Wednesday, June 17, 2020

What Best Serves?

     Many times each day, even hourly, a thought, emotion or body sensation will arise that we instinctively don't want! We tend to be much more clearly aware of such events while meditating. 'Not wanting' easily leads to an argument with reality - we assume, 'This is wrong! This shouldn't be happening!' It's perfectly human to instinctively pull away from unpleasant, towards the pleasant, and to ignore neutral stimuli.

     But our highly-evolved heart-mind knows that unwillingness to turn towards & relate with kind curiosity to ANYTHING & EVERYTHING, including negative mind states, is the major cause suffering. Arguing with, instead of accepting, learning from & wisely relating to reality is the basis of suffering. Things are the way they are right now, like it or not. Paradoxically, when we let go of resisting what is, it changes! See:
     Perhaps the most skillful way of deciding on any course of action is asking ourselves, 'What best serves this moment?' In other words, what would best nurture me in this situation? If my loving, wise grandmother carefully assessed my current situation, what would she advise me to do right now for my long-term benefit?
      Can we learn to adopt an active, empowered, helpful approach - one of wise nurturing - consistently (like a skillful gardener) aiming to provide all the causes & conditions for flourishing?  
     'What best serves right now?' Posing this question to myself I find to be very self-compassionate, encouraging & empowering.

     A part of us feels very young, afraid & helpless. Whenever we find ourselves embodying this fearful child 'part,' we feel alone & vulnerable in what feels like a hostile world. Due to past traumas, we instinctively react to triggers by freezing, running & hiding, or with aggression - the latter an overcompensation for our felt helplessness. This is our ancient 'fight, flight, freeze' instinct.
     But an almost silent part of us feels authentic, mature, peaceful, competent & connected with everyone & everything ('tend & befriend instinct'). When we embody this wise elder 'part' or our true Self, we feel a natural profound bond - 'interbeing' with everyone & everything (how our right hand relates to our left). We relate to ourselves & others with natural, joyful, loving collaboration.

    Useful details about "parts": Richard C. Schwartz. "No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model." Sounds True, 2021. OR for a concise summary of IFS, see p172-176 in David A. Treleaven. “Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness. Practices for Safe and Transformative Healing.” W.W. Norton & Co, 2018.

     "To be enlightened is to be intimate with all things." Zen Master Dogen  

     The fearful child part in us feels as if there's always something lacking. It craves for 'the right condition' - people, things, experiences - anything at all, to fill an unquenchable thirst. No matter how hard it strives, it just can't.
       David R. Loy. “Lack & Transcendence. The Problem of Death and Life in Psychotherapy, Existentialism, and Buddhism.” Wisdom Publications, 2018.

     The wise elder in us feels at peace, grateful, deeply happy - independent of conditions. In this state of abundance (vs 'lack'), we only wish to share what is most precious to us: our ease & joy - by nurturing, by being of service, so that others too may flourish. This blissfulness ('heart opening') can be felt physically as warmth radiating from our body, especially the heart area.

     The most interesting & valuable thing is that we can intentionally cultivate our inherent ability to increasingly embody the wise elder state of being. And whenever we feel the fearful child being triggered in us, we can ask ourselves: 'What best serves me & others, here & now?' With practice - and sometimes with additional help from mental health professionals - the wise elder in us can more & more easily soothe the fearful child by holding it in safety, unconditional love & nurturing it. There is a bond of deep trust - unconditional love - between our inner child & our inner wise elder. This is where wise loving-kindness & self-compassion meet real daily life.

       Kristin Neff. “Self-Compassion. The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.” HarperCollins, 2011.
     All this can be accomplished by patiently practicing generosity, ethics & meditation. 
       Gil Fronsdal. "The Issue at Hand. Essays on Buddhist Mindfulness Practice." 2001.

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