I’m awake in bed feeling anxious. Only one day until the Inauguration. How will it turn out? What will happen in the meantime? What could go wrong?
This is too early to wake up for the day. I remember I have choices. Instead of letting worried thoughts carry me off into that dark and scary place I’ve been to before and depriving me of sleep, I can get off that bus. I can do something different. There are alternatives to getting stuck in a trance of fear or even fighting it. Fight, flight, and freeze are not the only options available.
Normally, I might do a yoga nidra meditation, which features a body scan and is virtually guaranteed to knock me out or get me into a state of relaxation from which sleep would follow soon after. I can’t count the number of nights yoga nidra has provided me with two or three more hours of sleep than I would have gotten without it. Instead of feeling sleep-deprived, I wake up feeling well-rested.
This morning, however, a different meditation comes to mind. Since I’m practicing trusting intuition and stepping out of the way to allow wisdom to flow, I go with it. This time, I’ll listen to my own recording of a Tara Brach-inspired RAIN meditation.
RAIN is an acronym that stands for: Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Nurture. There are other variations from other teachers that use different key words. But RAIN really works for me, so RAIN it is.
Recognize and Allow are brief steps that bring you into connection and relationship with the emotional discomfort. You don’t push it away, deny it, or numb it. You greet and welcome it like a familiar friend – which begins to wake up the more evolved “tend and befriend” part of the brain.
Hello, Anxiety. You belong.
This is the invitation. Then on to Investigate, which is where the conversation begins.
Where are you, and what do you want me to know?
Explore the vulnerability. Really get to know it.
I find Anxiety in my heart and throat and rest one hand on each area. That kind of tender touch is like putting a warm blanket on the place that hurts. Tending to it as you would tend to a suffering child. It’s like swaddling a baby: a soothing, gentle pressure and caring presence. I’m already lying under my weighted blanket, which is soothing in itself, but this tender touch deepens the attention and provides gentle contact where it is most needed.
Often during the Investigate part of RAIN, after locating and tuning in to where the suffering is in my body, I’ll see an image in that area. If I stay with it, the image begins to change and shift into what I call an energy story that resolves in a healing image along with the realization that the physical energy imbalance in that part of my body has resolved, as well.
But this time, I connect with the vulnerability and ask Anxiety what it needs. It communicates a sense of people who are unwell, mean-spirited, untrustworthy, unhinged, and sinister being in control. I see flashes of situations that brought up similar feelings in the past. That kind of emotional energy is stored in the body – likely around an even earlier trauma, or core wound that I sense I’m getting closer to healing every time I do RAIN.
Understanding it a little better, I now call it Fear and realize it needs Love and a sense of safety. It wonders if this world is a safe place to be in (which feels very young). It needs to feel the presence of loving energy and to know that Love is stronger than the presence that seems so threatening in the dark hours of the night. That’s what the Nurture step is about, and this is my favorite part. It calls on imagination, and I love imagining. It’s a powerful tool.
I know exactly what to do. I call on my parents and grandparents, who also live inside me. There is a place in my heart area I know as Unconditional Love, and it’s like a crystal that’s similar to Aladdin’s lamp. Rub it, and they’ll all come out and surround me with their loving presence. There are other beings, too – beings of love, light, and wisdom.
When I call upon Unconditional Love, they all come forth. And then I allow myself to receive their loving energy and to listen to what they have to say. This time, I hear (and write down):
You were never alone or unsupported. Everything that was hard served a purpose. You are becoming so strong and can help others.
You have one another. Share your feelings, and dissolve the separation.
You are discovering your true power and untapped resources. All is well. Let them in. Share yourselves. You are surrounded by love.
There’s not enough togetherness in your life.
Remember how the sea held you. Take refuge in the sea.
Then these loving beings slip back into my heart, and I’m standing on my favorite beach where the land meets the vast ocean, feeling the cool, wet sand under my bare feet. I reach for my phone and turn on the sound of long, crashing ocean waves from the White Noise app.
The ocean is one of my greatest resources. It’s big enough to absorb any suffering I bring to it – and I’ve brought some mighty big suffering to it in the past. I can take everything that feels overwhelming, set it down, and let the ocean carry it away into the immensity that can hold and transform it all. And then I feel lighter, connected, supported. Not alone. Better able to focus on the here and now, without emotional baggage clouding my vision.
I really imagine being at the ocean, with all my senses. And then I wake up hours later to the sound of the waves, feeling rested, peaceful, and resourced. Ready to greet the day with my best, most present self.
Every time I do RAIN meditation, it’s different. Different images, different words, different ways of nurturing. Your experience will be different, too, calling upon your deepest wisdom and connecting with something greater than yourself. I find it to be a really beneficial meditation for these times we’re in.
But don’t just take my word for it. The value I attribute to RAIN is backed by science. As neuropsychologist and author of Neurodharma, Dr, Rick Hanson explains:
We need to deal with real dangers, but much of the time we overestimate threats and don’t feel as safe as we actually are. This makes us feel bad, and it wears down physical and mental health over time. Plus when we feel at all anxious, attention understandably skitters around, scanning the world, body, and mind for what might go wrong.
Helping yourself to feel reasonably safe calms the stress response system and helps you stay focused rather than looking about for a tiger that might pounce.
If more people got in touch with their vulnerability and true power through practices like RAIN, I imagine there would be less bad behavior, blame, addiction, susceptibility to manipulation, and violence in the world. I really do. It’s powerful medicine.
If you’d like to try it – either when you’re in the grip of unsettling emotion or after the fact – here is my version of RAIN:
I’m also trained to guide others through the RAIN process and to conduct 1:1 Meditation Out Loud sessions. Contact me if you’re interested in scheduling a remote session.
In these challenging and uncertain times, may we bring as much presence and compassion as we can to ourselves and the world around us and remember that we are not alone, even in the middle of the night or anytime during the course of the day when it might feel like it.
Today on this Winter Solstice + Grand Conjunction, I’ve spent the morning writing down some words that have been coming through. Grief had something to say to those who have lost loved ones this year. May these words of hope ease the darkness of this darkest day even just a little for those who are grieving.
For Those Who Are Grieving
Everyone who has ever loved you
And the myriad travelers ahead of you
On this well-trodden road of humanity
Ask you to please be patient with Grief
And to trust that, even when you feel it
Deep down in your bones and in every
Cell of your body, and it feels like it will
Annihilate you, Grief serves a noble purpose.
Your future self reaches out through time
To assure you that Grief allowed to ripen
Bears great fruit, and the journey that began
With feeling so torn apart and forsaken
Eventually offers the realization
That everyone who has ever loved you
And everyone you have loved and lost
Exists here inside the heart, in purest form,
Always present and accessible and part of
A greater presence of Unconditional Love
You can call upon at any time.
For you have not been abandoned,
As much as it feels like it now. In time,
The precious ones you have lost once again
Will be your greatest and closest allies.
Yes, Grief is exhausting work
But if you can be patient and allow it
To belong in the tapestry of your life, it will
Open the door to the transcendent dimension
Where you will receive its astonishing gifts
And learn to communicate in new ways.
May you in time marvel at how
This heartache that knocked you down
So forcefully and repeatedly
Like waves of the incoming tide
Has alchemized into a deeper
Connectedness beyond the physical
And the grand realization of your
Wholeness and enoughness, how it has
Revealed the radiant truth of your being
And grown your compassion.
When the days feel bleak and forlorn,
As if part of your heart has been amputated
You cling to the sound of their voice,
The details of their face – afraid of forgetting
What, rest assured, will not be forgotten.
In the darkest season of your grief
When it feels like all light has deserted
Your heart and couldn’t be further away,
May you find solace in what others
Have discovered up ahead in the distance:
What you are looking for outside of yourself
Is growing silently and miraculously within you.
May you continue on, putting
One foot in front of the other
And resting as you need to,
Showering yourself with the mercy
Your loved one wishes for you,
Until at last you arrive at the revelation
That your deepest, most painful loss
Has become your greatest awakening.
For in the end, we love and grieve
Only to discover: Love is who we are,
And separation is nothing but illusion.
Though this may feel so far
From truth and possibility now,
So very many who have traveled this road
And survived the journey, your future self,
And everyone who has ever loved you
Beg you to trust it is so.
Here we are in the uncharted waters of December 2020. It was dark when I woke up this morning at 6:45 and checked in with my heart. What’s going on in here? What’s the weather like inside this heart?
It feels a little weary, to be honest. Weary from one encounter after another over the past several months with people I assumed were “on the same page” and seeing the world through a similar lens, only to discover that’s not the case at all.
I remember back in March when we absorbed one shockwave after another as we moved into and adjusted to shutdown mode. It feels a little like that. But this time, it’s more about digesting realities about the stories we’re buying into that have solidified throughout the year, and how to be in relationship with one another when those stories differ radically.
I keep reminding myself we’re in uncharted territory, and everyone is doing the best they can. I try to catch myself and shake off the seductive stories before they have a chance to settle in. Daily.
Earlier this year, things were moving so fast, and it seemed every week served up a different theme. At some point, themes didn’t seem to be so much of a thing. It just felt increasingly chaotic. But now I’m feeling another theme arising. In a nutshell, it feels like our country is divided into perceptions of government/authority being either protective or controlling. Maybe that’s a huge overgeneralization. But it was what I saw when I stepped into my heart yesterday and asked the question I ask many times a day: WTF?
The theme I’m digesting now centers on rebuilding, reconnecting, and caring about people who see things very differently. How to live in a world with so much difference of opinion and clinging to compelling narratives. (Are they fact or fiction? Or a mixture of both?) How to live in a world in which it seems so many people have been drinking the Kool-Aid, so to speak. People who would think the same of me. People I’ve known and respected for a long time. And still do.
Even though I catch myself repeatedly, to have that reaction in the first place… This is new to me. It’s an adjustment, a revelation. And it’s often uncomfortable. In this heart of mine, connection is more important than being right. So I listen and try not to offend. I try to understand what’s below the beliefs and find some kind of caring beneath it all.
Sometimes it can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re a “feeling” type. And if you’re not getting enough sleep.
The Power of Presence
When we get hijacked by emotions, awareness (a.k.a. mindfulness) gives us options. This happened to me when I was driving home yesterday. Realizing I was hooked in an addictive storyline that I called out as “romanticizing”, I surveyed my options and decided I could take a deep breath and blow it out, blow it along, release what doesn’t serve. Then it wouldn’t get stuck in me like fluffy seed fairies dispersed into the air looking for a place to land and take root.
The breath can be really powerful like that. It can blow those story seeds along, saying Not Here. With mindfulness, we can notice what’s going on and choose the seeds we allow to grow in our garden and what to do about the stubborn, subterranean root and rhizome systems that started a long time ago.
With mindfulness, every moment is an opportunity to choose what’s most important and what’s best (which can change). We can choose to get stuck in a limiting personal narrative or to step out of it. We can choose to drop down into something much deeper: a field of being I call Presence.
Dropping into presence actually saves a lot of time because you realize what is and isn’t ultimately important, and a lot of stuff you thought was important just falls away. Here, fresh ideas, insights, solutions, and perspectives are accessible. And lovingkindness.
I sense that all the division we’re experiencing in the world around us at this time and confusion about who or what to believe is ultimately calling us inward, to our our deeper wisdom, which is very, very different than sorting things out in our head through thinking and analyzing or being brainwashed by media. (If you haven’t watched The Social Dilemma, I urge you to.)
Asking for Help
When we are caught up in the lower, addictive energies of a storyline, we also can ask for help. Especially when we’re tired and don’t have the energy to drop down deeper.
One evening this week, before falling asleep I asked for help. I had gotten triggered and was having trouble getting unhooked – like when those prickly hitchhiker seeds get caught on your clothes, and it’s really hard to get them off. Authentic movement (which is a new thing for me) has become my go-to for releasing and expressing emotional energy. But I was too tired to dance or meditate that evening. So I sent out an earnest S.O.S. to Unconditional Love (spirit guides, angels, ancestors, higher self, etc.). And I ended up having a very interesting dream.
I dreamed I was able to cross the border and visit Eckhart Tolle in his home in Vancouver. We were in his living room, which was modern and spacious. I was drawn to the patterned flooring, which I found lovely. I told him I was grateful to be in his Presence (“with a capital P”), meaning the pure presence coming through him.
I woke up feeling I’d received an energy upgrade in my sleep! I felt totally different.
Then I wrote down the words going through my head and put them on the image that came to mind.
The image is of the octagonal apex of Inner Light Lodge at Light on the Hill retreat center. I spent the past few years doing a lot of inner growth work in that building with my Hidden Treasure tribe. As I worked on the image, I noticed the roofing of the protruding structure was very similar to the flooring in my dream – which took it to another level, literally!
So we can ask for help. Help that I’ve learned is always available if we can open ourselves to it.
Step out of the storyline, drop into presence, and see what’s there. Ask for help when you need it. This is my advice for these times, which I give myself daily.
What’s the weather like inside this heart? Feels more like peace now…because the energy was channeled into these words.
May we all find constructive ways to channel and release the energies coursing through us. And inspire one another to connect with our deeper wisdom and compassion, which is so much richer than any personal or collective narrative.