Trauma is a word that we hear a lot, and some people might wonder, “It seems like everyone has trauma… so if everyone has it, is it even really a thing?”
I’ve even wondered about the difference between trauma and the suffering that Buddha spoke of in the 4 Noble Truths. Is it qualitatively different, or is it just on the continuum of suffering that is part of being human?
In Buddhism, suffering is discussed as a truth to embrace as a truth of being human, as part of the human experience. If we believe that suffering isn’t supposed to even exist or think we can learn to control it or prevent it, we create even more suffering.
While I haven’t arrived at a definitive conclusion myself, in my gut, it feels like there is a difference between day-to-day human suffering and trauma.
Dr. Gabor Mate told of his experience in medical school that the word trauma as it relates to emotion and psychological trauma wasn’t mentioned once in his 4 years of training. I know in my own training at USCF as a family nurse practitioner, I don’t think we discussed it directly either.
So what is trauma, and how might it be different from suffering? Some may say trauma is an interference with how we’d normally operate. Or that it’s when we disconnect from the physical body.
These are elements of it, but trauma isn’t just something terrible happening to us. Sexual assault or abuse is not the trauma. An earthquake or tsunami is not the trauma. The car accident or medical procedure isn’t the trauma. Parents being indifferent, depressed, or abusive is not the trauma.
The trauma is what happens in us as a result of that external event. And to expand further, like Peter Levine said, it’s what happens inside us in the absence of an empathetic witness.
Trauma happens inside us on a somatic level in our bodies and in our psyche.
Gabor Mate talks about 4 aspects of trauma, which I think help further differentiate it as something distinct from human suffering in general:
// Trauma is anything that changes you in a way that makes your future responses to the world more limited. It impacts our “response flexibility,” which means when an external trigger occurs, we have a certain capacity to actually be flexible in our response, according to what’s needed at the time.
Our body awareness is limited (maybe we dissociate, or have uncontrollable shaking or sweating) along with our ability to regulate our other behavioral and emotional responses. We react automatically and predictably. And the greater the trauma, the greater the limitation.
This can explain why with trauma we often feel locked in the past, right? We are still responding the same way we did “back then.” But we are not there, we are here, in a new experience with a new set of resources.
I remember as a young child, my mom was late picking me up from school, so I went home with my Auntie, which I had done before (but with her knowing in advance). When my mom finally figured out where I went, she came and took me home, packed me a suitcase and threw it - and me - outside, locking me out.
There I was, terrified - especially with all the driveby shootings and drug deals going on all night and day in my neighborhood. I was also so confused.
I banged on the door and sat on the porch until nightfall, when she finally let me back in. But she still wouldn’t speak to me.
To her, it was about why didn’t I wait if she was just running late? I must not want to be with her. I must prefer to live with my Auntie.
She clearly had some abandonment issues too, right? She had PTSD from WWII and from an abusive childhood…and that trauma was being passed on to me.
So what did I do? I fawned. People pleased her. I got on my knees at 6 years old and begged her to take me back, to love me. I did whatever I needed to make sure she didn’t kick me out again and leave me to die alone - because that’s what it felt like.
I also closed my heart to her a little bit that day. I was terrified that someone I loved so much and who I needed so much could just dispense of me. If I cared about her suffering a little less, then maybe I could survive psychologically if that happened again.
My people-pleasing and withdrawal were an adaptive response at the time. They were helpful at the time.
But as an adult, when I continue these behaviors with my partners or with my friends…that’s a lack of response flexibility. When my husband was often gone at the beginning of our marriage and I was home alone with a baby, and when anger and voicing my needs didn’t help, I stopped caring and needing him. I made him dispensible in my mind and heart. There were other options.
// The second aspect of trauma is that there is a fundamental disconnection from ourselves, other people, and the world. This doesn’t necessarily happen with suffering.
Have you ever had the experience of having a strong gut feeling about something, you ignoring it, and then regretting it afterwards? Sure, right?
When we say we have that gut feeling and we don’t pay attention to it, that is disconnect from ourselves. Or maybe we don’t even know what that little voice inside of us sounds like.
We are all born connected to our intuition, but trauma will disconnect us from that. Trauma leads us to stop trusting that still small voice inside of us, or to be unable to even recognize it.
// Trauma also shapes the way we see the world. So if we feel the world is unsafe (or in my case, that no one has my back, or that I can’t rely on others), that’s a trauma response - a filtered, narrowed way of seeing the world.
For example, we may believe that humans or the world can BE unsafe. But if we believe that they ARE unsafe, that’s different.
// Finally, trauma makes it nearly impossible for us to be in the present moment - or at the very least, really difficult to do so. An extreme example is psychosis - this creates extreme difficulties being in the present moment because the mind has created an alternate view of reality. Or maybe a less severe example is many cases of ADHD (there are other casues as well, but trauma can be a significant one).
The mind is always somewhere else - it feels it needs to be somewhere else.
So for example, when my husband asks again if he can do another long trip… and essentially, can I do another long stint of solo-parenting and working full time… I go into my abandonment scenario and drama of my mom leaving me and locking me out. And I’m not in the present. I’m deep in the past.
Frankly, it’s a miracle that we all can keep moving along at all, right? Life can be hard AF.
Yet we survive because we are resilient AF. And YES, I mean you too.
Because there are actually kind people and love in the world. And we catch glimpses of that and get tastes of it.
So, my friends…one way to apply this to our everyday life is to be a little more patient and compassionate with ourselves and with one another. We are wounded wanderers, cruising around this planet and bumping into each other.
As Ram Dass said, “We are all just walking each other home.”
In this episode, you will learn:
// 4 characteristics of trauma you won’t see in other types of suffering
// How trauma can relate to ADD / ADHD-type symptoms
// Is trauma simply a part of the 4 Noble Truths?
// Why it’s important to not misuse the word trauma
// Episode 60: How to Avoid Unnecessary Suffering
// Episode 63: Being Human is Hard - the First Noble Truth
// Episode 143: Your Wild Mind - the North + Protectors
// The Myth of Normal, by Gabore Mate
// If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics.
// Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there!
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Greatest Hits Vo. 13 - How to Improve Any Relationship
3 dni temu
41:15Hey hey, rebels! Guess what I’m doing right now? I’m spending some time with my husband at a remote cabin as we celebrate our tenth anniversary. Can you believe that? Time flies, right? Second, I’ll be hosting some seriously amazing people for the second 2023 Adventure Mastermind retreat. I am so stoked for both of these. Romance, adventure, wilderness - ALL good thangs. So while I’m hosting and enjoying some time away with such amazing people, I’m sending this valuable replay your way: How to Improve Any Relationship. I’m pretty sure if I had not implemented all the things I talk about in this episode, I wouldn’t be celebrating an anniversary at all. Plus, these tips work for ALL relationships. Have you ever noticed that we think we need to control the world, and that – somewhere in the back of our subconscious minds – we believe other people need to behave a certain way so we can feel good, or be comfortable? We have so many rules for our relationships that we’ve stopped experiencing them and are locked into the expectations of how the relationship SHOULD be, instead. The secret is this: your relationship with anyone is dependent on your thoughts about them. That means that, in reality, our relationships are primarily made up of our thoughts about another person. The big kicker here? Your thoughts about them are dependent on your expectations of them and how well they meet those expectations. Here are a few simple truths: You can’t have love for someone – you just have love when you think about themYou can’t be mad at someone – you have thoughts that make you mad.Someone can’t hurt you – you have thoughts that hurt.These can be tough pills to swallow.That’s why this episode is all about getting to know the other person you are in relationship with – whether that relationship is romantic, platonic, familial, or professional.In order to get there, we wade through what our thoughts and expectations actually are – how to recognize them – and why we’re got to eliminate them to truly move towards unconditional love, friendship or respect. Once we truly understand this, our relationships will never be the same – and be so much more authentic, because the truth is, while we may not realize it, we all have a manual of expectations that informs how we want others to behave so that we can feel better in the long run.It’s like an operation manual… a book of rules and expectations of what is normal, kind and acceptable behavior according to us. In Buddhist terms we can see this ‘manual’ representing our attachment to how we want other people to behave. Our desires that, when not fulfilled, created suffering.When we get along with people or love to hang out with them, it’s usually because they are following our manual. We may not even know we have one until someone isn’t following it.And here’s the catch: we often don’t realize we’re doing this.We forget that, as adults, people – including you – have the freedom to behave how they want.Often, relationships morph into two people just following each other’s manuals. This has become a primary focus of modern therapy, and self-help too: “What do you want or need? And what does the other person want or need? And how can we all meet each others’ needs?” And then you meet in the middle and end up with no one getting what they really want. Just a ton of compromises. Now, I’m not saying relationships don’t take compromise. That’s a given.But in any relationship, the truth is that we’re responsible for meeting our own needs.We need to remember our happiness comes from within ourselves – not whether or not our partner/friend/employee/boss lives up to our expectations.Today, I invite you to lean in to the process of letting go of your manual, setting boundaries, and honoring the responsibility we carry to take care of ourselves.Start out by asking yourself: in what ways DO I want to control other people? Why? Where does this come from within myself?The reality is that we lose our ziji, we lose our power, in a situation or relationship in which how we feel is dependent on someone else’s behavior.Let’s change that. Choose to focus your brain in ways that serve you. Choose to invest in your relationships in ways that feel good. Choose to shift your expectations that require others to behave a certain way in order for you to claim your happiness, and stand in your truth. Cause one thing’s for sure – you won’t regret it. In This Episode You’ll Learn:What ‘The Manual’ is – and how to better understand the expectations we carry that dictate how we want others to behave (so that we can feel better)How to stop trying to control other people – learn instead to manage your mind and your response to how other people behaveWhy I believe we are responsible for meeting our own needs in our relationshipsWhy you’ve got to know what makes you happy to do this workThe two main things that have us compromise more than we need to in relationshipsHow to stop denying yourself love and compassion when someone doesn’t follow your manualResources:// Want to know more about how to create boundaries like a Buddha? Grab this free training on how to set boundaries that actually work – and how to do this from a place of kindness. // Episode 74: How to Set Healthy Boundaries // If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics. // Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support and getting coached by yours truly? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there! // Want to join me for the next cohort of the Adventure Mastermind? Visit AdventureMastermind.com to get on the waitlist to be the first to hear about the next dates and locations. If you’ve already done the mastermind, stay tuned for a special alumni retreat. We’ll pick up right where we left off and dive even deeper!
Giving the Benefit of the Doubt
20:56One of the reasons I LOVED being a psychology major is I got to study my favorite question: Why do us crazy humans do what we do? Exploring this question was thrilling and enlightening. I could easily obsess over it. We can have lots of judgments about people and why they do what they do. Why some are clingy while others need lots of space. Why some people felt safer wearing masks during the pandemic and others rebelled against it. Why your fave songwriter chose to pull from Spotify while others stayed. Why some people get involved in crime and others don’t. We think, they are so immature; close-minded; stupid; irresponsible; such a narcissist. We can insert any judgmental word here. In the field of psychology, it's been shown that we tend to apply the Fundamental Attribution Error, which – in part - is when we attribute someone’s actions to their personality, a fundamental part of their being, and not due to their circumstance. But then the question becomes: If we choose to believe that people do things due to a fundamental part of their character, what forms that personality in the first place? The answer to this is more complex, and involves the timeless debate of nature vs nurture. I find that what gets me through most days without closing my heart and what helps me hold compassion and love instead of hate is my belief that every single human is just doing the best they can with the resources they have – and that we all have different resources. It depends on things like the biology we were born with, the environment we were raised in, the socioeconomic status we had, and the karma that came to fruition in this lifetime. You may look at all this and say, “Well, I grew up in the same environment as so-and-so, but I didn’t make those choices.” But why? Did we have a caring teacher? A more attentive caregiver? Was it our skin color? A brain naturally skewed toward optimism vs pessimism? Our neurochemistry or epigenetics? Did we have an empathetic witness to our suffering… or not? (which we know contributes to whether an event is processed as a trauma or not). I choose to believe that each of us is doing the best with what we have. And, if we go a layer deeper, I believe that - given those circumstances - I would have likely done the same thing as someone else. For example, if you were born with the exact same biology and social set up as someone who committed a serious crime, do you think maybe you would have made that same choice? When I get deep enough into someone’s life experiences, I believe that for the most part, I likely would. I encourage us all to really explore that possibility. In the end, I choose to believe this because I can have more compassion for others and MYSELF, which feels a whole lot better than hate or judgment. One of my big regrets is that the last time I saw my mom, I was a total bitch to her. We were on a road trip to Yosemite, and I was irritable, trying to work on my doctoral degree and submit exams and papers with nearly non-existent internet. I was burned out from working full time and doing a lot of solo parenting on top of all my doctoral program demands, and trying to recover from postpartum depression. Maia was only 3 at the time and needed a lot of attention. My mom was on dialysis and required regular treatments on the road. It was a perfect storm of overwhelm for me. I apologized to her at the end of the trip, and of course she forgave me, but I felt so bad about it. I’ve often looked back and felt guilty about those moments... But in the end, I realized that in reality, I made the best decisions I could and showed up in the best way I could have given my circumstances. After all, I still chose to visit her, even with a toddler and being in a doctoral program and working full time, barely managing my depression. This, my friends, is part of self-compassion. This capacity to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. When we can offer ourselves this compassion, we can also do the same more easily for others. If we have a hard time giving others the benefit of the doubt, let’s make a U-turn, look at ourselves, and consider, “Do I believe that I made the best decisions I could given my unique circumstances? The lack of sleepThe way I was raised How I was cared forMy stress levelsMy past traumas and patterns I was taught The resources I wasn’t taught ALL of that And perhaps we can see that yes, I did my best. Yes, I did. And then perhaps we can look towards the other and say, “I can feel compassion for what their life must have been like for them to be that way. I can see why they did what they did, given all of that.” As we have more self-compassion for ourselves, more belief in our inherent Buddha nature, may we be more able to see it in others, and feel compassion for them. Because really, being a human is hard, and a little gentleness can make the biggest difference in someone’s life - including our own. You will learn:// Why we do what we do// What we can do when we struggle to give others (and ourselves) the benefit of the doubt// The biggest mistake we make when judging others’ behavior (and our own)// How our myriad circumstances can impact the choices we make// What feels better than hate and judgment Resources:// Episode 51: Self-Compassion // Episode 128: Bearing Witness - Who did you tell?// This American Life episode: Switched at Birth // If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics. // Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support and getting coached by yours truly? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there! // Want to join me for the next cohort of the Adventure Mastermind? Visit AdventureMastermind.com to get on the waitlist to be the first to hear about the next dates and locations. If you’ve already done the mastermind, stay tuned for a special alumni retreat. We’ll pick up right where we left off and dive even deeper!
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What is An Old Soul
32:03For a couple years during my decade at Outward Bound, I worked for the youth program with kids that were about 14-16 year old. I remember once there was a boy, maybe 14 years old, and I asked him what kind of life he would like to live. Did he want to travel the world? Live in a city or somewhere rural? And he said, “You know what’s weird? I don’t know why, but I see myself as this old guy, just wanting to sit at a cafe at watch the world. And I’m wearing a beret, listening to people play music outside, and I’m smoking a pipe and just thinking and reading. It’s like I feel old already. It’s weird. My friends…they want to play sports and have fancy cars and stuff. But this is what I want to do, it’s how I see myself. And they make fun of me when I say that. I feel like I don’t fit in.” And I’m like who IS this kid? It was so beautiful to hear this, and I told him not to worry - that he’d find people with a broader range of interests and views, especially once he got to college. If I knew then what I know now, I would have taken that opportunity to talk about Old Souls with him. You may have heard that phrase before - “Old Soul.” This isn’t literally a soul that’s been around for thousands of years. After all, souls are ageless and transcend the concept of time and beginnings and endings. Rather, it’s more about a feeling we have that we can see through the illusions of existence, and we experience a deep sense of longing to “return home” back to Source. So while some people relentlessly pursue material or worldly goals like money, material objects, prestigious titles, lovers, and professional success, Old Souls can’t help but consistenly seek truth, wisdom, love, and freedom beyond the material plane. Now, I want to be clear here that an Old Soul is not “better” than a younger soul. Old Souls just have an easier time connecting with the essence of who they truly are beyond their socially conditioned identity and seeing past illusions - in people and in expereinces. Trust me, they’ve got their shit to work with too, like the shadow sides of elitism and self-destructive nihilism. In general, there are some qualities that most Old Souls can identify with. They tend to be contemplative and philosophical. They’re able to see the bigger picture more easily, and they are drawn to knowledge, wisdom, and truth. They also tend toward spirituality (though not necessarily religion). And they are usually more emotionally and psychologically mature than peers. Old Souls also tend to experience, at some point, existential anxiety, depression or apathy - especially when feeling trapped in the mundane aspects of everyday life. This is why it’s important for them to have a sense of meaning or a passion or hobby they’re really into. Without it, they are prone to falling into an existential crisis. When an Old Soul can find that deep sense of meaning and purpose, they can feel less burdened by everyday life and see the deeper meaning of things. They know and accept that everything has a reason, and can start to embrace the parts of life that are challenging or that have suffering - as in the Four Noble Truths - and be able to move towards equanimity. Some Old Souls also have highly tuned intuition and often experience déjà vu or intense empathy for others’ feelings. As you can tell by now, what comes with all this is often an experience of loneliness. Since it can be a challenge to find like-minded people, how can we address this? Another quality of an Old Soul I want to touch on is their connection with spirituality. While they don’t tend to lean towards fundamentalism, many may piece together their own practice that supports their understanding of existence, so they can take aspects from many different traditions - Buddhism, pagan practices, Sufism, etc. A daily practice can help foster a sense of connection to the Divine and to all other beings. Carl Jung wrote, “Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.” It can also be powerful for an Old Soul to explore areas of self-expression through art, adventures, and other creative outlets to help address this loneliness. The awareness that we are an Old Soul often arises after a spiritual awakening - those pivotal moments in life that wake us out of slumber, out of that feeling that we have been dreaming the whole time. We begin to see that the ways we thought, felt, perceived, and behaved before were out of a misunderstanding of how things really were, and we begin to see - and seek - Truth. This path isn’t linear. As you’ve heard me say before, it’s a spiral, and we may revisit teachings over and over, but from a different perspective. However, because the path of an Old Soul can sometimes be lonely, it’s important for us to intentionally seek out like-minded friends - a sangha - and to explore different delivery systems and forms of self-expression, in whatever way feels more authentic to us. Ultimately, there is no point at which we “arrive” and feel compelte. But there is a point at which we move beyond the limitations of the ego (the false sense of self) into closer connection with our Buddha nature, our ultimate consciousness. This is available to all beings - including YOU. You will learn:// What an Old Soul is// Some key qualities many Old Souls have// Shadow sides of an Old Soul// Why it’s important that an Old Soul finds a sense of purpose// Why Old Souls tend to be “lone wolves” and how they show up in relationships// The role of creativity as an Old Soul Resources:// Episode 107: Growth and Equanimity in Everyday Life // Loner Wolf website with Alethia Luna and Mateo Sol - a great resource for soul exploration with great tool and blogposts // If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics. // Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support and getting coached by yours truly? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there! // Want to join me for the next cohort of the Adventure Mastermind? Visit AdventureMastermind.com to get on the waitlist to be the first to hear about the next dates and locations. If you’ve already done the mastermind, stay tuned for a special alumni retreat. We’ll pick up right where we left off and dive even deeper!
Savoring - When Suffering is Not Present
20:42Often people will wait to come to coaching only when their suffering has increased, like if they’re going through a breakup or another stressful life event. But really, the path of spiritual practice and growth is for all the times in our lives. Similarly, we tend to be more aware/mindful of the suffering that’s in our lives than the good times. This makes sense because of our negativity bias - keeping on alert for things going wrong is wired into our evolution. So it’s easier to be mindful when we sense anger or anxiety or frustration since they scream for our attention. But one thing we tend NOT to do is notice - and savor - when our suffering is absent. In 2007, researchers Bryant and Veroff defined savoring as “attending, appreciating, and enhancing positive experiences that occur in one’s life.” It’s a bit different than pleasure because it’s about being aware of the experience of pleasure. So this means that savoring requires mindfulness, especially of emotions. It requires us to notice when suffering is NOT there and when the experience of delight IS there. And savoring isn’t just about the present. We can savor the past or the future, too. You can think of savoring the past as reminiscing. Like remembering a hilarious moment with friends or feeling really proud of a major accomplishment or remembering that feeling of getting to the end of a hard hike and enjoying the view. In fact, savoring the past can evoke the same positive emotions linked to the actual experience and help us to be more resilient during stressful events. When we savor the future, we’re anticipating, which actually gives us a lot of pleasure. Sometimes more than that actual thing we’re anticipating. ;) While mindfulness IS necessary for savoring, it is a broader process of being aware of all aspects of our experience in the present moment than savoring. We are aware of all experiences - challenging or positive or neutral. Savoring, on the other hand, addresses a specific internal or external experience that relates to positive states. Some things we can do to drop into savoring is sharing our positive experiences with others, talking story. We can also physically celebrate moments of joy, with laughter, clapping, dancing, howling at the moon, or a loud Hell yea! We can also build a memory bank of positive emotions, which can be helpful when we are feeling down (a scrapbook or journal that we can take out during difficult times). A mindfulness walk in nature where the intention is to focus on the positive things going on around us can be very nourishing. Or we can get into an creative practice - drawing, photographing, crafting, playing music - to help us appreciate the beauty of the present moment more deeply. As usual, it can also be helpful to remember the transient nature of this positive experience as well. To recall that, “ah, this won’t last forever, so I’m going to be fully present while it’s here.” When we remember the impermanence of things, far from bumming us out, it can help us stay present. Increased mindfulness of our positive states can be so helpful - not just with savoring, but also with us becoming aware of how we also created the positive experiences in our lives, and helps us to learn how to create them again in the future. While this work isn’t about trying to feel positive all the time, it IS about mindfulness and being aware of all aspects of our experience when we are in a positive state and savoring. Not being attached, as all of this is impermanent, and it too will change. But we can savor it. I remember the Alice Walker quote, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.” May you be awakened to the ways the world is trying to please you back. You will learn:// Why it’s so important to notice when we aren’t suffering// What savoring is and how it’s connected with mindfulness// How to savor the past, present, AND future// Ways we can make savoring a little easier to practice// Tips and ideas to help you practice savoring regularly// How a regular practice of savoring can help build resilience against suffering Resources:// If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics. // Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support and getting coached by yours truly? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there! // Want to join me for the next cohort of the Adventure Mastermind? Visit AdventureMastermind.com to get on the waitlist to be the first to hear about the next dates and locations. If you’ve already done the mastermind, stay tuned for a special alumni retreat. We’ll pick up right where we left off and dive even deeper!
Awe Plus Wonder Equals Compassion
19:27This week, I was on a morning walk with a friend who told me this story about a man, Dave Hughes, who lived under a bridge in Kansas City during part of the pandemic. He was in his 50s and had just lost his job and was really depressed. Dave said one of the things that was hardest for him was not having pets or animals to make a connection. Then, one day, he sees this black duck amid some Canada geese and starts watching it. And a few days later, he woke up to find the duck watching him. It was like the bird was just staring at him, making sure it was all good. She started sleeping when he did and where he did, and in the mornings, they would get up together and she would just hop into the water there and … be a duck! This connection he had with her allowed him to realize that they wanted the same things - safety and companionship, which he really needed because it was lonely and scary for him out there. Dave and the duck stayed buddies under that bridge for over a year. Then, on March 9, 2022, the duck was gone. He looked for her for hours every day, walking up and down the creek. And as he did this, he began to get in touch with the other birds that were there. He observed them and learned about their behavior. Dave describes this as a gift that the duck gave him. Now he notices the elegance of the great blue heron, or the relationship between two wood ducks. You can hear in his entire being how his mind just opened up to an entire world of new discovery and connection with everything around him. Mindfulness, my friends. THIS is mindfulness in action, mindfulness in everyday life. When we open to the world around us, this whole new world and way of being opens up - magic every day, miracles every day. And, importantly, feeling connected to all that is around us. If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere. Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. When we are tired and feel discouraged by life’s daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they’re always there. On my first wilderness fast was when I was hunkering down in a lightning storm and so terrified, there was a break in the storm, and I came out from under my tarp and sat staring at the meadow in front of me. There was a mama bear with her cubs and birds in the grass. And right in front of me was a little wildflower. It was all by itself, with no other flowers around it. And I realized in that moment that I was also out there by myself with nothing else like me around. But just like the flower, I belonged there, perfectly in place, exactly where I should be. That was my first realization that I, as a human, belonged in nature. It was part of my freaking DNA, even if I didn’t even begin to get curious about it till I was 18. We belong. And when we realize this through mindfulness and connection, we are much less likely to feel alone and disconnected and we are much less likely to cause harm to other beings We are more likely to live in alignment with all that is and not do shit that destroys the planet and our relationships and our own life. So, my friends, how can we open up to this miracle around us? How can we expand our awareness to be open to all that is around us? For me, I’ve realized recently that due to past trauma, I can have this tunnel vision, where I’m too overwhelmed to take in all my surroundings, and instead have a very narrow experience of life where I’m focused on just making sure I’m safe and making it through whatever it is I’m doing. It can be hard to look around sometimes and see the bigger picture. Thankfully, Alaska is in-your-face about epic mountain views, and Hawaii’s epic blue water and skies help me relax. I picked good places to work on this.. More recently, I realized I really hadn’t taken the time to know - with the same intimacy - the trees and animals and landscape here like I had known the Sierras of California, where I felt so safe and nurtured. That’s when I began nature journaling here, so I could intentionally get more intimate with my surroundings, more closely see them and learn about them - develop a relationship with them. We can open our awareness, expand our awareness - beyond tunnel vision of the tasks of each day and the to-do list in our mind and pause, look around, and just notice…notice the miracles that are all around us. You are a miracle, my friend. This life is a miracle. You don’t have to be a nature lover to begin. It starts with just expanding our awareness. We can pause a few times a day to look around and notice what is alive and miraculous in our life at any given moment. A dandelion growing out of a crack in the asphalt. The view of the hillside trees from our window. The butterfly that snuck into the office. So many miracles. So much magic. Just like you. You will learn: // The huge impact of stopping to look at what’s around us// How mindfulness can help us experience magic + miracles every day// The importance of finding connection with nature in alleviating our loneliness// What mindfulness in action looks like Resources:// Episode 31: Why We Need to Adventure // Episode 96: Unplugging in an Uncertain World // Episode 134: What You’re Meant to BE // Episode 135: Reclaiming Parts of Ourselves // Episode 139: Nature and Reconnecting // If you’re curious about nature journaling and art, check these out:Roseann HansonJohn Muir LawsAdventure Art Academy // Listen to Dave’s story here // If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics. // Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support and getting coached by yours truly? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there! // Want to join me for the next cohort of the Adventure Mastermind? Visit AdventureMastermind.com to get on the waitlist to be the first to hear about the next dates and locations. If you’ve already done the mastermind, stay tuned for a special alumni retreat. We’ll pick up right where we left off and dive even deeper!
Off the Cushion - Activism + Spirituality
26:40Sometimes we can unintentionally spiritually bypass activism, thinking and believing “we are all one” and having “high vibes only” is enough… Or, on the flip side, we get burned our because we’re too overwhelmed trying to make a difference with very complex issues. But it’s so important that these tendencies don’t turn us away from activism, because caring and taking action is part of our spiritual practice. Many social activists are feeling the need to root their activism in spirituality, in more compassion and more presence - not just from action-oriented goals, but also from a deeper spiritual root. When I think back to my own path in terms of social activism, in high school I was very involved with peace work and I organized boycotts against GE because they made the triggers for nuclear bombs and whatnot. In college I started volunteering for feminist causes, environmental issues, and more community activism. Then I started taking meditation classes, so one night I would go to a political meeting and I’d hear these angry, hostile things and bitter name-calling, and the next night I would be in a bliss state on my cushion feeling so calm. The worlds felt disconnected and at odds with one another. I wanted to bring them closer together. But how? Albert Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it.” The truth of this was becoming more apparent to me. It would take rethinking how activism and the calm tranquility and growing equanimity found in my spiritual practice could merge. The key for me was found in more deeply understanding interdependence. I think of a story told by Jarvis Masters, who is an African-American Buddhist on death row in San Quentin: One day, there was a seagull out in the yard, paddling around in a puddle after some rain. And one of the inmates picked something up to throw at the bird, and without even thinking, Jarvis puts his hand up to stop it. Of course, this escalated the man’s aggression, who started yelling. And everyone starts to circle around them, because this is the way fights would start in the prison, and they’re all screaming at Jarvis, “Why did you do that?” And the words that came out of Jarvis’s mouth were, “I did that because that bird got my wings.” He knew there was an inseparable connection. There’s something that connects us all – you and me and the mountains and oceans and chickens and ravens and trees. How can we deepen this sense of belonging together? One step is to investigate - how do we relate to our “opponents?” To the people that we’ve created as the “bad other” or the “enemy”? This can be a really compelling inquiry right now, since many who want peace on the planet also harbor a lot of resentment towards other...earthlings;) When I read the New York Times in the morning and hear about what’s going on in the world, I can get really riled up and start to separate me and who I start to think of as the “bad guys.”But the reality is, when I look under my anger, what’s really there? Usually it’s fear – fear for the planet, for future generations, for what’s left of my time here on this planet... But then let’s go even deeper. What’s underneath the fear? Usually, for me it’s actual sadness. And grief. Grief for the loss and the pain. And underneath that is - surprisingly – a deep sense of caring about it all. So when I’m able to see that, I can start to put on my “glasses of compassion,” as my teacher Rashani on the Big Island calls them. I can start to see how that “other” person is actually really hurting. How the things they do are greatly impacted by their suffering and how it’s shaped how they see the world. The second reflection that I find really useful is to ask, “What are my unseen biases?” What are the ways we create separation in a kind of habitual way where we assume the other person is somehow “less than?” Through internalized racism, patriarchy, and consumer culture, for example. The third inquiry is, “How do we relate to the suffering we encounter?” It’s common that we reflexively pull away from and avoid suffering. So really this comes down to being willing to feel uncomfortable, right? To have a willingness to feel pain, a willingness to be touched by suffering - our own and others. I remember one time when we were volunteering in Mexico in high school, and we were building a schoolhouse. Later that day a family invited my friend and me to dinner. We went into their home and it had a dirt floor and bare furnishings, but they had saved their best food for us and made chicken with beans and rice. We were trying to politely decline, since we knew they didn’t have much food as it was, and we didn’t want them to feed us out of feeling obligated. We knew chicken was a rare delicacy. We declined a few times, but they insisted. It was delicious. We were grateful, and they were so happy to be able to give us something in return. And we realized that we had actually created a distance between us and them. Like we were the “helpers” and they were the “other.” And that, my friends, is when compassion turns into pity. That distance we create can take away from someone's dignity. True compassion and action means we’re in it together. Tara Brach said the point of organizing isn’t actually to “organize something.” It’s actually to strengthen the web of life and the connections between people. And it takes time – as long as it needs to. If we’re going to get depressed or discouraged if we don’t see quick results, we aren’t going to last very long, right? In Zen they say there are only two things: you sit, and you sweep the garden…and it doesn't matter how big the garden is. Our activism can sit in the sweeping of the garden. So in our practice we can invite ourselves to quiet our minds and open our hearts and as we go out into the “garden” of the world, we reflect on what opens our heart. As we do this, we feel more hope and encouragement and joy and can potentially overcome our depressed mood or sense of hopelessness. What inspires compassion and action within us? What love do we want to express? What gift can we offer the world - even if the gift is the suffering that we've gone through and witnessed? It just takes one person to shift things. One person. One thing. To be that person who can offer something somewhere, to do that one things, begins to open a channel of connection for all of us. What is that channel that wants to open? What is that first step we can take? What is that gift you might have to offer – even if it is your suffering? You will learn:// How to reconcile the seemingly different energies of activism and spirituality// The one feeling to tap into to motivate our activism from a more loving place instead of hate or unhealthy anger// Why we are naturally called to take care of Earth and all of its inhabitants, even the non-human ones// 3 reflections we can do to connect ourselves with our belonging with others// The true purpose of activism Resources:// Episode 4: Anti-Racism + Radical Mindfulness // Episode 5: Try Allyship and the Willingness to Be Uncomfortable // If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics. // Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support and getting coached by yours truly? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there! // Want to join me for the next cohort of the Adventure Mastermind? Visit AdventureMastermind.com to get on the waitlist to be the first to hear about the next dates and locations. If you’ve already done the mastermind, stay tuned for a special alumni retreat. We’ll pick up right where we left off and dive even deeper!
23:48Last year while I was working with Zendo at Burning Man, I got to hear Dr. Carl Hart talk about “psychedelic exceptionalism.” Essentially, he talked about some concerning language he’s noticed in psychedelic-focused conversations. These narratives are creating “psychedelic exceptionalism” that, in his opinion, perpetuate harmful narratives around stigmatized drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, and crack cocaine - and indirectly, the people who choose to use them. Psychedelic exceptionalism refers to the perspective that psychedelics are somehow better and more useful than other classes of drugs like opioids or stimulants. Especially when it comes to recreational use of these substances. Trust me, when I first heard him say that I was like… but… psychedelics ARE more beneficial! But after listening to him talk and speaking with him afterward, I realized that one of the main points of encouraging people to take a step back and try to have a different perspective is that ALL drugs are psychoactive. So it would be remiss to say that some are special and some are evil. Or that psychedelics get glorified while others have been demoralized since the War on Drugs. When we choose to think this way - that some drugs can be vilified (along with those who choose to use them) - we end up with harsher penalties and increased marginalization. That creates more separation between us as humans. For example, MDMA and methamphetamine have very similar chemical structures. Yet we have very different images of those drugs and the people who use them. And those who have a drug of choice that they want to encourage for medicinal reasons get nervous about being stigmatized with other drugs. Of course, all of this blew my mind at the time, but I think as a culture it would behoove many of us in modern industrialized society to get really curious about things. Sit in discomfort. Notice if we have resistance and where that is, and soften the edges a little and consider… What IF this were true? Dr. Hart goes on to emphasize that what’s important is that we do what’s right as a human being, for human beings. A humanitarian perspective. We all are doing the same thing - wanting to alter our consciousness to feel better and suffer less. Because life can be hard, and we all want to feel better. So if we judge some people who do that with one drug vs another, even if they don’t have much choice about what they have access to, we aren’t respecting other people’s humanity. Now, as a nurse and someone who has worked in rural and underserved areas, I have seen how horrific the opioid crisis can be. So how can someone say mushrooms aren’t any better than heroin or fentanyl? Dr. Hart says, “it’s not up to me to decide what drug people use. If they choose heroin over mushrooms, that’s their decision as autonomous adults.” Plus, if we’re talking about paranoia at large doses, mushrooms are more dangerous. And while opioids can produce a physical dependence more easily than mushrooms, alcohol can too. Yet the vast majority of people in the country don’t have a big problem with alcohol, and it’s legal. I love that in one interview with NPR, Dr. Hart says it’s always disturbed him when people identify themselves as a “psychedelic community.” That people are all taking some psychoactive substance for the same mind-altering reason, but then we draw a line with which drugs are better than others. One critique I’ve read about Dr. Hart’s views in a Harvard Law Blog wonders, if we toss all drugs together in one big basket… isn’t that a bit reductionist? Like psilocybin mushrooms have a relatively great safety profile and high potential as a therapeutic intervention. Especially in the context of the mental health challenges so many are facing today. On the other hand, we can’t completely ignore the harms of NOT addressing the decriminalization of non-psychedelic substances. The author agrees that the War on Drugs is “racist, ineffective, and draconian.” I encourage you to listen to the full episode to hear the examples I give on this, but the psychedelic decriminalization we’re seeing in multiple states can pave the way for larger drug reform that will address these disparities. The author of the blog goes on to talk about how we can reschedule controlled substances to help reduce stigmatization and allow for further research and uniform regulation for medical and - as appropriate - adult use purposes. Another interesting perspective, right? And I think, once again, I will likely find myself landing in the middle. Because I can see how both of these views overlap like a venn diagram… that mandorla… where no matter how much we’d feel safer on one side than the other, it’s the place most of humanity’s experience takes place - in the middle. What do you think? When you explore ehipassiko, the Buddhist concept of “come see for yourself,” what does your inner guru think of these ideas? And, if we can get out of our heads and into our heart (carrying the wise mind with us), what do you think would be the more compassionate approach for humanity? You will learn:// The definition of “psychedelic exceptionalism”// How we can look at the opioid crisis with a more humanitarian view// The potential benefits - and problems - with psychedelic exceptionalism// Whether decriminalizing psychedelics can really pave the way for larger drug reform Resources:// Episode 52: How to Live in Polarity // Episode 97: Psychedelics and Spiritual Practice // Episode 122: Come See for Yourself - Ehipassiko // Episode 152: Sensitivity and Addiction // Harvard Law’s Bill of Health, “The Myth of Psychedelic Exceptionalism.” // Interview in Psychedelics Today: “Psychedelic Exceptionalism and Reframing Drug Narratives: An Interview with Dr. Carl Hart” // NPR Interview: “'Drug Use For Grown-Ups' Serves As An Argument For Personal Choice” // If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics. // Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support and getting coached by yours truly? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there! // Want to join me for the next cohort of the Adventure Mastermind? Visit AdventureMastermind.com to get on the waitlist to be the first to hear about the next dates and locations. If you’ve already done the mastermind, stay tuned for a special alumni retreat. We’ll pick up right where we left off and dive even deeper!
Sensitivity and Addiction
30:40We know that genes play a role in transmitting a predisposition to addictions, but it’s often that it’s the capacity of the chances of becoming addicted are passed on. This is where our degree of sensitivity can come in. The more sensitive (or vulnerable) a person is, the more suffering they experience when painful events happen - and the more hurt we humans are, the more we naturally want to escape that pain...and this can sometimes be via addictive behaviors. While there’s no definitive causal link in the research between being high sensitivity and addictive behavior, there’s certainly a suggestion of a connection, or correlation. It’s definitely been true in my own experience and observations in my clinical practice. Up to 30% of people are Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs). HSPs are born with a very sensitive nervous system - one that takes in and processes LOTS of information. This means they tend to notice all. the. things., and their brains end up working overtime to process it all, resulting in overwhelm. While this sensitivity can be a great thing that allows HSPs to have a high level of emotional intelligence and can be very creative, it can also be potentially exhausting. Since HSPs often experience the world as overstimulaiton, they - like other humans - will often seek a way to turn it off. Empaths may do this too when they become overwhelmed when they feel too much - either their pain or another’s. Then there are those of us who may not have a diagnosis or classification of HSP or Empath but who still self-identify as a more sensitive type and will also have more of a chance of developing behavior to cope with pain. One of the common very human ways of doing so is by escaping from, erasing, or numbing it… which can lead to (you guessed it) addictive behaviors. And it’s not just our genes or our sensitivities and vulnerabilities that can play a role. Our environment also is a HUGE factor, which is good news, because we can do something about the environment. When it comes to healing addiction, we need to create for ourselves the healing environment that we didn’t get when we were younger. Especially if we are sensitive - even more environmental considerations need to be taken into account. Us wild and whacky humans are either going to try to soothe our pain through external means - via codependency, being addicted to love, by doing a substance… OR we learn to stay with our pain without trying to compensate for it, because addictions are all an attempt to compensate for pain. To lessen it.Dr. Carl Hart, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia and author of Drug Use for Grown Ups, supports that pre-existing kind vulnerabilities (psychological or circumstantial) can lead to addiction as we attempt to ease our suffering. He says we must “look beyond the drug itself” to things like co-occurring psychiatric disorders and socioeconomic factors. Now, the problem is that we learn the skills to be with pain as young children – and many of us didn’t have great support for that. Any child will have painful experiences simply by being alive. They could be too hot, too cold, too hungry, sick, or in pain. We learn to hold pain and be with it when we know that pain is something we can handle and that it’s temporary - it will pass. But how does a child learn to hold pain? Someone could model it for us, like our parents holding our pain with compassion and being empathetic witnesses. Helping us see that this pain isn’t devastating, we can handle it. But if we’re not held like that, then as soon as pain arises, we think it’s never going to stop, we’ll feel overwhelmed, and that’s when we need to soothe it from the outside. Now, staying present with pain goes against everything we’re programmed for. Remember, our motivational triad is to avoid pain, seek pleasure, and do what’s easy. Being with pain is NONE of the above. Also keep in mind that when we evolved that way, addictive substances weren’t as readily available - those concentrated dopamine hits of drugs like heroin and cocaine, high-proof alcohol, high glycemic-index carbs, easy access to porn… And here is where we circle back to how there is for the most part no “cure” in modern psychiatry. So many clients will say, I wasn’t depressed for years, but it came back. Or I thought I was over beating myself up, but here I am back at it. Listen… we can get so much better. Progress isn’t measured by CURE. But HEALING is being with it, cultivating the capacity to be with it… which can actually help it happen less and less, with decreased duration and intensity too. So if we experience suffering along the way, it’s just a sign that at that moment we aren’t able to give ourselves that capacity to hold our suffering. And the way we compensate for that often creates more suffering for ourselves if it’s in the form of habit-forming behaviors that lead to addiction. Buddha says that with our minds and thoughts, we create the world. But the part that isn’t mentioned a lot in the teachings is how before we create the world with our minds, the world creates our minds too. This helps us remember self-compassion and learn new ways to work with our brain. The ultimate truth is that despite the most difficult early experiences, we have the capacity to hold our suffering, and the world also creates environments in which being with this pain if available if we look for that - healthy friendships, community, spiritual groups, nature, and reconnection with ourselves. We know that people can heal. This is our practice. It applies to all of us, not just sensitive people. But it’s particularly important if you or someone you know is sensitive. With this practice, as a more sensitive person, we won’t be as controlled and reactive due to the overwhelm and sensory overload we may feel, and we’ll be more likely to be able to have a sense of being centered and grounded amidst it all, which is a really liberating feeling. We’ll have more access to our wild mind. Being highly sensitive comes with a capacity for growth and self-reflection — traits the world really needs right now. So if you identify as sensitive, please continue your practice to build this resilience, to stay on your path and not get derailed by addiction or a false sense of safety or relaxation. This world needs you. What you’ll learn:// Why and how sensitivity may have a connection with addiction, along with our genetics.// How epigenetics and environment can affect future generations… positively OR negatively.// How textbooks define addiction and how it shows up in adults who use drugs.// How we can begin to heal ourselves and build resilience as sensitive people Resources:// Episode 2: How to Not Care WHat Other People Think About You // Episode 13: How to Quit Buffering // Episode 15: How to Drink Less // Episode 144: Your Wild Mind - The East and Our Need to Escape // If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics. // Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support and getting coached by yours truly? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there! // Want to join me for the next cohort of the Adventure Mastermind? Visit AdventureMastermind.com to get on the waitlist to be the first to hear about the next dates and locations. If you’ve already done the mastermind, stay tuned for a special alumni retreat. We’ll pick up right where we left off and dive even deeper!
Greatest Hits Vol. 12 - You Have the Power
13:04I just wrapped up the first retreat of the 2023 Adventure Mastermind and it was EPIC. Wild fun adventures and people having BIG breakthroughs. I’m looking forward to spending the next few months with this group. (You can totally get on the waitlist for the next cohort NOW, by the way. Link in the resources!) Anyway, I planned a lovely day of downtime after the retreat, but my flight got changed and I ended up frantically packing so I could leave early that day. So, this week’s topic will be a replay of perhaps one of the shortest episodes I will ever do. But it packs a punch because it calls us ALL - no matter how painful our childhood or how difficult life has been for us before - to step back into having sovereignty in our lives, and in how we impact others. May it be of benefit! Here’s an example many of us have experienced: you’re on a plane and all of a sudden the plane drops into an air pocket and gets a little wobbly. And a few people gasp and the bell dings and they ask everyone to fasten their seatbelts… After fastening up, what do you do? Personally, I look to the flight attendant. Are they freaking out? If so, you bet I would be too! If they are calmly flipping through a magazine, I start to let go of my anxiety and try to relax. A good flight attendant is not the thermometer, letting the scene’s temperature and vibe lead to some reactionary behavior. A good flight attendant is acting like a thermostat – with the ability to impact the people around them. Just like them, you can be the emotional thermostat in a given scenario, able to impact the entire room. When I worked in the ER and a new trauma case came in, or when I would come into a birth full of tension and anxiety, or even when I was guiding and there was a rock fall or an avalanche was set off, it was literally my job to keep cool. I discovered it was one of my superpowers – to remain calm when shit was hitting the fan. In those situations, I often heard, “When you walked into the room, I felt a shift.” Which is good, because that it what I intended to do – and the thing is, you do it, too. You impact a room when you walk in – but the degree to which you do it is up to you. Sure, sometimes I had to fake that calm and control because I knew that if I lost it, then everyone else would, too. But it began to come naturally to me, more and more. You can do this too. Our capacity for having an impact on others is well-known in Buddhism (and Western psychology) and it’s one of the reasons we practice, right? It’s why we meditate or do yoga or listen to podcasts. We’re learning to free our minds from getting hooked by emotions that are more like thermometers… more reactionary. In addition to lessening our own suffering, it’s so we can be a touch of calm in the center of this storm of life. Or be the touch of positivity, hope, humor, or love. We all have that capacity to influence those around us in this way. Not just in emergencies, but in day-to-day life. At the end of my yoga practice, I like to dedicate, “May this practice not just benefit me, but all I come into contact with.” When we can make a dedication like this, we own that we impact the energy of the space we are in. So as you move about your day today, try to notice how you’re showing up. Are you entering into challenging situations and allowing them to impact you such that you react to them? Are you just wishing it didn’t make you feel that way… wishing for that change? Or do you intentionally set the tone and be the change you want to experience? As we cultivate our wisdom, compassion, and ability to create more time in that pause between perceiving a situation and responding to it, we will become more and more skillful at it. And if you’re faltering with that practice these days, hang in there! That’s why we practice. We are all connected. How we show up has an impact in the world. It matters. You matter. A LOT. In this Episode you will learn:// The difference between being a “thermometer” vs a “thermostat”// Why we need to shift from reacting to a situation to creating it intentionally// How this shows up in how we take a leadership role in our own lives// One dedication you can practice to start owning your energy + impact Resources:// Episode 44: The Power of the Pause // If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics. // Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support and getting coached by yours truly? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there! // Want to join me for the next cohort of the Adventure Mastermind? Visit AdventureMastermind.com to get on the waitlist to be the first to hear about the next dates and locations. If you’ve already done the mastermind, stay tuned for a special alumni retreat. We’ll pick up right where we left off and dive even deeper!
Triggers and Building Resilience
37:27Are we obsessed with trigger warnings and being too sensitive? This is an active debate, and one we explore on this episode. A few weeks ago on the Rebel Buddhist podcast, we chatted about Shadows and how we can identify our shadows by noticing when we’re activated by someone before we even really know them. And more recently than that, we jammed on the word “trauma” and whether that word has been overused. Both of these definitely relate to today’s topic, triggers. While we tend to be more aware of triggers and what they may be for us, they also give us insight into our internal process and what’s going on inside us. Because we all come with our own stories, experiences, and self-image, we can all get triggered. It’s the nature of our existence. And many of the things that contribute to those triggers are hidden from us, especially when we’re living life on autopilot, doing things we aren’t even fully conscious of. So, what exactly happens when we’re triggered (I like to say “activated” as I think it’s more accurate) and we feel that energy surge, agitation, or confusion? Well, it’s different for everyone, but all in all it’s an activation of our nervous system, our trauma response, and it’s often scary or really uncomfortable. But what’s also actually happening is that our inner healing wisdom is saying, “Hey - wake the f*ck up and notice this. There’s something here that we need to pay attention to and heal.” Here’s an analogy to help us understand and properly address when we feel this activation: the physical trigger of a weapon. That trigger is a small piece of a larger weapon, like a loaded gun. The more dangerous part is the bullet and the explosive inside the weapon, right? So, we could focus on that little trigger…or we could put our attention on the whole mechanism. In the same way, if we get triggered, it’s because we are a gun ready to fire. There this explosive material in us that we’ve carried all our life. And the potential here is to get curious about what the ammunition inside of us is, instead of focusing on that little trigger. Now I’m sure many of you are aware of the concept of a “trigger warning,” like on social media videos when someone is going to talk about a topic that may trigger a viewer. And they can be helpful because sometimes even when we’re aware of our triggers and we’re doing the work, we don’t want to “have” to do it when we’re not prepared and our nervous systems can take us by surprise. But how can we all be more resilient when we walk around the world - trigger warnings or not? Because for the most part, when we are activated, we aren’t expecting it. One step we can take is that we can remove the armor that we’re using to try to shield us from those triggers – constantly trying to protect ourselves from being hurt by avoiding potentially hurtful situations - and instead live in vulnerability. This is easier said than done, but when we can do this, we can also get to the root of the problem and start to help our trauma heal, taking back our power in the process. So when we’re activated and triggered, it’s a great time to turn the focus back onto ourselves. We can ask ourselves, “What’s all this about for me?” This is a way for us to take responsibility in an empowered and self-compassionate way – not a judgmental way. Early in our marriage, my husband would forget to do things he said he would do, or he would break a promise. And oh my GODDESS I would get so activated. Then my reaction would usually be disproportionate to that event, even if I didn’t feel it was at the time. I felt every rage event was valid…and while others may have agreed that it was valid, the main point was I didn’t have access to other ways of responding when I was activated. I had decreased response flexibility. Over time (lots of time), as I owned my role in the challenges in our relationship, I began to see that it was possible that it could both could be true: It could be true that he was letting me down AND that my response was disproportionate and not how I wanted to show up. That took a sh*tton of mindfulness, and my meditation practice was key in seeing it. There isn’t anything wrong with being triggered. It’s something that just happens to all of us; a part of our humanity. AND every time we are triggered, we have options with how we respond: We can fight/flee/freeze/fawn… get away from who or whatever triggered us. Withdraw. OR - we can stay with the emotion and allow it, experience it, work with it. Get to the juicy bits of it. Dive into self-inquiry. If we do the first thing - attack or withdraw - we’re perpetuating our role as a victim. But we have the option - the opportunity - instead to consider that every time we get upset by somebody or something, a part of us has guided us there because there’s something we need to learn, and we can use it as a chance to learn more about our inner world and what we need. There’s a Tibetan buddhist practice where we actually PRAY for challenges - that we have just the right degree of suffering to awaken. There is wisdom in that practice, knowing that when we work with suffering, we can progress on our path of awakening. That doesn’t mean no boundaries, tolerating abuse, or not engaging in self care. It means using our suffering, when it arises and when we have self-compassion in place, to awaken us on the path. And what if, after we’ve engaged in our self-compassion and related our nervous system, we could entertain the possibility of being grateful for the challenge? What if we could get curious about that? Usually this inquiry leads us to realizing we have wounds involving our self worth and livability. But when we choose to focus on that instead of controlling triggers, then we have access to different responses. If I was able to do this and over time learn to fully connect to and know my worth and value as a human being, then my husband could forget to do something and I’d see that whoa there’s that wound of mine again. And instead of raging, I could get curious about what I need to take care of myself, and even maybe have the bandwidth to get curious about what’s going on for him. I could look at the situation from a place of compassion – for myself and him. And not come from rage, which didn’t feel good to me. So there are other options to the activators when we have that freedom of response flexibility that healing can bring us. Resilience, which is when we can bounce back better, is the capacity to not be devastated by an experience, like triggers. In a human being, it’s a relational setting that cultivates this. We have relationships with people – like our parents – that help us gain resilience by mirroring our self worth and loveability. But as we all painfully know, human relationships are imperfect, so of course we’ll mess up and get messed up by them. However, we can heal them, and the path is often one of deep learning and growth, and that’s one of the blessings of being human. So you’re not alone in being triggered. It’s not unhealthy. It’s challenging. In all of us there a wholeness available. A Buddha nature. No one is inherently broken. We have the capacity to build resilience to our triggers. We can know we have these wounds within us that we are trying to protect from the world. And we can make requests and use discernment with what we expose ourselves to as we heal. AND when we do get triggered, we have the option to - once we’ve generated self-compassion and engaged in self-care - to take the u-turn and get curious about our internal experience. We can ask ourselves, “What do I need right now? What are my tender spots, my wells that need filling? What wound was just touched and how can I tend to that … myself?” When others get triggered, we can also remember my favorite quote my Ram Das, “We are all walking each other home.” Ah yes sister, yes brother, yes friend…yes beloved… I see you, I have been there too. You will learn:// Why and when we become triggered in the first place// Are trigger warnings useful and necessary? Or potentially enabling?// How to use mindfulness practices to realize our triggers// Two ways we can respond when triggered, and which way leads to healing// How creating resilience can help us when triggered// The balance between protecting ourselves from excessive activation, and using challenges as opportunities for growth Resources:// Episode 145: Your Wild Mind - The West & Our Shadows // Episode 146: Suffering vs Trauma // Rayya Elias & Elizabeth Gilbert: “Sex, Drugs & Hair” // If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics. // Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there!