dear Bodhi 心, we can’t pour from an empty cup

I wrote myself a love letter to practise an emotional first-aid exercise I learnt from Elizabeth Gilbert on Insight Timer.

Dear Bodhi,

I love you and I’m here for you. You’re going through a hard time right now and finding it difficult to cope. That’s okay – you’re doing a better job than you think. You’re always learning, and you try to be honest with yourself. That’s a great quality. You are aware of your feelings and are able to recognise when you have reacted because you feel triggered. This awareness is the first step to being able to regulate yourself during episodes of difficult emotions.

The training in Cultivating Emotional Balance is coming up soon and it’s really great that you’re wanting to pursue this training and be responsible for your thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviours, especially reactive behaviours.

The space between stimulus and response is accessible and you can expand the interface by practising awareness through training such as CEB. You will learn a lot during the training and it feels like it will be a fulcrum period around which your life and being will be changed forever. You want to learn this training so that maybe you can deliver it as well – I think that’s a great idea and I think you can do it.

It’s okay and good even, that you’ve taken the time you need for yourself today. It is not selfish to meet your needs, especially because it makes it easier to be present for others’ needs when your cup is full.

We can’t pour from an empty cup.

By taking this time you’ve gained the space to see that you need some emotional first-aid and that’s something to be proud of. You have the psychological skills and techniques you need to help yourself when you’re in pain. I’ve attached them along with this letter, for your convenience.

You are deeply committed to understanding suffering and its true causes so you can be well and guide others on this path. What a beautiful thing to be doing! You’re a caring soul and you’ll help many because you feel deep compassion for yourself and others. Your lived experience of suffering is a rich resource and motivation from which you can learn a lot, about the true nature of reality and how to be happy.

You’re a good fella and you’re doing your best.

Keep up the good work 🙂

Love,

Bodhi 心

PS The toolbox of psychological skills and techniques I mentioned.

a PDF worksheet for emotional first-aid

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On the Resources page here I have published a worksheet I use to process emotional episodes in a healthy, supported and guided way. It’s a practice of self-soothing and -regulation. Here are the .odt and .docx files if you want to modify the worksheet for your personal use.

The worksheet guides you through asking, What sort of things did you think, feel and do before, during and after the emotional episode?

Then there are some prompts for self-care and emotional first-aid you can try, and some reflection questions about things like, What are you grateful to have learnt from this experience.

I’m proud of this resource because it has helped me a number of times already when I needed to change the narrative around some event that was emotionally distressing. The worksheet is inspired by the work of Guy Winch, which was my introduction to this practice.

There are more resources on that page, such as Dr Kristin Neff’s website about compassion, and a compassion meditation guided by Sharon Salzberg.

enough time

“The Persistence of Memory” by Salvidor Dali

My affirmation today is, again, I am enough. I am enjoying this theme and I think it’s worth reflecting on regularly. It can be expanded to include this is enough, and it makes me think now about gratitude. A quote we had on the wall for a while:

Gratitude turns what we have into enough.

That which is, is enough.

I got up early enough. There is enough time to do whatever needs to be done. I do enough of what I want. The weather is warm enough (this is easy today because the weather is perfect). I have enough energy to be productive enough today. I am enough without being productive.

The last few days have been “hijacked” by life, resulting in me not being able to do what I wanted to do, which was work on kHeart projects. Life has been this way a lot lately – enough to show me that there is something for me to be seeing.

What does that mean? What am I supposed to be seeing?

I am supposed to be seeing and looking at the reality that life doesn’t always go as we planned – in fact, it never does. We know the saying, “Life is what happens while you were busy making plans.” The future is never as we imagined it would be.

In the space between the present and the future, there is a line between getting our way and getting out of the way, between getting what we want and going with the flow.

I am beginning to see that the idea of attachment and non-attachment applies to time and events as much as it applies to material possessions.

I understand non-attachment in the material realm and am generally okay with not getting or having possessions. I am learning now that I have something to learn about accepting and adapting to situations where I don’t get what I want in terms of controlling the way I spend my time.

For most of my life I have been a loner, and I don’t mean that in a self-disparaging way: my upbringing lead to me being comfortable with being alone, and I was mostly happy with that. Sometimes I was lonely, but I adapted and came to enjoy having lots of time alone. I am mostly an introvert as well, so I need time alone to recharge. The “lone wolf” is a descriptor that applies better than “loner”: I have friends that I see now and then, but mostly I’m pretty self-contained.

I am seeing a narrative emerge here – a story I tell myself about myself – and I’m seeing that a guided journaling practice might help others to see where narratives are running the way they think about themselves.

I see it as a narrative because I see how I am telling you how I was or am. If it can be told, it is a narrative, and if it can be told one way it can be told another. It makes me think of the Taoist idea: if it can be named, it is not the Tao.

Meaning that if I can tell you about it, it is not the truth – if I can tell you about myself, I am not telling you about my true nature. Everything we tell about ourselves – every narrative we create to explain ourselves – is a fiction, a construct. It is not the truth, but a choice between various and myriad lies or fictions, illusions.

I’m getting obscure again, but this is ephemeral territory, the metaphysical and the esoteric. The exoteric is an example.

My son Zane has told me things about himself, like “I’m not the sort of person who … [insert character trait here] … likes to talk about his feelings … likes learning … likes slow movies.” When Zane has done this I have recognised that these are very much choices he is making about identity, not expressions of his true nature. These claims have been made over the last five years, between the ages of 9 and 14, a time of development when children begin realising they have an identity they need to understand. They are seeing that they are not just expressions of their parents, but individual entities and there seems to be an urgency to claim their own identity. When he has made these claims I have tried to say variations of “maybe that will change one day”, because I want for him to not become locked-in to one identity-choice or another. Imagine a person believing their whole life that they are not the sort of person who likes to talk about their feelings. (Like human beings can be sorted into this or that category like so many biscuits behind a barcode!) That would be a prison on the island of the illusion of independence – no man being an island and all that.

Something I don’t have to imagine is a person believing their whole life that they are happier when they are alone. I don’t have to imagine this because it is a belief I have been narrating to myself my whole life – because a bunch of people let me down early in life, and I decided I would be better of without them and they would be better off without me. Trouble is, “they” was a specific group of people back then, whereas now “they” applies to the whole amorphous group of people known as everyone other than me.

As an adult I choose to share my aloneness with a few select others who show that they care about me and are able to let me care about them, but because I was mistreated by a select few as a child – my brother, father and some kids at school – I must have told myself at some point that I am the sort of person who doesn’t need friends to be happy, that I am the sort of person who is happy to be alone.

After a slew of toxic relationships in my young adulthood (before I met Nikki) I had resigned myself to believing that I would be happier to be single my whole life than to continue from one toxic relationship to another. I had resigned myself to dying alone, using justifications such as “we are each alone at death anyway”.

I’m rambling a bit, but that’s okay because this has become an exercise in questioning the narratives that dictate my beliefs about my nature, true or otherwise.

I have been thinking, these last few days when I haven’t been able to get what I want, that I need to figure out how to get more solitude in my life(style).

That word “more” is a clue and a key. If we are saying we need more of this or that (more money, a job that is more fulfilling, more time, more time alone, more time alone doing this or that … it’s an endless list of more and more qualifications of what we want from what is) then we are not living from the awareness of enoughness.

Understanding this in relation to time is the challenge I am currently facing, which I choose to accept.

When I am frustrated that I am not getting the time I want, I see that attachment is at work and I remember that this is enough. That which is, is enough.

That is my affirmation today, should I choose to accept it.

Frustration is a red flag that attachment is operating. I can try to make that which is different, or I can choose to adapt and feel grateful and allow whatever is to be. I can choose to get out of the way and allow my resistance to that which is to dissipate. And in this way I can allow a new narrative to write itself: I am equally happy when my time is spent alone or with people; if I cannot change the external conditions/situation dictating that I must spend more time with others than I am used to or would like, then I must accept only that which I can change, which is how I feel about the situation/condition. Remember Frankl:

When we are no longer able to change a situation,
we are challenged to change ourselves.

more enoughness ;)

A reader liked an old post today, “on self-esteem as a precursor for achievement …” and it showed me there is a theme running through my thoughts about enoughness, which I wrote about yesterday.

Societal expectations drive a lot of us to be always achieving, never satisfied to just exist and accept ourselves for our inherent worth. Our self-esteem is dependent upon achievement.

I think it’s essential we question the narratives telling us we need to achieve more — always more, never enough.

What is your enough? Do we need more enoughness 😉

What would your life look like if achievement was just something you did for fun? Because you didn’t need to achieve to just feel good about yourself.

enoughness

My affirmation for today is that I am enough.

That should be enough said, but we all know I like to get a bit long-winded.

It is enough to just be a kind and present observer in and of the world, a being that brings laughter and lightness and other authentic qualities to their experience and to that of those around them. Or to be a kind and present observer who is grouchy. We don’t need to add or subtract anything from ourselves to be worthy of joy, happiness and love.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t do. Just being is not enough.

Is that a paradox? I don’t think so.

It just means that from our place of being enough, everything else we do comes with ease, is additional, expectation free.

It means that whatever I do today it’s because I choose to add this to my already-enoughness. It also means that if something gets in the way of what I want it doesn’t matter because I am already enough without getting to the thing I wanted.

Alan Watts has a nice quote about this:

photo by Felix Mittermeier

the weather behind the curtain

I feel inspired this morning. I woke earlier than usual and, seeing the beautiful weather behind the curtain, I decided to sit myself up and be awake. That’s a nice metaphor about what we’re doing here: seeing the beautiful weather behind the curtain, where the beautiful weather is our already-enlightened nature, and the curtain is the network of conceptual obscurations that prevent us from living out of that place each moment. It’s like waking up and remembering I live here:

the bushland suburb of Bunya in Southeast Queensland (not to be confused with the Bunya Mountains, which is real out-bush)

I feel inspired to do my purpose, which is to observe and report the world anew, to investigate the nature of reality, to write my own narrative and help others to do the same. I’m drafting a post about what I even mean by changing the narrative and psychospiritual wellness — coming soon. But meanwhile, I can say this much:

without really knowing it, in our subconscious we tell ourselves stories about the way the world was, is and will be. If we are not vigilant about the content of these stories, they can be limiting and even harmful. We can get stuck in the past, and from there all we can expect is that our future will reflect that past. If you’ve had a good past, then bully for you — but most of us haven’t, and we want to see a brighter future.

Continue reading “the weather behind the curtain”

psychological first-aid

I have added a video to the Resources page on Kokoro 心 Heart, about psychological first-aid.

The practice of psychological first-aid falls somewhere between acute and long-term self-care. It baffles me that I was nearly 40 before I had it pointed out to me that we need to treat psychological wounds as they happen, the same as we treat physical wounds.

Here is the video by Guy Winch, which was my introduction to this practice.

affirmations for going with the flow

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I allow myself to go gently back into the practice of discipline, structure, ritual. My self-expectations are realistic. I enjoy coming back to the world after an extended period of avoidance. I accept that I haven’t been coping, and I step back into responsiveness and responsibility, moving again toward thrival.

I move through my tasks and actions with awareness, relishing each moment I come back to the reality of now through my senses. I come back to my senses.

The world is benevolent, and we are put through trials by a loving energy that knows we are able to learn what we need for life to be more and more like a flow.

I relinquish attachment to what I like, and I allow aversion to move through me without causing stuckness.

I remain committed to conscious evolution.

may we become conscious of the unconscious

Ironbark Gully
getting back on the horse

Down at the Gully today, doing some writing work and thinking about getting back on the pogram … I’ll explain that word in a minute.

It’s been too long that we’ve allowed the situation with our tenant to derail us. I’ve been in damage-control mode and now it’s time to get back into live grow and build mode.

We bumped into Irish Ryan yesterday and he reminded us that we can choose how we feel about the situation. Remember Frankl (paraphrased):

man’s final freedom is the freedom to choose how he feels.

I choose to feel like I can resume my daily life and go back to cultivating contentment and wellbeing and happiness. I choose to use my time in the house as though This Person being is not a problem. (Such is the extent that I have been overwhelmed by their ongoing presence, that I hand-wrote their whole being as the problem. It’s time to take my mind and heart back from the person I have been allowing to occupy it for too long.) The advice columnist Ann Landers said,

Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head.

I choose to reclaim the right to my mental and emotional space. This space is priceless, and my experience of it is a choice.

I’ve been meaning to start a document, something I can fold into a pocket somewhere, with the values and reminders I’d like to keep in the fore of my mind. This exercise helps me feel anchored to something, less dependent on retaining all my intentions in the brain. I’m getting on to this today and will share it here as some kind of practical resource when I’m able to get to that.

When I’m getting back on the horse like this, I talk about getting back on my pogram, which is a combination of program and pogrom, a program of personal re-education, of expelling that which holds me back and re-learning what makes me soar.

This idea of keeping a document on hand as a reminder has … reminded me that a key project of my pogram and the work at Kokoro 心 Heart is making the subconscious more conscious. By bringing my values and beliefs and positive “talk” to the fore of my conscious, I reclaim the ability and freedom to choose how I feel.

If 95% of our behaviour is motivated by the subconscious, then we need to become aware of the subconscious so we can be more intentional, less reactive, less likely to crumble when struck by unchartered adversity.

So that’s the theme set for the day and days to come. My battery is about to die, so I’m going to hit send on this missive.