- “When we put down ideas of what life should be like, we are free to wholeheartedly say yes to our life as it is.”
- Paraphrase – If we are not so busy focusing and complaining about what is wrong with life we might have more room to make our lives better.
- This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, Some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! … The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. Rumi
Chapter 4 – UNCONDITIONAL FRIENDLINESS: THE SPIRIT OF RADICAL ACCEPTANCE
- Jacob, almost seventy, was in the midstages of Alzheimer’s disease.
- “It doesn’t feel like anything is wrong. I feel grief and some fear about it all going, but it feels like real life.”
- Putting his palms together at his heart, Jacob started naming out loud what was happening: “Afraid, embarrassed, confused, feeling like I’m failing, powerless, shaking, sense of dying, sinking, lost.”
- Many of the students were in tears. As one put it, “No one has ever taught us like this. Your presence has been the deepest teaching.”
- Rather than pushing away his experience and deepening his agitation, Jacob had the courage and training simply to name what he was aware of, and, most significantly, to bow to his experience.
- We practice Radical Acceptance by pausing and then meeting whatever is happening inside us with this kind of unconditional friendliness.
- Seeing what is true, we hold what is seen with kindness. This is the unconditional friendliness that Jacob bravely offered when he bowed to his confusion.
- Pema Chödrön, an American nun who is a highly respected teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, says that through spiritual practice “We are learning to make friends with ourselves, our life, at the most profound level possible.” We befriend ourselves when, rather than resisting our experience, we open our hearts and willingly invite Mara to tea.
“I SEE YOU, MARA”: THE PRACTICES OF INQUIRY AND NAMING
- Carl, a good friend of mine, had eight months of bruising encounters with Mara after his business failed.
- When our own carefully constructed lives fall apart, we, like Carl, torture and berate ourselves with stories about how we are failures, what we could have done better, how no one cares about us.
- One tool of mindfulness that can cut through our numbing trance is inquiry.
- Inquiry is not a kind of analytic digging—we are not trying to figure out, “Why do I feel this sadness?”
- Our experience exactly as it is in this present moment. While inquiry may expose judgments and thoughts about what we feel is wrong, it focuses on our immediate feelings and sensations.
- It is important to approach inquiry with a genuine attitude of unconditional friendliness.
- Naming or noting is another tool of traditional mindfulness practice that we can apply, as Carl did, when we’re lost.
- “Carl, the pain you are experiencing would be hard for me … for anybody. Your body is gripped by anxiety. You’re filled with failure and shame, so much so that you can’t even find comfort with your family. This pain is huge … I can see how much this hurts.”
- When we offer to ourselves the same quality of unconditional friendliness that we would offer to a friend, we stop denying our suffering.
INVITING MARA TO TEA: THE PRACTICE OF SAYING YES
- It’s also easy to mistakenly consider yes as a technique to get rid of unpleasant feelings and make us feel better.
- For the time being, saying no to what feels like too much, and yes to what simply works to keep us balanced, is the most compassionate response we can offer ourselves.
- Yes might also be an image or gesture. A friend of mine mentally visualizes herself bringing her palms together and bowing to what has appeared. When she feels the grip of anxiety, anger or guilt, she imagines bowing to it with a sense of genuine respect. I sometimes lightly place my hand on my heart and send a message of acceptance and care to whatever is arising in me.
SAYING YES TO OUR LIFE
- There is something wonderfully bold and liberating about saying yes to our entire imperfect and messy life. With even a glimmer of that possibility, joy rushes in.
- But as Ed points out, when we stop comparing ourselves to some assumed standard of perfection, the “biscuits of today,” this very life we are living right now, can be tasted and explored, honored and appreciated fully. When we put down ideas of what life should be like, we are free to wholeheartedly say yes to our life as it is.
Any questions email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copies of the handouts and homework on http://BeingMindful.com