Monday, June 28, 2010

There is a Place to Rest Behind the Mental Drama


What does one do when “sweet nothings” seemingly meant nothing?

When good memories are questioned?

When plans are left to wither?

When an exciting future is devastated?

When love is left alone in the cold?


Dear Friend,

Thank you so much for your letter. I’m certain that many readers relate right away to your questions. Anyone who’s willing to be in intimate relationships with others experiences, on some level, this disappointment and confusion. My friend, I can tell that this is weighing on your heart and your mind.

When you’re broken-hearted, the only thing there is to do is be broken-hearted.

That probably doesn’t seem like good news, but that’s the deal. There is good news too.

The good news is that you can actually use this heartbreak to access deeper peace than you might have found had you not had this suffering. When life is going along swimmingly, we aren’t challenged to go deeper. But the desire not to suffer will have us knocking on doors that we wouldn’t have otherwise. And this can be a great blessing.

Some questions are unanswerable. These can be the most useful kind. Use the thoughts and the questions to access peace.

When you notice that you are on the painful thought train – which may be quite often these days – you can allow the noticing to be a bell of mindfulness.

Simply notice, “Oh, I’m doing that again.” No judgment, no assessment, no shame, no should. No trying to stop it. Simply notice, “Ah, there goes my mind again.”

Regular use of this very simple tool has a cumulative effect of opening up the space of peace that exists right in this moment, and we can experience it when our minds are quiet enough for us to feel it.

But don’t make yourself wrong if you’re not feeling it right away. You may not get instant relief. But you are training yourself to observe the mind rather than be completely consumed by it.

The next step is to get into your body. There is immense wisdom contained here.

So again, when you notice the churning mind, you can call your attention away from your mind and into your body. Then simply observe the sensations, and two things will happen.

First, you will have disidentified from the mind, however briefly. Anything that stops the relentless thought cycle is beneficial. This creates the room for space and peace to enter. Second, you are now in a place to observe the true nature of all things in the world of form: constant change.

In observing body sensations without labeling or judging or wishing they would go away (even though we do!), you can begin to train yourself, on the experiential level, in the wisdom of anicca, a Pali word meaning impermanence. As you notice, for example, that you feel a fluttering in your belly or a rushing sensation in your arms or a tightness in your shoulders, you can quietly observe, and you’ll notice that sensations that seem fixed are in fact constantly changing and shifting.

This is true for thoughts and emotions too. This teaches you that you will not feel heart-broken forever. But this is what’s so right now. And it is your access to deeper peace and connectedness.

Storylines are not real, and thoughts and feelings are passing. Do what you can, one moment at a time, to be the observer, watching the experience unfold. There is a place to rest behind the mental drama.

Now, let’s have some fun! As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been sitting back every few moments and blowing bubbles with my Thomas the Tank Engine bubbles that I bought for $1 at HEB. The tip of the wand has a picture of Thomas on it and the words “REALLY USEFUL!” I recommend that you find something similar for yourself. Play with your toys. Get into things that you used to love as a child. Get into things you’ve always wanted to get into. Get messy and dirty and creative.

Do the dance between being still and being with your sensations and escaping into silly delights. Sometimes when the heartache is so raw, we really have to force ourselves to reach out and start creating. But some of the greatest paths set out from this point. I first joined a gym in the midst of a broken heart. I first started meditating during another one. Some fifteen years later both of these habits are still serving me.

So take really good care and know that there is depth and beauty within this situation when you can give that mind a rest and allow the infinite calm and space within to soothe your gentle soul.

If other questions arise from this writing, please email

Sunday, June 20, 2010


In peace I write to you.

Yesterday I took my love to the airport to send him home to New Zealand after a long visit. When I got home from the airport, I sat on my bed facing the warm sunflowers in the back yard, my system shocked with withdrawal from the drug of love I’ve been mainlining for the last three weeks. It was a sunny, bright Saturday afternoon and the room was light and spacious and cool. Sobs soared through my mind and body.

And I said, I'm willing.

This is it, I knew. This is the work. Stay open.

I thought of you, my readers, and knew I am living this for all of us.

My chest rippled with waves from my gut. I let just enough thought come in to keep igniting the fire under the flame of heart ache. It didn’t take much. Otherwise I dropped the story line and felt. I watched the ripples rise, let the waves move over me, like lying in the surf on a beach in Maryland when I was ten-years-old.

I kept breathing. Sometimes I felt like I was losing my mind. Have you ever been gripped with heart ache? Yes, and doesn’t it overcome a body and mind? Everything seemed shocking and upside down. And the sunflowers smiled and waved warmly and their green stalks greatly matched the bright hot blue Texas summer sky. It was all happening at once. I craved my boyfriend terribly and at the same time I swam in the unquestionable perfection of the moment.

And I continued to be willing. I took care of myself. When I felt like I really needed it, I called up some trusted friends and went to see them. Another house where I could cry my eyes out and keep my heart open but not be lost to my mind in the solitude at home.

We ate good food, I cried some more, and we spoke of truth and allowed presence in. Trust allows us to settle back in its arms when we're willing.

Be willing. The emotions are not there to take you out. They are there to tear open the door, like Hanuman tearing open his chest: the Divine lives in there. Right there. It's asking you to trust.

Do what you need to do when it comes time to rest. And as long as you can, stay willing.

Be willing, in fact, also to rest.

I wrote the word willingness on my leg today in my car with a marker to remind myself to write this. An hour later I read an email about a conference call I’m on tomorrow. Each week there’s a different topic and the email told me that this week’s topic is willingness. This is what happens when we’re willing to feel our feelings. Synchronicities flourish through the cracks in “reality” that appear when we are willing to rest even in feelings of turmoil. Even when it seems like we can’t stand it, we keep breathing, we stay open. And our trust in Source rewards us with the ultimate gift: presence, which = love.

Are you willing to go in so that you can come out the other side? The "other side" really is within. Stay open.