Paying close attention to life through mindfulness helps us discover a world that was always there, but with immense enrichment. Without it, we miss many of life’s pleasures, like recognition of the serendipitous support from life (known to many as Grace), the subtle impulses of nature, our beloved’s voice, or the caress of the breeze on our skin. Through mindfulness we can perceive ever-greater connection to others and ourselves, and to the interconnectivity of all things.
When someone places their attention on how things should be, or are trying to figure us or anything out, a contraction in the giver and receiver of this attention occurs. When both are happening within the same person in the form of self-judgment and doubt, it’s especially difficult to bear.
Attention is an essential aspect of love and some of us are so desperate for it that we seek it in all the wrong places. Or we give it to ourselves the only way we usually received it growing up—with conditions. This creates contraction in the body and eventually leads to those parts of the body breaking down in some way.
When we’re hurting, we have the option to suffer or not. A lifetime of programming may make it seem as if there’s not much of a choice. We feel unable to meet our pain, (give it attention), without the conditioned, harsh approach that formed our mental habits from early on. Pain is usually an indicator of a part of us that has been denied, abused, unloved, disowned.
It’s amazing how just the slightest dose of attention without trying to change anything can be an act of great kindness. Mindfulness, our own unconditioned presence, can create a deep healing on all levels of one’s body-mind. Yet to the ego structure that was created before we even had a choice, (and therefore quite innocent), it can seem very challenging to let go of an oppositional approach to discomfort.
We feel most loved when we’re fully met with another’s attention without any agenda about who we are to be. We’re allowed to be just as we are, including our humanness, ego and divinity (if we must separate our ego from our divinity). This is quite a different kind of acceptance than just allowing things to be as they are in a distant, uncaring way. We already do this with most of the strangers we pass on the street.
Mindfulness adds depth to the quality of our attention. By simply sensing without the filters of how we want things or others to be, we are not trying to manipulate ourselves or others. A natural relaxation into the moment occurs and we more easily access delicate impulses of the heart with our entire Being. It’s through our heart, without it needing to be emotional, that we sense the beauty in the moment, the beauty of the person in front of us and our connection to life itself. We experience Passionate Ease.
As a wellness practitioner, I find that I’m in a great position to support a new way of being for the clients in relation to themselves, though I rarely need to do any talking for this to happen. In fact, the main focus while I work on people with my hands is to have my own awareness rest inside, noting, through my heart-felt sensing, my own state. I do not try to change my state. Rather, I relax and open as best I can even though it’s rarely perfect, all loving or fully relaxed.
Being present with what’s not perfect is a great softener to the ego that thinks it can find perfection. Just a little of this unconditional acceptance is enough to open my heart and its deeper clarity to perceive where the client is having difficulty finding their own kindness toward themselves. By navigating my own awareness through my heart, I then find I am easily guided where to go and what to do with my hands.
It is a daily moment-to-moment miracle to see how the person on the table opens without even seeing me. Then when I touch them with a mix of learned healing practices and intuitive guidance, spontaneous and profound healing occurs for both the practitioner and the client.
I believe that by using this approach we’re literally touching, with our awareness, the deepest, most reflexive part of the nervous system. The part that senses beyond the five senses into the world, feeling for what is safe and what is not. Before we speak our first words, the acculturation process begins, downloading societal norms into this part of the nervous system. It’s this part of the brain that rarely gets to feel unconditional love in our culture. However, when brought into Presence with unconditional awareness, something deep inside relaxes and is affirmed as a way of being that we have just forgotten. Once this “Loving Kindness” is anchored in the body through touch, it seems the nervous system at a reflex brain level begins to unwind distortions, tensions and pain, both physical and emotional.
The greatest commodity we have as a human is our ATTENTION. Whatever we put our attention on grows. It seems we need our attention to grow ourselves, and we need the attention of others to reflect our true beauty. It’s incredibly supportive to offer it as a gift to ourselves and from there, to another while both of us are held in an ever-bigger circle of inclusion, and thus intimacy. Unless we cultivate the experience of attention by itself through mindfulness practices, our attention then remains filtered through the powerful habits of our survival based separation thinking. Thus we experience a deep loneliness from this sense of separation from the world and ourselves. In other words, we suffer. Perhaps we are ready to try something different.
TIME IN TRAINING
A wellness practitioner relates his experience being in both the client and helping roles
Spending time on the table as a client helped me see more of the defended self and observe with awareness the associated physical holding patterns I’ve used to keep defense in place without trying to change them or push them away. From that place of awareness I saw that I was able to choose to either participate or let those patterns rest in peace. I experienced the old distortion pattern frozen in time and space. It was my choice to replay the pattern over and over or observe the pattern without trying to change it. From this place of acceptance I can connect to love and gratitude and accept the healing, love and transformation available in the moment.
When the practitioner approached the table I felt intense desire to have my sacrum touched. When the practitioner instead placed her hand on my upper back behind my heart there was a feeling of Loving Kindness while at the same time a feeling of disappointment at not having my sacrum touched.
After sharing that feeling with the practitioner, she placed her hand on my sacrum and for a short time that felt just right. However it wasn’t long before my defended self felt threatened, responding by trying to take control, “You’re using too much pressure. Lighten up.”
At that time our teacher, Lawrence, told the practitioner to ignore what I’d just said. And in that moment I realized that was my defended self-speaking. I then allowed opening to occur, yet I started to sense something was lacking—like some sort of blockage. That’s when Lawrence pointed out to the practitioner that in her putting all of her compassion towards me there was none left for her. That to me on the table came across as a blockage, a holding back, in what I describe as lack. Once the practitioner shifted and began to feel compassion for both of us, there was the sense that the practitioner was “loving herself through me.” That safety helped me experience a deep unwinding, emotional release and connection of my sacrum to my heart, creating an opening into love, healing, and transformation. As the tears flowed, the feeling of immense gratitude and openness touched every part of my being.
When working as a practitioner, I focused on loving myself through the client by breathing the other into my heart, merging with the other while feeling love for both of us. I felt how I wanted to be touched and touched the client likewise. In that way a vortex of abundant safety, connection, love and healing was created.
Dr. Jeffrey Parham—Denver, Colorado