Love & Light Blog by Diane Donovan-Vaughn 3/30/2019
How can one be happy walking around with enemies? It is very helpful to study spiritual practices like the Golden Rule found in traditions around the world. The Christian Bible said to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This is the advice of Jesus.
Practicing this rule is often not easy but it does help to generate happiness simply because of another universal law about giving and receiving. The “Prayer of Saint Francis” says, “For it is in giving that we receive.”
The problem with rules is they often do not help a complicated human being practice them. They sound good. They can be observed to work but when an emotion is triggered, the mind and body has its own automatic rules for handling the world. To change, a practice is essential. This week is a continuation of the practice of creating happiness and processing difficult emotions.
For example, as my ex-husband passed to the other side, a flood of memories returned both good and bad. In fact, he is an example I have used in marriage counseling for years about getting triggered by a partner. When we were first together, he would turn on the television and I would think, “He is ignoring me.”
For the past few weeks, I have been practicing an emotional resilience technique and when all these memories surfaced, I slowed them down for the practice. The first step, to label the emotion is sometimes shocking. Even though I have told this story for years about how the mind makes up an explanation for a spouse’s behavior, I never really stopped to truly label the emotion that I call abandonment. Abandonment is a trigger emotion meaning it goes all the way back in time. However, all intense emotions are most likely linked up to the past. All through life emotions create memories because the mind makes them significant enough based on their negativity to create a permanent pathway in the brain.
After saying, “I am feeling abandonment, sadness, lonely and even betrayed (by television watching), I said in third person, “Diane is feeling abandoned, sad, lonely and betrayed.” Whew! These are very heavy emotions for a husband and a television. Fortunately, since I already had lots of therapy for when these times happened, I told my mind that this is a trigger and is not really true of this event. However, my feelings have already happened. Fortunately, this is an opportunity to actually feel the emotion and to notice that the mind is trying to create an enemy because of that feeling.
Noticing how the mind creates enemies is profound. As soon as a so-called negative emotion is triggered, the mind quickly builds a bunker and starts either lobbing negative energy at that source of the emotion or itself or both. The mind is building negative pathways so that it can always remember this problem in the future as a protective device. It protects by war or avoidance, which sounds suspiciously like fight, flight or freeze survival strategies.
Now can we have a big laugh for just a moment because the mind can be so over reactive to emotions because of its own system of making so many negative pathways over time that it has caused its own enemies? Turning on the television is not threatening.
One of the reasons for divorce is that these emotions never get handled in life due to the mind transforming a loved one into an enemy or overlooking that the loved one was always incapable of intimacy due to this same system of creating enemies, using war and/or avoidance. For example, let’s imagine that after two years of being triggered, never really processing the emotions, listening to the mind talk about the television watching enemy, I am at work one day bemoaning how my husband always ignores me. A male co-worker says to me sweetly that he would never ignore me. We get into an affair and ultimately get married. Then, he turns on the TV.
Right after saying, “Diane is feeling abandoned, sad, lonely and betrayed,” I turn very carefully toward the brain and take a quick peek. It is building a bunker, talking about the enemy and trying to give Diane bad advice about the enemy and about herself because Diane’s brain loves to beat her up when she is feeling a triggering emotion. The brain is repeating and repeating the negative story to make even more negative connections in her brain, which is why I take a peek because I recently decided to minimize the negative stories and accentuate the positive ones to build a more positive network in there. Obviously, it will take about one hundred positive repetitions or about ten repetitions if I will play while telling the positive story to rewire this brain. But looking at how the brain creates enemies is amazing. However, do not give it too much time. It is a supercomputer.
Finally, the practice of loving self-compassion along with loving compassion to the world creates an ability to practice the Golden Rule and to give out the energy we want to receive and to create happiness. Treating Diane like a friend or someone I love sounds like, “I am sorry you are suffering. Here is some love and goodwill. Take care of yourself and send love and good will to the source of your emotion.” As you receive the love and goodwill, you send it out and as you send it out, everything begins to shift.
You cannot change the other person but you will change the energy they receive from you and by so doing, they will have to adjust. It may be a painful adjustment if the enemy’s game is an old one. Making someone the enemy or scapegoat is the survival tactic of a mind that tries to justify its actions and eliminate threat. If there is enough time to ruminate on the enemy, they are most likely not really a threat. In fact, rumination on an enemy indicates an emotion is being triggered. Turn complete attention to the emotion. Emotions can be extremely painful but these simple emotional tools if used often will give us the ability to allow an emotions to flow through, to process, to avoid creating enemies out of imagined attacks from other humans with unprocessed emotions and to become the great spiritual being we are meant to be, one who sees like God sees, hears like God hears and knows like God knows. God is Love and you are part of God. Choose love and goodwill. Happiness or joy is the natural state of love and goodwill that we might choose to call God.
Today’s selection from Living a Life of Awareness – Meditations on the TOLTEC Path by Don Miguel Ruiz Jr. is titled “A Beautiful Dream” on page 37.
Ruiz said, “Imagine that you like soccer, and you suddenly find yourself at a stadium in the midst of a game in progress. It could be a magnificent stadium or bleachers next to a field. The players could be great or mediocre. It doesn’t matter who is playing. You are not rooting for or against a side; you simple sit, watch, and enjoy the game for what it is.
“The moment the referee blows the whistle to end the game – no matter which side has won or lost – you leave the game behind. You walk out of the stadium and continue on with your life. The game doesn’t say anything about who you are. You are unattached, unaffected by the outcome.
“Now imagine bringing that sense of nonattachment into your workplace, your personal pursuits, and your relationships. What would your life be life then?”
Ruiz practice: “With awareness, engage your life today with a playful sense of detachment. From this state of mind, you enjoy the things you do but you are no longer attached to the outcome of any situation, as your identity is not contingent upon outdated ideas of ‘failure’ and ‘success.’”
Let’s practice one more time: Take a deep relaxing breath, sighing a long sigh on your exhale. Breathe in through the nose, counting to four, exhaling through the mouth, counting to six. Pause a second and then repeat this breath a few times, pausing for a second in between. Imagine an enemy in your life, someone you hear your mind or mouth talking about repetitively. Clearly imagine them in your mind as you label the emotion or emotions you feel about this person. Using your name, tell yourself that she or he is feeling this feeling. Breathe slowly again, exhaling longer than the inhale. Peek at your mind and its negative story in third person again, as if you are someone else looking at it. Breathe slowly again as you notice that you are suffering. You are attached to an outcome you cannot control. Let go of thoughts or the war as you send love and goodwill to your own suffering. Let go of thoughts or the war as you send love and goodwill to the so-called enemy. As you do the enemy becomes another human with intense problems and emotions navigating earth in pain. One more time, send love and goodwill to you. Vow to practice love and to remember joy. Let’s navigate the earth in love.