fair, not to mention physical symptoms, that we don't want to deal with.

    For me, I think it was more of a "coping mechanism." I felt that my worldview in the first several years of my illness ("What is wrong with me? Why is this happening to me? I am not in control, this is not fair and it sucks, help!") really wasn't very helpful. I think I was looking, and continue to look, for a larger perspective, in which the illness is understandable and bearable in the large scheme of things. Working with acceptance has been a big part of it too. I think one of the many definitions of "spiritual" is feeling connected to something larger than myself, and if taking a larger perspective helps me cope with trauma due to illness or other difficulties, I am all for it. When everything is going well, we really have no reason to take a larger perspective, as the current one is working just fine. Fortunately, this doesn't happen to anyone for very long.
    A defense sounds unconscious, a coping strategy is chosen. As to whether spiritual reactions are a true step toward healing trauma, I certainly hope so, but think that a lot of internal emotional work is also necessary.
     
  9. Dreambirdie

    Dreambirdie work in progress

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    I think that when I first became ill over 30 years ago, being more "spiritual" was definitely a coping strategy for me. During that time I felt so devastated by what had become of my once very fit and healthy body, that I leaped into pursuing all options that I thought had some chance of healing my illness. I read every self help book I could get my hands on. I joined, and attempted to participate in, many spiritually oriented groups--Buddhist, Sufi, Native American, Yogic, Kabbalistic, and assorted other New Age Wacka-doodle. I consulted spiritual healers of every ilk imaginable, including ones that turned out to be blazing alcoholics, arrogant prima donnas, lecherous manipulators, or fully fledged psych cases.

    I chanted bhajans. I did affirmations, meditations, visualizations. I had my aura balanced, and my psychic antennas cleared by a woman who claimed to have come from a tribe of psychics who lived in caves in the Philippines. If someone had told me to stand on my head and gargle with peanut butter, while envisioning angelic beings dancing through my aura, I would have done it. I was young, extremely naive, not very grounded, and very VERY desperate to get well.

    After several years on this journey through spiritual La-La Land, it finally dawned on me that most of the healers and self help gurus I had reached out to for help were completely unqualified for the job of really helping or healing anyone. They had labelled themselves as "spiritual" and/or as "healers," but were hardly living examples of what they preached and claimed to be able to offer. It wasn't long before I found myself seriously disappointed on my fruitless quest. But soon enough I returned (gladly!) to my original inspirations--Jung, M-L Von Franz, and Joseph Campbell... none of whom had ever even used the word "spiritual" to describe the work they did, yet had a much better grasp of what that word really meant.

    After rejecting much of what I saw, read, and heard in all the spiritual traditions I tried on, I came to the conclusion that my spiritual path was very simply about living a conscious life with an open heart. I have no gods, no beliefs, no prayers, no book to follow. Just my conscience as my guide, and Nature as my unofficial "guru." If I need guidance, I ask my dreams for their input. If I need release and relief from the various agonies of illness, I use creative expression---art and music--for that. If I need inspiration, I read more Jung, Joseph Campbell, the Transcendentalists, and lately Japanese haiku. This is spiritual enough for me.
     
  10. Mr. Cat

    Mr. Cat Senior Member

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    Dreambirdie,

    I see you are from the Bay Area too. There are certainly many people here trying to make a living offering spiritual healing of some sort. Last week Ancient Toltec Wisdom was the next big thing! I don't think I have met any outright shysters, but have certainly come across people offering things of marginal value, or who were inadequately trained at facilitation. That so many people are drawn to healing, spiritual or otherwise, I think speaks to an instinct we have within us that we can grow, change, and heal, if only we can find a way that works for us. I am reading Joseph Campbell now! A couple of pages each morning helps me put my day in a good perspective.
     
  11. Dreambirdie

    Dreambirdie work in progress

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    Hey Mr Cat--

    I don't think any of the "spiritual teachers" I encountered in the late 70's and early 80's would have considered themselves outright shysters, but upon closer examination they certainly were. Oh the stories I could tell you!

    I am at the point now where I feel much more inclined to listen and trust my intuition, and let my own spirit be my guide.
     
  12. Dreambirdie

    Dreambirdie work in progress

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    Here's a great talk by Tara Brach, that I heard last night, about the self-blame, fear and isolation we can fall into when we're ill, and how to use mindfulness and compassion to shift this. There's a lot in it that rings very true with my own experiences in dealing with ME... especially the part about how resistance creates suffering.

    http://www.tarabrach.com/audio/2011-03-02-Healing-into-Life-and-Death-TaraBrach.mp3


    1741359_300.jpg
     
  13. allyann

    allyann Senior Member

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    I just thought i would bring up another variant on the art of forgiveness.

    Hawaiians have a ancient spiritual practice of forgiveness and reconciliation called Ho?oponopono (ho-o-pono-pono).

    Hawaiians believe that illnesses are caused by memories and that emotional hurt gets trapped in the body so forgiveness can help heal a person.

    The lomi lomi massage I have studied also works on releasing these memories from your muscles therefore allowing you to start the healing process.

    Serge Kahili King has some really interesting books on the subject if you want to find out more.

    I hope to get to Hawaii late next year or early the following so I can learn more of these techniques as I have found that they have had a profound effect on my health and mental wellbeing whilst suffering CFS.
     
  14. Nielk

    Nielk

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    Hi Dreambirdie,

    Thank you for this podcast from Tara Brach.
    I listened to most of it. what I got from it is the basic teaching of Buddhism and suffereing. Meaning that you have to accept the suffering and not resist it. By resisting it, you are enabling the pain to have more of an effect on you. If you would just accept it as it is, you would not duffer from the pain as much. She is basically saying that you can have pain but not suffer from it. She mentions giving birth and feeling the pain but, being able to accept it as such and not suffer from it. Although she does admit that it is very hard to meditate while you are in the midst of pain whether chronic or end stage of life.

    Ideally, this sounds great, and probably works for some people but, I do not think I'm one of them, When I am in the midst of a terrible, unbearable sinus, migraine headache, there is nothing that i can accept about it. I don't think that I add to it by exaggerating it's effect or that I feel like I have loss of control. (ok, I'll admit that I have the feeling of loss of control but, that is not an imaginary feeling, it is the truth as I see it) After listening to her, I wish I could attain that level of control over this pain, but, when it is so severe I don't think it's humanly possible for the average person to attain acceptance of something that is so painful.

    I think there is a need to make a great distinction between feeling uncomfortable and being in
    severe pain. Yes, on a better day, I can see how being relaxed and accepting what my body is going through is possible but, those days are rare.

    In a way , by saying that we should feel a certain way, in order to minimize the suffering, it puts a burden on the sick and in addition it makes one feel guilty if they can't achieve that level. I wonder if Tara ever experience chronic severe pain for years at a time.

    Thank you though for the podcast. It was thought provoking and definitely something to strive for.
     
  15. Nielk

    Nielk

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    Hi allyan,

    Thank you for sharing the Hawaiin view of forgiveness. There is no doubt that forgiveness is cathartic to the person doing the forgiving. It makes you feel better and lighter. You do not have to carry that heavy load on your shoulders. Sometimes it is easier to forgive than hold a grudge which is poisonous to the body and soul.
    I just believe that the forgiveness has to have meaning and come from a full heart. If you are just going to forgive because it will benefit you for your mental well being without a resolution with the person you are forgiving, it is not true forgiveness.
     
  16. Dreambirdie

    Dreambirdie work in progress

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    Hi Nielk--

    Tara Brach's talk reminded me a lot of the work of a local therapist I know who works in very similar way...and btw he is not a Buddhist. A large percentage of the people who consult with him are dealing with chronic or life threatening illnesses, and he too has been through a serious ordeal with an aggressive form of cancer, which resulted in a leg amputation, and ongoing chronic pain that he has lived with since then. In my consultations with him, during the times when my symptoms have been at their absolute worst, I have definitely found a considerable amount of relief just by observing how my resistance amplifies my pain and turns it into suffering.

    I think it's very hard to understand this kind of process, without having a personal experience of it guided by a good facilitator. The emphasis is about carefully investigating and observing how you are feeling (what the Buddhists call mindfulness), and in what ways your mind is reacting to your symptoms and your illness in general. It is not at all about saying you "should feel a certain way," but rather about getting to the core of how you really are feeling, beneath the resistance and the fear that usually come with the territory of illness.

    In my experience, I have found that I generally have a huge amount of resistance to feeling my symptoms, and the energy it takes to resist them (which is usually driven by fear) always makes them worse. When I investigate my resistance, (my unwillingness to feel what I am feeling), I inevitably find that it begins to ease up, even if just a little bit, in the process of being observed, and sometimes this can have dramatic results by making my symptoms less severe as well. It's not that my symptoms go away completely, but rather that they become more peripheral, like a radio in the distance, instead of one that is blaring in my face.

    The really tricky and very fascinating thing about this process is that it does not work if I attempt to come from a place of wanting to control my symptoms and make them better. In fact, this always backfires, and ends up making me feel quite frustrated. The only way it does work is if I completely give up feeling better, and become willing to feel whatever it is that I am feeling. Then the willingness to be where I am, and the acceptance of what I am feeling do some kind of magic voodoo, that changes my perception of reality in a way that my rational mind, in all its grand effort, has never been able to pull off.

    Go figure! I have never been able to understand *WHY" this is so, but I am glad it *JUST IS.*
     
  17. Nielk

    Nielk

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    It's very interesting what you are describing and there is no argument with success. It works for you. That is an amazing thing. It seems like it works for many. There must be something to it. While you were describing it, I got a mental picture of being in the ocean and instead of resisting the waves and holding on to my position, just letting go and letting the wave carry me wherever it is going.

    I guess this is a skill that needs to be learned. When I feel pain and by pain for me the worst part is the impossible headaches that I get (sorry if I'm repeating myself here), I don't consciously feel like I am resisting anything. I just feel like it has come (uninvited) and it is in control as to when it's going to leave. It might be that I am resisting on a subconscious level that I don't realize. How would I go about giving in to it or accepting it?
     
  18. Dreambirdie

    Dreambirdie work in progress

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    Hi Nielk--

    It is definitely a mind boggling process, and if boggling my mind sometimes brings me a measure of relief, then I am willing to continue boggling it.
    :D:Sign giggle::Sign giggle:

    I would never say that I have the art of acceptance down as a skill. I have had glimpses of it however, and the overall sense of well-being I got from some of those glimpses convinces me that it is a good idea to point myself in that direction. Mastering non-resistance is a huge lifelong task. What makes it even more challenging is that it is in complete contradiction to most of what our upbringings and our education process has taught us. But taking baby steps towards self-acceptance, non-resistance and compassion for one's suffering is probably a good place to begin and to keep beginning over and over again.

    I wish I knew what could help you in this process. I think being guided by a really good facilitator/therapist/meditation teacher can be very helpful. Being in nature helps me a lot too, as does process painting. If I am not able to be with how I feel, then expressing it in paint can help me embrace it, be with it and accept it.

    I'm sorry that you have to deal with the ordeal of nasty headaches. I have had those too, so I know how debilitating they can be. Any comfort and compassion you can give yourself at those times would be a good thing.
     
  19. jenbooks

    jenbooks Guest

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    Resistance

    I know what DB's talking about firsthand. I do it all the time. Because inflammation in various body systems, with varying symptoms, is my major problem, I am constantly having "new" problems crop up in response to triggers sometimes known and sometimes mysterious, or old problems I'd forgotten return. A shift in environment can be as little as 50 yards--even outside, foliage can differ. I can get asthma attacks, migraines (not so much anymore after discovering that fresh lemon juice drunk a few times a day somehow averts the migraines probably by cleansing the liver), gut inflammation, stuffy sinuses, stuffy ears and eustacian tubes. joint achiness, bla bla bla. I am immediately offended by the symptoms, angry that others don't have the symptoms, angry that I do, and most of all, afraid. If it is the middle of the night, I often can't fall back asleep for worrying. No doubt the ever-changing nature of this condition, the unreliability and intrusiveness, is incredibly hard to navigate. Especially hard is improving, and then getting an exposure or making a mistake, and falling backwards or somewhat relapsing. Many emotions come with it and they are as much of a problem in some ways as the actual problem, because they cause a stress response, amplify the symptom, and in my case, make it hard to sleep from worry. I notice that sometimes I can decide, Enough, I'm just going to sleep through this problem, and I will actually be able to. It's like I switched off the escalating fear/worry/anger response. I can be woken by the same things (a symptom, such as asthma attack; or noise, from my partner nearby, or any other noise) and rather than be agitated, if I reach this place where I have decided to sleep anyway, I will just fall back asleep. Yet in the grip of the emotions and reactions, it is completely impossible. I don't seem too great at controlling this--I have to reach a certain point where I need the sleep desperately.

    In my case, what is confounding is the constantly changing nature of my situation. Literally we were at a campsite that was fine, then a very heavy air freshener RV came in, so we moved only six campsites away. But this campsite has a different ecosystem. That is weird but true. There is much more exposed soil/clay, which has an odor, and something in it that caused me asthma. There are ants here too and there were none we noticed at the other. I know there are microclimates and neighborhoods, but to have an entirely different reaction at the same campsite LOOP was amazing to me. Maybe I am learning a lot. I am probably going to look around for something I'd like to make a pendulum with and start testing things more often.

    Anyway, though I haven't read her book, because I don't like the title ("How to be Sick" and the overly optimistic and to me, dishonest, acceptance of our lot--I just don't feel she really goes into the pain we all feel, in a truly honest way)--I do like this essay a LOT:

    http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=21250

    It very clearly explains how you can add to your pain with resistance.

    Dukkha is an unpleasant feeling physical mental emotional spiritual etc.

    Dukkha dukkha is aversion to or resistance to your dukkha.

    Sankhara dukkha are the thoughts you think, as a result of your dukkha.

    So you create two extra kinds of pain, from your original dukkha.

    Your own aversion to (resistance, fear, anger)
    And your thoughts ("I'm having an asthma attack from whatever is in this exposed clay/soil, why did I move to this site, why did that stupid air freshener camper move next to me, I was fine at the other site, my partner's hammock is too close to me at this site, every time he moves around I hear the noise and wake up, I hate this site, I want to be back at my other site, I wish I'd taken two sites next to each other, but is that even allowed, wouldn't that seem really obnoxious on a beautiful sunny weekend when other campers deserve a site too and it's almost sold out here, what if I can't fall back asleep, it's been an hour already, it's 5 am now, I might as well get up, I don't want to get up, I'll just lie here, I don't like this clay/soil, I bla bla bla bla).

    Does anybody recognize this?
    Yet the next night, I just said to myself, "I really can't go through that again, so I'm just going to sleep through it, or fall back asleep if I wake up."

    But in my case, it's almost like I exhaust the two other forms of pain (the resistance and the thoughts) and finally, am left with the emptiness and the original situation.
     
  20. Dreambirdie

    Dreambirdie work in progress

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    Hey jenbooks--

    What a great elaboration of the crazy (dukkha dukkha) mind in a state of resistance. Bravo!

    I have been there so many times, watching my mind throw a tantrum like that, and throwing one back at it, until it feels like there is a war in my head between two opposing, but equally crazy, and very loud, fear mongers.

    I have not been able to JUST STOP this dukkha dukkha in any direct way, (love those words btw--they sound so much like DUKING it out), but I have found that if I ask myself, "how true is this story I am telling myself?" and really investigate where the story is coming from and what is driving it, then my perspective can begin to shift. Also what helps is asking myself "what else is there besides this story?" There was one time when I did that, that I got this amazingly comical visual (and I know I am on the right track when my mind begins to appear comical to me). I saw this big head with a big mouth just yapping on and on and on. I wanted to ignore it of course, because it was rather annoying and crazy to watch, but I stayed with it long enough to see the head begin to zoom out into a bigger picture of reality. In a few seconds the head became like a little storm cloud over the Atlantic, and eventually what stood out was the presence of the entire earth itself, with the cloud becoming an even more insignificant and nearly invisible speck.

    I have not had as much success doing this kind of process on my own when I am going through a very hard time. At those points I need a really good facilitator (a therapist or meditation teacher) to guide me through my resistance. The stumbling block for me is always unwillingness. If I am unwilling, there is no green light to begin the process.
     

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