God, I love writing this blog. I just re-read last week’s post and it makes me happy to know that I can look back and be reminded of where I’ve been. I can really see how things are changing and how giving myself the gift of writing about it has allowed me to move past things that I would otherwise have held on to because they were unexpressed. The fact that people actually read it, is an added bonus. An incredible added bonus. I am unbelievably grateful.
Today, I’d like to talk about what’s been going on for me since the retreat. It’s been a little over two weeks since I’ve been back and, for the first week, I was still really out of it. It felt as if I was in another dimension and I do believe I was. How could I not be, after an experience like that? It took some time to re-integrate myself into 3-dimensional reality, that’s for sure. Every once in a while, I still feel these brief, “swoopy”, “vortex” moments. I used to think it was vertigo, due to neck and shoulder tension, but not anymore. My tension has been gone for some time and my body feels pretty relaxed and good, for the most part. So, I think that “swoopy” feeling is actually part of the spiritual “upgrade” process.
Makes total sense to me :)
About a week ago, as I started to feel grounded in this reality again, I noticed that a feeling of restlessness was beginning to emerge. I was aware of it right away because of the “felt sense” that came with it, like the “jitters” after too much caffeine, but also because of the behaviours I was exhibiting. For starters, I was staying up late to watch T.V., having the odd glass of wine at home after dinner, avoiding small chores like bills and phone calls and constantly looking at my phone or computer to see if there was anything interesting on Facebook. For those who know me, the Facebook thing is way out of character. I find Facebook too time-consuming and there are so many things I’d rather be doing instead. I use it to promote and share things I find valuable but I do not rely on it for any kind of incoming information and it is a hit-or-miss in terms of the information I end up seeing there. If I go on the page at all, I don’t bother scrolling down very far on the newsfeed and normally just look at whatever notifications there are. I have Facebook messenger in my iPhone so I don’t have to open Facebook in order to see messages from my FB friends. So, for me to be checking Facebook every hour or so was a red flag. It was clear to me that all of these were classic “numbing” behaviours. But, what was I numbing? I’m in a better place now than I have been in almost a year and a half. What was going on?
In addition to checking Facebook, I also noticed that I was texting one of my new friends from the retreat, at least once a day. Being in touch with the same person with this kind of consistency is also out of character for me. I told him about my restlessness and that my sense about it is that something really big is shifting. It’s like I’m waiting for something to “happen”. On the other hand, I don’t feel like I have to “do” anything, either. In fact, I’ve felt an overall sense of calm and trust that everything is exactly as it should be. I’m not concerned that I’m avoiding certain mundane tasks because I know myself and my patterns well enough now to know that it will all get taken care of, in good time. It’s like I’m being “patiently impatient”.
It was really good to be able to talk to someone who was having, more or less, the same experience and who could meet me with the quality of response that I was needing in each moment. It was even better to know that there was no need for any amount of “discussion”. I didn’t have to get him up to speed with a “story”, nor did I feel I had to convince him of anything. There were statements about experiences. There was validation. There were insights. There was empathy. There was no fixing. No judging. There was no “mine” vs “yours”, no right or wrong. Just connection.
So simple. So satisfying.
After several of these kinds of exchanges with him, I pondered what makes this kind of connection possible. I concluded that it has a lot to do with who he is and where he is on his journey. While that is absolutely true, I was quick to notice how my first thought was to give all the credit to him :) So, I helped myself acknowledge that our connection also has a lot to do with who I am finally allowing myself to be. What I’ve realized, since then, is how the latter is even more relevant than I originally thought.
Also, this week, independently of one another, I had two of the most meaningful conversations I’ve had in years, with two of my oldest and dearest friends. They took place over the weekend, purely spontaneously and within a few hours of each other. Each conversation was very different from the other in terms of tone and substance, but I felt more connected with each of them than I have in a long time. I wondered why that was. Was it them? Was it me? I didn’t think about it for long because the “why” wasn’t important. I simply stayed with the feelings of joy and gratitude and let them wash over me. And yet, the truth is that something really has shifted. The more I pay attention to my life and my interactions, it is absolutely undeniable.
Take today, for instance. As part of my nightly numbing ritual, I’ve been staying up late watching/falling asleep to various television series’ episodes, back to back, instead of my usual 10:00/ darkened room/guided meditation routine. Needless to say, when I got up today at 7:00 am, I was still pretty sleepy and so, when my youngest son left for school, knowing that today was my creative day and I had no clients booked, I went back to bed. It’s no secret that I love to sleep late but since the retreat, I have noticed that, when I do, I wake up with that delicious feeling of deep comfort and peace that I’ve only felt replicated when emerging from a general anesthetic. It’s a feeling of pure satisfaction and contentment that only seems to happen when I’ve woken up in the morning and then fallen back to sleep for a few more hours. It’s the exact opposite of the restlessness I’ve been feeling by day. I crawled back under the covers at 8:40am and anticipated how good it would feel to wake up with that feeling, once again.
Surprisingly, I didn’t fall back to sleep that easily. I noticed that feeling of restlessness had already crept in and so I lay there, thinking about it and what it all meant. Why was I feeling so restless lately? Life is good. I’m feeling healthy, content, fulfilled, hopeful. My “conversations” with and relationship to my unconscious mind really seems to be making a huge difference in my life and the new skills I learned in the NLP training are already having an impact on my clients, too. My professional life and creativity are blossoming into new areas. I’m having so much fun with my kids and they’re all doing pretty great. I’ve made some new and deeply meaningful connections on the retreat and I can see how my spirituality and authenticity were now being integrated into my life in a whole new way. There is nothing “wrong”. So, why am I so restless?
Before too long, it became clear to me how much I was “thinking” about this issue, letting my mind and the “story” that I attempted to attach to it, run the show. In response, I decided to do what I’ve learned to do when negative emotions come up. Even though this emotion didn’t feel particularly negative, I decided to give it a try and simply let the restless feeling emerge and “pass through” me. Immediately, I could feel/see that my heart centre began to relax and realized that I had actually been holding it closed. As I let it open, I felt the restless feeling build and then begin to flow out of me, like warm mud. It burned slightly, but it felt good. It was a relief to let it go. It was then that I understood that, even though the feeling of restlessness had come with a different quality than other emotions that I’m used to, it’s cause was no different from that of anxiety or any other negative emotion. I had closed my heart off because I was trying not to feel something.
Then, it hit me. When Brené Brown talks about numbing behaviours, she points out that we can’t “selectively numb”. When we try to “numb out” the bad feelings, we are also “numbing out” the good ones. So, maybe I was looking at it backwards. What if I was closing myself off because, on some level, I’m uncomfortable with everything being so good at the moment and I’m using similar numbing behaviours as I would if I was trying to “numb out” the bad stuff? And what if I’m sensing that there’s more good stuff, just around the corner and I’m not sure how to handle it? As I write this now, I’m reminded that this is what my friend from the retreat had said the other day. He had used the word “uncomfortable” and I remember being blown away by what he said while also aware that I had not fully grasped the full impact of what it meant. Fortunately, my unconscious mind must have picked up on it, even though my conscious mind wasn’t able to sort it out in that moment. That fact became clearer when I did, eventually, fall back to sleep.
For the past few months, I’ve noticed that, when I’ve fallen back into that delicious sleep I talked about, I have these incredibly aware “process” dreams. They are full of insight and wisdom and even though I’m having such a deep restful sleep, I also seem to wake up a lot with a vague, symbolic awareness of what my unconscious mind is working through.
Today’s dreams were no different. For instance, they revealed the idea for what to write about in today’s blog and, at one point, my unconscious shouted out to me, with a flash of bright yellow light that jerked me awake, the title of today’s entry: “Courage”. Even though I’m most of the way through the writing of it, I’m not absolutely clear as to how “courage” would fit as the most descriptive title, but I’m going to go with it anyway. Maybe I’ll modify it. We’ll see. :)
However, there was another memorable insight, or even quote, if you will, that I “heard” while I slept. I don’t remember the exact words but the basic idea was this:
Emotions + “The Story” = Suffering
I woke up, considered it briefly and went back to sleep, knowing that I could explore it more when I sat down to write.
This may be nothing new, but it sure felt like a revelation to me, so here it is:
Emotions are chemical signals from the brain, designed to alert us to something that is going on in the present moment that has to be dealt with. If there is nothing in the present moment that is posing an actual physical or emotional threat to us, or another person, then the emotion we feel is not about the present experience. It is alerting us to an older, limiting belief that is merely being “triggered” by the present experience. As I have been practicing and writing about, when we allow the emotion to “pass through” us, rather than holding on to it or attempting to avoid it, it always, inevitably, dissipates. And, if we are open to learning what the limiting belief is that the emotion is alerting us to, we then create the possibility to “re-write” the program in our brain. We can simply say, “Wow, I didn’t realize that issue (which happened in my childhood) was still influencing my present-day experience. It happened so long ago and I don’t want to feel that way any more. Why would I keep re-experiencing those emotions today when what happened is in the past and can’t be changed? I’m going to thank my unconscious mind for alerting me to the fact that I have some unfinished business that needs to be completed and choose a different way to handle it from here on out. In the meantime, I no longer need the emotions to remind me. Thanks, Unconscious Mind. I’ve got it from here.”
And now here’s where the equation comes in:
Emotions + “The Story” = Suffering
Emotions come up all the time but our experience of them depends on the “story” we attach to them. If we address emotions as a simple chemical signal, we don’t have to close ourself off from them or let them take us down into sadness and depression or on some other kind of roller coaster ride. We can simply let them do their job, which is to alert us to what needs to be addressed. It’s when we attach the “story”, either from the past (which caused our limiting belief in the first place) or the present, in an attempt to protect ourselves or justify what we’re feeling, we are “identifying” with that emotion and that is what causes suffering. Remove your attachment to the “story” and you remove your suffering.
This not only works for negative emotions but for positive ones, as well. We often attach a “story” the the good things in life and then experience suffering when they come to an end. Once again, it’s all about learning how to be in the “now” and, in particular, knowing what role emotions play in our experience and what to do with them when we encounter them.
I think that’s why my exchanges with my friends have been to satisfying lately and why the connection with my retreat friends feels so unique and special. I no longer feel the need to tell the “story”, even with people I don’t know. There was a pivotal point in PV, while I was at dinner with my retreat friend when I found myself, once again, entrenched in telling the story of my life over the past 7 years. In that moment, even though it was partly invigorating to tell that story to someone who hadn’t heard it before, I also remember feeling so bored with myself and wondered if he was, too. I now realize how “over it” I really am and how unnecessary it feels, which is what I was talking about in the first paragraph. It’s one of the major things that this blog has offered me. I’ve found a vehicle to honour and express the things that happen to me and, in doing so, they feel addressed and I feel satisfied. So much so, that I often find myself saying to friends, when referring to a particular insight or issue that’s relevant to the conversation,
“If you want to know the story, just read my blog. It’s all there.”
It’s not that I don’t want people to know the story, I just don’t feel the need to tell it anymore…
…at least not more than once :)
But here’s where this post finally got it’s name:
After writing the above body of this post at Rooster today, I was driving home up Broadview, toward Pottery Road, and wondering about the word I had heard in my sleep.
“Courage?” I asked myself.
“What has courage got to do with this post?”
I thought some more about my numbing behaviours and the feelings of restlessness that preceded them. I remember thinking how unsatisfactory looking on Facebook always is because nothing really exciting is ever going on, which made me wonder what I was looking for, in the first place.
“Oh, shit! It’s DRAMA!” I’m recovering from my attachment to all the Drama that has defined my life over the past 7 years.
I’m going through a Drama Detox!!!!
Of course! This was the whole point of the story. It’s what the restlessness is about and it’s why detaching the emotion from the story is so important for me. It’s why I’m looking at Facebook and television shows waiting for something to “happen” because life is feeling so uncomplicated and I’m not used to it. I’m not fixing. I’m not over-thinking. I’m not adapting. I’m not trying to control (much). I’m not creating a “story” around anything. I’m finally learning to just accept and experience “what is”.
It’s also why I’m so pleasantly surprised by my simple, satisfying interactions. That’s what is helping me to feel so connected… because I’ve given up my limiting belief that my relationships must inevitably have some sort of drama associated with them. I used to think that the others brought the drama with them or perpetuated it but, clearly, I was an equal part of that equation.
So, for me, at least, the “quote” could be amended to:
“Emotions + “The Story” = Drama
Drama = Suffering
Wow, almost 3,000 words. Possibly a new record :)