6. How can I transcend my thoughts today?
This is my focus. My teacher says: “I have a body and a mind, but I am not my body and my mind.” I believe this, or rather I know it.
Just saying the phrase settles me. The whirling chaos in my mind, the narrative of pain, suffering, fear, threat, lack, shame. Those thoughts were past thoughts. They were emotions and reactions that got stuck, calcified and renewed because I did not acknowledge and release them.
I have a choice. I choose to release them, and I acknowledge that they won’t always go quietly. Those thoughts were the worst tenants ever and now they are resisting eviction.
Some of the ways I transcend my thoughts include
- Observing them. I notice when they arise and I label them thoughts. I do not engage in them, I question them.
- Journaling and writing. When I observe my thoughts, sometimes I like to extricate them too, casting them down in writing. It’s a release for me much in the way that Yoga is.
- Yoga. Yoga is my primary healing practice. When I go deep into my body, I am better able to disengage from thoughts.
Yesterday my circumstances did not allow for me to write, journal or practice Yoga, and I was confronted with many of my biggest fears as I took my daughter to visit a college she wants to attend next year.
I am fearful that she wants to attend this school and that I cannot pay for it. I am ashamed that I have not had a full-time job in four years and that I am not contributing to the household income.
At the same time, I am finally acknowledging and accepting things that I have resisted for most of my life. I am exploring and beginning to act on my own desires.
I’m questioning and relinquishing my overdeveloped sense of responsibility. I alone am not responsible to pay for my daughter’s college education. My husband is currently our family’s provider, and he knows that I have been processing very strong emotions and anxiety for the past few years. He values my health and wellness above all, as do I. He has given me the space I needed. I am grateful.
One of the thoughts I am working on transcending is the notion that I HAVE to suffer to be successful, and that success is measured in dollars. The genesis of these thoughts, for me, is partially social and partially genetic. My grandparents and parents did not have fortunes, and ergo they made the erroneous assumption that wealthy people are smarter and superior, instead of just lucky. Having spent a lot of time around the uber-wealthy, I am now acutely aware that wealth does not equal intelligence. If it did, the world would not be on the brink of climate disaster, dominated by income inequality, war, and suffering. Those are fixable issues, but the wealthy lack a sustained moral ambition.
Now I hear myself judging and feeling all superior and retrenching into my thoughts. That is completely opposite of what I wish to do when transcending my thoughts. I must release the judgments. The main path for me right now is
- Mindfulness. There are so many articles about it these days – people realize it’s as effective or more effective than pills. I had not sustained a mindfulness practice outside of Yoga class until recently. Working with my Somatic Experiencing Therapist has helped me tap into my emotions and internal states by observing myself in the moment in my body. Everything we need to know and be is here in this moment. My senses have become enlivened. I can see, smell, feel and hear things more than before.
I have a body and a mind, but I am not my body and my mind. When I say it the energy moves downward. Settling me.
And while feeling more and being mindful is helpful in releasing the past, it can also open up new aches and pains. I have observed several things in my body that are physical flare-ups related to my thoughts. It is almost an immediate cause and effect for me. For example, yesterday having spent 14 hours with my daughter in the college tour situation, I felt extremely uncomfortable by the time we got home.
- My neck, back, and upper right shoulder/rotator cuff are tense, locked, and agitated
- My left hip has a big knot in it that’s even more right and uncomfortable than usual
- My lower back aches
- My skin, and my fascia ache to the point that I feel I am the walking wounded, simultaneously tender and frozen
My physical symptoms demand attention when I allow my thoughts to run wild and fail to transcend them. For most of my life, I was completely oblivious to the correlation. I covered up the pain of my emotions and body with overworking, self-medicating with junk food and alcohol, tuning out of my feelings and my body by watching TV (and going so far as to work in the TV business – now THAT’S something to ponder).
What’s pretty cool and wild is that right now, having written about 800 words this morning about transcending my thoughts, I already feel better. More spacious.
It is the resistance that keeps us small and suffering. The denial of fear, pain, and shame. We know intrinsically what we need to feel better, we need to tap into it and stop the endless seeking for external cures, wisdom, and solutions.
Teachers are wonderful when they can give us tools we lacked, but becoming addicted to the guru or the method (or the religious tradition, new book, or class or healing circle … take your pick) is just another form of fear.
One of the main things I am still working on is the community and making space for complicated emotions. I appreciate being able to share here online, but I also long for more connection with others who want to take the healing journey together.
I read or heard somewhere that we need three things to become a meditation teacher
- An open heart (I have)
- Strong communication skills (I have)
- The ability to make space for hard and challenging emotions and circumstances (WORKING ON!)
When you are a healer of any kind, people bring you their suffering. If you don’t know how to make space for it and not absorb it, you can find yourself suffering as well. To be able to make space, we need to cultivate our own inner spaciousness and reduce our reactivity. For example, yesterday was a tough day for me and I feel the aftereffects today in part because I did not give myself the space I needed to process all that was going on.
In addition to being worried about money, I am worried about my daughter and whether she is ready to fly the coup. I worry that I have not prepared her enough, and worse, that my own mental health and behavioral issues may have adversely affected her. Again, this is where I need to step back from the negative fearful thoughts and question or not engage in them.
I can reflect that I am not the sole parent and know that my husband and I have worked hard to provide the best life we could for our kids. I no longer blame my parents for their wounds, because I know they didn’t know better. And I realize that we are all imperfect beings and the idea of perfect parenthood is toxic and unrealistic. Just typing all this out releases a sign of relief.
I have a body and a mind, but I am not my body and my mind. All is well.