In my personal experience in how my self-awareness has grown in the 45 years I've been alive, and in my observation of people: I've realized something.
Most people who are afraid don't know they are afraid.
This was about 5 or so years ago, one morning during meditation I got a clear urging from within to focus on being centered.
So I stayed very focused on that peaceful unmoving center within me as I got ready for work.
*** It took me years of inner work to discover this center, before that, I didn't know what it meant to 'be centered', just a vague notion that it was to be peaceful and unaffected somehow, to be zen-like. Now I know it is that but doesn't always look zen-like on the surface. We can be in movement and expression of various feelings while also being centered and peaceful within. ***
As I drove that morning to work still focusing on my center, someone in the stream of traffic stopped abruptly causing an accident involving about 5 cars.
I was in one of those cars, and my car hit the guy's bumper in front of me, but not too hard. The women's car behind me, however, slammed very hard into mine, totaling my car.
No one was hurt too seriously and I was unscathed, physically, and emotionally. I calmly just did what needed to be done while also observing what was happening around me.
As all the drivers pulled over to wait for the police and deal with the situation, the woman who had slammed into me was visibly shaken.
She shared with me that she has an anxiety disorder and suffers from panic attacks. It looked to me like she might have a panic attack soon. So I suggested that she breathe slowly and deeply and we did this together. This helped her and she relaxed a bit. Then I mentioned that the breathing will help her feel the fear and that it's okay to let the body shake and tremble. (I too have had panic attacks )
All of a sudden she reacted, upset at my use of the word 'fear', saying to me "What! I'm not afraid!".
She was unconscious of the fact that anxiety and panic is fear.
Her reaction to the word 'fear' was resistance to acknowledging it in herself. Acknowledging and feeling it though would have allowed it to move through her which could prevent a full-blown panic attack. (judging & resisting a feeling gives it more power over us)
There are many ways we hide fear. Psychological phrases and diagnosis is one way we might do that. It can help us become somewhat more aware but only diagnosing ourselves mentally can keep us in our mind and out of our body. This happens especially in times of shock or abrupt change (I've done a lot of healing for myself around shock & trauma).
Intentionally exploring the ways we hide fear and hide from fear is so helpful. Fear often drives us unconsciously, limiting our potential and happiness, and it's also built into our social fabric. We all experience fear yet there's this unspoken message that it's not okay to talk about it. And to show that we are afraid is not okay either and means we are weak somehow.
I've often been surprised at what I've discovered when I explore my fears. But I'm so glad for this self-exploration path I've chosen because we can't change something without becoming aware of it first.
Examples of fears:
Fear of being rejected
Fear of being alone
Fear of making mistakes
Fear of losing control
Fear of being judged
Fear of fear
Fear of the unknown (a very challenging one)
Fear of death (a very challenging one too and is related to fear of the unknown)
What would you add to this list?
When I was younger I would get pumped at this time of year with renewed hope for change (a brand new me!). I would make New Year’s resolutions with gusto, and then several weeks later would give up. Whatever change I planned was harder than I realized. I would feel deflated as I lost that hope to become the person I thought I should be in order to be happy.
Then the next time came around and I would do the same thing thinking “This time I really mean it. I’m going to try harder.”
Nothing really changed.
The recurring loss of hope I later realized was necessary for me. I was using hope and I was using force. That is all that I knew at the time.
Because underneath whatever goals I set, were variations of not being good enough. The hope of changing myself was a welcomed distraction from my pain at the time. But the change never stuck because the things I did was how I coped with the pain.
The reason why I wasn’t happy was not REALLY because I smoked cigarettes, or went to bed too late, nor was it not being good at managing money, or being productive enough, or not having a boyfriend, or not being outgoing enough.
When I realized this, I stopped making resolutions and goals. I instead dealt with my deeper issues and took life as it came.
Then many changes happened from the healing and awakening process. The changes have been positive yet unpredictable. They manifested out of deep inner shifts, not from enforcing a preplanned outcome. The happiness discovered within became the initial spark, rather than something I hoped for in the future. Despite not chasing a certain outcome, action and expression though have been important.
After years in this period of ‘no-goals’ it came time again to make resolutions. Or more accurately, to focus.
I see this as a focus on what matters most. As an expression of a genuine expansion radiating up from the being. It is not a limiting of or force upon ourselves. It does not contain judgments and mental ideals. It has a different quality and comes from knowing it’s time to claim the direction necessary to expand and come out of our old shell. Focus also effortlessly exposes and eliminates the trivial.
I've found this a great way to start a New Year. This initial choice in focus marks an exciting beginning, yet in my experience, the choice must be made again and again. And again and again. As many times as needed to shift from one way of living to another.
At first, I felt uncomfortable and 'icky' about promoting and selling. I then got over that part and went into all of it enthusiastically and without bias. In the past few years, I have tried on many things and strategies while learning how to run this small solo business.
Money. It seemed weird and random, a game of numbers that I didn’t know how to play. Now I feel the energetics of it. Sometimes I must charge a certain amount, sometimes I feel right in making something more accessible or free.
The idea that I'm charging "what I'm worth" doesn’t actually feel true.
The value of what I offer needed to be seen by one person. Me. This has been huge for me.
Having an income is necessary and profit is nice, but it is not a reflection of my worth.
I don’t want to analyze who my target audience is so I can figure how out how to cater to them. In being myself, I just see who shows up. They tell me who they are.
I can run my business and still be spontaneous! Such a huge relief for me. And it's actually the best 'strategy' so I can allow what wants to come through me.
At one point I saw that my ego was attached to success and so so happy to have transformed that! Would have been exhausting to constantly chase a carrot on a stick. And sad to be disconnected from my inner being like that.
I don’t have a goal-setting practice anymore. If an inspiration or vision comes from within than I set goals and plan as necessary to bring it to reality. But the vision has to come first and I don’t like forcing it.
If I need constant motivating from outside myself, something is off.
I used to think I was a procrastinator. I've realized that this isn’t true. Sometimes the timing is just not right or what I planned to do or what I think I should do is actually not needed. Existence will push me to act when it's important.
When it is avoidance, then it is an opportunity to transform an inner block.
"You should think bigger and shoot higher" is an urging that is not always what it seems. Sometimes it is from someone's insecurity and not-enoughness. I feel compassion for all that but I'm not taking it on anymore. Genuine inner contentment is a treasure and it does not prevent creativity or expansion.
Comparison and competition demotivate me. big time.
Staying superficially small out of fear though, that is different and very worth looking at! I’ve seen my tendency to do this and although it’s common and understandable, I’ve also realized that it is selfish to withhold myself.
Taking time away to be inward and to rest is not withholding myself.
The only success I'm now interested in is what happens when I let go. My capacity to surrender into the unknown is slowly growing! Because of this, I’m being “successful” already.
Coming to this space of letting go in my business and in my life, I feel a “thank you so much!” to me from my own heart.
It was a Halloween event for charity. The idea was that everyone dressed up as zombies and walked (dragging and shuffling our feet under our undead bodies) along the sidewalk in an upscale shopping area on a Saturday afternoon.
I loved transforming myself into this bloody scary creature and then seeing the expressions of shock as we passed the windows of restaurants where well-dressed people were having their nice quiet brunch.
As my then-boyfriend and I shuffled and jerked down the sidewalk we would groan and moan and say things like “braaiiiiins”. We entertained and freaked-out shoppers passing us by.
At one point I raised my arms ready to look menacing for the next group of people walking by us. Unfortunately, I did not see him until it was too late. A little boy (maybe around 6 years old). He was in front of this group of people with his parents right behind him.
The look of raw terror on his face as he stared up at my bloody scabbed-up face. His little body momentarily frozen and locked.
My heart dropped and I felt instant regret. He was traumatized by it.
His parents didn’t seem to notice what happened to him and they laughed with amusement as they urged him forward to continue walking.
As I continued with the group my enthusiasm dampened as the image of the boy's terrified face stayed with me.
When the event was over we went to a nearby coffee shop to clean up and sit down. It was crowded so we were glad to find seats. As we sat down I looked to my left and seated right there next to us was that same little boy and his parents.
I had removed most of my make-up by then and so thankfully lost my frightfulness. I introduced myself to the little boy and explained what we were doing that day. I apologized for scaring him earlier. Hearing my apology, he suddenly sat up tall in his chair and puffed out his chest and insisted that no, he had not been afraid. My boyfriend then chimed in, thinking he was helping, commended the boy on his “bravery”.
I had to accept that there was nothing I could do to fix what happened. Especially since the boy was ashamed of the fear he experienced.
This was probably the first moment that led to many others that resulted in my now lack of interest in Halloween.
But I used to look forward to Halloween. It was my favorite holiday by far. The scary, the magical, the weird. I loved it all. I could be whatever I wanted to be. I loved hosting or going to parties and seeing all the other costumes. It was a chance to act out things that I normally wouldn’t allow myself to express. A way to let go of my inhibitions and have fun.
But that changed, not solely because of that little boy, but as an outcome of healing (and also due to my creativity being focused on other things).
I stopped getting joy out of shocking and scaring people. I realized I was feeding off the power in getting a reaction out of people. My psyche craved that power to balance out the helplessness that was my usual experience.
After realizing these things I spent a lot of time acting out my darkness but doing it consciously and privately. Not depending on a special occasion for permission to do it.
I started to take notice of and face the inner energies and emotions as they came up in my daily life.
Aggression. Violence. Hate. Jealousy. Hurt. Resentment. Blame. Guilt. Shame. Helplessness.
All the gritty dark or painful things you can imagine. I held nothing back and explored them all in myself.
This was new for me because I was so used to controlling myself. There were times I was afraid of my destructiveness and thought “What if I open this darkness up and it takes over and I hurt somebody with it?”
But on the contrary, by letting go of control and working with these energies intentionally, the hostility inside me dissolved.
I had been, for a long time, trying to fit myself into a place in society and I worried a lot about what people thought of me.
In facing what I used to judge inside me, my racing mind started to slow down and the inner critic that used to torment me quieted down too.
I was healing the zombie.
I became freer in being myself from a place of inner empowerment in my everyday life.
I don’t have anything against adults enjoying Halloween, especially for letting the inner child come out and play. It can also be a way to explore what we might be repressing.
Besides CATHARTIC PLAY-ACTING, below are other tools I’ve used for myself and I facilitate for clients in private sessions and workshops:
- DYNAMIC ACTIVE MEDITATION by Osho
- PROCESS PAINTING by Michelle Cassou & Stewart Cubley (What I call Meditative Painting)
- NO-YES ACTIVE MEDITATION by Mada Dalian
- The DALIAN METHOD by Mada Dalian
The Dalian Method was the most important tool for me - because it goes deeper than catharsis by transforming the originating cause of the repressed emotions (emotional and energetic catharsis is liberating, but without an internal shift in awareness, the wound that created the need for catharsis may remain unhealed)
Not feeling good enough for someone. Who hasn't felt this way at some point?
Here is my understanding about this.-
When we are carrying an insecurity about ourselves, we may experience others as not accepting us.
This can result as patterns of conflict with others or of trying to please them. This is very common but keeps us trapped in a painful and draining situation.
You can watch for any time you want to prove something to someone or get them to accept you in some way.
When you spot it happening: Stop. Breathe. Breathe slowly and deeply. And instead of focusing on the other person, explore your inner world (thoughts, emotions, sensations).
You can take this even further by exploring with an intention to see the Truth.
If you can manage to make this shift in focus, if you can withstand the initial force of resistance, before you even get to an insight, you will already feel a huge shift. You will likely feel energized.
I call this INNER EMPOWERMENT.
People are incredible reflections of what we need to understand within.
This does not mean we allow ourselves to be mistreated all over the place. This is not contrary to speaking up and not allowing someone to impose their judgments or views on us. In fact, it may lead to doing just that. Not as a hurt-based reaction, but out of a self-respect for ourselves.
Seems paradoxical, but the inner focus makes us kinder and more honest. We become trustworthy. Because we minimize burdening others with our pain. Our hearts can open in the recognition that others are struggling too and that it has nothing to do with us personally.
I've experienced this countless times.
But at first I would beat myself up. Feeling bad that I was doing something wrong to draw to me negative reflections and dynamics.
But with time more joy and self-compassion has come in. And with experience I know the consequences of not doing it and the incredible awe-inspiring gifts of doing it.
I don't go to art museums much anymore. I used to. I've always loved visual art. But when I discovered something called Process Art years ago, I realized what I loved.
It is aliveness. It is spontaneity. It is originality. It is the surprise of color and form and how they interact.
I appreciate an artist's skills, the talent that comes from years of hard work and practice. Professional artists deserve recognition for the beauty they bring and inspire.
But what I appreciate the most is the energy that comes from someone being present in the act of creating. Professional or not. The aliveness is captured, and it does not matter to me what it looks like.
This often comes from the very people I meet that tell me
I AM NOT AN ARTIST
They look to me for permission "Is it okay if I come to your painting class?” There is something inside that is longing to be expressed.
The answer is of course always YES
This image is my painting. Many of my paintings look like they came from a young child and I have loved painting them. Freedom of expression brings an inexplicable joy and expansion and taps us into the inner essence of creativity.
Artists. Non-artists. It's all good here. Because there is something deeper happening than the mind's perception of "good" - "bad" or "appropriate" - "inappropriate".
That is why I have chosen to call these classes Meditative Painting. (If no classes currently scheduled - sign up at bottom of events page to be notified when they are).
I had an experience.
It happened while bartending. Over 12 years ago.
The bar I worked in had a cigarette machine in the back. The bartenders were told to keep an eye out for under-18 teens sneaking in to get cigarettes.
One night three young-looking guys walked in and headed toward the cigarettes. I stopped them to check their I.D.s.
I looked at the I.D.s but my mind got dizzy and I couldn’t make sense of how to figure out their ages (this mind dizziness still happens, especially with numbers. doesn’t bother me too much. But it used to).
I tried but couldn’t make my brain work and I felt a wave of panic. The guys were staring at me, waiting. I had to go find my shift manager for help. When I asked my manager to look at the I.D. cards, he looked at me like I was crazy. Yes, they are 18, he said, annoyed at me.
As I walked back to hand them their cards and saw the expression on their faces, I felt the shame intensify and engulf me. And then the experience happened.
I suddenly became bigger than myself. I expanded to about 6 feet bigger all around my body. I watched from this bigger space, somewhat above myself, yet everywhere at the same time. From that bigger space I watched myself being embarrassed and hand the I.D.s back.
But as I watched I was unattached from it all. Just fascinated by what was happening.
Unattached might give the impression of flatness. It was not flat at all. It was magical and joyful. It was total and pure curiosity (not an analytical curiosity, but a “see what happens” curiosity).
I was free from the need to control or direct anything, including myself or what I was feeling.
The whole experience must have lasted only a few moments. But it felt longer, like it happened in slow motion.
For the following few days I felt peaceful and then the peacefulness faded and I went back to my usual inner turmoil. If anything, feeling even more unsatisfied.
In the back of my mind I was wishing I could find a way to make that experience happen again. I sensed this to be the way out of suffering. But I couldn’t figure out how to do that. Because I didn’t make it happen to begin with.
It was a completely spontaneous experience. I wasn’t really meditating or doing dedicated inner work at the time. I was actually working 3 jobs, barely sleeping, and living off Redbull. I was saving money for my “dream” of traveling the world.
I had been reading books on how to make your dreams come true, visualizing, etc. I couldn’t think of a dream that would make me happy except traveling. So I decided for a little while, with nothing else to go on, that traveling the world must be my dream. As usual for me back then, I was focused outside of myself and on the future (I thought that's where 'happy' must exist). I was ignoring what was right in front of me and within me.
Even though my life didn't immediately change much on the surface, that experience was a glimpse of a truth for me.
That glimpsed truth was that I am not my body, my mind, or my emotions. There is something else to who I am.
I recognized this something else as what teachers and mystics call witnessing awareness. I've heard descriptions of this witness being a non-judgmental awareness of all that is, and that it is full of joy. That sounded exactly like what happened for me.
I never had anything like that experience again until I did travel, but not the outer world, I shifted my search inward, traveling instead through my inner world. Instead of making my dreams come true, I started seeing the untruth in the dream I had been living in.
As I began peeling away the layers of my unconscious, the experience of expanding beyond my mind, emotions, and body, and witnessing have become regular occurrences.
My perspective on what it means to Be Conscious.
It is not in the way I talk or words I use. It's not the way I look, act, or dress. It is not a technique I use or approach to life I prefer. It is not the teacher I love working with. Nor is it about some kind of gift, talent, or ability. It is not in being kind nor is it in any particular trait in me.
It's not a list of good deeds I can show off.
It's not in the money or any outer success I can attain.
It's not in environmentally aware habits, living clean, or simple. It's not in not having money, success or possessions either.
Becoming more conscious can certainly influence and bring profound changes, it has for me. The outer changes though, for me, are really secondary.
Consciousness for me is an inner alert state of being. It has nothing to do with spiritual correctness, in fact it obliterates it. I've come to a realization that consciousness is the only thing that recognizes and detects consciousness. Which is one reason there is so much confusion out there. This confusion is when we try to think ourselves into being conscious.
A story to illustrate what I'm trying to say…
Years ago, through a few documentaries, I became aware of how horribly animals are treated in the meat industry. Months after this I began to ask myself "If I care for animals, why am I still eating meat knowing how cruelly they are treated?"
I wasn't judging myself. I was honestly curious about this.
Not long after this question arose for me, I discovered that deep down I believed myself to be dark.
I was initially nervous to find out where this belief came from and what the darkness was about.
In allowing this belief to fully surface and be expressed (using the Dalian Method) I discovered this rigid stubbornness in me insisting that I AM dark. Insisting that this is who I am: “I like being dark and dammit I'm not letting this go!”
During the healing session this then shifted and I felt the fear that was behind the stubbornness. I was afraid (terrified actually) to dissolve into the light.
The fear lasted several minutes then it released from my system. A wonderful peace and clarity surfaced. I realized that the so-called darkness didn't have much substance to it. It was just my ego that wanted to stay in that identity of being dark because it was afraid to dissolve into the light. I let go of that identity and welcomed the beauty of more light (of expanded consciousness).
After this I decided it was time to stop eating meat. The next day after I made the decision, during my lunch break from my office job, I went to my usual Mexican food place. Out of habit I initially ordered something with meat and then stopped. I remembered my decision and changed my order to a vegetarian option. In that moment when I switched and ordered the vegetarian item I saw a vision of myself stepping out of the stream of darkness I had been attached to.
It was a beautiful experience in honoring with action my shift in consciousness. It was a way for me to step out of the old identity.
Now, here is what I didn’t have a desire to do…
To BECOME a vegetarian. Meaning I was not interested in now having a new identity for my ego to attach itself to. "I was dark, but now I'm light and don't eat meat".
I wasn’t interested in telling people they should do it too or feeling superior to meat-eaters and making any assumptions about them.
I was simply letting something go. I didn't want to fill that new space with something else. To fill it with a new identity (even if it does seem like an improvement over the old one). Instead I can enjoy having more space and light in me.
Working inside-out is how I like to do things. If I had become a vegetarian before that inner shift happened because I "should" than I am not sure how it would have gone. It would not have had the same meaning for me and I would’ve struggled with sticking to it. I probably would have also created another battle within (by trying to think myself into consciousness).
And if I’m really wanting to eat meat, which I do every now and then, I just let myself have it. I’m not going to fight with my cravings (been there, it sucks). I'm not bound to anything either.
My habits, including "bad" ones, are just to help me understand and discover new things. About life. About what it is to be human. About myself.
After what I've personally released and have worked through over the years, the last thing I want is more programming or another ideology (however healthy or altruistic it may seem).
There are definitely major turning points in my life but Being Conscious isn't a place I arrive at, it is an on-going expansion into new experiences. Some experiences I admit are way more enjoyable than others. But it is a never-ending discovery that lets me stay open and flexible so I can adjust when I learn something new (or UN-learn something new).
This is how I work best, it's not necessarily going to look this way for everyone. Perhaps for another it is expansive and fulfilling a purpose for them to tackle certain problems in our society. Just like those documentaries influenced me and I'm glad someone created them.
**Technically I’m a pescatarian because I eat seafood.
I love my body.
Not in the physical way and in the "my body is beautiful as it is" kinda way. That's there as well.
But what I mean is how my body brings me to the Truth.
I've had times where my mood seems very low and I'm thinking things are not going well in my life. Then I allow my attention to drop deeper into myself, into my body, and I have felt a surprising lightness and a palpable sense that all is okay and fine.
Sometimes I will be excited and in a whirlwind of feel-good energy, but then I realize that my body is signaling to me that something isn't right. This has happened to me a lot actually, since I tend towards excitability.
This can happen in my love life, it can happen in my friendships and in group settings. All is seemingly great but then I get a moment to myself and something in my body doesn't feel good.
It might feel like being suddenly drained or tired. I've also experienced it as uneasiness in my own skin. Sometimes it’s a heaviness in my heart.
Nothing wrong with that bubbly fun energy. I like that about me yet I've been looking more closely at times where I am in that experience and have momentarily disconnected from myself. In these moments I'm not truly experiencing connection or real joy, I'm actually escaping from something.
I might have been escaping because I don't want to acknowledge to myself that I do not resonate with the ideas coming from people I'm around in that moment (nothing personal against others and their choices). Or it might just be time for me to rest and be alone and I'm resisting it. I've also seen myself be entertaining to people to get attention I've been craving.
Exploring escapism, especially in social situations, has brought up valuable opportunities for transforming my blind spots.
A major one for me right now is the fear of being alone. In working with this fear I've had beautiful glimpses that I'm never alone because I have myself. And within myself is all of existence.
But there are deeper layers still operating on this fear. I am actually feeling sad as I write this. I realized yesterday how I still diminish myself, my wisdom, and the work I do to at times to avoid feeling isolated and misunderstood (being alone).
Ouch. In diminishing myself I broke my own heart.
I know this sadness is necessary though and I'm just letting it be there and feeling it.
This is why I love my body, it connects me to the Truth, even if that Truth is uncomfortable. It won't let me kid myself.
Where have you noticed the difference between what your mind or mood is saying and what your body is saying? Feel free to share in comments.
I hated talking about my feelings. Ugh. Sharing my inner world. It was awful. This is how I felt up till my early thirties or so.
But I would have times of intense depression and desperation and the psychiatric medications I took weren’t enough to completely numb it. There was this idea I had that when you have an emotional or mental problem you “get help”. Like some kind of magical solution happens when you “get help”.
At that time “getting help” meant therapy to me. Going to some kind of expert, a professional. So despite the dread, I would motivate myself to seek out a therapist. This happened a few times over the years. I would go to someone and hate the sessions and then leave feeling worse. After a few sessions I just couldn’t bring myself to go back. When I stopped seeing that person I felt I had failed at “getting help”.
One main reason I felt worse after these sessions was because I had so much repressed pain that would start to surface and I had no idea how to talk about it. I didn’t understand it at all.
But there were other reasons. I felt like a sick patient in those sessions. It was also awkward because I would be blocked and it was hard to talk and the therapist would stare at me waiting for me to say something. The pressure was difficult for me. Sometimes I would share what was happening in my life and would feel I was being psychoanalyzed and would get further labeled or diagnosed. They wanted to pick apart my childhood and my relationship with my parents and that was excruciating to me.
I was intimidated by them. But I could sometimes sense their fear of me too, of my self-destructiveness, of how traumatized I was (even though I didn’t really know it then myself). Other times I would feel the person’s projection on me and I knew their solutions and ideas had nothing to do with me, it was their own unresolved stuff.
But then one day I attended this short workshop on dream symbolism at a local holistic health fair. I was immediately drawn to the woman who led it. I’m going to call her Nan (not her real name). Nan radiated a certain presence. After the workshop I looked up her website and found out she gives therapy sessions in her home in my neighborhood.
I started seeing her once a week and this went on for several months.
I loved it. I loved her. I started to open up. I was coming out of my shell a little. I felt lighter and happier than I had ever felt up to this point.
Interestingly enough she seemed to have no desire to fix me or label me or even try to help me solve my problems. In fact, sometimes I would tell her about the latest health problem I suspected I had and wanted to obsess over it. She would refuse to even discuss it saying “No, we aren’t talking about that”. I would be confused and disappointed at first. Isn’t she supposed to help me figure this out? Doesn’t she see I could be sick, maybe even die? Doesn’t she see something is seriously wrong with me?
Other times I felt relieved and elated with her permission in letting go of guilt and doing what made me happy. But then I would start to blame the other person for guilting me. Again she would say “Nope, not doing that”.
I didn’t realize it at the time but I was forced to let go during those sessions. Nan refused to indulge my fearful obsessive mind and my tendency to swing from blaming myself to blaming someone else.
Sometimes on the way to our session I would feel there was no point to going. I had nothing to talk about and nothing was going on. Those times we would just sit silently together, no pressure or expectation for anything to talk about. Out of nowhere I would start talking about something seemingly random that happened to me recently. And then I realized that yes, something did happen and it bothered me. Nan would listen. She sometimes shared a story. Sometimes just reflect what she noticed in my sharing.
After a few months, she moved away and I instinctively knew it was time for me to move on even though I struggled with losing her. (After this I went on to the work I'm doing now which has given me a depth of knowing that was unimaginable and unattainable for me at that time of seeing Nan)
So why was Nan’s approach to therapy so helpful to me while all the others weren’t? Some therapists I went to had successful careers, books published, and advanced degrees in psychology. Nan didn’t have these things, she was a retired social worker.
It took me years to understand why this woman had such an impact on me.
The two things that stand out to me:
She Respected Me
She Was Present
It seems so simple. But it is profound. Why? Because in order to give these things to me she had to have done it for herself first. That takes focused inner work and wisdom. Can that come just from learning psychology? Can respect and presence come by studying ourselves or another solely through mental concepts and elaborate mental explanations and strategies? No, not in my experience is this possible.
I see it as a deep, very honest, and mystical personal exploration inward. It’s facing the unknown, over and over. And over and over. Until it begins to be more of a way of life. In the unknown we inevitably come to layers of fears and pain from the past. Transforming what we come across frees us and we no longer need to project that onto others.
At that time of seeing Nan, I had not yet learned to respect myself. I had not yet learned to be present with myself. She modeled this for me though. I was not a broken human being that she had to fix and put back together, even though sometimes I wanted her to. She taught me without teaching me. She did what was easy and natural for her. Because of this, I was not a burden to her. I was paying her for a service she provided, yet she refused to take on my worries and fears.
Was she perfect? No. Could she help me understand what was driving my obsessiveness and my guilt and blame? Could she help me see the truth behind my dependence on medications? No. That wasn’t her purpose for me though. That came later when I started working with Mada Dalian. That’s when I started to uncover in myself the respect and presence that I continue to deepen and grow today.
I don’t blame those other therapists for not being able to help me. How could they? They were suffering deeply themselves. In some ways they were also a reflection of myself.
I know now that LOVE is not what we think it is.
I write this in gratitude to all who have guided me towards the next step, regardless of their level of awareness. Most of all to my teacher, Mada.
Leela Haris - Expanding Consciousness