Mindfulness for fear and anxiety

Mindfulness for fear and anxiety

One of the great things about practice is that over time, you start seeing things more clearly.  At first for me this was great, I noticed I was growing the skill to see through the emotional layer of other peoples comments, to the truth of what they were saying.  When I found myself in arguments I noticed that sometimes I still got sucked up emotionally, but I had a new ability to pull out and get perspective and clearly see where they were hurting and what they were asking for.

So that’s great.

Unfortunately, with outward clear seeing also comes inward clear seeing – and one day I realized that I was clearly seeing my anxiety and fear in a much different way.  I realized that I had been existing for quite a while in a bit of a soup of fear and anxiety – low grade and pervasive.  As if there was always something that was making me uneasy or fearful.

Meditation practice opens us up to subtler and subtler layers of emotional experience, and other time we’ll become well worn travelers of our subtle inner spaces.  While they will be more and more familiar, we’ll still be discovering new things.

I’ve found that my relationship with fear has been like this.  It’s a recurring theme, and I’m constantly discovering new things about it, and new subtle fears arise that I never noticed before.

There are overt fears.  The fear of speaking in public, the fear of heights, the fear of running out of money, or losing a job, having a relationship fail, or getting sick.  Everyone has a story or two going at all times in many of these areas.  For the most part before I started meditating, I was really stuck in these fears, and depending on how things were going, they would sometimes run my life.  When I felt that one of those stories had stabilized for at least a while (just got a work promotion!  Yay, don’t have to worry about that for a while!) – another one would just come up.  Almost as if my brain wouldn’t let me just live in peace without constantly looking for the next thing to be worried about or afraid of.  Right?

Around the time I started meditating regularly a lot of things clicked into place for me, primarily I got a big raise and a new relationship.  Everything was looking up but I still found thing about both that just created new stresses and fears.  My practice helped me to start seeing my cycle of fear more clearly.  It helped me see how I work to create new things to be afraid of all the time.  That even with my major life areas stabilizing, there were all new things to be worried about that kept popping up.  It was like I just couldn’t get a break!

Pre Medtiator me would have just grabbed onto the new things and ran with them to cycle on and worry about.  But as I grew in my practice and was able to see these new things come up, I was able to also clearly see most of them as manufactured fears.  I was able to clearly see how I was creating things to obsess over, where there didn’t need to be any.  I also has the insight that if I was just creating these things, they probably weren’t real – like evil daydreams!

This was a HUGE shift for me in practice and in my daily life.  In sitting I can now recognize a few areas of my body as tense, and relate that physical sensation to anxiety or fear – and then analyze what that fear or anxiety is.  What might be generating fear or anxiety for me right now?  Is it a genuine threat, or is it self generated?  Ultimately, all emotions are self generated, but some we make up just because we’re so used to having that energy in our life.  Sometimes when it’s not there we make it up to maintain that familiar feeling – even if it’s discomfort.

Fear generates a physical feeling in the body, that feeling makes us physically uncomfortable.  It might be a racing heart, racing thoughts, and if you’re more sensitive – it might be a rush of prickly energy that’s hard to calm down.  We want to get away from fear because of these physical symptoms, unless of course our fear is coming from an imminent physical threat (IE: A large bear).  If you’re about to be mauled by a bear, the physical reaction to fear is serving it’s intended purpose.  However, most of the time that’s not what’s happening.

One of the ways we try and reduce the physical symptoms of fear is by thinking about it until we are able to magically think it away.  This is evolutionary a great trait to problem solve our way away from the bear, but it typically gets a lot of us in trouble when it’s not bear related.  It tends to create a loop of overthinking and analyzing that gets us stuck in more suffering instead of less.  Most fear and anxiety you can’t think away.  In my case at least, typically if I did solve one problem, I’d just make a new one to feed that need to feel slightly unsettled.

So in stead of thinking away fear, or ignoring fear (good luck with that), the idea is find equanimity with fear.  So how do you do that?  A good way to start is just to notice where you feel the discomfort in your body, and what it feels like.  Make a note of where you feel it in the body, and the quality of the sensation – is it vibrational? hard? soft? spikey? polka dotty? expansive? contractive?  you name it. The next step is to then start noticing if the sensation is increasing or decreasing.  You can just watch it and note:  Increasing, Decreasing, Same, and if it goes away for a moment you can note Gone.  Just keep doing that for at least 5 minutes and see what happens and how things shift.

If you’re feeling fearful or anxious, this can go a long way to managing the physical symptoms in the moment.  Over time with this technique, you’ll find a much greater awareness of your own processes around self generated fear and anxiety.  With that awareness comes enough space and distance that if you’re diligent, you’ll gradually find you’re getting caught up in these stories less and less.  You’ll be able to plan and prepare for things with a clear mind, and find that you aren’t second guessing your decisions as often – because your decision making is not fueled by emotions, but by clarity of the situation and what needs to be done.

At least…. that’s what happened for me!

 

 

Things in progress, and other things I do

Things in progress, and other things I do

So, I’ve been trying to keep up with regular posts but things have been unraveling a bit on the home front!  Don’t worry, my practice is as strong as ever.  As one of my early teachers said “When you feel like you don’t have time to meditate, that means you should meditate more!”

All the things that are happening are good!  I bought a house and we’ll be moving in Labor Day weekend.  There’s quite a bit of remodeling that we’re working on, so things have been fairly hectic sorting things out, finding contractors, discussing design details, researching security systems and smoke detectors.  You know, all that good stuff that I’m pretty sure will never end (will it ever end?)

I’m squeezing some time in in the morning before work to continue meditating and taking care of myself – but the writing has fallen behind a bit unfortunately.  When you don’t have a ton of time to squeeze out of your day, sometimes it’s better to prioritize practice over talking about practice.  So that’s where I am at least for now.

But!  My Instagram is rocking, and as part of my practice I’m adding card readings to it  most mornings.

Mostly my tarot/oracle readings are insight practice related.  I’m not really into fortune telling in my practice – I feel that objectively there are just way to many personal choices and other people’s choices related to the future that even if you get an accurate read on what will happen, but they time you get there it’s likely to have changed.  I’m also just mostly just not interested in future reading as much as I am in what is useful in the present (all about the present moment, bitches!)  However, sometimes that stuff definitely comes up, and it’s always entertaining to see things play out later!  I just don’t make big life decisions based on any future stuff the cards might suggest.

I mostly use the cards for my own personal growth and investigating the archetypal influences in my practice.  I use them as a window to explore various glitches and hitches and insights along my path.  Often during my morning meditation I’ll have an insight, and then use the cards to explore that insight further.  I don’t see them as ultimate reality, inasmuch as I see them as a window – a filter through which to see a situation or insight.

They’ve become a pretty strong part of my practice, so I encourage you to join me on Instagram if you’re interested in the intersection of card reading and insight practice – we’ll have fun (and get enlightened!)

@in_secret_knots

 

PS: I’m slowly adding meditation instruction to the “Meditation Instruction” tab above!  I hope to have a nice collection of techniques there that I encourage you to try!

A theory of unified spirituality

A theory of unified spirituality

When I talk to people about their spiritual practice, one of the big complaints I hear frequently is “how do I integrate my practice into my daily life?”

I hear this from meditators, but also from other types of spiritual practitioners – it’s as if we have two lives, our spiritual lives and our regular going to work, taking care of kids, doing grocery shopping and sitting in traffic lives.

On a level everyone knows that’s not true, that it’s all the same – but we experience it as separate.  It’s not that nuts then to want to integrate things together, to be able to hold that peace of practice (whatever it is) – as we move through the world.  I mean, isn’t that the point?

Since I’ve been practicing deep meditation, I’ve discovered that the “brain” portion of this is actually clicking into place.  I’ll find myself able to tap into flow states in traffic, or at work, or in times of stress to help keep me level.  However, as that’s been getting stronger and deeper, I’ve noticed that there’s more to life and being an integrated human than what’s going on in the brain. As much as I love meditation and think it’s the cure for most of the worlds conflict, there’s more to life than flow states and energetic trips – we have to be able to walk around and interact with others too.

As we move through the world, we’re experiencing three primary spheres of influence:  Mind, Body, and Earth.  I’m beginning to realize how the yogis and indigenous spiritual practices have always had it right (duh) – and the trick of spiritual integration is having a practice that covers all three spheres of influence.  When they are off balance, we don’t feel fully integrated, no matter how deep and profound our spiritual practice is.

Sphere of Mind

The sphere of mind encompasses all of our mental and emotional regulation practices.  So meditation, psychotherapy, positive self talk etc.  I’m a bit biased to this one for obvious reasons, and I really firmly believe that so many of the worlds problems are created by people not cultivating these practices enough.  As Shinzen says:

When the aliens come, and find a desolate planet earth, they will put up humanity’s tombstone.  It will read “They were done in by subtle emotional sensations they did not understand.”

fatih-altasov-237097

Sphere of Body

I’ll drop some new age overused analogies on you!  Our bodies are our vessels, our altars, our skin sacks through which we experience the world (maybe not the last one)

This one is about the physical body in regards to taking care of it with food and movement, but in my imaginings it goes beyond that.

This sphere also covers things like healing practices, energy work, beauty rituals, and of course cultivating self respect and acceptance of our bodies as they are.  Sphere of Body also deals a lot with our fear and anxiety around aging and death, and how we relate to those experiences.

Sphere of Earth

This is a very broad sphere – so broad I might decide to break it up into smaller pieces later on!

This covers everything outside of ourselves, with a focus on our environment and the world around us.  This does not necessarily mean the natural world – this is any environment or bit of earth we find ourselves in.  Big cities, rural country, forest, dive bar, cubicle, you name it.  Earth encompasses all of it.  I believe a lot of our sense of a disjointed spirituality comes from the feeling that manmade things are inherently unspiritual – but we have to get over that!

The monastics have enlightenment easy – they just sit and meditate all day right?  But they don’t. They have work, and chores, and daily tasks too.  They have times that they struggle with practice.  Many of them have a habit of putting themselves in the way of suffering through grueling trials (living in a cave for 100 days!  Hiking up and down a mountain every day for 100 days! Fasting! Etc!), as a way to accelerate practice through suffering.  As normal people, we don’t have to do those extreme things.  We have modern and urban life.  We have big cities and busy jobs as our daily trials, so fortunately we don’t need to hike up mountains or starve ourselves to have the same experiences.   What if the challenge of living in a city away from the natural world was our practice?  What if our practice was finding that peaceful spiritual connection to the cities we live in?  It’s there, we have just been conditioned to believe that we have been cast out of eden – we haven’t.  We just need to modernize our idea of eden.

The other aspect of Earth that’s super important is our relationship with other people, and all the living things ON the earth.  This primarily manifests in our interpersonal relationships – but it’s also how we treat all living things.  When you start to see your interpersonal relationships as a channel for your spiritual practice, life begins to get much easier.  Conflict is reduced, and the boundary of a separate self gets a bit mushier.


There’s more to say on all of these, but I think this is a great sketch to get started.

Next up – Spiritual Technologies!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2nd Path – Craving and Aversion

2nd Path – Craving and Aversion

After speaking with my teacher yesterday and fully outlining my cessation and “mind f*” experiences that have occurred since January 1 2017, he concurred with Shinzen that I have likely…. at some point…. tripped into stream entry.  Apparently stream entry is typically followed by weeks of bliss.  For me, first path was indeed followed by bliss, but also by a total re-organization of how I saw the world that felt pretty scary.  Crazy visual hallucinations, feelings of not being in my body, weird energetic experiences etc.  My hypothesis on this is that I just haven’t been meditating for very long – seriously only for about a year and a half.  I just didn’t have the strong anchor of the dharma and sangha to root me into the experiences – so they were all frightening at first.

Now they are chill.  Which is good.  What I’m also realizing is that the insights that come with the practice instill a deep knowing of dharma experientially – and now that my more academic dharma studies are intensifying I find that doing much of this study is like ready things I already know on level I did not before.  It that makes sense, which it might or might not.

So after stream entry we go into 2nd path.  Yesterday we had a chat about how 2nd path is all about resolving craving and aversion.

I noticed since I returned from my last retreat that aversion in the form of resistance was (and is!) a major theme for me.  It isn’t like there is more aversion or resistance than before, it’s just that I’m so AWARE of all the things i’m resisting.  With awareness it’s easy to let it go.  Oddly those things that seemed so important to fight and find annoying on the day to day (the grown up version of being asked to clean your room) – those things just became easier.  Not that they are actually easier, more like my resistance to them drops.  I’m seeing a transformation in the mental story shifting from “I don’t want to do this, ugh this sucks, ugh I’ll procrastinate by doing this other thing” to “time to do the dishes – they need to be done”. It’s a subtle, but powerful shift – and dramatically changes my experience of life in general.

As Shinzen says:

Subtle is significant

The other side of the coin is CRAVING – which right now is hard for me to identify.  Noticing the aversion and resistance has been the aspect that’s come up pretty naturally for me, but noting craving is proving to be harder.

I think there’s certainly a relationship between craving and aversion, which might be making identifying craving more difficult.  Typically my cravings are desires to rid myself of the annoyance or aversion that’s manifesting.  So it’s possible that I’m not able to identify any clear cravings because they are primarily tied into dropping or avoiding the aversion that’s coming up in the moment.

Today while sitting I focused more on craving, and did find subtle cravings around advancing on the path, on having peak experiences, and around teaching and sharing the dharma and meditation practice.  So, there’s definitely something there – it just doesn’t seem to be manifesting clearly off cushion as much as aversion is.

Go figure.  🙂

 

Insights build

Insights build

I just finished up a 10-day retreat with Shinzen, which was pretty fantastic – though not as activating with experiences as previous retreats I’ve been on.

I did however, have a powerful experience of the nothingness and emptiness of self and all things, and I wanted to share the chain of insights that led me to there.

My first powerful meditation insight was a year and a half ago while on retreat.  It was essentially a window into what Shinzen describes as The Source – the source of conciousness, and creation, and basically everything.  There was an expansive moment in meditation quickly followed by a falling sensation, as if I were getting sucked into a black hole – at the end of the black hole was a brilliant white light.  At the time knowing nothing about buddhist philosophy, I remember sensing that this was my “true self”, the self below all the conditioned aspects of myself, below everything I ever thought myself to be.  I was sucked into this light and consumed by it.  Next was another expansive event, and I zoomed out for a broad view and saw every person and tree and living being on the planet was connected to the same source underneath layers and layers of conditioning. This was a powerful enough experience that afterward for weeks I saw this small light in everyone (not visually, but energetically – a sense) – their connection to Source.

On retreat in January I experienced my first “blip” or cessation of awareness experience, coupled by a series of “sucked into 8th jhana” experiences on preceding days, in which I fell back into the void through a tunnel, and awareness felt pushed through the eye of a pin.  There was then a release of awareness into what both my teachers believe was 8th jhana, coupled with a slight “flickering” of awareness. The cessation was an all out on/off switch, which was surprising and came out of nowhere.  It was followed immediately by a feeling of inevitability as I was sucked again into the void, my heart started racing and I got scared enough to stop the process in it’s tracks – though it seems to have picked up where it left off the following day.   The “flickering” of awareness in the pin experiences was different then the glitch in the matrix style on/off of the cessation experience the day before.  The flickering was more like a short in a lightbulb vs turning it on and off with intention.  The days following this on retreat flow was in full force, including visual flow – where I would see the physical world melting and sparkling like I was on some psychadelic trip.

After that retreat high equanimity kicked in for weeks – I would close my eyes and immediately be in 4th Jhana, and it was rock solid.  I would be at work and just close my eyes for a moment and be “there”, like it as always right there if I closed my eyes.  Equanimity was super strong, and I could meditate through a hurricane.  I frequently in the morning would meditate through my boyfriend stomping around getting ready for work – and the noise and banging and kitchen shuffling would just get folded into my flow experience. Accompanying this was another cessation “blip” experience during my home practice one morning.  I was focusing on holding all sensory experience in awareness at once (which feels kind of like sticking my head in a snowglobe of everything) – then noted gone and quickly saw everything fall away.  There was a contraction event, a building, and then Boop!  I dissapeared for a moment.  I came too very disoriented and remember immediately doing into my bed room and face planting into my bed as if I lacked the ability to stand upright on my own.  Then I realized I had to go to the store and go to work and part of me couldn’t figure out why, and the other part kept insisting.

On my drive to the store (just a few blocks), the whole world went into fisheye view – my periphereal vision bent around my car as I drove giving the impression that I was driving through a tunnel.  At the store when I walked in, everything began to melt, and I began to feel the energy being emitted by other people in the store as they walked past me.  I stood there stock still for a while kind of freaking out, watching the salad shelves melt and morph and move, while all the people popped out of reality like they were animated cutouts.  Seriously trippy stuff.  It calmed down, but I completely forgot who I was and what I liked to eat – and had a hard time chosing my food.  I quickly just grabbed stuff and got out of there.  The visual distortions lasted for a couple hours, but by lunch everything was (visually) back to normal.  Over the next couple weeks weird stuff would pop into existence – while driving there would be a reversal where I felt like I was stationary and the world was moving past, also a few experiences where I lost depth perception.  I could tell how far things were away because intellectually i knew they were smaller.  But that spidey sense we have for depth was totally absent.  It was freaky.

So over time all that stuff faded away, and my meditation returned to relative normal by March or so.  Then I just went through several months of meditation varying between “fine” and “ok” and “meh” – not good or bad, just no more intense solid flow access like before.  I could get to the jhanas if I really tried but I suspect I was still in enough equanimity that it didn’t feel necessary or important.  So it was just kind of sailing along – one of my teachers suggested that was a Review stage.  Which makes sense, since there were a few times where I just didn’t even bother with daily sits, and multiple times I felt like I had to force myself into them.

Fast forward to this retreat – I essentially cycled through all of these previous experiences only at a deeper level of awareness.  I again had the source experience, but this time instead of recognizing the light as “ultimate stillness/rest” which is how I described it before – it opened up to reveal it’s emptiness and “nothingness” which of course would give it the “stillness/rest” qualities I associated with it.  This led to an experience of the next logical step – which was having awareness for the first time, not that I have at my center a deep stillness, but that I have at my center a deep emptiness, or “nothingness”.  I felt this void in my meditation, which kind of felt like a torus – awareness expanding past my body, with a nothingness hole in the center.  That sensation lasted for a few hours, but after lunch it had faded slightly in walking experience  though if I brought it to mind I could bring it back to awareness again.

This was all coupled with various floating, dissolving from my physical body feelings during meditaiton – where I felt like body parts were dissapearing.  It’s funny, this have been happening since I started meditating, and now it just does not seem very notable to me anymore.

I then spent the next few days working on exclusively noting “expand/contract” or “arising/passing” and had an experience in the Labyrinth that really opened up insight.  I noticed as I was walking that energetically there was a tension between beginning and ending (as designed!), and that tension was also the expand/contract overlapping to create heightened energy.  I then noticed that the frequency of that energy would then open (or morph into) a deep stillness – and that they seemed to exist on top of eachother – absolute activity/tension, and absolute rest/void.  It was like schrodingers cat – and it’s applications for my life were so profound to me that I cried the rest of my walk to the center, where I then took a moment to breath and watch the visual distortions, and then start my walk again out of the labyrinth.  Realizing that just like the A&P phenomena, the are no ends, only new beginnings.

This led to an intense A&P experience where again depth perception fell out, and the concept of distance between things became a weird intellectual construction and not a felt experience.  I was looking out over the valley to the distant buildings and had this thought of how the distance was all constructed reality and boom!  everything was flat.  This didn’t last long, maybe only an hour or so.

The next few days were just noticing flow states with various fluctuations and experiences but nothing notable enough to record (oh, except encounters with angels and nameless ancient gods, demons, and spirits – which were notable in that they were very vivid, but they were very brief flashes and/or “knowings”, and fortunately for me no communication.  It was like they were just poking their heads in to say “hey” and then popping out of existence again.  These things surprisingly didn’t bother me much and just felt like “whatever, weird meditation stuff”).

On one of the final days of retreat however, I did repeat my head of the pin experience in a variation of form.  This time as I was getting sucked in, there was a flash of strobes with black boxes in the center, like windows maybe.  I blew through them, 3 or 4 distinct strobes (boom boom boom!) then a bright light, and the tension released.  I drited/floated with a light flickering of awareness in a total void, with no recognizable structure or space.  A true “nothing” (8th jhana)

I spoke to Shinzen at the very end of the retreat about all this.  He already knew a lot of my background as I had shared when I arrived.  He was excited about how this was all very “classic” and told me I was “one of the lucky ones!” then went on to tell me how everyone wants spiritual experiences, but they don’t necessarily understand what they’re asking for.  So we went deeper into some of the visual distortions and how to equanimize those, and then he asked if any “weird shit” had been popping up in meditation – to which I replied “yes” thinking of the namless gods, angels, etc.  He told me just to note it as “see” and assured me that stuff would get worked through in time.  He went on to announce how classic all these experiences were and that I was doing really great.  I hesitantly commented “but this isn’t like stream entry right?  I didn’t have a clear cessation/fruition combo experience” and he said “Yeeeeahh… I mean, that’s exactly what all this is.”  I expressed doubt, and he said “Just check in, do you feel a sense of self inside you?”  and I checked in for the first time in a few days, and just like a few days before…. there was nothing there, an emptiness, a void, but not in a scary way…. in a liberating way.  He then added that if it wasn’t stream entry per say, it was certainly on the continum.  It was an interesting insight that he sees this first path of enlightenment as a continuum and not necessarily a singular event.

So the next several days I felt the torus/donut/bagel of my “self” awareness spread out beyond my body with an emptiness at the center.  I felt my personality was really as pure as it’s ever been and I felt so unencumbered by social anxieties – it was quite remarkable.  Then the effect faded a bit, and as I was about to go back to work I started to feel that familiar knot in my chest that I previously identified as “self” only when I felt it this time I actually was surprised that the actual sensation was tension or anxiety – and still not actually “self”.  So now I’m sort of experiencing the empty void, with an overlay of a small anxious contractive ball in my chest awareness space – which I used to identify with self, but now I think is just an anxious reaction to daily survival.  I’m not sure what exactly that means for my enlightenment process – but it’s an interesting experience to be sure.  🙂

There you are, a full summary of all of my meditation experiences up to this point.  I’m sure I’m missing random things – but that’s pretty much it!

Thought mosquitos

Thought mosquitos

This morning I had an insight that some of the pent up stress and anxiety of my day to day life is manifesting as a bubbly, vibrating, ANNOYING energy.  It’s not just showing up in my meditations where that is super distracting, but also just as I go about my day.

It’s weird to experience my to do list as a vibration, and my response to it is just to be annoyed with it – like it’s a mosquito just buzzing around my head.

Sometimes I have this experience with other emotions that are sticky – sadness or grief or anger etc.  I prefer to call those Hitchhikers – since they have a bit more weight and history to them typically.  Like old friends that have overstayed their welcome but just won’t leave.  I see them just kind of sitting in my awareness, and just BEING there, but their energy isn’t this type of distracting frenetic “do do do” “go go go go” energy.

This is different – this buzzy doing energy is of the moment, is manifesting right now because we just bought a house, and because work is crazy – and there’s so much to do do do.  So it’s more of a gnat, or a mosquito – and I’m starting to get frustrated that it just won’t leave me alone, an I’m having such a hard time summoning equanimity for it.

I think I resist bringing equanimity to it because I know there IS this uniquely large to do list in my life right now – and I do need the kick in the butt to actually accomplish things right now.  So maybe I should look at it more like a Hummingbird flying around and less like a gnat or mosquito?  Still frenetic and high pitched, but more of a friendly reminder.

I think that this also goes back to one of my primary difficulties with the meditation and mindfulness path, which is how do you accomplish anything in life if the path encourages such great equanimity that you don’t have the kick in the ass of that little bit of suffering required to put together a life to do list and get things done?

Perhaps there is a middle ground?  A halfway between extreme frenetic-ness and extreme chillness?  Maybe there’s a lesson around being able to move in and out of equanimity as needed to accomplish things, that I just have not figured out yet.

time traveller

time traveller

Depending on where I am at in my meditation cycle, I sometimes experience the weird phenomenon of time being a little smooshy.  This weird feeling that right beside me is a totally different but entirely the same me having a parallel experience.

We all are superimposed into time.  We exist now, but we also exist then and in the future.  This is the power of the mind, and our emotional life.  The power of the deep stuff that is swirling around in the past and bubbling up in the present.  We are overlays of time, and time is only as real as our relationship to it.  When we fully embody emotional memories of the past we bring the past to present.  We are then seeing in a blurry double exposure, where we have neither a clear view of the past, nor of the present – but we exist momentarily in both spaces at once.

We blend these experiences together and make sense of them – we have agreed to rationalize and think about time in a linear way.  However, when you start to move along the meditation path of insight, and things beyond our agreements on reality begin to open, these weird experiences pop through.

Small glimpses into our double exposure life, our inability to see clearly when clouded with emotional hitchhikers from the past and future.

So my friendly reminder to you – is to experiment with holding time separate – then and now – one in each hand.  When you feel anger arise note “then” or “now” depending on it’s origin.  Gently train yourself to see clearly, and learn to be a time traveler.  This can help heal old wounds without doing damaging the present.

Downstreaming

Downstreaming

Things have been pretty intense lately with my job.  11 hour days, full weekends etc – so I haven’t been up online as much as normal.

One of the other things that I’ve noticed in this grounding earthy pentacle energy is that I’ve very much switched into what my teacher calls a “downstream cycle”

In spiritual life we spend our time cycling through ecstatic highs of magick and connection – where we are spinning on ethereal webs of universal stardust – where nothing can touch us and we feel superhuman.  All of our meditations take us on brilliant journeys – all of our magick seems to work with just a thought. The synchronicity is everywhere and the energy of our practice is tangible and real.

And then at some point that cycle ends, and we swing down again into the earth, and the grounding deep energies that pulsate in her belly.  We might be facing our own worldly shadows, unpacking past emotional baggage, or just simply overwhelmed with day to day crap.

It’s common in this phase to lose sight of practice, to feel as if all those highs were just a dream – maybe even someone elses dream.  Some people might walk away from practice.  Without that constant hit of feel good energy surging in, it’s easy to want to step away.  Downstreaming brings up all the stuff that you don’t want to deal with, or that you were glossing over while you were high on the feel good energy of the upstream.

While it might seem like nothing particularly special is happening in this cycle, it’s important to not be discouraged and to push forward.  This cycle is just as important to your spiritual development as the highest high.

The world is built on the backs of cycles and polarity, and this is just another of the multitude of examples.

As we’ve all heard a million times by now, we are spiritual beings living a human experience – two opposing forces coming together to embody the universe.  It’s hard work, but somebody’s got to do it.

One of the reasons we’re attracted to practice is we’re instinctively driven to integrate the polarity – between heaven and earth, magick and mundane, god and human, no-self and self.  And because we’re not gods (yet!), we will forever cycle between the two.

So in the upstream we gather cosmic wisdom and energy and insight – and in the downstream we integrate that wisdom into our human life.  Even if it feels like nothing his happening, even if we’d much rather be floating around in states of bliss and connection.  In this phase we come down from heaven to plant a seed in the earth.  On the surface it looks like nothing is happening, but underneath the roots are unfurling and stretching out and growing strong.  There’s a slow undulating deep growth that happens when you delve into your emotional life to integrate insight – and it’s not always obvious on the surface of things.

So take your downcycle as an opportunity to integrate, and remember why we practice.  We don’t just practice for the fun parts – for reading cards or blissing out in jhana, or flying around astrally.  All those things are amazing too of course, don’t get me wrong!

But as spiritual beings the big picture is that we’re drawn to practice to resolve the duality – to balance heaven and earth in ourselves as well as the world. Our downcycle is an opportunity to practice bringing insight into our day to day life, to shine a light on our past emotional trauma so we can more fully integrate ourselves with heaven.  In many ways, this is where the real work of spiritual practice happens.

So keep practicing, every day. Even just for 10 minutes.  Even just a single tarot pull.  Even just a deep grounding breath, lifting your face to the sky.  Trust in the slow grounding energy of the earth, and the roots that are growing underneath it. Know that it’s happening, and feel it’s subtle energy at work.

As one of my past teachers loves to say:  If you’re too busy to practice, it means you need to practice more.

Thank you for your practice,
S