This blog is addressing five skills you can build when doing the hard work of creating new neural pathways in your brain on your path of transformation. These skills will make you more peaceful, less anxious, more graceful, less self-doubting, more fulfilled, less chasing the dangling carrot, more present, less stuck in the past or future, more equanimous, less victim to the natural dark and light waves that life presents.
These skills may or may not lessen the ebb and flow of intensity in your psyche because a lot of how we roll is our temperament. Some of us roll more passionate, expressive, up and down, reactive and sensitive. This it is not wrong or bad. We all have our natures. Do not waste your energy judging yourself. As a friend just reminded me during one of my own internal storms, it is important be on your own team and treat yourself kindly. As a former teacher put it poetically, who you are is not a design flaw.
Happiness is a feeling always in flux depending on circumstances. Peace is more sustainable and brings a certain contentment through dark and light times. Grace is learning how to traverse life’s dark and light times with more fluidity and ease. Fulfillment is being aligned with your true self in all your choices. Equanimity is the ability to have distance from your thoughts and feelings and to not identify with them, creating inner balance. Becoming present happens when the inner witness is strong inside.
The following five skills will help you achieve more peace, equanimity, grace, presence, and fulfillment on your path of healing, in service to true self and self growth…
1) Resilience. The reality is that the feelings you try to avoid and run away from inside will never go away. You will either repress them or feel them. You may repress them by being really angry or hurt by another and blaming them so you can avoid taking responsibility for your emotional experience. You may repress them through the spectrum of addiction/enjoyment/distraction with food, shopping, working, looking good, getting attention, drinking, drugging, etc. But when you are on the path of transforming, you face your addictions/dependencies/distractions and feelings start to rise up.
When you stop projecting onto others you also face all the feelings in the shadow rising up to be felt. And not just feelings. Also, the dark personality that copes with the feelings. Such as your super sarcastic bitchy inner queen, or your lazy nihilistic asshole, we all have our shitty personality that helps us cope and repress the feelings in order to survive. These dark personalities may be in the shadow or not. Mine is not in the shadow but I only show her to my close friends. It’s different for everybody but your dark personality has a bunch of beliefs that are false, such as love is not real, life is meaningless, this type of thing…beliefs that help you cope with what hurts or what you do not have.
To build the skill of resilience is to radically accept the dark personality who has helped you cope with life and then to radically accept all the intense hurt and feelings that are hard and scary to feel that the dark personality protects you from feeling. Radical acceptance of everything you experience will create resilience and resilience gives you the capability to handle life in the dark and light times and especially long periods of darkness such as the dark nights of the soul we all go through.
2) Non-identification: This skill is connected to the practice of mindfulness. The key is to witness the dark personality and all the hard feelings without thinking you are the dark personality or the hard feelings. You may feel like the queen of bitchy sarcastic rage, for instance, but in your mind say, “this is not me”. You may feel extreme anxiety but in your mind you say, “I am not this anxiety”. You need a practice to be able to say these things to yourself and believe it over time.
You can meditate a few different ways. You can sit and do it. You can do it with yoga by connecting breath with movement. You can chant. You can color, draw, or do something with your hands that is repetitive while you witness your thoughts. Or you can do walking meditation.
The key is to be able to witness your thoughts and feelings, not to make them vanish. This builds the witness muscle. Just like building any muscle you get stronger with consistent practice. As you build the witness you can get stronger and better at not identifying with the constant stream of thoughts and feelings coursing through you as well as the many parts of self. We have the dark personality that protects the vulnerable inner kid, we have all the archetypes connecting to self, we have the family system traits, so many parts inside!
To build the skill of non-identification you need to commit to a consistent meditative practice. It is that simple. When you build the witness inside you can stop thinking you are your thoughts and feelings. You begin to free yourself as you grow more resilient to the darkness as you stop identifying with thoughts and feelings.
3) Mind-Body connection. This skill is also rooted in a meditative practice as well but also you connect mind to body through what you consume. We are supposed to be mind-body connected but the split occurs due to the broken world we are born into and our bloodline’s wounds lighting up in the DNA mixed with how we are raised and what we endure. Long story short, we have to find our way back to the natural mind-body connection that is our birthright.
When mind-body are reconnected we feel our feelings in the body and release feelings as they rise up. This keeps us healthy just like pooping out the excess food we eat each day.
When we are mind-body connected we can’t over eat or drink without it hurting and therefor we can’t escape the moment through food, drink, and drugs…we can only use them moderately because body requires balance. When we are connected to body overdoing it feels like crap physically. When we are disconnected from body we can drink five beers or eat a whole bag of chips and not feel any physical discomfort and in fact we may feel great because we are satiating the void. Numbness, dissociation, and de-personalization are all real deals. Connecting mind to body brings the us back into feeling the body’s responses to what we consume and what we truly need in the physical.
It seems by default we all identify with self in the mind and the mind bullies the body.
To build the skill of mind-body connection you need to have the boring practice that you force yourself to do each day. Find your way to the practice right for you. Is it alone or with others? Is it with a video or an app or just creating some space alone?
The other vital way to connect is through food, drink, and everything you put in your body. How much do our minds bully the body? We say, “I love beer,” and identify with being a beer drinker. We say, “I am a chocolate lover” and identify with eating sweets on a regular basis. These are examples. The body may be saying, “ouch my liver,” or “my intestines are growing bacteria and throwing us into disease” and the mind never listens or cares because the self identifies with the things is it consuming while ignoring the body’s needs.
Every body has its own requirements for a diet right for that particular body. Same goes for movement and self-care. What happens if you challenge your mind to listen to body and use that as a practice? Can you notice the cravings instead of giving in to them? Can you tune into your body and take the long road of discovering its best diet and way to stay healthy? Can you release identifying the self with what you consume, radically accept the crappy feelings that rise up when you use restraint and bring the witness to your practice? This will reconnect your mind to your body.
4) Unconditional love. This skill is built through the transpersonal path of connecting self to the divine. The divine does not have to be God, Goddess, or any version of spiritual belief from religious to non-religious. Thoreau connected to nature as his transpersonal force. You can call the transpersonal and see the transpersonal however feels right to you. The understanding is that you are never a disconnected self living in a disconnected word. There is a larger force than you and this larger force can take your burden, your cravings, your confusion, your anger….this force can bring you peace and what you long for deeply, can provide miracle moments, can open doors, make connections, and open up your heart.
You can keep the force as a natural mystery in your mind or hold the force as a God in heaven or a pantheon, it does not matter…but when you cultivate this connection you can begin to access the feeling of unconditional love. This is a natural feeling every human is capable of experiencing. When you feel it you let go of the hurt connected to others and to the self. Letting go does not mean not feeling hurt anymore, it just means that you accept the hurt and you accept those that hurt you, including yourself.
Once you accept the hurt and those who hurt you unconditional love rises up naturally and helps to wash the past away enough to make peace with unfairness, loss and all the vicissitudes of life. Feeling unconditional is a process. To build the skill of feeling unconditional love is to cultivate your transpersonal relationship just as you would cultivate any relationship in your life. The more intimate you become with the transpersonal the greater your capacity to feel unconditional love and release the suffering in the heart.
Mindfulness helps you distance yourself from suffering. Connecting to the transpersonal transmutes the suffering.
5) Courage. I know it sounds simple but it’s an invaluable skill that takes time to build unless you are one of those naturally courageous people. Most of us aren’t and judge ourselves for it. Instead, let’s radically accept the lack of courage and not identify with this lack.
With courage we can face what we tend to avoid. What we resist persists. If you don’t face your fear of being vulnerable you will continue to hurt others close to you and yourself with your avoidance. If you don’t face your fear of the broken messed up world you will continue to escape reality and grow stagnant and angry. If you don’t face your failing relationship you will continue to endure with a stiff upper lip and false hope while the sensitive one in the relationship or family system will unconsciously feel all of the anxiety you avoid and they will suffer and not understand they are feeling your feelings too. These are just a few examples.
Courage is key. We all avoid pain, doubt. and vulnerability because we are all scared. Courage gives us the quality to face what we fear. You don’t need to have confidence in yourself to have courage either. Courage is not high self esteem. Courage is simply a willingness. If you are willing you can walk through what you fear and show up aligned with your true self.
You can ask the transpersonal to give you courage and it will work. You can also take a pragmatic path to building courage by telling yourself you will do one small scary thing a day and build tolerance in increments. I know for myself, I have a lot of weakness in this area. On my own path to building the skill of courage, I find that asking spirit to give me courage while meeting spirit half way and doing small scary things is the best recipe.
Courage is incredibly transforming because when we face what we avoid we become who we truly are and this sense of fulfillment opens up many new doors within and in the world.
Resilience, Non-identification, Mind-body connection, Unconditional love, and Courage I capitalize in honor of these powerful skills on the path of transformation and healing. These are not easy skills to build nor are they the only skills that matter but they are five potent keys that will change your life and awaken your true self.