- TWIL (This Week I Learned)
And, due to several enlightening conversations, I had a contemplation I would like to share:
It is possible that we each carry within us two things:
- A “burden” such as anxiety, depression, heightened sensitivity, ADHD, perfectionism, etc…
- A decision to say “Yes” to our inner goodness.
I will try to explain. I do not know anyone who feels like they don’t suffer at least a little. I tried to list things I have recently heard in conversations but honestly, we all have at least one “burden” holding us back from achieving or being all that we could be.
I will choose “over sensitivity” as an example. This would be a person who has “too much” empathy. You might use the word “empaths”. You can literally feel what other people feel so easily that it becomes a burden. You carry around other people’s hurts, other people’s emotional stuff.
So. What can you do? You can suffer — not take care of this “gift” they have been given. You can use that gift for not-so-good by turning Machiavellian and using that empathy to manipulate people. Or…you can begin to learn compassion.
Yes - I literally just read Tara Brach’s genius way to describing how to do this, and yes…keep reading because I am sharing it below.
If you are curious where I got that idea about using empathy for not-so-good it is from the work of Paul Bloom.
He’s a Canadian-American psychologist at Yale
whose work is in morality. Super interesting stuff. The book he explores this in is called Against Empathy. Very interesting book. I feel it’s enlightening and important, and then we have to make a choice to use our empathy for good.
Further…if we don’t take care of our empathy, we will likely be tempted to use it for not-so-good. Yes, I feel like I speak from experience. (A long, long time ago, when I was very young.)
“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is hound up with mine, then let us work together” — Lilla Watson
This contemplation is new for me, but I do believe it can be extended to many of our “burdens” Certainly anxiety, likely depression. Sit with your own “burden” and see what comes up.
Choose something that keeps you from being that truly “good” confident person you know you could be.
If you feel comfortable, consider what this burden feels like at its heaviest. Now…allow yourself, carefully, to consider where this might lead. What outcomes either by closing yourself off to your inner good and allowing a negative outcome (such as, in my example, by allowing yourself to use people through manipulation) or by not closing yourself and not taking care of yourself and flooding yourself with the burden…
If it works for you, sit with that. It might help you to see that this burden you have been carrying may be better if transformed?
I would like to caution, as usual, that any contemplation should be done with care. If you ever feel overwhelmed, or simply not at ease, seek a neutral third party to help you through, or simply pause, set the contemplation aside, and give yourself compassion for it not being time yet.
So - this is a longer newsletter! Wow.
If you would like, we will try a “reflection” which I have done a few times over the course of my life, in several different scenarios. It is powerful, but very doable.
I encourage you to try this over the course of this week to help you access your inner good and also see the inner good in one “other”.
Choose someone you know well and who is likely to be pretty chill with something that can get a little emotionally vulnerable…
Sit across from the person, close enough that your knees are almost touching. (I have done this via video twice and it can work. I have also done this standing, and it was incredibly powerful.)
Close your eyes and begin by ding several sets of deep breathing and a quick scan of your body to notice and dissolve obvious tension.
Open your eyes and gaze into each other’s eyes for five minutes. Notice whatever arises and allow it, let it be.
Afterward, share with each other what happened.
5. Level-UP / Go Deeper
This next meditation is a bit intense. It is the last meditation in Radical Compassion, and the only one Tara Brach also includes a caveat to that it might be inappropriate for anyone struggling with trauma, depression, or imbalance. Take note. If you feel overwhelm at any point, pause, allow compassion for yourself, and find a qualified therapist to help you along.
My sense was that this is a lot like Metta (loving-kindness) meditation but deeper.
Begin by sitting quietly, make sure you have enough time and space for ease. Scan your body for tension as you breathe in and out deeply.
Choose a person you know well who you know is having a difficult time.
Make a decision/intention to become compassionate toward this person.
- Become aware of this person. Their mood, what they look like, what they do, their tone of voice. Become aware.
- Allow this sense of this person to just simply be. Allow without judgement, so if judgement arises, notice it and watch it pass.
- Begin to ask, “What is it like being you?” Keep asking…“What is most distressing for you?” “What fears, disappointments, or hurts are you carrying?” “How does this life situation feel in your body?” “Where do you feel most vulnerable?” “What do you most want or need right now?”
- So: Now, as you hold this person in your heart, you will begin to Nurture. Begin to hold this person as a part of you, and offer what is needed. Acceptance? Being held? Forgiveness? Understanding? It might feel like imagery, like energy (tingling feeling), words that arise, warmth, or something else. Imagine the person receiving what you offer.
- Now, as in a Metta loving-kindness meditation, widen the circle. Include all people who experience that same suffering.
- The big idea is letting go of all ideas of others, noticing the qualities of heart and presence withing you. Sit with whatever comes up and rest as long as you are able.