Elemental Emptiness Month 4: Compassion pt 1

Posted on February 13, 2009
Filed Under Breathing practices, Buddhism, Culture, elemental work, emptiness, meditation, mystical journeys, Taylor Ellwood | 6 Comments

1-15-09 I’ve spent the entire day sitting with several patterns of behavior which I’ve identified as behaviors where I’m engaged in dysfunctional behavior. One example is that while I think it is good to recognize qualities you want in a partner, taken to an extreme this can be its own form of objectification. Have I objectified people I’ve been interested in? Perhaps, in terms of looking for something specific to fill up the emptiness. That’s a disservice to that person, because I’m not seeing the person. I’m seeing what I can get from him/her.

The other dysfunctional behavior is a passive aggressive petty streak which manifests through petty comments and actions. I’ve asked myself, with this one, what the benefit is, and what I get is this wounded child wanting to make sure he doesn’t get hurt, by pushing people away and/or seeing if they still want him. And what I feel is compassion. I don’t want to judge this child or even his actions as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I don’t want to try and make myself ‘better’. I want to heal this child. I want to remove this hurt which spurs on so much of my actions which are hurtful to others and myself. Pema Chodron offers some words I’ve spent all day contemplating as I’ve sat with this emotion of pettiness and jealousy.

“What we reject out there is what we reject in ourselves…If we find ourselves unworkable and give up on ourselves, then we’ll find others unworkable and give up on them. What we hate in ourselves, we’ll hate in others. To the degree that we have compassion for ourselves, we will also have compassion for others. Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves, all those imperfection we don’t even want to look at”

She also points out that blame is a way people protect their hearts…and I see that in my pettiness. Inevitably the reason I hear for my pettiness is, “This person did this to me or didn’t measure up this way, etc.” It’s a whole variety of reasons that starts with This person did or did not. And it is a way to protect myself from facing that vulnerable wound in myself.

Today I just sat down and everytime I wanted to be petty, I asked myself, “What will this get you?”  And for each response I did my best to be compassionate with that part of myself, to be open to the wound that these actions and behaviors are really hiding. Instead of trying to fill my emptiness up, I want to try and face it, and face the wounds concealed deep within me. So I’ll keep asking myself: What does this action do for you? And I’ll hold my hand out to that wounded child until he takes hold of it and gives me and him a chance to grow and learn instead of continuing in a cycle of pain and hurt.

1-16-09 I’m continuing to practice conscious awareness of my inclination to distance and passive aggressiveness. Last night, I consciously chose to address what I was feeling at the time instead of acting it out through my actions. I did the same this morning, with an internal focus on being compassionately aware of my feelings and not judging myself for having them. That last part is important, because I think a lot of my passive aggressiveness has actually arisen out of judging myself for feeling certain emotions.

1-18-09 Pema Chodron says the following about being in the present moment: “We have to stop thinking that we can get away and settle down somewhere else. Instead, we could just relax – relax with exhaustion, indigestion, insomnia, irritation, delight, whatever.” I’ve always been trying to escape, instead of relaxing into the moment. I’ve realized that a lot, especially this last month. There’s this desire to get away from the emptiness, to avoid it, to somehow fill it up, or make it go away, instead of just relaxing with it. Today I just tried to relax and be present with the feeling. I still felt irritable and unsettled, but less so than I have this last month. I knew and know I can’t escape it, so instead of trying to escape, I’m just sitting with my emptiness, and letting that experience speak for itself. And I’m learning something: To be gentle with myself, to be compassionate to this person who is me.

For so long, for most of my life, I have been my harshest foe, my harshest critique, the angriest person at myself…so hard, so harsh. Chodron says,

“Even after many years, many of us continue to practice harshly. We practice with guilt, as if we’re going to be excommunicated if we don’t do it right…Some of us can accept others right where they are a lot more easily than we can accept ourselves. We feel that compassion is reserved for someone else, and it never occurs to us to feel it for ourselves. My experience is that by practicing without ‘shoulds’ we we gradually discover our wakefulness and our confidence”

I have never been kind or compassionate to myself. Much of my self-improvement has been spurred on by a feeling of guilt, that I “should be someone better”, or because I’ve wanted other people’s approval or simply because I am supposed to be some type of person for this person I happen to be involved with. And inevitably with a standard set by other people’s approval, I have been harsh with myself for not measuring up to what is ultimately an impossible standard. I can tell you lots of reasons, point to my past and everything that happened when I was so young, or to later events in my life, right up to yesterday or earlier today, but the reality of it, in this moment, is that for the first time in my life, I’m discovering what it feels like to be kind and compassionate to myself, in the moment, right now. Not a moment later, not some nebulous time in the future, but in this moment of infinite compassion and softness, without looking to other people for approval, for a standard, or for their expectations of who I should be. And most importantly without guilt, without some sense of obligation to fitting some image that someone else thinks I should fit. This sense of compassion, this feeling of gentle love and acceptance is for me and by me…not for anyone else, not because of anyone else, simply to be in this moment with my emptiness and to love myself regardless. And though I feel vulnerable and frail and just a bit afraid, I also feel empowered, capable, and confident of loving myself, being true to myself and perhaps, for the first, really getting to know my emptiness for what it has to offer and be, instead of trying to fill it up with everything I can distract myself with.

Tonight, I went to one of the fetish events Lupa and I like to go to. When I’ve gone there in the past, I’ve felt very empty and very much desired to fill it up with something. Tonight, I still felt empty, but much less so and instead of wanting to fill it up with something or someone I just let myself experience it without any sense of agitation. I actually enjoyed tonight a lot more because of that. I didn’t feel desperate or unhappy or anything so much as happy to be in the moment and just appreciative of being where I was…with no need for it to be anything more.

January 22 Today I talked myself through a moment where I wanted to try and fulfill my emptiness. I was compassionate about it…not angry, not full of condemnation. I asked my questions such as: What will this fulfill for you? Who will this benefit and who will this hurt? Answering these questions through a dialogue helped me consider carefully that moment where I wanted to escape and ask myself if it was better to just sit with it and acknowledge it.

January 23 When a person succumbs to a weakness and afterwards reflects on it, the reasons that can be explored and learned from are quite insightful even as that person may be filled with a sense of shame about it. I was that person today. And while I was unhappy with myself, I decided not to berate myself, but sit with compassion and ask myself what motivated my actions, who it benefited, did I feel fulfilled or unsatisfied, and other questions. I’ll admit, I didn’t really feel satisfied. If anything I felt emptier after the experience and I realized that I’d used the experience to try and escape from my emptiness. But it wasn’t just about escape. I uncovered a couple other issues as well that revolved around my desires and how I feel those are or are not met. It leaves me in a place that definitely causes me to think carefully about what it is I feel and what motivates me to act on that feeling as well as whether there are alternatives for acting on that feeling. I don’t have easy answers right now, but I will note that as I continue to sit with my emptiness with compassion, it makes it much easier for me to communicate with my partner in a respectful and caring manner, instead of lashing out with my insecurities.

1-24-09 tonight I felt incredibly vulnerable and insecure with Lupa. I basically felt like I had none of the usual walls or securities up with her. We were talking about some issues I’ve been working through in regards to sex and desire and she asked some questions which quickly took me to a place where I felt like I had none of my usual defenses in place to protect from her seeing apart of me I’m afraid to show anyone, namely the abused, lonely, wounded child. Her seeing this part of me without the usual shields up was very scary, as I was afraid of rejection, afraid that she’d not want to deal with this part of me. Afraid really of seeing the real me…the part that is weak, afraid of being alone, afraid of never having anyone, the part desperate for connection and willing to do whatever it might take to get that connection. Not the entirety, but certainly part of me. As we talked she suggested that perhaps my focus on attention was keeping me from sitting with the feeling of alone. Perhaps it is. Through all of this I felt incredibly vulnerable, incredibly open to this person and she would not let me hide or escape. She was compassionate, but she still stayed with me. It was an odd feeling to have someone want to be there. That part of me was so afraid of rejection, but also expecting it. And I recognize that a lot of this is past patterns, past beliefs, past experiences…but the past isn’t the present and I’m ready to move on. This year’s emptiness working is taking me deeper into the core of so much that has not worked in my life, but it’s also freeing me of so much that has hurt me and others before.

A different angle on this, from Feeding your Demons by Tsultrim Allione: “The way to change things is to address the underlying issue, through feeding our demons what they actually need instead of what they seem to want. If we can get down to the fundamental need under the superficial desire, it usually involves love, compassion, and acceptance”

This is exactly what the issue is for me. I’ve focused on the want, but not dug underneath to find the need. Meeting a superficial want hasn’t proven all that satisfying and why would it, when the need hasn’t been addressed? I always feel unsatisfied when I meet a want…but whenever I have dug in and found the need, I can usually find some peace, because once the need is met, I’m no longer focused on directing energy toward it.

Jan 25, 2009 As I meditated today, I focused my awareness on a particularly troublesome knot I felt in my shoulder. As I began to undo the stress in the knot, unkinking the muscles, using energy work, I felt a sensation of fear go through me, about different situations in my life. I kept breathing and focusing on the knot, loosening it up. I realized that the fear was a release of that pent up energy and actually was glad to feel it, because then I could acknowledge it’s influence on my actions.

1-26-09 There are days I struggle and feel like I am in an ocean, being buffeted by waves and waves of water, which threaten to suck me down and drown me and it takes all my strength to tenaciously cling to a board of wood that represents some kind of grounding in this working. It’s harder still when you hear that someone you love is hurting because she sees you suffering. You want to tell her it will be okay, but on days like this I have trouble convincing myself it will be ok.

1-27-09 Something I can safely acknowledge is that I’m more aware of how I’m communicating and also aware that the important people in my life aren’t going anywhere. Had a talk with my wife, which really clarified that for me in a way that was empowering..small victories can lead to big wins.

I also started a working with my magical partner, which involved invoking her into me and her invoking me into her. We’ve never met in person, but we know what each other looks like, which helped some…but what really stood out to me was that described me as having many holes in me. And really, emptiness does feel like a hole or many holes within me, so it made sense. It did make me think of William S. Burroughs talking about giving up the body when you go to the western lands, “It’s full of holes, it’s full of holes.” I do feel like I’m full of holes…

1-30-09 In therapy today, one realization which came up was that when I feel angry at myself and express that anger toward others, I am punishing myself by driving those people away. I never thought of it that way until today, but it really makes sense. It’s not applicable all the time, but sometimes I do feel anger toward myself and it does get expressed toward others and that does hurt me in the end, because then those people are driven away. My anger toward myself is for the failures and mistakes I’ve made…I’ve always been a perfectionist thanks to how I grew up and the impossible standards I was held to. I’ve learned to relax about the perfectionism (in certain ways), but I can be a harsh critic of myself. The past couple of weeks, in my effort to be compassionate with myself, I’ve tried to be less harsh and just sit with my moments of vulnerability and that’s why I came to this realization today.

2-1-09 Some rough conversations the past day or so, plus a feeling of stress…When will you not be doing intense work on yourself? When I feel like I actually have a grasp on who I am. Internal work isn’t easy and it never really comes to an end. That said, I do see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to various issues I’m working on. I’ve been embodying my internal issues as demons and using the 5 step process in the Feeding your Demons to work with those embodied issues. I feel that when I do that, I’m not really at the mercy of those issues…I can personify them and then work with them and they become less of an issue and more of a conversation. I realized today, for instance, that I get involved with lovers who have little time for me because that’s a pattern I encountered early on, when I wanted positive attention from my family. I never got much of it, and always felt neglected (and was). Fast forward to the present and this pattern is played out with the people I get involved with. On some level, I recognize that and so go for people I know will not have lots of time. I then feel unsatisfied because those people don’t have time for me, but I’m playing out that pattern in my life, even though it doesn’t benefit me or the other person/people. Realizing that today helps me recognize what I need to work on/change within myself, in order to find some level of peace with my need for attention, but also attract the right people who can handle that need and desire for attention.

2-4-09 Feeling pretty good lately. The emptiness work continues and I’ve been doing a lot of core work with my feelings about abandonment. While I still have it rear up, I feel like I have a better handle on it now, with a better sense of assuredness. It helps that I’m continuing to meditate on a regular basis using the Demon Feeding technique. I feel more compassion toward myself, less anger. It’s not completely gone, but for once I don’t feel the need to punish myself.

2-5-09 A couple of nights ago, I felt incredibly vulnerable with someone. This person ended up helping me sit with that vulnerability, though it took sometime for me to really open up. It was scary, because I knew this person could see inside me. She made several observations which I knew were right on the mark, and I was able to admit she was right, but being seen in that way was both intimate and unnerving. I’ve always been a secretive person when it comes to my heart, but less so, because of this emptiness working. It’s as if all the protections and defenses are being taken away…sometimes harshly, sometimes gently, but nonetheless they are taken away. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, or if it will leave me in a better place or a worse place. Yet as I continue this journey into emptiness and into who I am and who I want to be, I find that it leaves me feeling less conflicted than I have been. Sitting with myself in compassion, letting myself be vulnerable, and actively communicating in a direct manner leaves me feeling less hurt than I have been. And maybe my emptiness isn’t the enemy I thought it was.

2-6-09 When is a mistake let go of? When does something done in the past get relegated to the past? I discussed that some today with my therapist. It’s easy for people to sit and judge someone, even when those people have no business judging that person, especially when they never bother to ask the person being judged about his/her reasons for making a decision. It’s easy to sit and judge and take sides, but the consequences of taking a side isn’t always as pretty to deal with. I’ve been thinking about that as I continue to work through my anger toward myself, but also toward others.

When is something let go of? It’s a question I’ve asked myself a lot, as I learn to let go of my guilt and and similarly toxic feelings about the past. At some point guilt which is felt becomes toxic, for even though it can be a motivating reason to change, it can also hold you back from reaching out to others. When do you let go, and say to the other person I’m ready to let go of my anger, my resentment for what happened. I’m ready to let go of what I did and what you did.

I’m ready to let go now. I’m ready to move on and leave the past where it belongs, while actually living and embracing this moment, this present, right now.

Longing leads to emptiness as well. The longing for an embrace, a touch, a kiss, a heated glance, or softly whispered words, or written text…a connection made, sustained, possibly lost, possibly found. When I find myself thinking of someone, am I really missing that person or just the way that person makes me feel, or a combination of both? We mistake longing for love, the passion of the first encounter, the rush of NRE for love, but what is love? When is love really felt? And when do we just delude ourselves into believing we are in love because of how someone makes us feel? In longing, I find the familiar awareness of emptiness…longing, longing, longing, longing…where will it lead to in the end, but emptiness, and through that everything…

In doing this emptiness work, I am focused, driven, obsessed with emptiness. My therapist said she’s rarely seen someone so focused on a particular issue for so long. This is the core though…the core wound, the definer of my dysfunction…so I am driven by my desire to work with it, to face it, to really, and truly express and explore it, even if all that discomfits others. We don’t have a healthy relationship with emptiness in the West. We are taught to fear it, hide from it, bury it, and otherwise escape from it. There is no escape, so I might as well embrace it.

B. K. Frantzis says of emptiness:

Everything will seem to be without content. Ordinarily, we experience both external and internal objects in the world as having shape, size, and some kind of content. Everything has an inherent identification or meaning that the world can grasp. As emptiness is accessed through meditation, however, your spirit starts increasingly to transform the energies of your perceptions of solid objects and stored mental images…as you start perceiving every tangible thing as nothing, you discover that nothingness simultaneously becomes full of universal consciousness, which is potentially able to become anything. There is no difference between everything being nothing and nothing being everything. your ongoing awareness spans the tremendous spiritual dichotomy between emptiness and fullness/form.

Everything and nothing, 0 and 1, all things and none. This is the path of emptiness, the path I am walking on.

2-7-09 How liberating it is to let go of a feeling that you’ve held for too long. My body had a physical reaction after I took care of something I needed to do. Even now, it feels looser, less tense, in the stomach and there is a lightness in my chest, I haven’t felt in far too long. I need to not let circumstances or other peoples’ fears stop me from communicating something that needs to be said. It’s too toxic to hold it in, and it helps no one.

2-10-09 I’ve been sitting with my anger and the expressions of it a lot this month, without trying to act them out in the obvious route. Sometimes I’ve succeeded and sometimes not. Earlier I was a bit defensive with my wife over a choice I made recently. I stopped myself and said, “What are you really reacting to.” And then told her. A lot of this month, in regards to compassion has been learning to let go of anger, but also let anger let go of me. Sometimes anger has held so tightly to me, because I’ve held so tightly to it and yet holding on so tight has been so hurtful for myself and others involved. Letting anger go and letting anger let go of me has been strange because it is so tight, and then suddenly it’s not. I’m left with compassion, relaxation, a loosening of blockage into flow. I have felt physical blockages that were so tense just release this month because I’ve stopped holding on so tight. My belly feels more relaxed, less tense…it’s something new.

2-12-09 Tonight it was suggested to me that I learn to love myself more. After this month, I think that could be possible. I’ve felt a lot more compassion toward myself, less anger, less struggle, less conflict. This emptiness working is stabilizing some. I’m still learning to sit with my emptiness and accept it for what it is, instead of trying to fill it up or run frm it. And acceptance has lead to soemthing of a more peaceful place. Love myself more…love myself period. Maybe. I certainly like myself more than I used to, so loving myself could be possible. I think I’ll keep sitting with compassion and see where it gets me.

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