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Mindful : August 2014
Recognize What’s Going On Recognizing means con- sciously acknowledging, in any given moment, the thoughts, feelings, and behav- iors that are affecting us. Like awakening from a dream, the first step out of the trance of unworthiness is simply to recognize that we are stuck, subject to painfully constrict- ing beliefs, emotions, and physical sensations. Common signs of the trance include a critical inner voice, feelings of shame or fear, the squeeze of anxiety or the weight of depression in the body. Different people respond to the sense of unworthiness in different ways. Some might stay busy, trying to prove themselves valuable; others, fearful of failure, may become discouraged or even para- lyzed. Still others may resort to addictive behaviors to avoid facing their sha me and fear. Any of these strategies ca n lead to either defensive or aggressive behavior with oth- ers, or unhealthy attachment. Some of us are at war with ourselves for decades, never realizing how our self-judg- ment and self-aversion keep us from finding genuine inti- macy with others or enjoy- ing our lives. One palliative caregiver reports that a key regret of the dying is not hav- ing been true to themselves. Rather than listening to and trusting our inner life, most of us try to live according to the expectations of others, which we interna lize. When we inevitably fall short of the ma rk, we condemn ourselves. Though it may sound depressing or overwhelming, learning to recognize that we are at war with ourselves is quite empowering. One meditation student described the trance of unworthiness as “...the invisible and toxic gas I am always breathing.” As he became increasingly mindful of his incessant self-judgment and feelings of inadequacy, his aspiration to free himself from his painful inner prison g rew. R In order to flower, self-compassion depends on honest, direct contact with our own vulnerability. Compassion fully blossoms when we actively offer ca re to ourselves. To help people address feelings of insecurity and unworthiness, I often introduce mindfulness and compassion through a meditation I call the RAIN of Self-Compassion. The acrony m RAIN, first coined about 20 years ago by Michele McDonald, is an easy-to-remember tool for practic- ing mindfulness. It has four steps: Recognize what is going on; Allow the experience to be there, just as it is; Investigate with kindness; Natura l awareness, which comes from not identi- fying with the experience. You can take your time and explore RAIN as a stand-alone meditation or move through the steps in a more abbreviated way whenever challenging feelings arise. Clinical psychologist Tara Brach is the author of True Refuge: Finding Peace & Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart. In order to flower, self-compassion depends on honest, direct contact with our own vulnerability. Compassion fully blossoms when we actively offer care to ourselves. in practice insight 72 mindful August 2014