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EAL #15 – The Water Around Us

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Last letter, I wrote about how the water we need is all around us and we just need to remember how to drink it. I don’t mean this is as some feel good poetry — this is very real and practical and amazing and life changing.

I have slowly come to understand that I feel continuously threatened by the world. That my (no longer) pervasive anxiety was a reaction to seeing everything as dangerous. Realization is power. When you start to understand your mental landscape, you can begin to play around and see if it is not possible to experience the world differently. (This is is the point of a mindful awareness practice.)

So I realized I am “thirsty,” now how do I learn to drink?

Soul Whispering

One of the ways in which I do this is something we might call “soul whispering.” It’s a way of softly whispering to myself internally (or even externally as suitable) that gently shifts how my feeling mind sees the world (the internal tone is one that you might use to soothe a child or infant).

I do this a lot when interacting with my children. Children press all your buttons, even ones you never knew you had. My children are my priority. I matter most to the people around me and what should carry more weight than my family? But large parts of my nervous system are occupied with grand things I want to achieve or other places I need to be. My mind is totally miscalibrated, hungrily chasing satisfaction from things that are not existential priorities.

So this is a way of talking to my lower mind that is running places and gently encouraging it to see how all the recognition, all the success, all the beauty and connection I seek, is right here in front of my eyes. Here’s what this sounds like in my mind.

When I’m playing with my kids and my mind is rushing to get stuff done:

The most beautiful things are right in front of me. My own children who want to spend time with me, who I’m so important to. The love is right here, this right here is enough.

When my child jumps on me and I get annoyed:

Someone wants to be close to me. My presence is reassuring to her. I have a daughter (big enough to jump on me and knock me over)! Yes, she is 60 pounds and wants me to carry her up the stairs still, but how much longer will she want that for? How much longer will I be able to do that for? She’s looking to me for comfort and connection. She still wants to be close to me. Let me enjoy it while I can.

When my kid is not interested in things I care about:

She is not me. She is growing up. She is her own person with her own needs and interests. That is okay, that is beautiful. I don’t want her to be me. I want to celebrate who she is, give her the freedom to flower, be curious about her world on her terms. How valuable would that supportive energy have been to me as a child? It’s right here. I can provide it to someone else, someone who it really matters to (and take it in myself at the same time).

When my daughter leaves her things all over the floor for the hundredth time:

I’m lucky to have someone who can leave things around. It’s not a big deal in the context of things. She’ll learn to work with this challenge over time. It’s okay. I’ll take the package, it’s a blessing to have her in my life.

This doesn’t mean I let them get away with murder (definitely do too much of that), it’s just a way of calming and calibrating my reactive mind. To the contrary, it gives me much more space to respond with both wisdom and strength.

It’s All Around You

You can do this with anything.

The sun on your face: I’m shining for you, I’m shining for you.

The barista preparing your drink: He’s taking the time to prepare a drink for me, something delicious for me to enjoy. For me, for me.

This person talking to you: They are gracing me with their presence, they are interested in talking to me, interested in what I have to say. Even if they’re monologuing, they are interested in something I can provide for them. I can grant them my sincere attention. I matter to them.

If you’re doing this, expect strong feelings to come up. When you start to see how much you matter, your mind starts letting go of strongly held doubt. Sorrow and grief bubble up. Tears may flow. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature. You want this happening!!! You want to know the chaos that keeps you in constant avoidance because the emotional energies we suppress clog up the system in perpetuity. For some strange reason, they only resolve when they are allowed fully into consciousness with no resistance.

The whole world is kissing you, it’s just a matter of seeing it. The trees sprouting their beautiful leaves now in spring time, for you. The oxygen they emit, so you can breathe good clean air and live. Your body is holding you, every beat of you heart is a gift, an act of love.

You may find doing this embarrassing. It feels soft, yeah. I am embarrassed too, but less and less so. As I lean into seeing the world in these ways my mind is softening, becoming less fragmented, less judgmental. The fortress in which I’ve locked myself away for decades is slowly turning into a garden. The unbridgeable distance between me and others, collapsing.

The love, the reassurance, the being seen and celebrated we so crave, it’s right here, right here.

As his herd drank their fill from the flowing water, Akiva watched the drip, drip on the rock below. His gaze, wandering, rested briefly on the depression eroded in the rock over the years. Insight struck him. Water had eroded rock. Something soft had melted something hard. If the soft could shape the hard, couldn’t the strong words of Torah melt my heart?

(Paraphrased from Ethics of Rabbi Nathan, a talmudic work)

The world is teaching us, whispering to us. Our hearts may not soften in one day or two, but if we let the whispers drip onto our rocks, we may find our thorns growing roses, our fears sprouting joy, and our suffering blooming like Eden.


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