Mindset Training Week 6: Experience
Eyes crusted, I squinted painfully at the sunlight pouring through the hotel window in Spokane, Washington. A mean little man was hammering nails into my skull and I wished he would stop. My purple dress lay crumpled on the floor. I needed an eraser to wipe it all away.
I had thought I would be fine going to my best friend’s wedding alone while splitting from my husband. I thought my bridesmaid duties would distract me enough. Instead, I was an utter cliché. Smiling sweetly on the outside for photos, watching couples on the dance floor, barely holding back the screams of the wounded animal of my heart. Alcohol was the only answer. The night proceeded with dancing, karaoke, drunken antics, shots, more shots. I vaguely recall walking back to my hotel, and the unstoppable flood of anger and grief.
The pounding in my head was so intense I could barely put one foot in front of the other to find my phone. My stomach twisted into knots as I recalled the incoherent messages of distress I had sent to friends. I took a horrified look in the mirror. My eyes were the size of softballs. Last night’s updo was now soggy and matted against my face after my drunken shower, when I’d curled up on the cold tile, wishing I could melt down the drain along with my tears.
Janice picked up right away.
“I think I hit Jacki last night,” I said.
Janice, being a good friend, confirmed that I had indeed slapped Jacki for calling me a cab after I’d propositioned the entire bar over the karaoke mic. Then she rushed over with a cold can of soda, which I immediately pressed to my swollen face.
I couldn’t face the post-wedding brunch. But I had to. And of course, it was the same place I’d just been kicked out of eight hours earlier. The bartender’s “I feel sorry for you” look was so much worse than insults.
The five-hour drive back to Seattle was unsettling, my mind whirling with self-hating thoughts. I sprawled out in the back seat while Kelly and Janice tried to lift my mood. Kelly told horror stories of his own divorce, and returned my own zinger to me from the other day: “Never make eye contact with truckers while eating a banana.” I laughed, a little.
When I woke up at that hotel, hung over, depressed, and full of shame, it dawned on me that alcohol had been the catalyst to my worst decisions for 18 years. It had been something I celebrated with, mourned with, and everything in between. In my moment of blurry-eyed awakening, again, I had two definitive choices: continue self-medicating with alcohol or find a way to heal. I was certain where the first path would lead, and I didn’t want to reach that dead end. No one else could help me. I knew I had to help myself.
FINDING MY WAY
The alcoholic I had turned into was a far cry from my conservative upbringing, in the LDS church in small-town Idaho. Growing up in such an intensely religious landscape had its pros and cons. It formed the foundation for my spiritual practice, instilling many values that remain with me today. The downside was the teaching of its absoluteness in truth. “This is the only true church on the earth” was repeated so many times to me from birth that it had permanent roots in my brain. Shame, fear, and guilt permeated every decision. “Don’t sin or you will be failing God.” Nonnegotiable rules governed my every action and dominated my thoughts, a steel paradigm that kept me enclosed. Why? “Because your Heavenly Father wants you to.” I wore a ring that read CTR, “Choose the Right,” that married me to these rules. From the clothes I wore to how I sat to who I hung out with, every choice was either right or wrong, each a spectre threatening the happiness of my current life as well as my eternal afterlife.
By the time I left home, I had long built up a resistance to following a list of authoritarian rules. The misguided path of my past wasn’t going to label me nor dictate my future. I had to find my own way, my own “why,” and it could not be because of God or anyone else. I was compelled to get to the root of what was causing my negative behaviors in the first place, and determined to navigate the course via my own free agency.
In search of help, I went to my first AA meeting. Depression and regret lodged in the back of my throat. As I sat in the dark church basement with my Styrofoam cup of coffee, the shame crept in too.
I heard I was powerless. I listened to narratives of victimization. It felt far too close to being Mormon. While I saw the benefit of being part of a support group, this wasn’t the right fit for me. I knew I had the capability to be powerful, and I could take control of my life. I simply needed to figure out how.
I left my first AA meeting and drove straight to the gym.
EXPERIENCE IS YOUR TEACHER
On the journey to changing your life, you will experience setbacks. Experience is a teacher, and like me, sometimes you choose to relearn lessons a few times before you are ready to evolve. Are your own experiences speaking loudly to you right now? Right or wrong, good or bad, all the events of your life have resulted in you existing in the place you are now. Through experience, you gain wisdom and discernment for future right action. Negative patterns of behavior are a tumble down a ravine: you hit ledge after ledge on the way down. But each overhang offers an escape, and your higher self is dangling a rope. You can either grab the rope and climb out, or roll off another ledge. You don’t have to be as far down the hole as I was to start climbing out.
Meditation offers a harness that connects you with your highest mind and your inner wisdom, leading you back into the daylight. Transformation happens incrementally over time with consistent practice and commitment to yourself. The challenge of the climb is exhilarating. It’s a heady feeling to look down and see the points where you chose not to let the gravity take you.
PRINCIPLES OF LOVING-KINDNESS
The practice of loving-kindness is rooted in Buddhist philosophy. It is done by wishing yourself to be happy and free. “May I be happy.” “May I be free.” Then, wishing for others to be happy and free. “May you be happy.” “May you be free.” Practicing loving-kindness sounds simple but can bring up uncomfortable feelings of resistance to being kind to yourself. It is alarming to see how conditioned you are to punish yourself. Follow these principles of loving-kindness to reprogram the mind to know you are deserving of love.
THE SOUL IS PERFECT AND WORTHY OF LOVE
The body and mind are imperfect and changing moment to moment. They get confused by sensory objects in the world that gives the illusion of happiness. Mistakes and limiting beliefs about your potential are a result of identifying the body and mind as who you are. You might look in the mirror and see an imperfect person, but the soul is without flaw. The soul, or spirit, is unchanging and permanent, perfect and connected to the Unconditional Love of the universe. Your true Self is the Knower, perceiving reality through the lens of the body and mind. The body and mind may forget, but the soul always remembers its divine nature. As you connect more deeply with this Self, you can reason past the sensory inclination of body identification. As a result, you can more readily forgive and use higher-minded discernment for future action.
LOVING-KINDNESS TOWARD YOURSELF HEALS OLD WOUNDS
Old wounds from emotional stress and trauma are often brought out in confrontational moments as an excuse for wrong actions or avoidance of conflict. But using past traumas as a defense mechanism will limit forward progress. They are a crutch you don’t need once you learn more effective tools for growth. Practicing loving-kindness toward yourself in the form of forgiveness will help you confront each moment with the courage of your highest self, by instilling a foundation of self-compassion. Let go and move forward without guilt and shame.
THE DESIRE OF EVERY SOUL IS BLISS
The desire to be happy and free is universal. While pain and suffering are guarantees in life, you can reach a place of freedom by connecting to the part of you that is beyond the constant undulations of sensory stimulus. Life’s discomforts are an evolutionary tool; the changing body experiences life through the five senses, which often includes pain. The unchanging soul, on the other hand, is in a permanent state of bliss operating at a higher frequency than sensory happiness. When the tactile life feels like turbulent rapids, the soul can simultaneously float down a peaceful stream.
GROWTH IS DEPENDENT ON LOVING-KINDNESS TOWARD YOURSELF
Minimizing yourself with self-punishment will not get you far in life. Give yourself permission to like yourself. See your own inherent goodness. It’s not arrogant to love yourself, it’s necessary for growth. Arrogance is an inflation of the ego’s attachment to the body and material objects in the temporary world, but true self-love is for your perfect and powerful soul. Loving-kindness toward yourself cultivates pure love for yourself and all living beings. When we are kind to ourselves, we are naturally more kind to others. It’s one of the most unselfish things you can do.
Begin to take your power back from the past by seeing yourself with loving-kindness. Wish yourself to be happy. Wish yourself to be free of any pain and suffering you’re experiencing. In doing this you cultivate a relationship with the ever-peaceful, always blissful, infinite nature of your soul.
ON-CUSHION: SIX-MINUTE EMOM MEDITATION
Continue to meditate in the morning and the evening. Remind yourself that it is the most important thing to do to prepare for your day and the best way to wind down in the evening. Read positive statements of liberation at the beginning of your meditation practice and repeat them when the mind trails off. Find your cushion, let go of all stress, tension, worry, and concern, and breathe.
- Read your statement of purpose.
- AM: Read value components. PM: Check off value components.
- Program your timer for six minutes with interval bells to sound every minute.
- Sit up tall with your spine aligned in a neutral position.
- Inhale fully through the nose then exhale, Haaaaa, through the mouth.
- Start your timer.
- With eyes closed and without strain, concentrate the gaze to the center of the forehead.
- Inhale through the nose for three counts, Om 1, Om 2, Om 3, pause.
- At the top of the in breath say silently to yourself, “Heart.”
- Exhale through the nose for three counts, Om 1, Om 2, Om 3, pause.
- At the bottom of the out breath say silently to yourself “Mind.”
- Hold the breath for 20 counts, two times.
- Listen for the heart beating in the chest.
- To awaken love from within, silently repeat “Love.”
Continue until the sixth interval bell sounds. Notice the feeling of peace after meditation practice. This is Love awakening from within. Affirm I am worthy of love.
OFF-CUSHION: LOVING KINDNESS TOWARDS OTHERS
Practice loving-kindness throughout your day. When heavy emotions or negative thoughts arise, wish for yourself to be happy and free. When dealing with a difficult person, wish for them to be happy and free. Kind thoughts to yourself and others cultivates the energy of compassion and transforms everything and everyone around you.
Complete introspection questions and Chapter 6 exercise from your TMHH Workbook.