Thursday Tidbits: Unhooking the Pain

This week’s Thursday Tidbits considers “shenpa…the all-worked-up feeling of…getting hooked on a negative emotion” such as pain (Pema Chödrön).  In order to unhook ourselves from shenpa, we must give our full attention to our pain and that includes physical discomfort as well. We must immerse ourselves in our pain in order to release it.

KMHuberImage; oneness; St. Mark's Refuge FL
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In giving our full attention to our pain, we open up to the experience of it and not the drama or storyline we have told ourselves about our pain. Our storyline is what hooks us until we sit down in the middle of what is hurting us, forsaking its interpretation for its reality.

Anyone who has ever experienced chronic pain—physical, emotional or both–knows that this kind of shenpa can easily become the only story we ever live. Yet, when we give chronic pain our full attention, we change the idea of our pain. We are no longer content to live its story.

Unhooking ourselves from shenpa does not mean that we will be completely pain-free but it does mean we give our full attention to living the lives we have as the beings we are. Being in our pain completely is where all healing begins.

KMHunerImage; McCord Park; Tallahassee
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Essential to all life is water, and it has more than one form, yet it is either flowing or frozen. Mark Nepo suggests that how we deal with our pain resembles the form water takes. “For when trees fall into the ice, the river shatters. But when a large limb falls into the flowing water, the river embraces the weight and floats around it” (Book of Awakening).

If we view our pain as ice, jagged and hard, we risk living shattered lives of fear and worry, holding our shenpa close. But if we give our pain our full attention and release it branch by branch into the river of life, it becomes a burden we can bear.

We release the idea of our pain and experience it as is, moment by moment, within our flow in our own time. “Once given full attention, you will come back—one drop at a time— into the tide of the living” (Nepo).

Like the river’s path, our lives wend in ways we never imagine. It is life’s way, and pain is only one part, although it can last a lifetime. It is up to us whether pain remains sharp or a bubble in our daily flow.

KMHuberImage; McCord Park; Tallahassee; Florida
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We have to show up for every moment of our lives, pain or no, giving our full attention to life, trusting that we will absorb our pain and not be shattered by it.

For the people of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, for the people of West and the state of Texas, we open ourselves to each and every one of you—victims and family members—for as long as it takes to absorb the pain. There is no limit on your courage or on our love.

Thursday Tidbits are weekly posts that offer choice bits of information to celebrate our oneness with one another through our unique perspectives. It is how we connect, how we have always connected but in the 21st century, the connection is a global one.

Shedding: An Act of Immortality

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Spring knows many faces but regardless, it is renewal, a restoring to existence. Present moment awareness is like spring in that each moment is new, unattached to any outcome, full of the breath of infinite possibilities.

Each moment sheds itself for the next, an ongoing renewal of life, our own cycle of the seasons, our own glimpse into immortality, if we are willing to embrace the unknown and let go of the known.

Shedding is a term I learned from Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening; he is a great teller of stories for he knows their power. One of the early stories of humans shedding their skin comes from the North Borneo Dusuns who believe when “God finished creating the world, He announced that ‘Whoever is able to cast off his skin shall not die’” (Nepo).

Stories of immortality evolve around the inevitable change involved in choice.

The Melanesians of the New Hebrides offer a story of such a choice (Nepo). In the beginning, humans shed their aged skins for the new skin of youth, as is the way of immortality.

One day, as an old woman cast her skin into the river, she noticed that it caught on a branch downstream. The woman returned to her home in her new skin. Her child, however, wailed inconsolably for the mother’s old, familiar skin. The woman returned to the river to retrieve her skin and live in it, as is the way of mortality.

In the twenty-first century, we know our physical bodies undergo a lifetime of transformation, a sloughing of old cells for new, whether we are spiritual beings having a human experience or mere mortals seeking a spiritual experience.

Perhaps present moment awareness mirrors our ongoing physical shedding of our cells. Transformation, it seems, will out.
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“In essence, shedding opens us to self transformation. Paradoxically, those of us who refuse such renewal will, sooner or later, be forced to undergo transformation anyway as a result of being broken or eroded by the world. Very often both occur at the same time: that is, we shed from within while being eroded from without” (Nepo).

Like immortality, transformation at any level exacts a choice for we are shedding the skin that has been familiar to ourselves as well as to the world. Often, the outer world reacts immediately to the loss of what was, rather than  responding to the new that is now.

There is no way that we ever prepare ourselves or anyone else for the outcome of shedding a worn skin for one that is new, unknown, and uncertain. Yet, if we do not shed what is no longer us, we lose “access to what is eternal” (Nepo). It is a choice, an immortal one, but a choice.

Shedding moment after moment to access the ever-expanding field of possibilities—the unknown—is a renewal the outer skin knows only from the inside out, as is the way of immortality.

Staying and Straying: The Tension of Two

KMHunerImage; McCord Park; Tallahassee
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The fear of letting go makes staying hard and straying easy. As Mark Nepo says, it is “so hard to feel the stone and not the ripple.” It is the tension of trying to be in two places at once, resisting what is for what might be.

“The moment we stray from where we are…we [block] the sensation of being fully alive because being split in our attention prevents us from being authentic” (Mark Nepo).

When we stray to a past moment that gives us pain or joy or both–how we label it really doesn’t matter–the memory provides us with what it has always provided us, a moment that was reality but no longer exists. Yet, that memory appears in the present moment.

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In staying with what each moment offers, memories bubble up—memory is the context of our mind–it is one thing to witness our memories and another to engage them. When we stray to them, we divide our attention and are no longer authentic but somewhere in between.

We can’t help but remember, yet if we allow our memories to stay as bubbles, floating up and through us, we let them go as they are, untouched and whole. As Pema Chödrön teaches, it is the energy beneath memory that is worth our attention for it is the source of the bubbles.

For each moment that we practice being present—neither running from nor holding onto—we feel the stone and not the ripple for we are not attaching or resisting. There is no tension of straying or staying. These moments seem few.

The difficult and the joyous moments we always revisit for those are bubbles we want to forget or we want to remember always. Regardless, we stray. In remembering, sometimes we try to change the outcome by daydreaming new scenarios or we just simply want to relive the moment, maybe embellishing it just a bit. Once we stray, there are no limitations.

Regardless, the memory bubbles will return and keep returning until we practice staying in each moment we have. Our practice begins with our inner resources, the “four limitless qualities [of] loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity” (Pema Chödrön). We begin with whatever quantity there is of each, no matter how shallow the pool.

We go to what we are because it is what we genuinely and completely feel. We may aspire but we begin right where we are. A well can fill, a pool can become a lake but always, there is the first drop.  For us, always there is the present.

KMHuberImage; McCord Park; Tallahassee; Florida
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What we actually are–a limitless pool of inner resources–spills into our actions in everyday life. It is a pool to which we may return again and again, staying with what is genuine rather than straying into what was or might be. There is no resistance, just the feel of the stone.

“That we stray from the moment is not surprising. The more crucial thing is that we return” (Nepo).

Thursday Tidbits: Neurosis Interrupted

This week’s Thursday Tidbits post ponders neurosis or what Pema Chödrön refers to as Training in the Three Difficulties:

“The three difficulties (or the three difficult practices) are:

1. “to recognize your neurosis as neurosis,
2. “then not to do the habitual thing, but
to do something different to interrupt
the neurotic habit, and
3. “to make this practice a way of life”

(Pema Chödrön’s Quotes of the Week).

KMHuberImage; St. Mark's Wildlife Refuge; Florida; USA
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In light of my metaphorical faucet fixing last week, I found this examination of neurosis rather revealing. For most of my life, I have been considered anti-establishment, a deeply 60s term and apt label for my own neurotic groove, the face I show to the world.

In these last few years, my inner self has taken up its own anti-establishment banner so that within and without are the same reflection, not always true in previous decades. It is my way of saying “no” to what I have known and “why not” to what is uncertain.

As part of my “training in the three difficulties,” I am reminded of a favorite morning meditation on the true and false self from Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening:

“… It is the true self that lets us know what is authentic and what has become artificial, while the false self is a diplomat of distrust, enforcing a lifestyle of guardedness, secrecy, and complaint.” 

“…Each time we experience a change in reality as we know it, we must choose whether to declare or hide what we know to be true. At such moments, we either need to bring the way we have been living into accord with that shift of reality, or we need to resist the change.…

 “Whether we live in our true or false self depends on our willingness to stay real.… Staying real becomes the work of keeping our actions in the world connected to the truth of our inner being, allowing our true self to see the light of day” (Mark Nepo).

It is the “staying real” that reveals our every day practice, how much we actually train, how much we exercise our resolve and whether or not we leave it on the training mat, a hard habit to break….

One way to keep the training fresh and the resolve intact is in hearing new voices. This past week, I learned about Jeff Foster on Tomas’s blog where I discovered the following quote that originally appeared on Foster’s Facebook page:

“I don’t want to fix you. I don’t want to give you answers. I don’t want to impress you. I don’t want you to change. I only want to meet you, exactly as you are, beyond your stories, your hopes and dreams, your games, your masks, here and now.

“If you feel confused, feel confused now. If you feel frightened, feel frightened now. If you are bored, let’s get bored together. If you are burning with rage, let’s burn together awhile and see what happens. I want to meet what’s really here. Perhaps then, great change is possible” (Jeff Foster).

If our training on the inside is reflected in the face we reveal to the world, then our daily practice is who we are. Why not, then, a change of habit, a foregoing of neurosis, even great change?

Finally, I include  a 1960s blurry, black and white video of Simon and Garfunkel singing, “I Am a Rock.” Before the song, however, Paul Simon offers a comment on neurosis.

Thursday Tidbits are weekly posts that offer choice bits of information to celebrate our oneness with one another through our unique perspectives. It is how we connect, how we have always connected but in the 21st century, the connection is a global one.

Thursday Tidbits: I’ll Take the Unknown

KMHuberImage; McCord Park; Tallahassee FLToday’s Thursday Tidbits swirls around the unknown, where creativity and courage reside, and where we humans fear to tread with any kind of regular practice.

For me, it has been a week that has offered one unknown after another; new perspectives on the known is one way I consider them.

I am getting used to the experience of what I know, or thought I knew, becoming something else. Yet, it is challenging when the present offers an array of unexpected moments, one after another.

It is a lot to breathe in and out but breathe I do; so far, breathing is a constant known, or is it.

“Breathing is the fundamental unit of risk, the atom of inner courage that leads us into authentic living. With each breath, we practice opening, taking in, and releasing. Literally, the teacher is under our nose. When anxious, we simply have to remember to breathe” (Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening)

Yes, the teacher and I have been close this past week; perhaps you, too, have had such a week. Just about the time I was wondering how much more creativity I could appreciate in any moment, I came across a quote from David Deida:

“Right now, and in every now-moment, you are either closing or opening. You are either stressfully waiting for something-–more money, security, affection-–or you are living from your deep heart, opening as the entire moment, and giving what you most deeply desire to give, without waiting”  (David Deida).

The quote opens a fascinating article by Gail Brenner, “The Wisdom of Forgetting Everything You Know.” It was just the kind of wisdom that allowed me some easy breaths so I am sharing an excerpt with you:

Here is what not knowing looks like:

“You wake up on a weekend morning without any plans, and you let your day unfold.

“You stop saying the same unproductive statement to your partner and let yourself not know what will happen next.

 “You sit and take a breath rather than propelling yourself forward into the next activity.

 “You press pause on a habit without knowing what you will do or say next.

“You let your routine fall away so you can be guided by the natural flow of things.

“You let go of, `I have to…’ and let yourself rest for a moment.

 ”You tell yourself the truth about the motivation behind the things you do, and surrender to not knowing.

 ”You forget who you think you are. Instead of same old, same old, you show up fresh, new, and unencumbered.

 ”Just contemplating any of the examples on this list may make you gasp for air. How could you have no plans for a whole day or stop carrying out familiar routines?

 Center yourself in the wisdom of not knowing:

“You are aligned with the truth of things as they are.

 “You open to the possibility of freedom from habits that are limiting and painful.

 “You live in reality and not in your mind-constructed version of a false reality.

 “You are here, alive, embodied, available.

“It is natural to be afraid to let go of the known. Remember that life wants you to live fully and to express yourself in beautiful and amazing ways. But you can’t know what they are” (“The Wisdom of Forgetting Everything You Know” at www. dailygood.org)

Thank you, Gail Brenner; I’ll take the unknown. As for breathing, here is Faith Hill:

Thursday Tidbits are weekly posts that offer choice bits of information to celebrate our oneness with one another through our unique perspectives. It is how we connect, how we have always connected but in the 21st century, the connection is immediately global.

Settling Into the Miracle of What Is

Settling into the miracle of what is may be all that our heart ever needs. How to do that is an ancient dilemma, a constant in humanity, and as such, perhaps the source of the miracle we seek.

“Every particle of creation sings its own song of what is and what is not. Hearing what is can make you wise; hearing what is not can drive you mad” (Sufi poet Ghalib).

KMHuberImage; Mudhen; St. Mark's Refuge; Northern FL

We are prone to making sure that everything turns out as it is supposed to be, which is often synonymous with what we want it to be. We make murky what is, at the risk of making what is not. Perhaps we do not trust who we are; perhaps we do not believe in miracles.

“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle” (Albert Einstein).

If living is a miracle, then we are a constant witness to the ever evolving miracle that is existence. Viewing life through that lens, just being seems more than sufficient. It is and it is not. There is the matter of day-to-day activities, relationships, situations.

For every day of the week, I mentally repeat a Vedic sutra as part of my morning meditation and writing. On Tuesday, my sutra is Sankalpa, the Sanskrit word for purpose or intention. In part, it says “every decision I make is a choice between a grievance and a miracle. I let go of all grievances and choose miracles” (Deepak Chopra, SynchroDestiny, DVD version).

KMHuberImage; Snowy Egret; St. Mark's Refuge; Northern FL
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For me, Sankalpa clearly delineates the distinction between what is and what is not; it frames day-to-day choices and decisions that are part of the miracle of being. Sankalpa reminds me that miracles reside within the field of infinite possibilities where we choose courage over fear.

That means loving ourselves for who we are, not for what we might be or for what we were but who we are–now. Loving ourselves completely is our connection to one another for it is how we love all.  The depth of or lack of love for ourselves is the face we present to the world.

“… Loving [ourselves] requires a courage unlike any other. It requires us to believe in and stay loyal to something no one else can see that keeps us in the world—our own self-worth” (Mark Nepo, Book of Awakening).

When we settle into the miracle of what is, we love ourselves as we are. The face we present to the world is our open heart, a revelation of our self worth. It does not mean that the world is open to us but rather, in courage we choose the miracle of what is, including pain.

Every moment of our life is like opening night for our roles are constantly evolving, while we await the response of our audience, the world in which we live. And as each scene plays out to either applause or catcalls, we settle in to the next. The play is Oneness and each of us must play a part, on and off stage.

“And all moments of living, no matter how difficult, come back into some central point where self and world are one, where light pours in and out at once.…a fine moment to live,” for it is yet another miracle of what is (Mark Nepo).

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Gifts and Limitations

In a recent morning meditation from Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening, I read of his playing basketball during high school and college. He assessed his performance with this stunning sentence: “My gifts were enough to hide my limitations.”

In immediate response, my mind sorted its archives to a job interview I had in the late ’80s; I interviewed for a library KMHuberImage; librarycataloger position with the library system’s director. Her impression of my resume was, “You’ve had many positions that most people would consider careers.”

Forever naïve, I welcomed her comment as a compliment, freely admitting how wonderful it was to experience as many careers as possible. Not only did I miss her point but I’m not sure that I fully appreciated my own response until I read Nepo’s sentence.

In other words, my gifts were sufficient to let my heart go elsewhere.

The ability to enjoy more than one career seems to be much more accepted in the 21st century. In fact, it may be a necessity. Regardless, there is an emerging awareness that exploring our gifts to their fullest allows us to let go of the dreams that are mere moments of brightness for the one light that is ours alone.

I have been incredibly fortunate in my work as a journalist/editor, a college writing instructor, an administrator and in between, I worked clerical jobs that taught me the immense importance of detail.

For as long as I can remember, writing was in my heart but I never had the courage to experience it. I believed one secured a job to support one’s writing, which wasn’t working out too well for me. Never did I consider “the succession of life’s trials is precisely the unfolding we need to find our bliss and rightful place in the order of things” (Nepo).

Not surprisingly, I did not get the cataloger position but I was later hired as the branch librarian and went on to become the director of the library system. I loved those library years but I could not make them be my dream nor was I the library system’s dream, ultimately. We both looked elsewhere.

It is not that I have not considered my careers from time to time for I have. I am grateful for all that brought me to this moment, for all the unfolding of my gifts that gave me each dream until another dream emerged. I think it kept me curious.KMHuberImage; Library gazer

What I never experienced in any of the dream jobs was the joy I experience every time I write. For me, there is nothing like it, and I am completely serious when I say that I come to the writing to find out what happens next. Whatever happens in the writing, I experience it. No longer clinging to what the writing may or may not be, the words and sentences open into the field of infinite possibilities, where joy resides.

Every career brought me moments of happiness but never joy for I was KMHuberImage; writingclinging, which is very like trying to touch the wind.

“The truth is that what we want to dream of doesn’t always last. It tends to serve its purpose… And then fades away, losing its relevance. And we can do enormous damage to ourselves by insisting on carrying that which has died” (Nepo).

Only in pursuing our gifts do we meet our limitations, which, I suspect, is the stuff of dreams.