The strongest feelings of self are those that make us feel solid, permanent and separate from others. Typically these are feelings which lead to a kind of contraction of our energy such as self-righteousness, anger, self-pity, certainty about an opinion and so on. I can’t say they are pleasant feelings, in fact, many of us say we are suffering when we feel this way.
I know I suffer when I cling to how I think things should be. I suffer when I hold on to what I think is my space, my rights, my house…my, my, my…its all the word “my”. As I have said before…”its all about me.”
Let me offer a couple metaphors that have helped me recognise when I am in my “its all about me” state.
One is that I create a metaphorical sense of my own turf and then I fence it. Now, this fence not only keeps me in, limits what I can do and where I can go, it also keeps others out. I start to feel increasingly isolated and also territorial. Does this sound familiar to anyone?
Another is the not dissimilar to the Gordian knot. My stories, interpretations, theories, history, excuses, and desires wrap themselves around each other and around me. The knot gets more tangled and tighter and tighter the more I struggle with it.
So, how to reduce suffering of this kind; the kind of our own making? Here are some tried and true invitations from wisdom masters across the ages:
- Find one small gate in the fence. Something that you can do to step through.
- Call a friend to overcome a bad mood by choosing to have a cheerful conversation.
- Go for a walk and rather than dwelling on the problem find one thing that is beautiful, interesting or to be grateful for every block you walk.
- Volunteer to help someone…even just carrying their groceries to the car.
- Listen to uplifting music, watch some comedies, listen to canned laughter or dance outrageously.
- Go out dancing.
- Practice loving-kindness meditation or compassion meditation.
- Practice Focusing so that you can hear what your body knows about this experience and how to resolve it.
- Take up Insight Meditation – gently noticing your thoughts and feelings as they arise and pass away. In the noticing you gain awareness of the patterns within your own Gordian Knot and can slice through them with the insights that arise.
- Keep a reflective journal – notice what you pay attention to, the language you use and how this serves or doesn’t serve you. You might also like to keep a journal of your meditation practice.
- Try out the work of Byron Katie. Her simple prompts often cut to the quick of any matter.This is all about connection. All about seeing the world as being bigger than us and yet a part of us.
Untying the Gordian Knot. The Gordian Knot, seemingly, has no beginning thread and no end thread. Well, as legend would have it Alexander the Great untied the knot by cutting through it with his sword. Cutting through is an underpinning concept in self-awareness practices.
These practices are about seeing things as they are. When we can accept reality then we suffer less. We stop making up stories and work with what is real and possible. This is not about giving up at all. From a place of acceptance life flows. From a place of resistance it stops. Just the law of nature.