Initially, I wanted to write something about the New Year. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that
a) we aren’t there yet and
b) where we are is smack-dab in the middle of holiday madness.
So, instead, I have a rather goofy suggestion to help you cope with whatever chaos, melt-down, or overwhelm you may be experiencing right now, 8 days prior to 2010.
Let’s start with some background:
A few years ago I attended a workshop at Asilomar in Monterey, California. One afternoon we played with consciously varying our internal state while our hands were on or partner’s shoulders.
The facilitator asked us to touch our partners as if they were young children, crying, with scraped knees. Then, as if our partners were fragile, elderly people on their deathbed. Next, as if they were grief-stricken friends, then as strangers, followed by lovers, followed by clients in pain, etc.
Our partners, by the way, only participated through giving us feedback on the quality of our touch, not through pretending to be any of the people described above.
The point was to make it obvious that we naturally and unconsciously vary how we relate to (how we touch) people depending on the situation and our level of familiarity with them.
And, that the qualities coming through our hands are determined more by our personal internal states versus anything that is happening externally.
During the exercise, the quality of my touch did change. It became soothing and calm with the crying child, sensual while imagining the lover, gentle and compassionate with the elderly person.
This exercise blew my mind.
I discovered how all those qualities (compassion, sensuality, gentleness…) existed within me independent of whatever was happening around me. That my partner didn’t actually have to be in tears in order for me to access, for example, the quality of compassion.
What does all this mean?
Well, today, it means we get to play! We get to use our imaginations to help us access different internal states or qualities that will make it easier for us to survive the rest of the holidays.
Let’s start with two ways to connect with different qualities/internal states.
- Just ask for them. For example, say your mother-in-law is driving you crazy and you really want to keep the peace. So, ask for compassion (or whatever quality would be helpful for you). Then, give yourself a moment to be quiet and receptive and see/feel what happens.
Now, honestly, this approach isn’t actually very effective for me but I know it works well for some people. If you are one of them, great. You can stop reading now. Although, if you do, you’re going to miss all the upcoming silliness. 🙂
- Do like I did in the exercise and imagine (in this case) the crazy-making mother-in-law in a state that would naturally elicit the quality of compassion within you.
Here’s where it gets goofy.
Just how extreme of a situation will you have to put your mother-in-law into in order to truly be able to feel compassion? Will just seeing her as a fellow human being be enough or will you have to take it further?
For me, depending on the situation, I may be imagining knife wounds, her house aflame, ninjas descending…
Note: just thinking about exaggerating things like this makes me laugh. Which, in itself, shifts my internal state. Nice!
Perhaps I’m so fed up with (to stay with the above example) my mother-in-law that I can’t even imagine a scenario that would lead to me feeling any sort of companionable emotions.
In this case, perhaps I’d have to take the imagination to yet another level. Maybe I could imagine the mother-in-law as an adorable abandoned puppy looking up at me with sad, hopeful eyes. How can that not melt my heart?
The important thing is to just keep playing with different scenarios until you find one that allows you to access a more easy-going internal state in relation to the mother-in-law.
Final suggestion – shifting your relationship to yourself.
So, we’ve talked about shifting your relationship to the other and doing whatever it takes to feel love and compassion and kindness towards them. But, what about you?
You’re the one that is going crazy and feeling overwhelmed. Can you apply this same approach to yourself?
Here’s two suggestions:
First, use something external (like the mother-in-law) and imagine her in a situation that elicits the quality of compassion within you. Then, take the focus off of her and simply feel and enjoy that quality of compassion for yourself.
Sounds great, right?
Often, though, I find it difficult to truly feel compassion (or kindness, love, whatever) for myself.
So, the second approach involves imagining myself in some dire predicament (perhaps the very predicament that is causing me distress in the moment).
Take a moment and imagine a second version of you. See yourself fully and vividly. See all the chaos and stress around this copy of you.
Is it possible for you to feel any compassion for that second you?
If so, let yourself feel it fully and, if you want, you can even imagine sending that imagined version of you all the compassion, kindness, and love it can possibly handle.
And, since you are that second version, you will be both the receiver and the giver.
Lovely, simply lovely.
So, that’s what I’m going to be playing with for the rest of 2009. Using imagination and exaggeration to access whatever quality will be the most helpful for me in the moment.
Do you want to play?