Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it also the cause of suffering.
The Dalai Lama.
How does one cope with evil? Not by fighting it but by understanding it. In understanding, it disappears.
How does one cope with darkness? Not with one’s fist. You don’t chase darkness out of the room with a broom, you turn on a light.
The more you fight darkness, the more real it becomes to you, and the more you exhaust yourself.
But when you turn on the light of awareness, it melts.
Anthony De Mello
Someone recently invited me to think of my mind as a large piece of cheesecloth.
(Imagine with me right now.)
Now, imagine billowing this cheesecloth over a large brambly rose bush and watch it settle as it covers the bush.
(Still with me?)
As the cheesecloth settles, thorns catch on the fabric, keeping it in place, attaching it to the rose bush … this got me thinking.
Our hearts are just like the rosy bramble bush: full of life, wanting to bloom, full of hooks and thorns developed for protection.
Our minds are just like the cheesecloth: keeping a tight wrap over the surface of our hearts. This same person suggested that our minds are the surface of our hearts. I am still contemplating that one.
As emotions, inspiration and motivations bubble up within our hearts, our minds can get hooked and caught up in painful memories, and then tighten up, inhibit or constrain around them.
Everything gets entangled, and if you try to pull that cheesecloth off the bush impatiently, it would simply get shredded by the thorns.
If we wanted to detach the cheesecloth, we’d approach it gently, tenderly and patiently. We would slowly tend to each thorn, each entanglement, loosening the fabric carefully from the thorns; disentangling the cloth from the beautiful rose bush beneath – keeping it whole and intact.
We are just like this.
If we want to disentangle ourselves from our hooks, unlatch from old thorns, allow our tender hearts to bloom and grown, we need to relate to ourselves softly, patiently and carefully.
Judgment, criticism and impatience do more damage than good.
Think of the last time you were “hooked” by a painful memory or a triggering event. How did you gently disentangle from the thorns and free up your heart again?
Here are 5 practices that have supported me in freeing up my own rose bushes within:
1. Accept the Thorns.
There is nothing wrong with thorns. They are part of a necessary defense and protection system. Your entanglement with the thorns is the issue.
Develop a new relationship with thorns.
2. Stay in the Present.
It will do you little good to rail against the past (why did I throw this cloth onto the bush? What was I thinking?) or to live in the future (One day there will be a world with no thorns … I just have to endure until then.) Don’t give away your power to the past or the future. Empowerment lies in the present moment.
As Antony DeMello once said, “You fear tomorrow – not realizing that yesterday is just as dangerous.” Stop ruminating on the past, or fearing the future. Bring yourself to the task at hand in the now.
3. Witness The Places that Hurt.
When you notice yourself avoiding something, slow down and watch yourself more closely. Without judgment. Without analysis. Without evaluation. Just witness.
What feelings are coming up?
What tensions are you in your body?
That welling up in your chest? Ah yes, and that constricting as it arrives near your throat? Watch that.
Bring a compassionate witnessing presence to your experiences and internal states.
4. Focus on the Inside Job.
Bring your attention back inside yourself, again and again. Whenever you find yourself spending energy on figuring out other people, simply remind yourself: “Not my lane” and come back to yourself.
What are you feeling?
What are you needing?
What are you wanting?
What are you defending?
What are you fearing?
Disentangling your mind from thorns means keeping your attention on the things inside yourself that you can influence.
5. Love It Up:
Whatever you notice and find, greet yourself gently, tenderly, lovingly. Remember what Marshall Rosenberg used to say: Everything you’ve ever done in your life has been your best attempt at the time to meet deep needs of yours. While your strategies may have been self-destructive, self-sabotaging or simply ineffective, they were they best you could do with the knowledge and insight you had back then.
Disentangling ourselves from being hooked opens our hearts. When our hearts are open, we live more courageously. With more courage, we meet our fears and live from more love. Or said another way:
“When we see through our attachments by fully experiencing them, the result is freedom. When we can see and experience life without the filters of our judgments and demands, the result is appreciation and the quiet joy of being. When we see through our fear, the result is love.” Ezra Bayda.
And now, I’d love to hear from you …
What hooks you these days?
What are you wishing to be untangled from?
What practices have supported you in being more gentle, patient and tender with yourself as you unhook from things that used to exert power over you?
Continue the conversation with me below 🙂
One of my practices is to recite poetry. Its compact use of language provides unending fascination as I walk in, even for the 100th time. Or as I heard a teacher say recently, "I love the feel of the words in my mouth as I say them."
Here is one that helps when I can remember it just before the Dementors (of Harry Potter fame) close in:
How to find again
That sunshining, warming, inviting me to Life?
It is moving to the door,
Sitting in the light
Drinking in what I desire.
That decision to make
That step to take,
I really enjoyed this, Harry! Thank you for enriching me with these words! Y.
Though not generally the sort to leave comments, I’ve been reading your blog for several months now, and this dispatch in particular deeply resonated with me, so here goes….
What hooks me these days?
Possessiveness and feelings of jealousy, in my close personal relationships.
What am I wishing to be untangled from?
Fear and doubt, stemming from instances when my trust was betrayed, or when I betrayed the trust of a loved one.
• Recognizing that I’m being triggered, and reacting to something which happened long ago, or that I worry may happen again in the future, and NOT what is actually occurring at present.
• When able to uncover that the thorn results from some past shortcoming or regret, I look for an opportunity to be accountable and radically honest with the person I’ve wronged (no matter how long ago it happened). Even if I don’t know where to send it, or can’t (yet) bring myself to actually put it in the mailbox, writing him or her a sincere letter of apology helps me.
• When the thorn is born of some unresolved experience wherein my trust was not met, I challenge my heart to be brave, and remain open, despite the aching scar. Visualizing a ‘chakra valve’ which I turn (and with much practice, can now physically feel moving) really helps me.
• And above all else, once I’m able to separate past/future from present, the thing which helps the most, is to practice compersion around the subjective experience of the other person, with love, gratitude, and intention.
Hi J.R. – Thank-you for sharing these thoughts! I want to honor the courageous steps it sounds like you have been taking to be self-responsible, aware, and growing … I wish you much continued gentleness, self acceptance and deep compassion as you continue on your path! Warmly, Y.
Hi Yvette, The issue that hangs me up is the behaviors of President Trump. I understand his behavior is not a reflection of me yet I know that many of the decisions he makes have dire consequences for others. The issue I particularly have trouble letting go of is how the immigrant children are being treated. In fact, I "see" these kids in my mind and many times can’t quiet my mind so that I can sleep. I try praying for God to protect them and try to put it into His hands but this issue rumbles around in my brain regardless. It’s always just a moment’s awareness away. I can "feel" it there. This sounds odd to me because I know it’s best to be aware in order to see if anything might come up where I could do something to help out and if I’m not aware, or the population is not aware, the children suffer. Any ideas?
Hi Bridget – Ugh. Such a tragic situation, and clearly one that weighs heavily on your heart … When you ask "any ideas?" are you asking me if I have ideas on what to do about the current president, the immigrant children, the images weighing on you .. something else?