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Covering My Ears, Self-Care

This event happens, this response comes up. I accept or make myself wrong, I’m enmeshed for a time then I am able to take a step back and see the content as it comes and goes.

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When my grandson was younger and didn’t want to listen, he would put his hands over his ears and chant “covering my ears, not listening to you”. It’s a strategy with some merit.

Learning to work skilfully with the mind through meditation and mindfulness has gone mainstream. We’re taught to “accept the present moment”. Notice resistance to “being with what is”. To drop judgment and “shoulds”. There are studies proving the benefits in stress reduction, working with addiction and improving auto-immune disorders. Veterans with PTSD are taking yoga and healing the body mind. It’s in schools and hospitals, retreat centers and our homes.

In our personal experience, there might be a gap between our actual lives and how we think we should be, do or act. It is painful when this becomes one more way we fall short, when we fail to live up to ideas we have about what a spiritual or mindful life looks like.

Suppression is the opposite of mindfulness. Scott Kiloby’s practice of “Thank you for arising, I love you, you are welcome to stay” reveals the mechanics of resistance. We see how a certain thought comes with particular images and triggers linked sensation or energies in the body. We can do ‘on-the-spot’ inquiry or go back to it later when there is more time and space to be with what arises. Understanding it as a process feels workable. This event happens, this response comes up, I do this action or that one, I see or turn away, I accept or make myself wrong, I’m enmeshed for a time then I am able to take a step back and see the content as it comes and goes.

Learn to witness or observe. In this way we come to know we are not the ever-changing content of our mind. It is certainly helpful to pay attention to energies and sensation in the body but “accepting the present moment” does not mean we jump on every train of thought that comes through.

There are patterns of thinking that create suffering. The mind has strong habits and momentum that forms over decades of identification with our thoughts and experiences. I’ve trained myself to watch for these. When my shoulders are tight or I notice nasty internal commentary, these are signals to slow down and pay attention. When I don’t, I know what comes next because it has happened so often before and I’ve seen it during inquiry.

Noticing the process in the early stages, options open up. I take a few deep breaths, do a relaxation, go for a walk, have a nap, or connect with a friend. If it has a strong trigger, I set up a time to inquire. I’ve noticed not as much triggers me now. When something does and I push it away, I feel more and more shut down and miserable. That is when I am most likely to escape online or turn to ice cream. We all know from experience that escape is ultimately not satisfying. At some point we come back.

When I notice the thoughts are running on an old groove, I take a cue from my grandson and stop listening. Following an old trail of deficiency and negative thinking into a mindless state of suffering and escape is not my only option.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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