A while back, I got curious: could I stand up from sitting cross legged on the floor without using my hand? NO WAY! I haven’t comfortably sat cross legged on the floor since I was in primary school (first school) let alone getting up from that position with no hands. I had a pretty fixed idea that my hips are stiff and inflexible. What the heck, I’ll give it a try anyway, I thought.
The first few times I tried? No way Jose. My bum wasn’t budging and everything screamed no, when I tried to push myself up. Talk about dead weight. How could I ever do this? Surely it would take weeks or more likely months of gradual stretching or else get me a body swap! It’s was NO, NO, NO. Are you getting what a hard NO, it was?
But something interesting happened. One day, I thought, what if I WAS someone who could get up from sitting cross legged. I started to imagine it despite having tried a half dozen times, in my living room with absolutely no improvement. Funnily enough, I didn’t go to You Tube for hints and tips.
Then, one summer day, I was in a wood, with my husband. We were stretched out under a tree on a blanket, looking at the sun dappled leaves above us. Suddenly, I thought to try again. The ground was sandy and yielding. I stood up and moved to one side and sat down, with my shoes on.
How exactly it happened I can’t explain but one minute I was sitting cross legged, the next, after leaning forward and pushing up I stood easily, without using my hands, all in one movement. Where was all that resistance, difficulty and solid NO? I laughed with delight. And of course had to do it again for good measure.
I got to wondering how teachable I was with this little project and did that make any difference to the outcome? Was there something about state of mind here that allowed this magic to happen? What about in our understanding of the way the mind works and the spiritual nature of life, can we be more teachable?
Here are 5 ways I’ve seen to be more teachable (and they come naturally as our consciousness rises):-
- Be grateful for the nudge to learn
- Be willing to learn
- Be grateful for discomfort
- Imagine yourself as the person who’s got this
- Measure your teachability by what shows up in your experience
While the process of waking up and having insights is beautifully mysterious, I wonder whether we can’t prepare the ground as it were. Let’s take those one at a time:-
1. Be grateful for the nudge to learn
Gratitude is a doorway to raising consciousness. When you get the nudge or longing to go deeper in your understanding you might have all kinds of feelings. Excitement, doubt, impatience, frustration, self-criticism but how often are we grateful for those nudges? We’ve had them all our lives. Those nudges spark learning in every area of our lives. Take a moment to wonder at where those nudges come from. I’ve no idea. As we appreciate the nudge to learn, it beautifully opens up space, for wisdom, insight and learning. It brings us into the present moment. It’s a catalyst for our state of mind to begin to rise. Put another way, it is a turning away from being caught in our heads.
And what about willingness to learn?
2. Be willing to learn
What does it mean to be willing to learn? You have to be a beginner again. A student. To relish that student status. To open to not being good at something. Enjoy it. You get to ask, be curious and open to listening more deeply. What are we listening for or to? Right now, I’m interested in listening to the aliveness and motion of the life energy within and all around us. Even to becoming that energy as it expresses itself, in walking, sitting, playing, working, in everything that shows up in our experience. If we can tap along to that beat, wisdom gets revealed effortlessly. As our consciousness rises our capacity for learning increases as the noise of our personal thinking moves into the background or quiets down altogether. We get less interested in it.
And sure, it can be uncomfortable, not knowing.
3. Be grateful for discomfort
To not know can be very uncomfortable in our culture. Usually that’s because we’ve been taught we should always know things, have strong opinions and sound confident and assertive. This is only one way to be in the world. And it tends to lead to separation and repetition of what has already been created.
If we find discomfort hard to tolerate we can rush to fill that space with some knowing, however spurious. But what if we turn that on its head. Rather than set down neural pathways identifying ‘not knowing’ as a problem, what if we again find gratitude for our discomfort. Not knowing is the most fertile ground where fresh insights and ideas grow. The discomfort is letting you know that you can loosen your grip. Being grateful for that signal turns you towards something fresh and new. Gratitude is a beautiful tonic for the soul. It relaxes our grip and opens us to the present moment.
Once we relax, we can begin to play.
4. Imagine yourself as the person who’s got this
It’s wonderful to consciously use our imagination to play in this realm. Consider what you are longing for. Is it for a peaceful loving heart, to move through life’s ups and downs with more grace and ease. Is it to feel safe and comfortable in your own skin?
Just as I began to imagine getting up from sitting cross legged on the floor without using my hands, what would it be like to imagine ourselves as someone with a peaceful, loving heart, or someone who felt safe and comfortable in our own skin?
In my experience, this bypasses the resistance, the limitations of what we’ve already experienced. It moves us away from our existing, fixed ideas and beliefs. The realm of the imagination is very fertile. It opens us to a world not yet created. It is in fact the first step in creating something new. If you can’t imagine something, how could it ever come into your life?
And how might we measure our teachability? How open, willing and grateful we are? There’s a sure way to see.
5. Measure your teachability by what shows up in your experience
During a wonderful conversation about learning horse riding skills, I heard this, ‘My first teacher, was very good. She didn’t lavish me with praise, she would let the results of her teaching show in my riding, so I got to know when I’d learnt something.’
This is very powerful. If you want to live a more loving life for example, the only place to measure how that’s going is in your own experience. Are you having more loving relationships? Are you spending more time in feelings of contentment? If not, maybe gently reflect on how teachable you are just now? Note: this is not an opportunity to criticise yourself. So stop that. Look to bring loving kindness to it all: the self judgement, the resistance, the low state of mind. Loving kindness, like gratitude is a gateway to something fresh.
Whether it is trying to get up from sitting cross legged on the floor without using your hands, or trying to integrate the glimpses of innate health and wellbeing you’ve seen, here are 5 ways I’ve seen to be more teachable: be more grateful for the nudges to learn, more willing to learn, more grateful for discomfort, imagine yourself as the person who’s got this and look to your own experience to measure how teachable you are.
And the great news? Every moment is a new teachable moment. Every moment has infinite possibility. So even if there is something in your life you’ve longed for but feels elusive, at any moment, you can have an insight that can change everything. We can’t get insights on demand but I think we can prepare the ground.
Or as Sydney Banks, who uncovered the Three Principles, summarised so well, I paraphrase, ‘look to the beautiful feeling, well, you might as well ……. in the meantime!’
As I return to hosting conversations, I see more and more how my job as a facilitator is simply to be in that feeling where wisdom can flourish. That in itself invites others into the feeling where they can hear their own wisdom. In these conversations we are preparing the ground, making ourselves teachable, so wisdom can arise and guide us. What you need to hear, I have no idea. What I need to hear tomorrow, I have no idea. When we tune into that deeper dimension, we can trust that we will hear and see what we need to hear and see. That is the beauty and magic of this work. I’m so looking forward to being in conversation with you again.
Interested in joining me in conversation? Mosey on over to see what new Gatherings are on offer or you can Consult with me 1:2:1.
My internet connection went down two days before I went away. I vaguely hoped it would sort itself out if I just turned it on and off (my first resort with all electrical appliance misbehaviour). No luck. Somewhat reluctantly I called the provider the afternoon before my departure.
It was a fairly long call as diagnostic tests were run and the operator and I got chatting. When she found out I was off to the USA she shared stories of great adventures she’d had out there. By the end of the call, grateful for all the travel tips she’d shared, I laughed and said she should be working for Visit USA, such was her warmth and enthusiasm.
Since returning, I’ve had more calls with the provider but none quite as delightful as the first one.
What I noticed about that call was: I had nothing much on the outcome. I didn’t expect it would necessarily get sorted immediately and I was about to go off on a much anticipated trip so I wasn’t all that bothered. The operator was also in a space of open curiosity, full of goodwill and so what looked like it would be a hassle and irritating turned out to be one of those random joyous interactions in life.
How often we pre-judge what comes up
What strikes me about this is how often we pre-judge what comes up in life, usually based on how things went in the past. We react to our thoughts, other people and situations as if we have to follow a particular script, as if we know this is going to turn out badly or well. Acting in this way, (as if we could ever really know what will happen), cuts us off from just being with what comes up, with nothing on it.
“At times we are captivated by our own ego and become prisoners of our contaminated thoughts”
p.72 The Missing Link by Sydney Banks
Leaning into what is, with no judgement
Alternatively when we lean in to what comes up, expecting nothing, aware that in any moment we could have any one of an infinite number of experiences then we stop looking for some imagined outcome and get really present with what is happening right now. We are so quick to label ourselves, our thoughts, events and others as good, bad or ugly, that we experience our pre-judgement rather than what is actually happening.
Have you had this experience? Have you caught yourself, pre-determining how your day is going to go, how others are going to react? The funny thing is, our pre-judgement often proves to be true and so tends to reinforce our beliefs and judgements. What would happen if just for a moment you let go of those judgements, got less serious and just stay open to whatever is coming up?
I’d love to hear your comments.
#Judgemental #LeanIn #TheThreePrinciples #SydneyBanks #Ego
Next programme: Love Your Life Again Online starting Autumn 2018.
I went to look at contemporary art in a gallery recently. It wasn’t what I’d planned. I was heading to look at a collection from the nineteenth century but at the last minute found myself outside a modern art gallery and so, on a whim, I changed my plan and headed in despite a niggling feeling.
Why the reluctance?
I have an idea I just don’t ‘get’ modern art. Rather than come right out and admit that, in the past, I would have said it is pretentious, pointless or some other sweeping generalisation. But I thought I would give it a go.
Once in front of a multi-media exhibition I found myself examining the labels on each piece. Words. I like words. I was looking for a way in, to understand the point of the piece.
To my surprise I found myself amused and drawn by several pieces
Next up, a photographer’s work. Framed black and white print after framed black and white print with no captions. What! No descriptions. I read the bio of the artist and once I realised there were no captions, I relaxed and started to gaze at the prints. They were arresting and showed a variety of subjects. Instead of trying to work out where they were I found myself just enjoying the atmosphere and the feeling I got from the prints. I was captivated.
It strikes me it’s very easy to get all opinionated about life as it comes through us
To have all kinds of rules and stories about how things should be, in our heads and in our lives. This tends to leave us with a precarious relationship to what ‘is’ because most of what shows up falls into the ‘not okay’ category. And what I realised from my foray into contemporary art is you miss so much when you stick to randomly created ideas (calcified into beliefs) about what things are or are not, should or should not be.
‘Like’ or ‘dislike’ are totally arbitrary and subject to change
And more often than not our opinions and beliefs come from thoughts about the past rather than what is in front of us.
We may like the smell of coffee because we associate it with all sorts of ‘nice’ things. We may dislike wet weather because in the past we have felt down on a grey day. The sentiment is not really about the coffee or the rain it’s about what stories we hold about them.
And those can change at any time….. Who knows what you currently dislike or think is impossible that you could see differently, at any moment?
I’d love to hear what comes up for you on reading this article. Please add any comments, questions, reflections or insights below.
As tools to communicate, social media platforms are fantastically efficient: fast, (mostly) free and easy to access and they provide a whole world of connections, information and inspiration.
However when we begin to mis-use our social media feeds: say constantly checking our Facebook feed to get a hit of feeling good or begin to compare ourselves negatively with others or simply use it to distract ourselves from engaging in tasks we dislike, the Facebook feed no longer serve us and can become a hindrance to being or doing in the world as we would wish.
This is not the fault of the social media platforms, simply a result of how we use them. How nice it is when we switch off our social media feed for a while. Returning to our feed after a break, we get reminded too what a great tool it can be when we are clear about when it’s helpful and when it’s not.
Our social media feed is not so different from our cognitive function
Our cognitive function, our ability to reason and make judgement is a fabulous tool which is incredibly helpful when we are faced with certain problems, tasks or projects such as building a bridge, baking a cake, learning to play an instrument, organising a party, booking travel plans, doing our tax returns or buying tickets.
Where would we be without it?
It excels at assembling facts, looking critically at information, making judgements, weighing up pros and cons and coming to conclusions. All very useful skills in some areas of life. Imagine the world if this function did not exist?
But our analysing and judging capabilities are really, really rubbish when it comes to matters of the heart.
By matters of the heart, I mean that search for a sense of peace, well-being and connectedness which lies at the heart of what all human beings yearn for. We may not express it that way. We may express it as a yearning for a partner, a rewarding job, a family, good mental or physical health but these just look like ways we might get to feel these things, to feel ‘happy’.
The cognitive brain is really, really bad at helping us feel connected and peaceful.
In that arena, the cognitive mind is no use at all. It’s simply the wrong tool for the job.
Do you hear the calling?
There is in each of us a deep deep yearning. A yearning to be at rest, at peace. It is a yearning that propels people up mountains, to run marathons to meditation and yoga classes, into nature or reaching for the top of the career ladder or aspiring to drive a nice car. We reach blindly for things out there, mistakenly believing in that yoga class, in that summiting of the mountain, in that winning of that promotion, we will find what we seek.
The yearning to be at rest, to experience peace, comes from a desire to feel complete, okay, satisfied. To rest in the space where there is nothing to be done, no goals to be achieved, no expectations to be met.
Yet ironically we act on the belief that it is in the doing, setting goals, meeting expectations that we will find our happiness, not realising that mistaken belief, in itself, takes us away from our natural state of rest and well-being.
(How different it feels when we engage in activities because they occur to us, because they appeal to us, because they are fun or would be cool, rather than doing things in order to ‘feel better/whole.’)
The yearning is a kind of knowing
Knowing what is good for us, knowing what we need, knowing what we truly are. Underneath the business of judgements, opinions and criticism, underneath the ups and downs of mood, underneath the ebb and flow of life events, there is a space that some call home. A space we know intimately. It’s a space where the chatter of our cognitive thinking is less dominant, matters less. Where experience just happens without analysis and commentary. It is a space where all is well.
Rather like the addictive checking of a social media feed, we have mistakenly given far too much importance to what our cognitive brain thinks about everything, from how we feel on waking, what we had for breakfast, how much our neighbour’s dog barks, what our partner said last week, how we were brought up, the state of the world and the weather.
Rather than making use of this powerful and remarkable tool to help us create and serve others, we have got carried away with the idea that the cognitive function is there to make us feel better. So it sets to work doing what the cognitive function does: analysing, correlating and drawing conclusions. Which would be fine, except that being at peace and feeling connected does not occur through analysis. It is our natural state and occurs when we fall out of that way of thinking.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could switch off our cognitive brain like we can shut off our social media feed? And actually just log in to it when it is of use to us. Any time we feel wide open and curious, not engaged in judgement, criticism, opinions, should’s and shouldn’ts we touch a space where all is well, everything is wide open, everything is possible and we are at peace. And it is a space where fresh, helpful ideas can arise and be heard.
How do we fall into that space more often ?
I’m not sure it is in our gift to determine exactly when we fall into it and when we don’t but perhaps we can increase the odds. These things may help:-
- Recognising when we are in that space, ~ that’s anytime we feel warm and at peace, full of love, happily engaged in something, any time we feel all is well (even though emotions and events may be going up and down around us)
- Knowing that space is there and not dependent on an activity or being in a particular place, or with a particular person
- Knowing we’ll fall in and out of it, so there’s no sense in trying to hold on to it
- Knowing we can’t ‘think’ our way into that space
- Going with the ebb and flow without struggle or strain
- Recognising what takes us away from that space, i.e. getting engaged with our cognitive mind, identifying with thoughts as if they were personal
- Recognising we are not our thoughts or feelings ~ they are transitory and can do us no harm if we leave them alone
- Appreciating being in that space ~ being grateful for that
- Opening ourselves to being in it more often helps.
- Listening deeply, with nothing on our mind, when on your own
- Listening deeply, with nothing on our mind, to others
- Not worrying when we are not in it.
The space is always there. Only our awareness of being in it goes in and out, in and out, like the tide.
And rather like our social media feed, if we get too obsessed and start trying to use our cognitive mind for purposes it wasn’t designed for, i.e. to try and find peace of mind, we’ll start to feel yucky. It will feel sticky and stressful and not okay and we might notice we feel tired and cranky. It’s a nudge we are using the wrong tool. Let it be. Look away.
Willingness to turn away from the cognitive mind (not being seduced by FOMO ~ fear of missing out), and just falling into our natural state, hearing and feeling that deep yearning that longs for your busy cognitive mind to fade out, that will luxuriate in the space that is always there, beyond that.
I’d love to hear what comes up for you on reading this article. Please add any comments, questions, reflections or insights below.
When you shake up a bottle of water with sand inside, the sand swirls around frantically until you set the bottle down. Then the sand slowly sinks to the bottom and the water gradually clears.
It takes a little time.
There is nothing you can do to that bottle of sand to make it settle faster. In fact everything you do, such as tipping it, inverting it, lying it down, shaking it, will impede the settling down.
The mind is like that.
Left undisturbed, it’s natural state is one of being settled down. The agitated sand is like our racing thoughts that swirl around. Shaking the bottle is like getting stuck in thinking that takes us into a low mood and keeps us stuck there. Going round and round with the same, stale old thoughts, keeps us stuck in the same stressful feeling state.
But once the sand settles, we realise what looked to be a bottle full of sand is actually a bottle full of clear water with just a little sand at the bottom. When we begin to look away from the swirling sand, we notice the calm, clear water, the stillness and from that place of peace and clarity, new thoughts, wisdom, arises and our world transforms.
Yet paradoxically you cannot settle your mind down by ‘trying’. It is an allowing not a forcing. It is easy, light, open and relaxed not tight and full of effort. The sand in the bottle won’t settle more quickly if you mess about with it. In fact that has the opposite effect.
Trying to make yourself settle down is like wading into the middle of a beautiful mountain lake and trying to smooth out the ripples you are creating by flailing your arms around in the water.
To let the water settle, you have to get out.
Get out of the water. Get out of the way.
Then you’ll notice how beautiful the water is.