The author and spiritual teacher David Deida tells a story about being at a party and seeing his mentor’s wife talking with an attractive man.
“Aren’t you jealous?” Deida asked his mentor.
“Yes,” his mentor responded. “But that I’m jealous isn’t bothering me.”
In other words, his mentor was choosing how to relate to his jealousy. He wasn’t turning the emotion into a problem. He was allowing it to just be there.
As the therapist and meditation teacher Ralph De La Rosa says, “Our emotions aren’t up to us. What we do with them, however, is absolutely up to us.”
This is for those who’ve never been to therapy. You’re not crazy or weird or broken. You’re just a human living in a society out of touch with its humanity.
Like many men, I probably wouldn’t have ever seen a therapist if it weren’t for a woman.
That’s because those of us who were raised as men were shamed for showing emotions. We were told to “man up” and stop acting “like a girl.” So we shy away from feeling let alone talking about our vulnerability. (Because ours is a patriarchal society, many women experience the same pressures.)
Let’s zoom in on mindfulness to get a sense of what we’re after when we sit down to meditate.
Mindful.org says it’s “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
There are a few interesting things here.
Mindfulness is a “basic” human ability. Meaning, it’s not some complex skill that we have to spend 10,000 hours learning how to do. It’s available to us in any moment.
You can think of the ability to stay in the present moment…
This will sound wrong to your modern, capitalist ears, but it’s true. Relaxing the body relaxes the mind far more than the other way around.
School didn’t teach us this. The stories our society tells about success and happiness don’t reflect it.
We’re told that thinking is king. That rational thought is more valuable than emotion. That more information — more data — is always better.
But that just doesn’t line up with the science of how the body works.
Some 80 percent of information that travels between the mind and body goes from the body to the mind.
When was the last time you felt triggered by someone you love? What about the last time you treated someone in a way you now regret?
What did it feel like in your body? What was going through your mind? Can you remember?
Maybe your shoulders pulled up. Maybe the muscles around your eyes scrunched. Maybe your stomach balled up in a knot.
Maybe you can’t remember your body because you were so lost in thought.
What you were experiencing was a deep-rooted pattern that started when you were little. …
My dad comes from a working class area of West Virginia, with German Protestant ancestors who were sent to the American colonies as indentured servants. My mom, from a long line of self-sufficient family farmers in rural Maryland.
No wonder I struggle with anxiety. Particularly, anxiety about never getting enough work done. A voice in my head that whispers, “You better get moving.” A wretched restlessness that won’t quit until I burn out and collapse.
I inherited generations of capitalist ways of being. …
There’s a tragic irony to this life: The only thing we can control is whether we’re willing to stop trying to control things. Whether we’re willing to let go.
The bad news is, letting go is probably the hardest thing to do.
Addiction recovery programs offer 12 steps over months, years, even decades to help people let go of alcohol, heroin, or something else they love. Meetings are available 24/7, in every corner of the world. There’s almost certainly someone spilling their guts out in a meeting somewhere right now about how hard it’s been to let go.
Some years ago, I did a meditation retreat with Natalie Goldberg, the Zen Buddhist teacher and writer of the bestselling Writing Down the Bones.
Goldberg said so many memorable things that week. She even called me “sweetie” when we were shooting the shit in the monastery’s office about the painter Georgia O’Keefe.
But what really has stuck with me — what’s branded on my heart — is her presence.
She was a rock, immovable, unrelenting. And she never let me off the hook.
“Keep coming back,” she would say during meditation. A command, not a suggestion.
In a word, she…
One of my earliest memories is sitting cross-legged in front of the TV and getting some news that rocked my little kid world.
My mom was talking on the cordless phone behind me in the kitchen. A lawnmower blared outside.
I felt free, content, and safe. My family’s quiet, suburban Maryland home oozed 1990s middle-class prosperity. Five types of cereal sat in the pantry. Fifty cable channels awaited my eyes.
My mom came over to talk to me. “They wanted to hold you back from first grade. But I told them no,” she said. “You can handle it.”
I didn’t grow up religious, but I’ve recently fallen in love with saying a little prayer before meals.
Not a prayer, really. Some words of gratitude.
For the food itself. For who picked the blueberries in my oatmeal. For who transported them to the grocery store. For the cows that provided the milk for the yogurt. For the humans who made the first yogurt many years ago. For my friend Andrew who taught me to add honey to oatmeal. …