Tag Archives: awareness

Non-Judgment Day

Seems the deeper I get into what feels like the core of compassion and the closer I can hold it in my everyday attitude, the greater my awareness of the judgments I encounter in others.  It isn’t from my own judgmental point of view but from a place of compassion and caring for the suffering of others.  I say that because the energy carried in the spoken words and affect of these individuals seems burdensome to them – almost as if the people and/or actions they are judging are perceived as a personal affront and hurtful to them.  As they speak their words, it is clear that they are not happy and cannot be so until all the people and situations triggering such negative evaluative emotions are put right – whatever that means…

 

The attitude of exclusion surrounds us and permeates our lives.  On the surface it may seem to separate and support us by emphasizing those who are different or seen as less than.  But it actually serves to isolate those who carry the judgmental perceptions as a shield that defines the speaker by default.  It might go something like this, “If I can see the faults of others, that must be because I do not have them, and my ideas/attitudes are the right ones.”

 

Letting go of judgments requires more than simply rejecting them as they surface in your mind.  And don’t suppose that you can get to a state where they never come up.  It’s the job of the mind to judge.  We need to be able to make judgments about situations that may be life threatening, and this kind of evaluation must be immediate, almost intuitive.  Once again, this is a way of being that developed to enable us to survive.  How is it that it spills over to our everyday living?  How does it become this familiar tool that gives us a sense of being solid and grounded?  What does it take to appreciate that this sense may be a false one?

 

When this way of being determines how we relate to people and situations every day then it has become part of who we are or who we believe ourselves to be.  The more I have noticed this attitude reflected in the day-to-day interactions of those around me, the more I envision proposing a Day of Non-Judgment.  It seems like a great beginning point until I realize that each of us must first be aware of when judgment is present.  I must be able to discern when what shows up is my own opinion or belief.  Then I need to be able to appreciate that this may or may not be Reality or it may be Reality as it looks through my own personal filter.  Given that our minds are constantly evaluating and critiquing, perhaps the more accurate proposal would be a Day of Non-Attachment to Judgment.

 

Richard Davidson in The Emotional Life of Your Brain talks about open, nonjudgmental awareness as a form of attention.  He defines this as the “capacity to remain receptive to whatever might pass into your thoughts, view, hearing, or feeling and to do so in a noncritical way.”   So, how do we take the step back that is required to have a view from a perspective that can be “noncritical?”  Perhaps it’s the quality of attention brought to our judgments.  Instead of embracing them and clothing ourselves in them automatically, perhaps there can be a moment of taking a closer look.  There might be more attention to their shape, texture, color, the energy they carry, their potential to do harm.  Consider the care and attention we generally give to how we look and how we dress.  How would it be to give that same quality of focus to what we wear on the inside?

If we can apply this kind of attention to a single judgment we are having, then we might realize we have a choice.  The choice involves examining the intention behind the judgment – Is it about life or death?  Are we determining a potential danger?  If not, then can we relax into a more open, receptive attitude?  What would it take to allow that?

 

I have a sense about judgments which I experience as a visceral response.  It feels like a narrowing, a posture that shields or protects me somehow.  I experience it as a tension in my muscles which separates me from the other, from whatever or whomever is the object of my judgment.  Conversely, an open receptive attitude is what compassion feels like.  It’s inclusive and the boundaries around it can soften.  It arises out of my core or center, not from the edges of me.  Having the experience of this difference in your body, the choice becomes easier and more natural.  It’s basically the choice to practice this new way of being now, today, and then again tomorrow.  Perhaps a day of non-judgment is possible after all…

 

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Unseen, then Seen

Walking on the beach, living near a major airport, there are often planes that appear in the sky out over the ocean on their landing approach.  What’s interesting about this occurrence is that, as one gazes at the place where they seem to be coming from, there is nothing to see.  Sometimes I find myself focused on the empty spot in anticipation of the emergence of a plane, certain that one will appear, yet wondering how it makes that shift from being “unseen” to “seen.”   It seems there might be a slit in the sky – an opening that I cannot see through which the plane emerges.  With awareness of that thought comes a smile – I am reminded once again of how our minds attempt to alter reality to suit what we think it should be.  I expect to be able to see it, so why can’t I?

This situation may seem obvious in the sense of simply not respecting or appreciating the limits of our senses, however, how many times is this exactly what we do?  How would it be to take a few steps back and look at the bigger picture here, acknowledging how easy it is to slide into the practice of making up a story when we can’t see clearly – bringing our own interpretation to what may seem to be happening (or not happening).  And often, even when we are aware that we are providing our own home screen entertainment,  some or all of that story becomes real for us.  All the more so if it’s a particularly good story!

So, why do we do this?  Why do we fill in the space?  What gets in the way of allowing an opening for the unseen to become seen?  Not such a simple answer –  is it impatience, perhaps, being uncomfortable or unaccepting of not knowing?  Maybe it’s a matter of the “shoulds” – feeling that we should already know.  Or is it simply a moment of groundlessness?  How might we see them more as “leap of faith” moments – certain that the knowing will unfold?

In the practice of meditation and mindfulness there are also many opportunities for filling in the blanks.  We practice or sit expecting (or hoping for) the insight  that will help us translate our experience into the bliss of enlightenment or at least move us further along in that direction.  Perhaps it’s during our yoga practice or while taking a walk, maybe even when we awaken in the middle of the night, that we long for an answer that eludes us.

So how does a new understanding come about?  How do we really move from the unseen to the seen with regard to even the most burning questions in our lives?  I wonder if it’s not much simpler than we might consider.  It begins with a pause – taking a moment to let go of the grasping towards what we want to know.  Then a shift to trust that the answer or insight will emerge – in other words, that it’s in there somewhere.  Then there’s the issue of readiness – being open to whatever the insight might be and a willingness to go with it.  This last is important, because often the insight might come but we find ourselves digging in our heels saying, “Oh no, this isn’t the answer I was hoping for.”  I suspect that may be the point where we need to go back to the beginning and pause again…

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Seeing in the Dark

What do you see when you close your eyes?  Or is the point not to see but to allow yourself to open up to other, perhaps less dominant, senses?  Consider the common situations in which you focus with eyes closed – when preparing for sleep, when desirous of intensifying a sensation being experienced, or perhaps to avoid imprinting an image that is disturbing or frightening.  Most examples probably fit into these categories, though there may be times when you close your eyes in order to embrace a moment of stillness and quiet.  These last are the moments that invite a closer look.

When you close eyes initially, there can be a sense of  noticing the quality of the darkness.  It can show up differently – sometimes close and heavy, at other times cool and spacious, and, of course, with a range of sensations in between.  Sometimes it seems as if the dark is right in front of your face, and, at other times, it can feel as though it envelops your entire body.  This is the period of settling in, and it carries you past the first few moments.  So, if your intention is for more than a 20 second break, what is it that happens next?

Ah…  This is the place that has the potential for the real beginning of a new and potentially life changing experience.   Suppose you are closing your eyes to begin  meditation or checking in with your inner self during your yoga practice or while being supported through a yoga therapy session.  In any of these scenarios, sliding into the darkness allows you to shift focus to what’s happening from the inside out.  It’s a different perspective.  It’s one that frees you in a way from the connection to the senses; it changes the perspective from which you are taking in the world around you.  That shift allows a mindful space to simply be with yourself.

There is something about being in the dark that provides a new, in the moment,  experience.  It’s different every time, and you can never be sure who or what you will encounter.  Of course, after a moment or two, your mind will jump in to fill what it perceives as a void.  Thoughts of future and past, judgments, expectations and concerns are just some of the characters that will take up space in the dark.  What might it look like to greet them, welcome them in, invite them to sit with you a while?  Consider it like “working the room” in a social setting where you acknowledge each guest, listen a bit and move on, never getting too involved with each individual but keeping close awareness of the bigger picture.   Perhaps not a comfortable analogy but a serviceable one.  The point is not to become too attached to any one thought or emotion but not to fight against them or try to shut them out as you move from one to the next.

How would it be to enter the dark with the kind of anticipation of seeing a great movie you’ve heard about – to bring that kind of energy in but without the sense of attachment to what the movie turns out to be?  Might that draw you to want to sit in meditation or close eyes during yoga practice or a yoga therapy session and see what happens?  Think of the richness that is you and all that is waiting to be discovered.  Most of all, allow yourself to entertain the possibility of getting to know the person you are from the inside out.

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Facing Forward, Looking Back

Consider that you are at that moment in your life, probably one of many such moments, when you are conscious of a focus on what lies ahead of you.  I am aware of your smile as you think about how you do that almost every day.  The moment that I am speaking of is the one where you set an intention about what’s next – not necessarily with worry or apprehension or dread or even excitement, and, yes, it might actually include all those feelings.  However, what’s important about this looking ahead moment is the attitude with which you are facing forward.

Isn’t this, in fact, what you do, intentionally or otherwise, at this time of witnessing the transition to a new year?  So, how’s that going for you?  Is it all about what could have been different during the past twelve months, or is it about how you resolve that this year will be different?  There’s such a wide open space in between that sometimes it seems better to focus on what’s happening now!

So, standing at the edge of your yoga mat or sitting on your meditation cushion, take in a deeper breath – in through your nose and let it fall out of your mouth – feel your shoulders let go a bit – and settle into who you are right now.  What is ahead of you might seem like it encompasses the whole of your journey, moving toward some inner (or outer) goal.    It is possible though, to experience it as simply the next step on your journey and then whatever happens after that.  This is not to say that you don’t need a plan, but your plan may have little to do with the attitude that surfaces for you when facing forward.

Suppose that you bring to this moment, imagining what’s ahead, the strength of standing in your truth – it doesn’t have to be an astounding truth; it can be a simple truth (as most really are).  What’s significant is bringing your awareness to an opening in how you greet what’s ahead.  The image that comes to mind is standing or sitting in stillness with hands open to receive.  Isn’t that how you want to be greeting this next step on your journey?  If you are open to receive, then whatever happens next can be used, can serve you in moving forward.  You will have welcomed it without judgment or preconceived ideas about how it is supposed to be.  Then it can be a gift…

Of course, the other side of facing forward is looking back.  That can be a stuck place, full of story, where bags are weighed down with what has gone before.  So, without exploring all those past moments, perhaps it would be enough to find a place to put them, at least temporarily.  Certainly, it’s possible to find space in a closet or rent a storage locker.  You will be wanting your next step to be less encumbered; you can always retrieve later what has been set aside.

Then, see how this feels in your body – how letting go translates into lightening up and, perhaps, more energy.  It doesn’t matter that it’s not forever; what is crucial is that, at this moment, you are free to face forward with an open attitude and receive what’s next.  Happy New Year!

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Edge of Awareness

Suppose you are at an edge, standing at a point where moving forward feels like stepping off into the unknown yet staying where you are is increasingly uncomfortable, and, of course, moving backward isn’t even a choice.  What happens now?

Sounds like a big deal – yet we do this over and over again every day.   Mostly, however, moving forward happens within the context of what we know and what is familiar.  Driving the car, making a call, walking down the street – all these actions happen without us knowing exactly what will happen next.  We do, for the most part, have expectations based on past experiences that allow us to take up these activities with confidence or ease.  But if enough about the activity is outside our familiar set of past experiences, then the sense of the unknown surfaces.   How we meet this can range from anxious resistance to enthusiastic excitement.

Think of children for whom almost all experiences are unknown.  Would any of us have learned to walk or run if we chose staying with what is familiar?  Or if we had a lengthy internal conversation about what was about to happen next?  Unlikely!  So we all have the capacity to choose moving forward, taking the next step, even in the face of not knowing.

Consider how we meet these edges in our life situations – right now, today.  Could it be that what seems edgy to us does so because some aspect of it strikes us at our core?  How do we choose moving forward or staying when our perception of what is at stake is the sense of who we are or what our truth is?  It isn’t simply about “not knowing.”  What stirs us is the dissonance of the potential before us compared with what we think of ourselves, our idea of who we are, our self image.   Perhaps this is actually the edge of awareness.   And our choice is to explore and take the next step or hunker down and stay put.

So, what might make the difference in how we choose?  If you go back to the childhood reference, moving forward was possible then because we felt safe, accepted and had a sense that someone had our back if things didn’t go well.  Or else the motivation was that consequences of failing weren’t clear and/or the risk seemed worth it.   Or simply being curious.

How to bring some more of that curiosity into how we make choices to explore edges and step out into the unknown as who we are right now?  Can we use the tools we have and the gifts we’ve been offered?  Meditation, mindfulness techniques and yoga can support the sense of who we are and strengthen the ability to take the next step.  They can provide a safe home and make it easier to move forward.  Yoga therapy, in particular Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, offers a unique structure for supporting this kind of exploration of the edge – one in which you can explore with safety and acceptance, with the sense of someone having your back.  What matters most in the way you meet your edges is that you get to choose – how far, how fast, even whether to go at all…

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Holding on/Letting Go

“Letting go” is a phrase much used in the teaching and support of practices like yoga, meditation and mindfulness.  In the experience of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, there is also support for letting go, however, there is no teaching offered that will instruct you in how to do that.   The reason being that only you, the individual “you,” can tap into what it is that keeps you from letting go.  No one else can know, but how would it be to accept a practitioner’s invitation to explore?

In order to let go, there must be some understanding of your own unique process of holding on.  You must first develop awareness of where in your body you feel the sensation of holding.  Whether the holding applies to a thought, an emotion,  a memory or a story about yourself, it is stored in the cells of your body and held there.  It is easy to believe that this holding is the way you are supposed to be – the real you.  And if the story, emotion, thought or memory is significant – in other words, if it carries a lot of weight or energy for you – then the effort of holding on will also contain much weight or energy.  It will seem that there is no foreseeable way of letting go.

We don’t as a rule hold on to something of little import or value to us, however, that doesn’t mean that we always know what the attachment really is.  Sometimes the holding comes out of a desire that our life situations or relationships be different than they are.  At those times, the energy may be more about holding back than holding on.  And still, the intention of letting go begins with asking where in your body is the locus of this holding.

You might stop where you are right now and pay attention to what’s happening with your breath.  If you notice holding, it’s not likely to be the kind of  “holding your breath til you turn blue”  – we know what that looks like.  For sure it will be much more subtle than that.  It could be that you take in less than a full breath, or you grasp at the breath and pull it out of the air as opposed to receiving it in a gentler way.  Suppose your awareness simply tells you that your breath could perhaps be different than it is.

How would it be to check in with the rest of your physical body to notice where and how holding might be happening?  Remember that it can show up in many different ways –  as a tightness in a muscle, an ache that may be felt deep inside a part of you,  a felt sense of some part not functioning the way it should, a heaviness, a weariness in your body.  You see, holding can be present in so many ways.  The discovery can happen in the naming of it.   Bringing awareness to it can then be the next step in the process of understanding whether this holding serves you anymore and then appreciating that you have a choice.

I imagine the next question you might have is how you can be certain that what you notice is “holding.”  The answer is that sometimes, in fact, you don’t know you’re holding on until you have the experience of letting go…

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