“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.”
I was in a yoga class the other day, and I wasn’t happy. I simply didn’t agree with how the instructor was leading the class. My body seized up, my mind felt dense and pressured, and the dark cloud of needing to be right descended.
Then I woke up. The clouds parted, and the light flooded in. “Oh,” I said to myself. “What is actually here?” I felt the tension in my body and welcomed the strain behind my thoughts. Everything relaxed as the whole problem dissipated. I had returned home.
What happened to me in those moments is a microcosm of what is possible for all of us always. We don’t need to wait for situations to change or for others to realize the error of their ways. In fact, if we do so, we are barking up the wrong tree, placing our happiness in the hands of things we cannot control.
Do you really want to wait for the circumstances of your life to change, while you are missing out on the glorious now?
Meet Yourself as You Are
So many of us go through our lives with painful emotions nipping at our heels. We are chased by discomfort, so we run full speed ahead into busyness, addictions, and passivity. When we try to avoid what is true, we are far from peaceful and happy. And we’re certainly not free.
But here’s what it takes to change everything: a U-turn of your attention. Put the brakes on the momentum of these patterns, turn around, and meet yourself as you are. It is a meeting you won’t regret.
Most of us live in stories that roil around in our minds. We endlessly tell ourselves what we shouldn’t have done and what ought to happen. We criticize, judge, resist, label, sort through, and imagine in a non-stop running commentary. We keep the past alive by thinking about it and needlessly worry about the future.
Then we wonder why we’re not at peace.
But there is a solution, a way out which is actually the way in. In any moment, we move attention away from the workings of the mind and inward to befriend our own direct experience.
This is the end of avoidance. We stop resisting and we turn to welcome the truth of ourselves.
What is Direct Experience?
You discover your direct experience by turning your attention away from the objects of the world. Simply notice what is happening in your inner landscape in any given moment. Break down what you are experiencing into it’s most basic elements, and here is what you will find:
- Thoughts, which are sounds in the mind
- Sense perceptions – hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, smelling
- Physical sensations – what you feel in your body
That’s it. There’s nothing more. And please don’t take my word for it. Do the experiment. Shine the searchlight of your awareness into yourself and see what you discover.
How to Befriend Yourself
You cannot be more loving toward yourself than to let yourself be as you are. Conflict ends, struggle is put to rest. The how-to is very simple. When you befriend your direct experience, first notice it, then allow yourself to feel it as it actually is.
Say you look inside and you notice fear. Ask yourself, “What is this fear?” You will become aware of thoughts about fear and physical sensations. Draw your attention away from the thoughts, and go right into the sensations in your body.
Whatever you notice – tension, contractions, burning – feel it completely. Give the sensations space to be without turning away. Take the time for them to be felt completely. Then keep exploring to the next layer, and the next, to see what you discover.
These are the inner experiences that have been driving you – and waiting for your loving attention. Because it’s love that heals our inner turmoil.
Why not try it right now? Simply be at ease with whatever arises in your direct experience. Welcome it. Allow it to be all the way through.
Q & A
But what now? The problem is still here.
Is it the problem that is still here or your thoughts about it? Drop away from the story, go inside, and receive your direct experience. If a decision needs to be made, shift your attention away from trying to figure it out. Listen, and let the answer come to you.
This is hard to do. I’ve been in this habit for so long.
Embracing your direct experience may be difficult in the beginning because you don’t know what you will find. There is an old teaching story about a man walking down a path who freaks out when he thinks he sees a snake. When he gets closer, he realizes that what he thought was a snake was actually a rope and his fear was unwarranted. Maybe your snakes are just ropes, but you will never know unless you turn and take a look.
Hint: Your fear of welcoming your feelings is probably much worse than the experience of actually welcoming them.
I’ve done what you are suggesting, but things are still the same.
As counterintuitive as this may be, the goal of befriending your experience is not to feel better. The goal, which is not a goal at all, is to find peace in the moment. Any tendencies or habits that play out through you have a momentum that may last for a very long time. So the goal is not to get rid of anything.
The “goal” is simply to be with yourself as you are. To receive whatever is happening without resistance and to be at ease with what is. To know what is actually true about reality, over and over in every moment.
Simply be as you are, and all is well.
Have you befriended your experience? Any questions or reports? I’d love to hear…