Recently, I’ve discovered a way of orienting to my inner life that seems to have the potential of producing dramatically more satisfying outcomes.
A common way of orienting to our inner life might look like this. On some level, we are constantly monitoring for the presence of discomfort, pain, or emotions we don’t enjoy. When we notice any of these, we do our version of inwardly cursing, or wailing “I don’t want that!” or sighing in resignation. We try to push that unwanted experience away, clench muscles in resistance, or perhaps try to pretend what we don’t like isn’t there. In response to the discomfort, pain, or emotions, we may feel secondary emotions like discouragement, fear, or frustration. We use our favorite coping strategies to try to get rid of the unwanted experience, or at least endure it. Typically, the unwanted experience and its secondary effects linger longer than we would like.
Imagine another way of orienting ourselves. We learn to be aware of a sense of “energy flowing” in us, and monitor for when energy gets stuck, stops flowing through some part of our inner landscape. When we notice a blockage, we take this as a signal to pause. Usually the blockage is a place where some part of us has clenched protectively, cutting off the flow of energy as a side effect. We notice the stuckness. It signifies a bit of us that could use some healing and nurturance, and we hold the stuckness in our awareness with a sense of tenderness. Our purpose is to offer nurturance, to support the well-being of that part of us. Sometimes this nurturance has an immediate effect, the clenching relaxes, and the blockage eases or moves. Other times, the nurturance will have no immediate effect. If the blockage persists, we nurture it for as long as makes sense in the moment, knowing that we’ll check in again later to see if more nurturance is needed. As we orient to ourselves in this way, we find energy tends to flow more freely, there is less suffering, and we experience more vitality seeping into our being.
Judgment, i.e., a story that something is wrong or bad or a problem, is usually the trigger that creates a blockage. Judgment triggers contraction, and contraction cuts off the flow. When we bring our awareness to noticing energy flow instead of focusing on judgments, that supports flow opening up. Sometimes when we are trying to be in this new way of being, we’ll decide we are “doing it wrong,” or be frustrated because a blockage “should” be softening. When this happens, we can just notice that our judgment has lead to another mental or physical contraction somewhere. Offer nurturing awareness to this blockage also, as you would to any other. The key is offering what gentleness and compassion we are able towards ourselves and every part of us.
You likely may not know quite what I mean when I talk about this sense of “energy flowing.” I mean a particular sensation, and it’s a subtle thing until you start to build awareness of it. If you are familiar with “connecting with the beauty” of our needs, some of the sensations that happen when you do that are what I am talking about. There is a quality about this particular type of energy, when you sink into it, that is vital, tender, with a sweetness that you can feel even if the energy is associated with something sad or painful. When connected with this flowing, there is a sense that life is moving forward in a healthy, integrated way.
I can imagine a number of ways of cultivating awareness of this flowing life energy. You can practice sinking into how it would feel if a particular need of yours was fully met, and notice if there is any sense of motion inside you. Or you can notice places inside you where there is a sense of pain without sweetness, a possibly subtle sense of misery or deadness. Notice also a place where it feels “just fine.” Notice any contraction in the first place, and any openness in the later. Notice if there any sensation of movement in the open just-fine place, any sense of something stuck in the clenched painful place. Offer what kindness and tenderness you can to the clenching. With practice, you will likely eventually start to develop a sense of what I am talking about.
For any who might be uncomfortable with terms like “flowing life energy,” I want to note that what I am talking about doesn’t necessarily require any mystical or New Age beliefs. It can be regarded as simply a metaphorical description of certain sensations that we are capable of experiencing.
The shift in orientation I am talking about has the effect of moving us from internal fragmentation towards integration. I believe the flow of energy is cut off when one part of us, physical or mental, decides that circumstances merit unilateral action that impairs its relationship to other parts. The easing of a blockage corresponds to the re-establishment of healthy connections between our parts. It allows the interconnection and synergy of our parts to generate well-being.
I’m imagining it may take time for parts of this to make sense. Your head might even be spinning! I have used words to describe something that is purely non-verbal. I am curious about what these words will convey to you. At some point I might like to offer an experiential workshop on this and perhaps you would find that helpful. Though these ideas are challenging to convey, I wanted to do so because I am excited about this way of being. This formulation of the practice is new to me, but I suspect it is an alternate expression of some things Robert Gonzales has tried to share. This new way of being has been improving the qualify of my life. I have hope that, once you “get it,” it could help you too.
If you have any interesting experiences working with what I have described here, I would enjoy hearing about it!