Practice Makes Presence
Memories are the picture frames of the mind. Both the good and bad scenes from our life can exist as vivid snap shots complete with a loaded burden of emotion. My negative frames always appear at the worst possible time. If things have been chaotic, depressing, or painful some of these framed memories come for a visit. Sometimes they appear randomly and other times they are recurring reminders. Some of the reminders are of mistakes made, regrets held, and others are of harm done to me by others.
How do we change our mental picture show? Is it possible? First, this type of change is possible but like Jack Kornfield has said of the mind "it's like a dark alley late at night, you best not go there alone"! If neglect, abuse, and severe loss are your frequent visitors this work should be done with a qualified therapist, someone with the confidence and skill to treat trauma.
Without being conscious of it, I have been living with mental pictures that were of two groups, traumatic memories and semi-processed pain. For the past several days, I have had visits from some painful scenes that are semi-processed. That is to say, they are familiar, have been shared, and have been discussed within a supportive network. Even though they appear infrequently and less painfully, they have not completely disappeared. The next step in my process is to re-frame them. This means taking our negative experiences and developing neutral statements about their meaning.
One example is my recent change in my life. For a list of reasons, my memories of the years spent within a particular group are painful and still make me angry. To work through this I had to develop a re-framed summary of that time and that entity. After my therapist suggested this, it took me four days of wading through judgments to come up with something neutral. Now, when my thoughts turn to that old hurt I insert that neutral statement e.g. "ABC is fun place for children to play." I repeat the neutral statement as much as is needed while I sit with whatever sensations exist in my body. I don't resist my feelings, I simply allow them to be. I am learning to let these mixed feelings coexist and I am becoming comfortable with holding a neutral sentiment where resentment used to live.
Now my quest is take other sources of pain, and even the ones where I resent a younger and more immature version of myself because of some painful. I can develop a neutral statement about myself, something like "I am evolving and developing, moving toward good in all of my relationships" and like my other old mentally frame, I let my thoughts and sensations coexist.
Perhaps the only way to make peace is to end the civil war that wages within our hearts. First, we need to see it's an endless war where we constantly supply both armies. Then we decided to fire the first shots from each side and get hit twice as much as we expect.
You. Right there, right where you are, with all of who you are. You are the first. This is not a medal stand or coronation but unveiling. By daring to stare into the weather long enough and remain present you have seen the crowds break apart. What was once weather is now passing away, and the bright light of the sky beckons. It belongs to you.
This bright and peaceful sky has always been and will always be yours. But now, with sunlight finding its way to you, warming your soul, the bright light now shows the shadows of those around you. Some are looking desperately at the weather believing they only have the choice to fight it or to run from it. Still others wander aimless, unaware that there is anything overhead because their necks are strained from being turned down in grief.
As you see the light, others will begin to see you and notice the difference. In the beginning it may make others afraid, or jealous, or resentful. These are the usual hallmarks of darkness. We remember them too, and also how we found the light.
We came to the light shared from another who journeyed ahead with an open heart and let us borrow from their illumination until we realized we had been glowing all along. And now, it's our turn to look around and offer to those who seek something greater, deeper, and more fulfilling than the delusion of stormy weather. They are waiting for some new, someone who looks as bright as you. Each one that finds you will always know that you were first.