Training Your Mind – Allowing
Let’s start this chapter of training our minds with a poem by Dana Faulds.
There is no controlling Life. Try Corralling a lightning bolt, containing a tornado. Dam a stream and it will create a new channel. Resist, and the tide will sweep you off your feet. Allow, and grace will carry you to higher ground. The only safety lies in letting it all in - The wild and the weak; fear, fantasies, failures and success. When loss rips off the doors of the heart, or sadness veils your vision with despair, practice becomes simply bearing the truth, In the choice to let go of your known way of being, The whole world is revealed to your new eyes. - By Dana Faulds
Thought provoking beautiful words! There is so much anger and frustration around us and inside of us because of the things happening in the world, in our lives. Everyone of us wants to help others and help make the world a better place. In our quest to help others we often forget the fact that we are all different people, living in different personal situations with different thought processes and beliefs.
Instead of allowing many different viewpoints to exist, we resist and become fixated on our way to be the best way or the right way. The proverbial, focusing on a tree instead of looking at the forest.
The Judgmental Mind
What is true for me may not be true even for the people I am closest to, my husband or my daughter or my family and friends, let alone someone living in other parts of the world. I am a vegetarian and “Ahimsa” has always been one of the basic tenets of my life. Can I take my belief of Ahimsa and judge the people living in the high mountains of Tibet where resources are scarce and people have to use all available resources to sustain their lives? Can I take my belief of Ahimsa and judge the people who have been non-vegetarian their entire life?
On the flip side, what would I think or feel when a vegan person turns around and tells me I am a hypocrite when I say I believe in Ahimsa because I am a vegetarian but not vegan? I would be defensive and try to justify my position. Will my arguments satisfy the vegan person? Maybe or maybe not. Even though I am defending myself, this would leave a doubt in my mind that maybe I am not doing enough or maybe I am not good enough or maybe I “Am” a hypocrite. These small seeds of self-judgement or self-doubts accumulate over time and keep adding to our inner critic’s voice. Keeps fueling the fire of frustration and anger.
Isn’t this true for everyone I am judging as well? Who gave me the right to judge others and make them feel not good enough?
This is just one viewpoint, there are hundreds of beliefs I have that would not meet other’s standards and other’s beliefs that don’t match mine. So, how do we handle these differences?
As Ajhan Passano, the guiding elder of the Abhayagiri Monastery, says “We can handle all situations in life either skillfully or unskillfully.” We can choose to handle these differences unskillfully, become righteous, stick to our opinions and be judgmental of others and ourselves; expect perfection from others and ourselves. This will continue to add to our frustrations and anger at the world and ourselves. It will also keep affecting our relationship with others and ourselves.
By living in this “unskillful” way we tend to miss so much beauty and joy that is around us. We miss all the things that others have to offer the world and to us personally. Most importantly we miss the opportunities to learn from others.
Or, we can choose to handle these differences skillfully and allow ourselves to be open to other viewpoints or thought processes. Allow ourselves to be.
Allowing – A Skillful Way of Living
Just saying the word “allowing” seems to open more space, loosen our grip, relax the feeling of clinging or tightness in our mind. Try it, just roll it around in your mind and observe.
I have been a long time mindfulness meditator. At the beginning of my mindfulness meditation journey, everything I had read about creating a habit from life coaches or advice from meditation teachers was that, you must meditate everyday. It is very important to sit on the cushion even if it’s for a short time. As Gloria Kamler, one of the teachers I admire, says “Get your tush to the cush :-)”. After starting regular mediation, in just a few months I started noticing the difference in my mindset when I meditated versus when I didn’t. Even realizing how beneficial meditation practice was I struggled, stopped and restarted meditation multiple times.
Eventually I realized that I have a need to not be dependent on any specific thing even if it was beneficial. Once realizing the underlying issue, I decided that “I will allow myself to take a day or two off, whenever I need, from sitting meditation.” Even though it is against everything I have read or heard or experienced, that is what my mind needed. Since that day the struggle has ceased. Over the years, I have found the underlying reason for my need to not be dependent on anything, but it’s a story for another time! Even after realizing the root cause, I still take a day or two off without feeling guilty about it and without handing the inner critic one more thing to use.
Cultivating An Allowing Mind
Let’s try saying “I am going to allow myself to really listen without judgement”. Whenever starting a difficult conversation saying this sets a very different tone. This can be difficult to practice so let’s start smaller and think about our day to day life. How much time do we spend resisting regular things, like my 2nd grader wanting to wear pajamas on first day of school or my 83 year old mom wanting to meet with her friends in a restaurant in the pandemic or my co-worker wanting to celebrate another colleague’s birthday when we have resource issues and are running a risk of not meeting the deadline.
None of these are major ideological decisions but regular day to day life decisions. What-if, instead of our usual reaction of thinking about how it’s not the best time for that, we said “Yes” and tried to help figure out how to make it happen?
Close your eyes and just imagine yourself saying yes; then go beyond and imagine how you will help make it happen. Now imagine, what would you feel after and how will that change your relationship with the person asking the question? How will it change your relationship with yourself?
This saying “yes” more often can have some really interesting side benefits. It can become a start of unconditional giving in our day to day lives. It will also help build more resilient relationships. Several studies from the National Health Institute have proven that unconditional giving helps us feel more joy and lead healthier lives.
As we continue to make a conscious effort of saying yes more often, we begin to notice how often our first instinct is to resist. As we continue to become aware of the subtle changes saying “yes” brings, we are training our minds to be more flexible, more open to consider multiple perspectives and thought processes. We are training our minds to be more giving. Over time this helps create more space to accept others without judging.
As we continue to create this space of non-judgement or acceptance of others we are also creating that space for ourselves. We are usually our own worst critics, expecting perfection from ourselves instead of allowing ourselves to just be. This flexibility of mind that we are creating on this journey of training our minds can help build a kinder, resilient relationship with ourselves. The more resilient and spacious relationship we have with ourselves the more peaceful and joyful our life will become.
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