Every time I have ‘too much to do ’ I have to really take myself for a walk, and there’s always resistance. I’ve learned to lean into the resistances, if only I can get myself away from my desk and out the door, or on to the cushion. I seem to be glued to the seat sometimes. My work is safe. My desk is safe. Bacaue it’s all, up here, in my head. During my mindful walks in the woods, well anything can happen – in my mind. ‘Stuff’ has a habit of coming up which has been transformational at times, but has left me with a slight apprehension around it – what on earth is going to come up next? The bodyscan was the catalyst for the release of suppressed emotions, thoughts and feelings.
It’s interesting how my intention to practice seems to be matched equally with a subconsious counter intention to resist any jiggery-pokery (simple mindful awareness) in the egoic preference system. My intention to be mindful now sends an alert message to my ‘ego’ and danger lights start flashing. I have befriended my egoic system and we both now enjoy this interplay. How subtle this mindfulness is, and how subtle the equal force of resistance becomes.
I met this interplay with the bodyscan practice which I am practicing at the moment as I learn to deliver the MBLC course. It began with a resistance to the practice. The more I practice it now, by listening to others and by reading my own notes in my journals from over the years I am realizing what a many-layered practice it is. Mindfulness practice when used skillfully with the bodyscan can open another portal: into the emotional body. So being aware of this as a portal to accessing supressed emotions (from my own experience) hopefully will help me to guide people to go easy and to meet any experience with loving kindness.
This is something that I definitely was not expecting when I first encountered the bodyscan practice. I thought it was just a little rest for us in between all the sitting cross legged like Buddhas. Ah to be flat! I mean, the way everyone dives for their blankets and within seconds of Heather’s declaration of ‘Bodyscan Practice’ (I can hear Heather so clearly after listening to the APP so many times trying to learn it) the flurry of blankets from the Samye Ling shop has settled down and there’s a hush, and the vibrant expectation of hearing the first little snore coming from under a blanket somewhere over there… People can’t wait to do the bodyscan practice. We all have a different experience of bodyscan. I remember thinking it was a bit of a waste of time when I could be learning something! (Notice what my mind does?)
Now, the opposite. I see that I had such resistance to this because somehow, some part of me knew this was what I needed, THIS was the start of FEELING something. And that, is not what I do. I just get on, cope, stiff upper lip and all that. Uh-oh.
So working with the body became sensitive. Triggering emotional reactions which I didn’t immediately understand and opening doors into feelings that I didn’t know I had, memories I had never remembered. I was so cut off from my body I couldn’t even tell the difference between thoughts, feelings, emotions. I was a coper. Everything shoved away in a dark cupboard and I thought I’d thrown away the key. I didn’t ever want to open that cupboard. I didn’t even think I had a cupboard. The bodyscan for me is like that dream I have of finding rooms in a house I didn’t know I had.
So I’m learning to deliver the bodyscan as if we have just moved into a new house for the first time – and we are wandering and wondering around looking in all the rooms and paying attention to all the details we find there and with that feeling we get when looking at a new house – curiosity with a frisson of excitement about what we might find. And noticing what thoughts and feelings arise about everything we find, everything that comes into our experience. Remaining open to that experience and bringing curiosity to any reactions and equally curious if we experience no feelings and no reactions. Which was what happened to me for some time. A lack of feeling. A lot of nothing.
Practicing the bodyscan a lot in the past two weeks (every night in bed I guide myself through it) I have noticed something seep into my conscious world from my subconsious world. Reading Jacky’s powerful blog last week was a catalyst which nudged me over the edge into full conscious acknowledgement: emotional suppression releasing: I was becoming emotional ‘for no reason’ throughout my day but I wasn’t sure what it was about. Goosepimples at films, surging tears coming – I have no idea what triggered them- nothing I could put my finger on.
As I read Jacky’s words, I felt the emotion well up in me, I felt it right under the surface, and it filled my body with a deep blue-green ocean. I was mindfully aware of the visceral effect Jacky’s words had on me as I read them- they were resonating within my body and connecting with my own suffering and compassion.
Later in the week, on Fay’s course the Wonder of the Everyday we were invited to imagine a person with a quality we admired and would like to cultivate in ourselves. For me the image very strongly was Akong Rinpoche. I saw the vision of this humble strong and wise man and yes – I would very much like to have those qualities please. The question was dropped into the mind like a pebble – What is it that comes between me and this quality that I so admire in this person?
When I allowed the inner wisdom to tell me what came between me and that wisdom, the blue-green vast and deep body of water came to me again as the representation of my emotions. My emotions are coming between me and wisdom. This came as a huge insght for me. My emotions lead to thinking and blockage – but they are the key to it. There is a sense that this body of water is being held back- there is enormous strain in holding it back and there is fear that the dam will burst and that I will be overwhelmed and drowned. So I’m with this feeling. I’ve had it before and I thought I had dealt with what what came from it. This like the second wave. I move towards it and move away from it. I invite it in – I find the edge, I retreat to safety, grounding myself in my breath in my body, my feet on the floor. Jacky’s words gave me permission to allow the tears to come. When they ‘threaten’ to arise (notice the word that came to mind?) they are accompanied by a tight sharp throat feeling. I am scared of what is coming because I don’t know what it is.
Jacky says “let the tears represent what wants to come out”. This melted me – showed me a way, gave me permission to let them out and be ok with not-knowing.
The bodyscan is a vital practice. It has helped me notice what I welcome and what I resist in my sensations, feelings, and therefore thoughts – noticing the minutiae of detail flowing from moment to moment from the INSIDE of my body- sensations that are hardly registered by the thinking brain, it labels things like ‘pain’ and that label in a way is like a full stop. The labelling has stopped me moving beyond that label into really noticing the ‘constellations of sensations’ that I label ‘pain’ – and when I really engage my curiosity around those sensations, I notice they are fleeting, the is no-thing we can call pain – only shifting sensations. This doesn’t mean that pain doesn’t exist or that if you live with chronic pain that you are making it up – it’s more like a shift in our relationship to the pain as we notice what it is saying to us rather than be stuck with a more concrete immovable concept – it is continually shifting and changing..
We practice letting things be just as they are, not fixing anything, as there is nothing to fix. Our experience is as it is. That is all. Notice, and let it be. The bodyscan trains us to pick up on the physical cues which indicate underlying emotions – as we practice we learn to notice this in our daily life – we notice subtle attitudes and emotions like resentment, anger… (tightness in chest, tense arms, clenched jaw…). I recently read The Body Keeps the Score: Mind Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma- By Bessel van der Kolk which I do recommend.
Compassion is key. If you have completed mindfulness Level 1 course and feel ready for this next plunge into the deeper currents of mindfulness then the Level 2 Compassion course with Choden and Jacky I cannot recommend enough. I did the mindfulness Level 1 twice and then on the MSc we undertook the Compassion course and it has added so much depth and understanding to my own processes (and made me much easier to live with! My family don’t know what’s happened haha). I positively bathe in the compassion practices.
The introduction of self-compassion was a game changer for me and feels like the crucible of deep transformation. Read Tara Brach’s Radical Compassion to get you in the mood! Read Mindful Compassion by Paul Gilbert and Choden. Thank goodness for the words ‘soften soothe and allow’ (From a practice with Choden HERE).
As I navigate this emotional ocean – these words are my mantra this week. As I meet the unknown as it arises in my body, I soften against my resistance, I soothe myself with an attitude of lovingkindness, and I gently allow what it is to just be there.
WEEKLY CHALLENGE – Soften, Soothe, Allow
This week I invite you to bring the attitude of soften soothe and allow into your bodyscan, and into your daily life as you go about your day.
Notice any pains or negative thoughts around your body? Soften, soothe and allow – how does that feel?.
Notice any difficulties at work? Soften soothe and allow – what happens when you do that?
Feeling defensive? Notice that and soften, soothe and allow – how does that feel?
You may experience some insight from this simple act of letting things be, with an attitude of loving kindness. Most of all be gentle with yourself. You need that. I use RAIN to appraoch these emaotions when they arise, and I have found a wonderful practice led by Jacky which incorporates Bodyscan and RAIN HERE – try different ones, and always soften, soothe and allow.
I love hearing from you so if you’d like to share your experience with me and Jacky please do email us at email@example.com
Take care, have a great weekend. Until next time,