3rd December 2020

Learning to live with ourselves during times of uncertainty and change

Uncertainty and change

These days life is challenging.  Every time we turn on the television or radio we hear of  suffering, anxiety, loss of jobs, financial insecurity, loss of loved ones and loss of the world as we knew it.  Put into the mix the heightened division and conflict within families, communities and politicians it is no wonder that most of us are struggling to keep positive, calm and have hope for the future.

In the past many of us have relied upon friends and family to support us, to have outings and holidays to make life more interesting, such as shopping expeditions, reunions with friends and family, and activities to distract us from worries and not feeling good about ourselves.  So what can we do when these distractions are not available?  Perhaps the time has come to address these unwanted emotions, these negative thoughts, these painful relationships with ourselves, so that we can start to live in the present with our fullest potential rather than operating on old core beliefs which we constructed years ago in order to survive.

Challenging our old beliefs about ourselves

The greatest challenge we have is to confront our thinking about ourselves and to accept our adequacy and uniqueness as we are in that moment. It seems to be that from birth we are programmed to strive to be better than we already are.  This deep rooted belief that we are inadequate propels us into rejecting parts of ourselves which can lead to anxiety, depression, loneliness, hopelessness and anger, to name but a few.  We were born with a vital, beautiful openness and spontaneity but we learned to survive in the grown-up world by putting on a padded jacket to help protect us from what was missing in our lives, such as love, security, food, emotional connection and compassion.  As we become older this protective jacket around us becomes our prison which limits our capacity to lead a fulfilling life with truth, basic goodness and acceptance of ourselves.

Steps in learning to be accepting of ourselves

Tara Brach, the eminent psychologst, in her online talks about discovering peace and freedom teaches about the acronym RAIN and how we can use this formula to learn to accept ourselves.

R means to recognise what you are thinking or feeling in any moment.  To become aware of emotions, thoughts or body tensions just as they are.  Accepting what is happening 'in the moment' and not rejecting, pushing away or judging or controlling anything that you experience. This also means not distracting yourself through activity from these painful thoughts, tensions or emotions but staying with them.

I means to investigate the inner hurt with kindness.  Ask yourself “What am I thinking and feeling, without criticism or judgement.  Do I feel tension in my body and ask yourself “Am I willing to accept this tension?”  Are these emotions familiar and, if so, am I willing to accept these emotions just as they are?  Is there a part of me that is wanting some acceptance, kindness and generosity?  Am I willing to say to myself  “I am willing to accept myself just as I am? It is important at this stage to let go of the dialogue of why you are feeling this way.

N means  to nurture yourself and to acknowledge the feeling, to give it your full compassionate, welcoming attention without the accompanying negative story line or judgement. To be present with the sensation in your body. Does it remain the same for long or does it change?  Some experts say that it takes one minute and a half to feel emotions and to be able to do this without interpretation or judgment, just allowing yourself to 'Be'.  Doing this repeatedly one or many times a day can be a first step to accepting ourselves just as you are.

This can be the beginning of the process to taking off our “padded jacket”, and allowing ourselves to feel our energy and Beingness present in that moment, without dialogue, and to give us a taste of the inner truth of who we are.  As we unmask, we can then let go and open the mind and heart to our deepest well-being, and experience joy and freedom of that moment.

“The mind creates an abyss and the heart crosses it.”