Mindfulness: It’s Not What You Think

 

There is a pervasive misunderstanding, that mindfulness is about stopping our thoughts (good luck), and that enlightenment is the promise of a life without pain.  Holding these beliefs both hinders our access to the benefits of mindfulness (because it points us in the wrong direction) and sets us up for a deep disappointment.  But a great beauty comes from seeing that mindfulness is nothing more than making space for what is ~ right here, right now.  When we learn to invite ourselves into the present, without expectation or demand that this moment be any different than it is, then we bring ourselves closer to the possibility of true rest.  Rest from all of our seeking.  Rest from our constant striving. Rest from our lifelong arguments with God.  And resting into an inner spaciousness that is big enough to hold anything that life brings our way.

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MEd, MA, LPC, is trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this blog postcard was meaningful for you, please feel free to share it with others who may benefit.

Sorting Out Self

How do we come to know who we really are?  And where do we find the answers?  In the era of social media and selfies, our outer masks ~ the “selves” that we show to the world ~ have never been more carefully curated. We know all of the tips for capturing an image of ourselves that casts us in just the right light.  No blemishes. No scars. No red eye. No heartbreak.  We are told to convey confidence at every turn.  But what is beneath the images we create?  And when our focus rests so squarely on the image, how do we find the true human being within ourselves?

So many clients convey to me the pain caused by comparing their lives to the lives of their friends on Facebook or Instagram.  We see the facade that others construct, and even as we know that they have manicured their self-image just as we have, we cannot help but compare their shiny portraits with the full and messy truth of our own lives.  It is an unfair and agonzing game of apples and oranges.

In this climate, it is so easy to believe that Who We Really Are can be defined, can be contained, can be captured in an image, a word, a story.  But what is beneath all of that?  What exists outside of your story of yourself?  And are you willing to find out?  Because Facebook would implode if you could post the Truth of You.

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MEd, MA, LPC, is trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this blog postcard was meaningful for you, please feel free to share it with others who may benefit.

Turn Around and Face the Monster

When we are afraid of something, we often turn away and refuse to look.  In looking away, the thing we fear swells, assisted by our imagination, by our projections, by our worst nightmares.  It grows out of proportion to reality, and as it grows, it begins to control us.  

But the thing we fear is rarely up to scale with this projection.  Imagine a child whose toys were left on the floor in such a way that a night-light casts a shadow of them on the wall that looks like a scary monster.  If only the child would notice the toys, notice that the monster is just a shadow ~ an illusion ~ and that the scary thing itself is nothing more than a little mess to be cleaned up.  

Even with the things in life that we fear the most ~ illness, death, loss, heartbreak, humiliation ~ the actuality is rarely (if ever) as scary as the shadows we make of them.

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MEd, MA, LPC, is trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this blog postcard was meaningful for you, please feel free to share it with others who may benefit.

Secure Your Own Oxygen Mask First: The Wisdom of Being Selfish

 

“In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop from the ceiling above you.  Please secure your own mask before attempting to assist other passengers.”

 

We have been taught that it is wrong to be selfish, that we should put the needs of others before our own.  And while we have been given, and absorbed, these lessons in varying degrees (e.g., girls are more actively conditioned to be selfless than boys; empaths take this teaching in more deeply than narcissists), we celebrate individuals who risk themselves in service of others.  Selfish is a dirty word.

But what if in order to be truly be of service, in order to actually help others wisely and well, we must first consider our own needs?  The person who takes the time for self-care, who secures her own oxygen mask, creates the strength and abundance that are necessary to be able to give.  When we give at our own expense, we deplete our reserves and the giving is short-lived.  But when we take the time to fill our own cup, and keep filling it, our offerings come from the overflowing, rather from the scarcity.

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MEd, MA, LPC, is trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this blog postcard was meaningful for you, please feel free to share it with others who may benefit.

Diagnosing a Culture

 

We live in a culture that is obsessed with pathology.  We like to reduce complex human beings down to simple sets of symptoms that can be diagnosed and treated.  The burden of diagnosis is then carried by the individual.  But what if our individual struggles are not exclusively the result of individual sources?  I am not suggesting that there is no place for diagnosis (there is), or that clinical mental health concerns are not real (they are).  But when we place the burden of illness solely on the shoulders of the individual, we overlook the contributions of culture, family systems, poverty, inequality, lack of privilege/access, etc., in creating these manifestations of individual suffering.  We would do well to develop a holistic perspective that includes the examination of the illnesses of our society, to recognize that anxiety and depression (for example) are understandable physio-psycho-spiritual manifestations, which arise at the individual level, but which reflect the illness of the system in which that individual is simply trying to survive.

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MEd, MA, LPC, is trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this blog postcard was meaningful for you, please feel free to share it with others who may benefit.

The Trap of Avoidance

So often, when we are feeling something unpleasant, our first instinct is to try to get away.  The unpleasantness ~ be it pain, anger, grief, loneliness, hatred, jealousy, frustration, boredom, fear, or one of their many cousins ~ is perceived as a threat, and we go into a sort of unconscious fight (argue with the feeling), flight (avoid the feeling), or freeze (numb or distract from the feeling).  While each of these strategies may be effective (even useful) in the short term, over time the feelings we are trying to escape will reassert themselves, growing in intensity and complexity.  The more we struggle against the feelings (and fighting, fleeing, and freezing are all forms of struggling against the feelings), the tighter their grip becomes.

It is only when we abandon our struggle and move toward what pains us that we find our freedom.  It was never the feelings that were imprisoning us, but our own resistance to them.  Peace arises in the softening, easing, acknowledging, and allowing of our actual experience.

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MEd, MA, LPC, is trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this blog postcard was meaningful for you, please feel free to share it with others who may benefit.

If It Isn’t Kind, It Isn’t True

Clients often try to convince me of how terrible they are, that they are uniquely selfish or jealous or angry or impatient or irritable or irrational or unworthy or needy or controlling or boring or or or or or or or . . .  It is as if the part of our brains responsible for negative self-appraisal sits alone in a tower of Eternal Punishment with no sense that every other human brain has this same part locked in a very similar tower.  From the brain’s negativity bias (a powerful evolutionary adaptation that has us scan for threat and focus on danger / negative feedback in order to stay safe and maintain connection) comes the ultimate in isolation: it becomes very difficult for us to witness ourselves honestly, without getting locked in a tower of our own shame.

A big part of my work with clients (and with myself) is helping them learn to notice with kindness.  In my office, I have a saying: “If it isn’t kind, it isn’t true.”  This is not a clever form of therapeutic denial.  In fact, I want my clients (and myself) to develop a raw and vulnerable form of self-honesty.  But when cruelty accompanies our noticing ~ especially our self noticing ~ it impedes our ability to see clearly.  And there is always a kind way to notice and name reality.

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MEd, MA, LPC, is trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this blog postcard was meaningful for you, please feel free to share it with others who may benefit.

Thwarted: When Life Doesn’t Go Your Way

A friend recently told me a story.  When her niece was 8 years old, the child was out at a restaurant with her family.  At some point during the meal, the child’s parents said “no” to something she had asked for, and with the type of sincerity and intensity of purpose that only a child can muster, she threw herself onto the floor and into a full-blown, kicking-and-screaming tantrum. She really, really wanted that thing.

And from her longing, and through her tears, she sobbed one of the most poignant sentences I’ve ever heard:  “I never always get everything I want all of the time!”

Who among us has not felt this way?  For me, the precision of this girl’s description of her agony ~ that life does not always, or often, deliver us exactly what we want ~ captures a tender aspect of the human predicament.  I can find this voice inside of myself.  Our expectation, our demand, that life give us what we want is a source of profound suffering.  However, if we take this truth as the Only Truth, we risk falling into the equally insufferable fallacy that we can never hope for anything from life.

A wise friend once captured the fragile balance ~ between our always-wanting and the sometimes-yes-sometimes-no of the universe: “Allow your longing to increase, for surely you can have some of what you want.”

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MEd, MA, LPC, is trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this blog postcard was meaningful for you, please feel free to share it with others who may benefit.

Grieving from the Inside Out: Part 1

This entry is the first in a two-part series called “Grieving from the Inside Out.”

For just a moment, right at the beginning, right when the ending becomes clear, when beginning and ending are holding hands and not yet ready to let go — the ending of what you love and the beginning of that long slow journey through heartbreak — you taste clarity.  It is momentary and precious and profoundly important, because without this glimmer, the descent into the necessary darkness would be unbearable.  I don’t know where it comes from, or where it goes, but there is a voice in that moment that whispers the eternal truth: “You are ok.”  You drink in that clarity because you have done this — grieving an unimaginable loss — enough times to know that the clarity is not yours to keep, not right now.  You have to let it go, because letting go is what is being asked of you.

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MEd, MA, LPC, is trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this blog postcard was meaningful for you, please feel free to share it with others who may benefit.

This moment

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In this moment . . .

. . . a young man sweeping.

. . . college girls leaning, talking, texting.

. . . static rat-tat-tat of a recorded drum beat.

. . . man clears his throat, sips his latte.

. . . door opens, door closes.

. . . my hand on a cool glass.

. . . confused mind, looking for answer, words, meaning.

. . . gentle thwacking: flip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flop.

. . . soft breeze kisses shoulders, hair.

. . . the musical lilt of voices nearby.

. . . dog collar jingles . . . Rufus howls.

Each moment passing, replaced by the next.

This moment.

Now this moment.

Now this.

Now . . .

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MEd, MA, LPCC, is trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this blog postcard was meaningful for you, please feel free to share it with others who may benefit.

Ending the War

Ending the War

So many of us long for peace in the world, but we approach this yearning from a place of opposition, of pushing away from what we don’t like or can’t accept.  In effect, we take the energy of war into our bodies and our beings and somehow expect that peace will arise from the fighting.  We harden our hearts against those who we feel have hardened their hearts against us (or against Truth, or against some Ideal we hold sacred).  We place the hardening over there, in those people who are doing it wrong, and fail to notice that we ourselves are also hardened . . . frightened, closed, and at war.

I notice this warring in my Facebook newsfeed.  Folks I don’t necessarily agree with point their fingers at folks I may (in principle) agree with; then the folks I may (in principle) agree with point their fingers back.  Only these days the finger pointing includes a bevy of insults, derision, and personal attack.  No ideas are exchanged.  No one is listening.  No one is holding the space of open-hearted presence.  Everyone is so busy fighting each other . . . even the folks who claim they want to create a more peaceful world . . . even the folks who don’t outwardly claim to want this, but probably do want it on the inside.  Everyone is so busy fighting each other that no peace is possible.

If I’m honest, I also notice the warring sometimes in my internal “newsfeed.”  While I may not be one to engage in online conflict, being at war internally is not a more holy path, it is simply a quieter one.

We live in the atmosphere of whatever we rehearse.  This is a challenging practice to truly grok and really must be experienced rather than conceptualized.  If we wish for peace in the world, we must practice engaging from a place of peace.  We must learn to find peace in our own bodies, hearts, and minds, so that we can engage the outer world through the vehicle of that peace.  We must begin to recognize the war we are fighting inside our own minds, and choose to put down our weapons.  This doesn’t mean becoming passive.  It doesn’t mean stuffing our strong emotions.  But it does mean shifting our focus toward the kind of world we wish to live in, and moving from that place of peace, rather than perpetuating the energies of the world as it suffers and keeping the war going.  Because if we continue to believe that we are on the side of Good, and that the other is truly Other, we remain at war and miss the call to peace completely.

♥ ♥ ♥

Rafia Rebeck, MEd, MA, LPCC, is trained in the Hakomi Method of Psychotherapy. She offers a warm, sincere, and safe approach for those who seek personal transformation through mindfulness. Please feel welcome to get in touch by contacting rafiarebeck@gmail.com.  If this blog postcard was meaningful for you, I invite you to share it with others who may benefit.

Don’t Bite the One that Feeds You

fish

 

A dear client recently lamented how tired she was of hating her body.  This is a common experience, certainly among women but increasingly among men as well ~ the rejection of one’s own earthly vessel, followed by the exhaustion that comes from both rejecting the body and rejecting the rejection.  Can you feel the endless loop of this?  In order to overcome something we don’t like, we all too often shift into disliking ourselves for the disliking.  It is like a snake eating its own tail.  Popular culture tells us that the best way to support positive body image (or positive self-image of any kind) is to replace our negative self-talk with positive self-talk.  Unfortunately, for most of us this maintains an atmosphere of rejection.  One voice yells, “I hate myself!”  Another retorts, “I love myself!”  Each voice grows louder and louder until we find ourselves engaged in an all-out civil war, our bodies&hearts the battlefield, our souls the collateral damage.

In order to truly heal negative self-image, we must instead learn to cultivate an attitude of total acceptance ~ an internal stance that allows each experience to arise and pass through us, a loving witness to All That Is.  From this place, nothing is rejected ~ including the part of us that rejects, including the part of us that rejects the rejection.  All resistance dissolves.  This is self-acceptance.  This is unconditional love.  This is healing.

Life will bring you to your knees.

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“Life will eventually bring you to your knees. Either you’ll be on your knees cursing the universe and begging for a different life, or you’ll be brought to your knees by gratitude and awe, deeply embracing the life that you have, too overwhelmed by the beauty of it all to stand or even speak. Either way, they’re the same knees.”  ~Jeff Foster

Learning to be present won’t take away the reality of pain, but it will eliminate the unnecessary suffering that comes from resisting that pain.  Learning to be present won’t shield you from a broken heart or prevent those you love from dying or offer you job security. Nothing can do that.  But it will allow you to face those conditions with grace.  It will allow you to remain in precious contact with your own sweet being.  It will allow you to experience yourself as something very vast. It will allow you to relax your grip on a broken umbrella and actually experience what it’s like to get wet.  And it will alter your experience of being brought to your knees.  Because . . .

“Life will eventually bring you to your knees . . . either begging for a different life . . . or deeply embracing the life that you have.  Either way, they’re the same knees.”