How to open up to a flowing energy of joy and peace
I had a tough, few days recently when thoughts and emotions overwhelmed me. A fear-based idea would enter my mind and take me away with it. My son, my husband, a friend, would say something to me (or not say something to me) and I suddenly felt an emotion I didn’t want to feel and would push it away (but then get stuck ruminating about it).
At the same time, I was listening to Michael A. Singer’s audiobook, The Untethered Soul, and everything made so much sense. Letting the thoughts and emotions flow through you as you think or feel them, rather than closing yourself off to them and imprisoning them in your psyche. It’s incredibly simple to believe you can put it into practice — for the easy thoughts and emotions you become aware of.
Fear can be incredibly stubborn
Then a difficult, challenging emotion enters your heart and suddenly it’s a lot harder to let it go. To relax and watch as it plays itself out. Listen as it tells its tale of woe until it disappears into the air, like smoke. Fear can be incredibly stubborn.
So you practice. A lot. You’re patient and don’t get upset that you don’t get it the first time around. You start by trying it with as many thoughts as you can become aware of.
Until it gets a little easier. Until the act of letting go suddenly makes sense even with the tough emotions and the fear-filled thoughts. Until you watch them and they disappear, just as quickly as the easy ones. Except they come back. And so you watch them (again!) until they disappear. Maybe they take a little longer this time or are especially insistent. But you’re patient with their insistence. You indulge their desire to get your attention. Except you don’t give them your attention. You just watch.
Emotions, thoughts are so small
Eventually, you smile. The thoughts seem so small, so insignificant. Singer’s wise words — to imagine yourself as a tiny dot on a planet spinning in vast, empty space — helps a lot.
The thought you’re having is so miniscule. How could it hurt you so much? How could you let it take you away and make you so sad? And, in my case, keep you up for hours in the middle of the night?
It reminded me of when my beautiful son was younger, maybe four or five, and was scared of spiders. I asked him to think of himself from the point of view of the spider. How scared the eight-legged creature must be when she sees, hears, feels giants like us walking toward her. That instead of being afraid of the spider, we should feel compassion for her and try not to startle her too much with our big hands and feet and voices. That we can relax and watch the spider from a safe (for her) distance and let her do her thing. We can create a new relationship with spiders that’s much healthier — and a lot more fun.
Singer asks you to adopt a similar perspective. Imagine yourself from the point of view of the thought or fear, flitting through the immense universe. How little it is compared to the fullness of your existence. How teensy beside the richness of all life on Earth. How dwarfed it is next to the peace and joy you feel after you let the emotions pass through you.
Following that experiment up with a good dose of gratitude and you realize how much of life there is to experience. How much time we waste fearing and protecting ourselves from the things we don’t like to think about or feel.
Feel joy inside and all around
I woke up early on Saturday and went down to the kitchen to let the dog out so she could have a play in the snow and a quick pee. The sun was shining through the window and cast the most amazing bright yellow glow on the tiles above the sink. They sparkled. It made me feel like they were happy (is that weird?) and it made me happy, too. It made my heart swell. (That’s definitely weird, right? I mean, they’re tiles.)
But the more I gave my attention to the experience, the more joy I felt — inside and all around me (tiles included). And the more joy I felt, the more I saw it reflected everywhere. (Hey, faucet! Yay, countertop! I see you, kettle!).
We took our son tobogganing later in the afternoon and I was surprised by how fast I was to smile, how happy everyone looked, how quick I was to laugh uproariously and engage with joy.
In The Untethered Soul, Singer describes how incredible it can feel to experience life as the watcher behind all the thoughts and emotions. How amazing life is when we allow thoughts and emotions to flow through us on their own, limited trajectories, without obstructing their paths. How full of freedom, peace and joy our lives can be. Always.
I must say, it hasn’t been constant, but those few tastes of unbridled elation were enough to make me want to feel it all the time. And what has the rest of life been like? Mostly peace. With lots more joy. Enough challenging thoughts to remind me I’m human. Some difficult emotions, like the ones my amazing husband helped talk me through the other day (who said you always have to do it alone?) And lots and lots of watching practice.
Maybe one day I’ll get to always.