The Untrained Mind

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAJust because you think it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Just because you feel it doesn’t mean you have to act on it.

I find myself saying there two statements almost more than any other to my clients and course members.

Somewhere along the way we learned to bow down to every thought and feeling that crosses into consciousness. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that we never learned along the way how to navigate the sometimes tricky road of thoughts and feelings, meaning how to cultivate the muscle of discernment that allows us determine which thoughts are true and which are false; which feelings are originating from health and which are rooted in fear.

Unless you learn the skill of discernment, you will become a complete victim to your thoughts and feelings. A thought enters your mind like “I don’t love my partner enough” or “I have cancer” and you immediately latch onto it as the truth. The next thing you know you’re spinning into a tizzy of anxiety, caught up in the magnetic energy of that thought which you have believed as truth. Or you feel resistance when your wife comes over to you for a hug and a kiss, and you fall prey to the power of the fear/resistance, which causes you to constrict and turn away from her ever so subtly.

Until you develop a strong, wise presence inside of you that can make choices based on clear intellect and values rather than fleeting thoughts and feelings you will be buffeted around by the fleeting thoughts and feelings that fluctuate like hormones inside your mind and body. If you’re navigating your life by the compass of thoughts and feelings you will live on a stormy sea, indeed. It would be like allowing your three-year old to run your household instead of recognizing that every house – just like every psyche – needs a solid and loving adult at the helm.

What are the alternatives? When you have access to the choice-point – meaning a pause between a thought or feeling and believing it or acting on it – you win back all the power. It’s in that small yet decisive moment between thought and action that you can say, “Do I want to latch onto this thought?” or “Do I want to act on this feeling?” Let’s take the example above with the man who hooks into the resistance and pushes away his wife. The man could think, “This resistance means I don’t really love her”, thereby perpetuating the feeling, which is quite likely originating from a fear-based place inside of him. If he gives into the feeling and acts from that place, his fear-wall will become fortified. If, on the other hand, he recognizes his habit of resistance and withdrawal and acts against it by moving toward her despite the feeling, he will likely feel the resistance for a few moments and then it will loosen and soften into receptivity.

I can hear the anxious questions piping up in the galley right about now: “But how do I know which thoughts are true and which feelings to act on? How do I develop this loving, clear presence inside of me?” This is one of the many gifts of anxiety: the pain is so great that we’re inspired to learn skills and grow parts of ourselves that we never needed to grow otherwise. You learn to listen to the wise part of you by taking actions that require that you turn inward. The only way to know your inner world is to spend time with yourself in silence and solitude. There are many ways to do this – journaling, meditation, prayer, dreamwork, to name a few – but one or more must be engaged if you’re going to connect with your inner wisdom and learn to navigate your life guided by your inner compass instead of your thoughts and feelings.

I would like to be able to break it down for you into a succinct and simple “how to”, but the truth is that there is no formula. The guidance on which way to turn and how to act must be accessed on a case-by-case, moment-by-moment experience. Part of the anxiety comes from the belief that there’s one “correct” answer for every life situation. This is the belief of the ego-mind that needs to split the world into duality (right/wrong; good/bad; black/white). When we allow ourselves to be guided by the multi-dimensional realm of the unconscious – which makes itself known in healthy ways through dreams, prayer, meditation, journaling and in more disturbing ways through anxiety, intrusive thoughts, insomnia, and other neuroses – we grow our tolerance for ambiguity, which then allows us to flow more fluidly with life’s changing terrain.

However, a basic guiding principle is to know that clear, loving decisions are made from our values and commitments. As one of the men I interviewed for my e-course said so clearly about his wife, “The thoughts and the feelings don’t define whether or not I love her. What defines it is the actions.” This is a man who struggled profoundly with relationship anxiety, specifically with the thought, “I’ve fallen out of love.” It was when he understood that love is action and isn’t defined by whether or not we feel attracted or “in love” in a particular moments that he was able to break free from the stronghold of his fluctuating thoughts and feelings. This awareness came from months of reading, journaling, dialoguing, and meditating. His dark night of the soul initiated by relationship anxiety propelled him to commit to a path of inner work like nothing he had known before. Through this commitment and practice he developed a strong and loving witness self, and from that place he was able to assimilate the knowledge that thoughts and feelings aren’t reliable barometers of truth.

In a nutshell, thoughts and feelings can originate from fear or from love, from habit or from truth. If we act on every thought or feelings that darts through mind or heart we will be as untamed as a toddler. By contrast, when we learn to train the mind and discipline the heart, we learn to act from our values and commitments. We act because we value love and so we move toward love. We move toward the places that scare us and act from courage because we value growth. Even if everything inside of me wants to turn away from the one I love, I acknowledge the strength of the feelings but choose to open anyway. I do this because I value love over fear. I do this because I choose to be a love-warrior.

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Recommended Reading: The Untethered Soul

One Body

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One of the most damaging spokes of the anxiety wheel is the belief that you’re the only one who struggles with the particular thoughts and feelings that dominate your inner world. In our “How are you? I’m fine” culture that worships the happy face and denies a truthful telling of what we’re really feeling beneath the surface, it’s easy to believe that you’re the only one who struggles. This is why when you do happen upon information or people who share the shadow, a significant portion of anxiety is lifted.

The truth is that we are all interconnected in ways that we don’t always consciously realize. The isolation that has overtaken modern life belies the reality of our interconnectedness and supports the ego’s mindset of separateness, which then causes us to tumble down the rabbit hole of shame. But when we have a veil-lifting experience – one that reminds us … Click here to continue reading…

. . . → Read More: One Body

The Truth about New Motherhood

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Over the past several years, many of the women who I helped midwife emotionally across the threshold of the marriage transition have birthed themselves as new mothers. And just like our culture doesn’t tell the truth about the challenges of intimate relationships, it also fails us when it comes to offering accurate information and effective support so that women and their partners can traverse the terrain of this next transition with consciousness and joy.

We know it’s going to be hard, but we have no idea how hard it’s going to be. We know that we might be sleep-deprived or have trouble breastfeeding, but we have no idea how these challenges will effect the emotional terrain of our experience, how deeply breastfeeding, for example, is linked to self-worth as a mother and how, if it doesn’t happen easily or at all, we feel that we’ve failed.

Because I’m privy to … Click here to continue reading…

. . . → Read More: The Truth about New Motherhood

Longing for Aliveness

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It’s often during this time of year in the Northern hemisphere, when the entire natural world is quivering with a restlessness to birth itself anew, when the animals are shaking the last snowflakes off their backs and the flowers are poking their heads above ground, that the projection of, “I’m not attracted/in love enough with my partner” emerges loud and fierce in my work with clients.

Why would this be? Why would the transition of seasons cause the projection about attraction and in-love feelings to rear its familiar, compelling, and insistent head?

Let’s break it down:

Transitons, for the highly sensitive among us, activate grief, restlessness, and vulnerability. This is true for the larger life transitions – getting married, moving, buying a house, having a baby – as well as for the ones that receive little to no attention in this culture: dusk and dawn, birthdays, and the change of … Click here to continue reading…

. . . → Read More: Longing for Aliveness

Watch for the Spark

Note: As always, if you’re not a parent please apply these concepts to your own childhood and also how you attend to your own inner self/child today.

Because of my passion for and writing on the topic of transitions, my readers often ask me for parenting advice. While I feel competent sharing ideas and guidance about the transition into parenting – i.e. bearing and birthing a baby in preparation for the first year of life as a new mother – I hesitate in the realm of advice centered on the actual job of parenting for several reasons.

For one thing, I firmly believe that parents are their own best resource and experts. Nobody knows you, your child, and your family configuration as well as you do, so the most supportive “advice” I can offer is often to trust your own deepest knowing about how to move forward in a particular situation. … Click here to continue reading…

. . . → Read More: Watch for the Spark