There is nothing as connecting, intimate and inspiring for me as going on retreat, workshop, gathering, or meeting of people with a shared intention to investigate the experience of human suffering.
That’s where I’ve been all day yesterday.
Sitting in a circle of people, every single person eager to deeply explore their stressful thinking. It was the spring Year of Inquiry retreat.
We began our first day with an exercise I have sometimes found really helpful.
You sit and write for 5 minutes everything and anything you find stressful about your life right now.
You can name people, conditions, events, situations.
No editing. Just a mind-dump of all you oppose. Everything you “hate”. The stuff you find so irritating or aggravating. The things that frighten you.
Everything you write could be called a “one-liner”.
That is, one stressful sentence, one idea, one concept you think is true, and when you think it, you suffer.
My job sucks. She shouldn’t have betrayed me. He shouldn’t have left. My body needs to regain health and have zero pain. I need more money. I hate cancer. I’m not good enough.
The mind will skip and jump all over the place. But after you stop writing, you can rate each sentence you’ve written on a scale from 1-10.
Ten is super crazy intensely stressful….one is barely a scratch, a very mild concern hardly causing any upset.
Then, you look at the concepts that earned a five or more when you rated them.
Group different topics together. You get to study what ails you, in your mind. Gather it up.
Which thoughts create the highest stress for you? Who are they most related to? Where are you arguing with what happened in the past, or what might happen in the future?
And then pick. Just one concept.
Find a situation where this one difficult concept appeared to be true. Then write a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet on that situation, with that person, or your body, or money, or your job.
It’s wonderful to go slowly and stick with that one situation, just the one you’re exploring.
Even if your mind is shrieking to look at other events or incidents, or other people you dislike. Stick with this situation, filling out an entire worksheet.
Everyone got to do this yesterday.
And then we began.
Finding out if the way we were perceiving our stressful situations was the whole picture. Were we missing something? Could we see it another way instead? Was it possible we were mistaken?
Is this thought actually true? Absolutely?
How do we react when we’re thinking this thought? Could we imagine another perspective? Who would we be without it, if we couldn’t even think it?
What would it be like to turn our view around, and be curious about another alternative?
It takes a willingness to be wrong to do this.
It takes an open mind. It takes going slow, listening, and checking to see if you are something greater than your own thoughts.
Who would you really be without your mind being full of stressful thoughts? WHAT would you be without your mind being full of stressful thoughts?
It doesn’t mean all the stressful thoughts suddenly disappear and you’re now completely happy.
But I find, over and over again, a most precious, gentle yet powerful awareness that a life force, love, beauty, mystery and brilliance weave throughout everything….
….even those difficult and terrible events.
If you don’t like using those kinds of words and they sound too hopeful or good or light (if reality, in that troubling situation is not exactly easy) then notice if there was anything present besides the terrible atrocities, the violence, the angst or anxiety, the worry?
I see, a silent force is here, and was there.
You’re here now, reading, and wondering about the pain or your suffering perhaps. There’s something present that can wonder, without having answers.
You have been carried forward by something, whatever it is, despite your stressful thinking.
“It’s only our story that keeps us from knowing that we always have everything we need…..Reality rules, whether we’re aware of it or not. The story is how you keep yourself from experiencing peace right now.” ~ Byron Katie
I look around the room of inquirers, such loving, whole and shining people, each and every one, with their unique genius. I am in awe of every one of them, so much beauty, it’s unutterable.
I am filled with such delight at how amazing we all are.
Much love, Grace