Not being fixed in our stories

Life is a constant creation.

It is a moment by moment, instant by instant creation. I don’t mean by this that it is a set of discrete creations, it is not like that. But nevertheless, this spontaneity is constantly arising.

And it is within this that is our freedom.

Albert Low, Zen Teacher, Montreal Zen Centre.

Protection schemes

It’s important to recognize that all the emotional and psychological wounding we carry with us from the past is relational in nature: It has to do with not feeling fully loved. And it happened in our earliest relationships — with our caretakers — when our brain and body were totally soft and impressionable. As a result, the ego’s relational patterns have largely developed as protection schemes to insulate us from the vulnerable openness that love entails. In relationship the ego acts as a survival mechanism for getting needs met while fending off the threat of being hurt, manipulated, controlled, rejected, or abandoned in ways we were as a child. This is normal and totally understandable. Yet if it’s the main tenor of a relationship, it keeps us locked into complex strategies of defensiveness and control that undermine the possibility of deeper connection. Thus to gain greater access to the gold of our nature in relationship, a certain alchemy is required: the refining of our conditioned defensive patterns.

John Welwood, Intimate Relationship as a Spiritual Crucible 

Not depending on something else to make us happy

In Tibet they have a saying, “The joy of a king is no greater than the joy of a beggar”.  It isn’t what we possess — it’s what we enjoy. This means the experience of genuine cheerfulness cannot be bought or sold. What makes it genuinely cheerful is that we are free from fixation and attachment. We are free of having to depend on something else to make us happy. We can bask freely in the natural radiance of our mind. This is the equanimity of true cheerfulness — nothing more, nothing less.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, The Power of Being Cheerful

Not getting locked in

Each time you stay present with fear and uncertainty, you’re letting go of an habitual way of finding security and comfort. All those brain studies about meditation – where they place people in MRI machines or put electrodes on their heads – show us that each time you dare to remain where you are and do something completely fresh, unconventional and non-habitual, you open up new pathways in the brain. You experience that as strength, and it builds your capacity to be open the next time round. [However] it’s not like if you get it right once, if you overcome your jealousy or your anger once, then it’s smooth sailing for the rest of your life. There will be reruns. That means you will have lots and lots of chances to rouse yourself and let go. No need to exaggerate an emotional pattern, fixate on it, fuel it with more thoughts, or go into a tailspin. When you feel the shakiness, when the thoughts start to arise, when the tailspin is beginning, another rerun is in progress. You simply rouse yourself and let yourself be there.

Pema Chodron

A simple practice for working with difficult moments (and people)

Difficult situations or difficult relationship often give rise to a sense of fear in us, leading to blame, withdrawal or self-judgement. Here is a simple practice to use in such times, to extend kindness, firstly towards ourselves and then towards others or the situation

Sitting with your spine erect, breathe deeply, placing your finger tips over the center of your chest,  if you like.

As you inhale extend compassion to yourself by silently saying as you breathe out,  “May compassion awaken”. Inhale and exhale for several breaths, focusing on the center of your chest.

Then you may wish to picture a person to whom you wish to extend compassion. Again, as you exhale, silently say, “May compassion awaken”. Inhale and exhale for several breaths, focusing on the center of your chest.

Recalling the person [or the situation], silently say “May whatever clouds compassion be healed” Repeat this cycle with the phrase “May this moment be experienced, exactly as it is” and finally, “May compassion be extended to all”

Adapted from Elizabeth Hamilton