Holding Trauma in the Cradle of Loving Kindness

imagesHealing from trauma is about restoring connection with self and others. It is essentially about restoring a person’s ability to feel alive, whole, and connected with life. Roberto Assagioli offered psychosynthesis mind-body-spirit practices to uncover and heal hidden roots and dimensions of impaired connection and psychological dis-ease linked to trauma, well ahead of his time.

Today science has proven survivors of developmental and shock trauma develop psychological and/or physiological survival responses in the form of neurological shut-down in order to survive traumatic experiences. These survival responses continue to kick in long after the trauma ceases, taking the form of unconscious nervous system dysregulation, disruptions in attachment responses, and numerous identity distortions. Roberto Assagioli pioneered new healing alternatives knowing we were more than our pathologies…i.e. pathology did not define intrinsic (S)self. Today, thanks to neuroscience we understand that focusing on the psychopathology or the dysfunction, we risk reinforcing the dysfunction, not healing it.

Since Assagioli’s time neuroscience has corroborated his beliefs in brain plasticity and the importance of a mind-body connection. Medical approaches do not universally prone the importance of a spiritual dimension in healing, but somatically-based psychotherapy has become prevalent and alternative therapies such as yoga, mindfulness, EFT, and many others have achieved recognition for their contribution to well-being and overall health.

Working to heal developmental trauma in my own life and in that of others, I have found Eastern (Buddhist) practices of compassionate mindfulness and loving kindness invaluable. Awareness of our responses even when these feel disruptive, unwanted, or ‘bad,’ is imperative to letting them go. Without recognition and ‘naming our demons,’ they quietly change form and slip through our fingers to become a new form of addiction or phobia that controls our life, short of authentic freedom, offering yet another crutch that helps us ‘get through the day’. As one therapist remarked to a client struggling with cigarette addiction on proudly affirming to have not smoked a cigarette in 12 months, 21 days, 15 hours and 30 minutes. “That merits recognition and applause; still, while you may not die of lung cancer, anxiety and high blood pressure created by an over-active mind may very likely do you in.

How often the fear to honestly look at what scares us, preferring to run away to distraction or another form of denial…keeps us caught and identified with something we give power to. Only in looking deeply at our foibles, fears, desires etc…with genuine compassion for ourselves and those who have hurt us, can we find a path to healing. For this to occur we must awaken to responsibility to our lives (not for, but to), commit to awakening, and explore what we do and why; and in all of this take refuge in a cradle of loving kindness.

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Loving kindness is not about a path of resignation. It is not about condoning behavior and does not mean acceptance in the sense of ‘oh well, I am powerless, so I have to accept this’. As Assagioli explains in his notes on Acceptance, accepting ‘what is’ reveals a door to peace and true power. If you are willing to deeply explore what you find difficult to accept and why… not in someone else’s behavior, but in your own… wisdom, insight and freedom follow. It all comes back to knowing yourself….what you honestly feel, believe, want…and why? And the only way to know that is to look moment by moment… and keep looking. A wise author said. “The price of freedom is eternal mindfulness”.

Thich Naht Hahn (renowned Zen Buddhist monk and father of mindfulness) teaches; “the way out is in”, not in a judging, critical, hateful manner. To look deeply, with mindfulness in order to be free, requires the balm of loving kindness and acceptance, gentleness and love… to whatever arises. With this approach (which needs support to repeatedly cultivate), I find for myself and in observing those I accompany, the malaise we seek to release…. melts of its own accord. No longer focusing on what we hate and seek to destroy, no longer watering the ill, the fear, the hate, the hurt dissipates. In courageously looking while holding ourselves (and others) in a cradle of loving kindness, old triggers and patterns melt by themselves. In removing the nourishment they need to exist, they naturally wither and die in time, creating space for the new life and freedom we seek to create!

Can we choose to water and cultivate loving kindness in our lives as we start this new year and decade? Trauma whatever its form, does not have to define us, if we choose to follow a path of freedom and renewal. Blessings on your journey! Joy, happiness, and renewal to all in this new moment! There is hope and there is a way out!

Let me help you learn to be kind to yourself….no matter what your story is, your past, your beliefs…..no matter what!  This is not a journey we can do alone. Start now, this year, this month…Life goes fast, especially as we get older. Sign up for 10 hour-long coaching sessions by March 31st and receive my book, the story of my own journey ‘home’ as a gift, at no charge.

Carpe Diem….you have nothing to lose but the heaviness of pain, sadness, anger, guilt etc….and everything to gain as you move forward in life with lightness and freedom!

Blessings, Abigail

 

The Game of Life

If life were a game of chess, how are you playing the game…?

mimi-in-pau-oct-2019-e1571837794103.jpg….fighting hard, agonizing to make ‘right’ moves…? Or enjoying the unexpected moves of Life…Universe, Divine..whatever label resonates for you as the unknown force/energy stepping into our lives in unexpected ways without our input or control?

In the West we are strongly influenced by beliefs in action, being proactive, decisive…an actor in life. We agonize to make “right” decisions…do things “right”, “get it right”.  Yet sometimes no matter how much we try, push, manipulate, connive……things happen beyond our control. We don’t get the job/guy/gal/house….. or worse, we lose house and home in an unpredicted disaster-car accident…devastating storm-, or are diagnosed with a life-threatening disease… despite our regular efforts at healthy living. Usually to add to the difficulty and challenge we must now face, our minds jump in with a “why me?” topped with feelings of injustice, resentment and/or anger.

Not to renounce commitment and action in the way we live…they have a valid place… let us remember the other end of the polarity of action: inaction, letting go…not struggling  to ‘get it right’, knowing how to surrender and trust. We can make ourselves sick from too much effort. Remembering to let go, be quiet, do nothing and tune into a quiet, inner place of guidance,  can make life richer, calmer, and more joyful.

In the game of life… perhaps the joy is not in the winning, but in the attention to playing, not always controlling and allowing life to unfold, just a little….

Life..game of chess. Hafiz

Letting go can be challenging for many of us, but we can re-learn it…re-member an old way of being we have forgotten. Someone to guide us is also helpful. No need to feel shy or hang on to the belief “must do it alone”…

Reach out. Let joy back into your life. En-joy and Carpe Diem!

Sit… Stay… Heal!

So much in life is seeking/ begging for attention…our attention. The culprit can be virtual…television, social media, emails…, or marketing messages, people (work or home), even our inner world solicits regular attention through thoughts, sensations, and feelings. Our attention is virtually called upon 24 /7.

How do we respond… where do we place attention? On what do we focus? Without discernment and tools to help us, we can feel torn apart as if by wild dogs, wearing us out in unrelenting demand.  Do we know how to pay attention to our own needs and desires? We  are often ill-equipped to navigate this unknown territory of thoughts and feelings, and expect outsiders to give us the listening, appreciation and love we crave. Yet until we learn to pay attention to our own inner callings and learn to respond, we are unable to understand others, and also at the mercy of others’ good or bad will.  We can learn to understand what truly makes us happy  and cultivate happiness like a seed we seek to grow, as well as learn to care and soothe our pain and suffering.

Suffering exists; it is a fact of life, cited as a noble truth in the Buddhist tradition. Both humans and sentient beings suffer, and all deserve care and relief. Hard wired as we are to survive and avoid pain, we often are unable to face suffering, preferring to run away from it, be it our own or that  around us. Sometimes we even inadvertently add to suffering in our fear and unskillfulness in dealing with it, yet by learning how to suffer, by giving it our attention, we can step into healing.

As humans, we are conditioned to focus  on doing, to the detriment of being. We don’t know how to pause anymore, stop, take stock. We multi-task, push, check things off a perpetual list and make life “one damned thing after another” to quote Winston Churchill. Then we wonder why we’re stressed, feel unfulfilled and unhappy…why our relationships are unsatisfactory and why life seems to be speeding by without authentic happiness and fulfillment. We keep speeding, running, like a hampster on a wheel, trying to catch up with something… lose touch with the present moment and become addicted to worry and constant thinking, about the past or the future. What happens to the present? We’ve lost it…

Three words can help us change this focus and come back to life now: Sit, Stay, HEAL.
If we learn to stop, pause and tune in to what is happening now, we can begin to heal the fear, shame, and confusion we are terrified to feel, and connect with ourselves to heal and reconnect with what is essential and important in life.

Sit. Take time to meditate…pause…reflect. Become mindful of what’s happening within as well as without…sensations, feelings, thoughts….as well as the outer world . Observe with curiosity and interest, and let things pass by like clouds in the sky. Begin to watch phenomena arise from the river bank instead of jumping into the current all the time . Stay. Stay with this. You’ll undoubtedly find that stopping and watching your inner world is more difficult than it sounds. Thoughts demand attention….feelings may feel scary…something to avoid or dismiss, particularly difficult, uncomfortable emotions such as fear, anger, shame….How to stay with them? 

Try. Stay with gentleness and compassion, and in this mindful staying, allowing, and paying attention to what arises,  bring kindness and compassion … Healing will begin to take root. Understanding and insight dawn, producing natural transformation and change.

            SIT. STAY. HEAL. This simple practice of mindfulness and loving kindness can change the world… first your own, then the world at large. Try it. It takes time to make this a regular habit, but it offers a path to freedom and happiness…I promise. If you feel you want  guidance and support in this new venture, don’t be shy- reach out and ask! Learning something new often requires a teacher or guide, so ask. Don’t let your life be controlled/dominated by  doing. You’ll never get to the end of your ‘to do’ lists, and you’ll always feel stressed while you keep trying. Learn to pause, step back in the driver’s seat of life and pay attention to what is essential and important…before it’s too late. Life has a way of flying by, so Carpe Diem!

For support in cultivating your personalized mindful, healing practice, contact me… we can discuss coaching options or a meditation practice to help you return to yourSelf and come home.

Namaste,

Abigail

Act III

I look in the mirror and a tired, gray-haired woman looks back. The lustered chestnut- haired girl with smooth skin and bright eyes is gone. A close to defeated old person looks at me from the mirror. Where did she come from?

My mother died a year and a half ago. My father left two years before, kicking and struggling. I was not present for either’s passing, though I wanted to be there for my Mom, but my sister felt she had too much to deal with to receive me, and it all happened so fast; I was in Europe. Now I have recently returned from a trip to my sister’s, hoping for closure and closeness after our mutual grief. We finished the paperwork; my sister had dealt with belongings before-hand. It was a strange trip. We spoke as if nothing had happened, despite a non-emotional reference from time to time about Mom being gone. Life goes on, or does it? Somehow it still feels ‘impossible’….My entire life I wanted to be close to the mother who was ripped away from me as a child, who was never present until the last two years of her life in her 90’s. I did what I could to be with her, but so much had changed and moved on.

Today no husband or child thinks of me. I am divorced and have no children. I wish it could have been different, not in facts such as children or not, staying together or not….but somehow I wish it could have been different. I’ve done so much, travelled, worked with diverse people in varying cultures, yet it feels like little. So many experiences, places, and people have come and go. I made choices, and as time went on many in favor of self-preservation and limited emotional pain. I grew up with a lot of family pain, silence, secrets and trauma. Despite growing awareness and intellectual acceptance, I couldn’t erase the pain and unfairness of abuse and neglect, somehow make it better, or release my longing for family care, love and interest.

Dear God, I wish it could have been different….but it obviously couldn’t. I only wanted more smiles, lightness, joy, laughs, sighs of contentment, like the genuine sigh of  ‘it doesn’t get better’, by a faithful puppy companions as he/she settles (or settled) happily next to me on the couch, or bestows a look of thorough adoration and love. I wanted more warm, thick soup on cold winter days, feelings of deep inner warmth and happiness being together, instead of moving quickly through a meal in favor of what ‘needed’ to be done. I wanted more togetherness, less icy chill of family members and people silently together… stiff, abrupt and anxious, like actors forgetting their lines on stage. I wanted the happy ending promised in Hollywood films after the sad, hard times. Somehow it didn’t happen that way. There were good times, but broken relationships, disappointments, and death.

Now as I stand on the threshold of the final act in my personal life play–Act III –I want to accept and find peace with what is past. It couldn’t have been different or it would have been. I want to step fully into the writing and directing of Act III, not in terms of events, but what I choose to experience in the events. Events I cannot control, but allow and flow with what comes, I must, if I want peace. Peace and love is what I want as I live out this new adventure, so I need to develop trust and surrender, like the ‘T’ and ‘S’ in my Life T.A.N.G.O.S. workshop … the beginning and the end of my anagram of qualities to explore for a fully embodied, free life. I want to trust life is unfolding perfectly (though it may not be what I want), and surrender to what is, let go. This choice is given me.

Psychosynthesis and A Course in Miracles teach there is a ‘law of seeing’. “You will look upon that which you feel within. If hatred finds a place within your heart, you will perceive a fearful world, held cruelly in death’s sharp-pointed bony fingers. If you feel the Love of God within you, you will look out on a world of mercy and love.” (ACIM workbook lesson 189, para.5 lines 3-5).

As I stand on the threshold of this new beginning, a clean slate, my final act in a world wracked by growing isolationism and fear, the words of Stephen Levine– a guide and inspiration of embodied compassion and genuine love in the face of deep pain and despair–resonate for me with knowing and truth:

“We walk through half our life as if it were a fever dream, barely touching the ground, our eyes half open, our heart half closed, not half knowing who we are. We watch the ghost of us drift from room to room through friends and lovers, never quite as real as advertised, not saying half we mean or meaning half we say. We dream ourselves from birth to birth seeking the true Self, until the fever breaks and the heart cannot abide a moment longer as the rest of us, awakens, summoned from the dream, not half caring for anything but Love.”

In life, though I wish it could often be different, I hang on to the belief it is all about Love, as the Course explains, expressions of love or calls for love. How will we love and what will we choose to see? As the world winds along wearily, driven by beliefs of scarcity, guilt, blame, exclusion and fear, can I (can we) remember this law of seeing and seek for Love?

In Roberto Assagioli’s Act III of life, he focused on joy, suggesting we enjoy everything. This often feels like a tall order, yet it invokes this law of seeing. Interestingly I find, when I look for love in situations and events I find challenging, I am often surprised to see how supported and cared for I am, not forgotten… even when things don’t turn out the way I would have wished. My intention to seek love sets me on the path to see only love. Do I stray? Yes, and gentleness and compassion help me return. As 2017 falls into place, my wish for us all is to look and seek only for Love, whatever life brings our way.

Abigail De Soto, M.A

author under a pseudo- L’Amour Déraisonné: Reclaiming Self, Transformational Teachings from Psychosynthesis and A Course in Miracles (2010) Psychosynthesis Press

L’Amour Deraisonne:Reclaiming Self

New Year… but Stymied or Arduous New Start?

A new year brings up hope for new beginnings and new opportunities, but what do you do when you know  you can’t go on the way you have been…”you’re done” …the spark is gone…you’re bored,  but nothing presents itself or works to start afresh?  You’ve gone back to the proverbial drawing board several times,  and tried a number of new options that haven’t panned out… or you’ve put a lot of effort into things that just fizzle out and don’t take. What to do? How do you move forward?

Life is change- you accept this, but somehow  seem doomed to stay where you are, doing what you’re tired of,  trying again what succeeded in the past, but getting results that show that past is well and truly past. No matter how hard you try, things don’t take and you are unable to find your new start.

Then fear steps in with its domsday voice, “What if I’m washed up (you wonder), at the age of….? What if nothing ever changes? What if the losses and sadness I feel with oppportunities drying up, people leaving (or dying) and life feeling  heavy, a drudge...what if that’s the way it is now? ” How do you move forward with that going on in your head?

This is where we need to keep faith and feed hope. Henry Ford said “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”  No matter what response we’re getting we want to keep hold of the dream, the change or new goals we desire. And we need to adapt to what is happening. I recently came upon a symbol of hope that  reminds us to do what we can, but to take it easy for at times there isn’t much  we can do other than adapt to what we are receiving and surrender to ‘what is.’ Surrender doesn’t mean resign, and it also doesn’t mean stop making efforts.   What this lovely African symbol of hope called “Denkyen”  reminds us  is how to pace ourselves and move.

“Denkyen” means turtle or crocodile, animals that live in water yet breathe air, demonstrating the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. As we are called upon to thrive in a challenging time,  the turtle teaches us: breathe, swim, rest, wait . . . Breathe, swim, rest, wait. Climb into your shell to recuperate when needed, poke your head out when able and extend all four legs to walk away or move forward. Take the time it takes to adapt and move forward with the currents of change (that you do not control). Breathe, swim, rest, wait.

Taking time to rest helps us relax, focus, and release  struggle in working toward new goals, but what about the fear?…the fear things will never get better? Fear keeps us wanting to cower and hide in a protective shell of waiting?  Pema Chodren, an insightful, gentle Buddhist teacher teaches “fear is the vanguard of courage and wisdom.” What we need when we’re afraid is the courage and wisdom to know how to proceed, how to face our fears and move through them instead of  withdrawing into our shell  and hiding out.

Pema Chodren gently instructs us to “place your fearful mind in the cradle of loving kindness.” Fear is a mind game, fed by thoughts and beliefs we “do” to ourselves. A Course in Miracles writes: “It is your thoughts alone that cause you pain. Nothing external to your mind can hurt  or injure you in any way…No one but yourself affects you.” (ACIM Workbook, lesson 190)

When we are immobilized with fear these words may not be enough to reassure us, but in applying Pema Chodren’s teaching we can stop blaming ourselves for feeling fearful and use fear as the vangaurd to wisdom and courage. We can offer ourselves an atmosphere of warmth and acceptance of thoughts that seem so real and true. We can surrender to what we’re feeling and cradle our fear in loving kindness. Instead of berating ourselves for feeling fearful we can nurse and cradle our feelings, allowing ourselves to be where we are at this moment- in fear. And that is where something changes and a shift happens.

Fear–like all emotion–arises, lives, subsides, and passes. Notice the next time you’re sad and want to cry. Go ahead if it feels safe to let go, and notice  without fighting against the sadness , squashing or repressing it with guilt-laden diatribes such as: “men don’t cry”“I’m too big for this”…”stop being a sissy/woose….grow up”… or not fearing overwhelm and domination by grief… the emotion will live its time and subside. Then space is created for new possibility..an idea.. possible step… feeling of relief, perhaps a sense of being washed clean… for now.

When we feel we can’t go on the way we have, but don’t know what to do, it is important to cultivate unconditional friendship and acceptance of ourselves, compassion for our fear, frustration, and grief. We must learn to surrender…“se rendre”  in French… give up, ‘turn yourself in’. Stop doing what you’ve been doing! This means stop relating to yourself the way you have for years with judgment, criticism, self hatred, belittlement, and blame.

A Course in Miracles  reminds us in lesson 192: “Release instead of bind, for thus are you free…Every time you feel a stab of anger ( criticism, blame, or hate are different expressions of anger) , realize you hold a sword above your head. And it will fall or be averted as you choose to be condemned or free.”

Which do you choose as you move towards the goals and dreams you want in 2016? Do you want to feel condemned or free? As Victor Frankl learned in his arduous, seemingly never ending trial in a WW II German concentration camp, there are things you cannot change or control. What you can change is your attitude. Why not choose a surrendered, loving attitude to yourself, while maintaining your focus and will to move forward, change and grow?

As we advance in life we learn process is more important than outcome. It’s not what we get, but how we get there, and how we treat others and ourselves in our journey. Will we hate ourselves for our “failings,” or learn to rest and take stock before sticking out four litle legs and moving on?.. remembering, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” -James Baldwin

Best wishes for a growth-filled, loving new year! Take advantage of my New Year/New Start promotional coaching offer. Move towards your dreams and important goals, supported and encouraged! For more information on my coaching approach and offerings visit: https://abigaildesoto.com/s-e-l-f-s-toolbox/coaching/

Abigail

Would love your thoughts and comments. Contact me:

 

 

 

What is Life trying to Teach You?

question mark

Life is an amazing teacher, encouraging us to grow and evolve. This is not to say its lessons aren’t difficult, sad, or unwanted at times, but their difficulty and challenge are increased by  resistance to what is unfolding or happening, and an inability to remain open, accept and embrace, learn, and move forward stronger, more aware, and more in touch with ourselves.

The world’s great wisdom traditions teach when your life is shaken up, Spirit is doing the shaking to wake you up. Whether this is true or not, I have found in my own experience that resisting or pushing against what is happening usually doesn’t change much, and leaves me frustrated and exhausted.

What if instead of negatively judging and complaining about what we think we don’t want, pushing to change it at all costs, we took time to relax and examine things from a higher/wider perspective in search of “what could I learn from this situation?”

  • What if all situations, people, and events in our life had something to teach us?
  • What if instead of shutting down, resisting, blaming, or complaining about people and situations, we  opened, became curious, and interested  in what was unfolding…perhaps what the other person was really saying and trying to express, and what came up for us in our own emotional field?
  • What if the peace we lose in our lives when someone does…..or says.……has nothing to do with them, but instead shows us fears where we shut down and close off to life?

If we could slow down our reaction time and listen to our feelings about what’s happening, we put on a proverbial pause button and move from direct stimulus-response, to a more powerful stimulus-CHOICE-response.  By doing so we may refrain from saying  irretreivable (once they’re out of your mouth, you can’t bring them back no matter how much you wish you could…), angry, hurtful words that push people away and destroy relationships. Do we really want to hurt people, or is this a self defense tactic to protect ourselves from feeling pain and hurt?  Once we have said those irretrievable angry, hurtful, blaming words we walk away from others, increase beliefs in separation, and actually cut ourselves of from ourselves. We are left with self- righteous feelings of “damn it, they have no right to.…”., or “I won’t allow anyone to ..…” to soothe our vulnerable feelings of unworthiness, shame, repressed pain, and fear.

 We never connect and touch the reasons or seeds behind the feelings, the emotion(s) brought up that trigger the habitual defensive push back, anger, or blame. What feelings came up and what could they tell me if I remained open and curious enough to listen? What would they tell me about my fears and beliefs, perhaps of unworthiness or need to control circumstances and people to  feel safe?.

I recently met a gentle man I felt very tuned to, safe and relaxed with. We seemed to be on a similar wavelength, enjoying a strong connection with nature, tango, natural foods and shared values.  As our relationship developed we took time to explore and get to know each other, allowing closeness to unfold at its own pace. Things flowed easily and we appeared to communicate fluidly in decisions about weekends or meal preparation, which was shared, fun and creative. We were getting along beautifully, easily and then…, WHAMMO– he got teed off at something I did and responded in a very aggressive biting way, reprimanding me harshly on what suddenly was lese majesty, debilitating and intrusive to him.

I felt cut to the quick, stepped on, betrayed, and scared. Suddenly the person I felt safe, comfortable and held by, appeared as an angry, controlling monster, insensitive to my feelings. When we tried to speak after a 2 day break, he backed off, cool, detached, and summed things up by announcing he didn’t care anough about me to make an effort…It wasn’t going to work full stop.

I was surprised, hurt, and later angry. Trying to understand what had created the abrupt change, I asked him many questions (I don’t  think he could hear), gave him space, sent inspiring quotes… all to no avail. After two weeks it was evident his decision was definitive and he couldn’t understand why I was bringing up the whole thing again. He was done: not enough feeling…done.

In relationships we often call this type of inexplicable reaction, “hitting an upper limit”; the limit varies with individuals, but reflects fear of closeness and intimacy, and being hurt. It has nothing to do with the other person though it appears to, and can be triggered by any event, sound, image, taste that brings up a repressed trauma linked to fear of suffering once again. The reaction is in fact a way of taking care of ourselves, but is very limited for it  requires retreating into a protective shell, pulling away from life and others, and…turning our backs on the scared, vulnerable parts of ourselves that need reassurance and care.

I don’t know what triggered my friend and he may not have taken the time and care to discover it himself. What is noteworthy is he told me it was not the first time someone had mentioned this dry, angry, rebuffing characteristic in him- he was familiar with the reaction, but apparently unwilling to listen to what it was trying to tell him.

We cannot lead another’s life or teach them their lessons. We can only focus on learning our own, and remaining available and caring as much as we can towards others and ourselves. In the end, we all seek, compassion, care, and love…all of us, and that is what shatters the myth of separation.

In applying my own teaching to this experience, I was able (after listening and understanding my own hurt and anger) to see this as another opportunity to care, for myself and another…, to neither reject my friend, nor expect him to do what I thought he ‘should’ and could, but to allow him to be the way he was, at this moment. And I could send him thoughts of compassion for whatever pain he was encountering, while respecting his desire to withdraw.

And there it is…not at all what I expected or wanted, but I experienced heightened  open-heartedness and peace with an undesirable turn of events. If we all begin to open, taking baby steps to embrace abandoned, disenfranchised parts of ourself… or at the very least refraining from contributing to isolation, anger and hatred, our world could improve on many fronts… less road rage, fewer angry arguments, diminished vandalism and theft… even fewer wars.

It all starts with us, where we are right now, with a small willingness to explore.. explore our feelings, questions, and beliefs about ourselves in gentleness, acceptance and compassion. I’m not saying the path is easy, but it’s the only one that leads to transformation and openess to life, to what ‘is’, instead of running away from difficulties and hoping to create an impossible dream of a picture-perfect world without difficulty or pain, where things always go our way. Dream on…and life will continue to remind you to wake up.

Letters to a young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903  “(…) I would like to beg you (…) as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books, written in a foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.

Perhaps then, some day in the future you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer”. – translated from German

Would love to hear your comments and thoughts…Feel free to share questions and comments below.

Warmly, Abigail

Is Life Passing You By?

life rushing past

Does it ever feel like life is passing you by…like you’re waiting for that next great opportunity/job/person… to make things complete?  Well here’s the bad news… tomorrow never comes, not the way we think. And that may be the very problem: we think too much!

If we spend our lives ruminating about the past, which also means ‘processing’ it.… processed food is pretty bad, I wonder what that says about “processed” experiences?… If we spend our lives ruminating about the past or wishing for some future, we are simply not present. No wonder life feels like it’s passing us by. It is!  We’re not present to it, to what is happening now!

Maybe we should simply stop thinking so much, about the past or future, and simply be in the now: be present. (There’s a thought!)  Easier said than done for Western society that honors Cartesian thinking and Descartes’ famous adage: “I think therefore I am”.  (Sorry, Monsieur Descartes, but ‘I am because I am’…full stop).

For many people thinking has become obsessive. They can’t stop it, and subsequently can’t sleep at night. They obsess about what someone said or did, or about what they said or did (and shouldn’t have). They obsess about what might happen in the future (at the next business meeting/ talk with their mother/partner/boss)…or, what “should have” happened.. Etc…

So here’s a little trick for us ‘great’ thinkers, a technique from world-renowned philosopher and writer Ekhart Tolle, and a general practice from internationally-acclaimed, Vietnamese monk and spiritual leader, Thich Nhat Hahn and his practice of mindfulness.  I know we’re all busy, caught up in life’s ever increasing race to get things done, so this will require less than a minute.  Tolle calls this the ‘mini meditation,’ and everyone can make time for a 30 second meditation, even you.

All you need to do is bring your total attention to a repetitive act you perform every day, e.g. going up or down stairs, brushing your teeth, shaving, putting on make-up, getting into or out of your car…there are numerous options to choose from.  For example focus for up to a minute on the sensations of lifting your feet to go up the stairs, feeling your feet and weight touch each step, feeling the shift of your weight from one leg to another as you progress, the feel of the bannister in your hand, the quickening of your breath as you breathe, the sound of your footsteps on the stairs. Bring your attention to as many of your 5 senses as possible and BE totally present for those few seconds.

It’s an amazing experience. Once you try it with one action in your life, you can experiment with others, e.g. taking a walk, drinking tea (juice or a smoothie if you prefer). Bring your attention to what is happening in your life now, and just be with it. You’ll be amazed what is there to experience, and notice, during this presence, your mind stops its chatter and you stop thinking. Try it! I’d love to hear about your experience. Feel free to share here or on my site at http://www.abigaildesoto.com. Experiment. Have fun and stop letting life pass you by!

Week without Judgment…thoughts and next steps

We just completed S.E.L.F (System for Embodied Living and Freedom)‘s first spring offering, Week without Judgment (WWJ). Though a week without judgment is in the end as impossible as a week without thinking, the challenge was the exploration and the experience was rich!

In psychosynthesis we become familiar early on with the judging, haranguing, voice of the inner critic or judge subpersonality. Bringing awareness to this critical judging part of us was the first step in my WWJ challenge because familiarity with this part’s tendencies, triggers, ‘voice’, and perspective is an important step in relinquishing its control over our thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

In the four step path I presented over the week, the first step is: awareness, consciousness of our lack of presence as Eckhart Tolle teaches. When we are caught up or identified with thinking and judging, we cannot be present to now. If we seek to become more fully present in our day to day lives, we must learn to bring the light of awareness to the thinking, judging critical voice within us; as we do this we realize this judge/critic is driven by fear.

Judgment is quite simply fear. In the aim of keeping my article short, I will not discuss the ego or small self’s, use of judgment in its defense against fear. Suffice it to say its tactics are imaginative, crafty and downright nasty and attacking. As A Course in Miracles explains in its mind training program with extensive text and 365 lessons workbook, “Judgment and love are opposites. From one come all the sorrows of the world. But from the other comes the peace of God Himself.” (ACIM workbook lesson 352).

A personal in-depth exploration of life can be triggered by this statement, and as part of our practice we arrive at the second step of my four step path, disidentification. Assagioli taught whatever we identify with has power over us; whatever we dis-identify from, allows us reclaim personal power and make a new choice. Simply put this asks us to understand that with awareness and ‘will’, we are no longer at the mercy of our judging, critical mind, directed against others or ourselves. This is easier said than done, and experiencing this difficulty was one of my objectives in launching the WWJ challenge. To look at our incessant, harsh and critical judging and attack of situations, people and ourselves without judging ourselves for doing it, requires constant hourly, moment to moment awareness, will, and compassion. These first two steps in the 4 point path are a life-time practice, and no easy accomplishment!

In the process of bringing light to our use and purpose around judgment, we learn to use feelings as barometer or compass for keeping us on the path. When we feel angry, righteous, jealous or hateful we know we have lost the light and our ability to be present. In the chapter on The Illusions of the Ego, the Course asks us to “watch your mind carefully for any beliefs that hinder (the ability) to shine your ego away, releasing the strength of God into everything you think and do. Judge how well you have done this by your own feelings, because this is the one right use of judgment”. The entire aim of the Course is to remind us we have a mind and a choice to listen to the Voice for God or Spirit, or the loud selfish demands of ego. This echoes Assagioli’s teachings in psychosynthesis to learn to develop will to the degree we can focus attention at a loftier level and be guided by Higher Self, Spirit, or Source.

Our realization and desire brings us to step 3 in the 4 step path: empowered choice. Only when we realize there is indeed a Higher Self or Source of wisdom and love to guide us, and that we have free will and the ability to choose the voice for fear or the voice for love to guide our decisions and choices in life, can we arrive at empowered, conscious choice. Without consciousness we are blindly driven by ego beliefs in scarcity, injustice, guilt, fear, and attack, based on an erroneous use of judgment.

Well….it was an eye opening week! If you couldn’t join us, there’s no time like the present. Start your own exploration of judgment this spring. Get to know and befriend Mara, as the Buddhist’s call this critical, judging mind construct. And, join us in taking a step further and deeper in my upcoming month-long Freedom and Forgiveness exploration, starting June 29th. This exploration picks up at my fourth point. If we want to feel free in life and light to soar the loftier realms of experiences of joy, love, fulfillment and true happiness, we must free ourselves from judgment and the unfinished business of our past. That is all about release and forgiveness, and if you feel you’ve done forgiveness work, this exploration will explore forgiveness with a new take, not a traditional teaching. Join us June 29th for a liberating month to find out what I mean.

Abigail DeSoto                              

Visit http://www.abigaildesoto.com/current-offeringsjump-in/  to register, or for more info. on the month-long Forgiveness and Freedom workshop.