It’s Not Who You Are

I came up with this phrase as a way of unwinding the tendency to take my perceptions of others as objective truth:

It’s not who you are. It’s how what you do filters through who I am.

We cannot know people, or anything, directly. We experience everything through our senses. These experiences are packaged with the full weight of our conditioning, beliefs, and history before they even enter consciousness. We can’t hope to know what’s “really happening.” In a sense, it’s not even relevant.

The best we can do is know our biases. We can accept that each of us is a perceiving system in constant flux. We’re angry, we experience things one way. We’re tired, we experience things another way. We’re 5 years old, we experience things another way. It’s cloudy. We’ve just been dumped. We’ve gotten a promotion. We haven’t eaten for hours. We went for a run this morning…the context and the perceiver are inseparable. Each and every new experience effects the lens through which experience is understood.

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This Beautiful Spiral


Mindfulness meditation can be seen as an examination of our present moment experience to reveal the ways we make things harder than they need to be.

An example: I’ve been sitting with a lot of old anger and sadness lately. A several-years-long process of finding and emptying pools of old, stored emotion is still very much in progress. But mindfulness is all about the present moment. Even with pools of “old, stored” emotion and a “several-years-long” process, mindfulness only asks “What’s happening in this moment?”

I had lost sight of that this morning, and on some very subtle level, I was making things harder for myself, suffering over the seeming endlessness of this heavy work. And then I just happened to notice this “endlessness narrative” that I was running, and in that moment of noticing, it stopped. One more bit of tightness loosened. One little bit of habitual resistance released. I said to myself, “you don’t need to change anything. You only need to watch the system, exactly as it is, for 45 minutes.”
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Lovingkindness & Noting Feeling States

If relational mindfulness is your focus, one way to practice is to use Lovingkindness and Noting Feeling States techniques as two complementary strategies. I like to think of them as: "backing off" and "being with." Otherwise known as "turning away" and "turning toward."

In Lovingkindness meditation, we practice generating a positive state of mind, so it's available to us when we need to re-balance and de-stress. This is a way of skillfully "backing off" or "turning away" from uncomfortable or difficult feelings, without needing to exit the present moment (by comparison, "exiting the present moment" might mean going to watch TV, hopping on the internet, etc.).

On the other hand, in Noting Feeling States, we learn to "be with," gently and skillfully turning our attention toward the emotional experience we are having in each moment, without needing it to be different. We cultivate comfort and clarity around our feelings (more on that here), and this too leads to better balance in daily life.

We could spend the rest of our lives navigating the continuum between being with and backing off. Knowing what sort of strategy to implement, and when, is an art. But we can take comfort in knowing that in any moment, there is something to be gained from either approach, and both approaches help to keep us present.

Wanna try it out?

Enter your email address in the box on the right, and you'll be sent one guided meditation a day, starting tomorrow morning. During the week, you'll learn Lovingkindness and Noting Feeling States. I'd love to hear how it goes!

Contemplation and Insight

I’m a practical guy. I like techniques, instructions, things I can do and perceive. But I’m going to experiment with something more “felt” today. I wrote this during my sit this morning…

How do you unwind meaning? Let things have as much meaning as they need to have. How do you overcome resistance? Fully accept resistance. How do you stabilize insight? Let insight become as unstable as it needs to be. How do you let go? Allow yourself to hold on.

Does this leave you confused/annoyed? Maybe something clicked? Neither outcome is better. But in the hope that No Meditator is Left Behind, some thoughts about spiritual insight:

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Guillaume-Nery_11Even when were scattered. Even when we’re doubting. Even when there’s resistance. For every ounce of attention, for every sidelong glance at the way things are, some hidden stone is being turned, somewhere in the depths, and the change that takes place is a change we cannot hope to witness directly. We can only see it’s reflection–in our thinking, in our actions, in our relationships.