Becoming curious about and “staying with” a difficult thought, feeling, or bodily sensation is not the same as passively wallowing in it, becoming flooded by it, merging with it, becoming enmeshed in, or fusing with it.
The invitation is into a very pregnant, creative, and not easy middle territory in between engulfment and the other extreme of rejection, turning from the life that is emerging, and abandoning ourselves in moments of emotional activation.
Navigating and holding the tension of those opposites is a much more fiery, active process rooted in the aliveness of our attention, care, compassion, and interest in psyche and its manifestations. It is oriented in curiosity and the longing to care for ourselves in a new way.
In this we dare to consider that even our most challenging symptoms, emotions, recurring thought patterns, vulnerabilities, and sensitivities are intelligent, filled with sacred data, and worthy of our tending.
We must go slow as we explore this new landscape, for seconds at a time testing the waters as we overwrite the circuitry of shame and self-aggression with that of compassion and attunement.
We must pay careful attention to our window of tolerance and while pushing up against it and exploring its borderlines, to not push ourselves into overwhelm or retraumatization. It can take a lot of experimentation and practice to discover this area of experience for ourselves.
Even one or two seconds, then rest. And then maybe three seconds and then rest. And then care for ourselves by taking time away from inner work and nourishing ourselves in other ways – taking a walk, talking with a friend, taking a bath, doing some yoga, playing with our dog, making a nice meal, spending time in nature.
No urgency, no great hurry, no glorious self-improvement project to complete by the end of the week. Just love. Slow. Curious. Caring for ourselves in new and wild ways. One second at a time.
Art by Couleur/ Ilona in Freiburg
My most recent book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available
The next book, The Unfolding Heart, will be published by Sounds True in early 2020, details to come
The next event is The Healing Shame Retreat: Spiritual Awakening and Transforming the Core Wound of Unworthiness, April 24-29, 2019 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado, with co-facilitator Jeff Foster