The sixth and last principle of Friendly Mind is to focus on what is possible in the present or near future. When we pay attention to our true capabilities, we see more clearly the importance of staying in the present, and at most, the next few moments. Focusing on the present usually comes with great relief. It gives us the ability to see what we are truly able to do or how we can respond in the present or as soon as possible. Once we have that guidance, we can more easily be our best selves.
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Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 16.
Robert Strock: (00:05)
We all have the capacity to focus on the next minute or two. It’s just not something that we’ve been trained to do.
The Awareness That Heals podcast helps its listeners learn to develop the capacity, to have a more healing response to emotions and situations rather than becoming stuck. Your host, Robert Strock has practiced psychotherapy for more than 45 years. He wrote the book Awareness That Heals bringing heart and wisdom to life’s challenges, to help develop self-caring and the capacity to respond in an effective way to life’s challenges. Especially at times when we are most prone to be critical or to withdraw together, we will explore how to become aware of our challenging feelings and at the same time find alternative ways to live a more fulfilling and inspiring Life.
Robert Strock: (00:57)
Thanks again for tuning in today. And I hope friendly mind is really getting your attention as we’re going through the depths of it. And today we’re going to finish the final touches again, joining us are two of my dearest friends, Dave and Shelley. Dave is co-president of the Global Bridge Foundation, and Shelley is a board member and therapist and Mark is our engineer. And as he has the last few episodes, he’s going to be invited into the conversation about friendly mind, because he’s just somebody that has been practicing it for quite a while and has a depth understanding and experience of himself emotionally to where it helps catalyze a deeper experience of the benefits of friendly mind. So we just covered the importance of really not focusing on the impossible and how common it is when we have a malady or an issue or an emotion that we don’t like.
Robert Strock: (02:09)
That’s very difficult for us to kind of get grandiose and how do I solve this? And then our mind goes to the other extreme, which isn’t very useful and helpful and friendly mind beckons us as our friend to deal, not with the impossible, but really to focus on the sixth and final step implied by the fifth, which is to focus on the possible. And what that really means as a starting point as always is what are the most challenging emotions in your life, situations in your life? Where if you really honor those as being potential pregnancies or potentially being able to be supported, it would be the good news more than the bad news, because we see that if we’re challenged and we keep them underground, they’re going to fester and unconscious and make our life a lot more difficult and friendly mind is a vehicle that can allow us to feel safer, to bring the challenging situations and emotions in our life above ground, because we are gaining resources and we can build the trust that when we bring it into our awareness, we need to have tools.
Robert Strock: (03:51)
We have strategies to be able to guide ourselves in directions that are going to improve the quality of our life. So like we talked about in the last episode with the stroke, the anxiety of spinal surgery, the dumping tendency emotionally, or the suppression tendency, if we focus on the possible, then literally in some cases, the next step or the next word, or the next slight guidance, or the next question, or the contemplation of the question of how do I become balanced, becomes the next step and when we’re zoomed into, and it really is like we’re zoomed into the very near future or the very moment it could be, how are we breathing? How are we thinking, what do we want to do the next minute? When we’re really focused on that existentially practical step, we can’t help, but feel a much greater sense of hope because that’s possible.
Robert Strock: (05:17)
We all have the capacity to focus on the next minute or two. It’s just not something that we’ve been trained to do. We like bigger solutions. We like bigger plans. We want to have it be finished. But in the real world, we really learn that the small steps with stability is like the tortoise and the hare. It’s like the, the one that takes it slow steps at a time wins the race and we really want to be that being that can slow our life down into baby steps, which paradoxically are grownup steps. So as I’m saying this, look for your number one and two, where you have a challenge and you have a tendency to focus on the impossible, but you want to challenge yourself because you care for yourself, you care for your quality of life. What’s my number one and two, two steps that I would be taking, if I was to care for myself.
Robert Strock: (06:40)
And if you come up with nothing, don’t let that be the final answer. Let that be the catalyst for another question of, okay, I can hear that you haven’t come up with anything yet, but you know, you’re human. So we all have areas where we’re not completely blissed out. So even if we’re spiritual, even if we’re, you know, in the best of life circumstances, we’re still gonna have something to identify with and as you do identify what your standard operating procedure is for coming up with impossible situations. As we visited a little bit in the last episode, it may be to do with money or your appearance or your sex life, or how popular you are, or how many friends you have, or your family relationships and all of those might be ones that seem impossible, but if you break it down to a baby step, well, what can I do?
Robert Strock: (08:00)
And of course, sometimes the answer might be, do nothing, but what can I do or undo? How can I be to optimize this situation in my life? Now, as you hear this notice how you feel, does this lead you to an uplifting feeling? Does this leave you flat? Does this depress you, does this feel like you’re being invited to a birth or a death? And hopefully if you really hear the message you’re being invited to your own wisdom that can identify what’s challenging for you with, with a real optimism, because we’re not going to ask you to go through a grinder to solve something you can solve. We’re gonna, we’re gonna encourage you and the “we” is really friendly mind, to inquire as to how you can take step one into, to improve your quality of life. Now, one of the most common areas where this is almost omnipresent for probably 90% of us, maybe 95% of us, is in relationships where especially our relationships with our partners, where gee, I want our partner to be prettier, smarter, more sexual, less sexual, more intelligent, more ambitious, less ambitious, and see the tendency on a day-to-day basis that that will go through you.
Robert Strock: (09:48)
And as we focus on that, if we really pay attention, it bumps us out because we’re focusing on the impossible. And we want to bring ourselves back with friendly mind to focus on a, what is it that’s bumming me out. And B, what could I realistically do if I was willing to lower my grandiose standards and start to focus on the next moment? So a very simple example of that might be, gee, I want my wife to be more affectionate. And instead of waiting for your wife, you just send me, walk up, you, you just get the edges of your fingers and just, you just hold your hand for a little bit and say, hi, sweetheart. Now she might look at you and go, what the hell? What are you doing now? You’ve never done that to me before. So you might want to be on the chess board and have a second move ready and say, you know, I was thinking about it and realize I haven’t been as warm to you as I’d like to be.
Robert Strock: (11:04)
And so is that okay with you if I express a little bit of affection that way.
Mark Spiro: (11:10)
Uh, this is Mark here. I’m a little reluctant to share this, but you, you hit it right on, right on there, bulls-eye Robert, with what you just said. Uh, the other day my wife was looking in the mirror and I was behind her and she was looking at me and she’s going, look, my, my arms, they’re just, they’re bad. How can I get my arms to be skinny? They’re just fat. And I, I thought to myself, oh man, well, what do I say to that? And, and then friendly mind, I swear it was friendly mind comes in and it gives me this sentence. And I said, yeah, but I still really want to fuck you.
Robert Strock: (11:52)
And I never said anything like that in my life. And I will tell you it works. It really works. I swear to you. I never said anything like that, changed my relationship.
Robert Strock: (12:09)
I love it. I love it. Well, that’s, that’s what you might call a home run. Um, and that’s going, that’s the rare moment where you had a radical intuition. And obviously, obviously there are some, some women where I’m not going to use that as a general strategy for everyone, because some of you might, some, some men might get slapped. Um, but you tuned in and you were aware of what your wife needed to hear. And what’s beautiful about your example is it used intuition. You knew your wife, she wanted to feel desirable by you and you gave her in spades.
Mark Spiro: (12:53)
It was really good moment.
Robert Strock: (12:56)
I have a feeling it was more than a moment.
Mark Spiro: (12:58)
It was, it was truly a friendly mind moment. I guarantee you. I have never said that.
Robert Strock: (13:12)
Followed by a reward.
Mark Spiro: (13:14)
Robert Strock: (13:15)
For both of you.
Shelley Pearce: (13:17)
Mark Spiro: (13:18)
Robert Strock: (13:23)
And there are many people who might have that same situation and it might have to be a touch on the shoulder. It might be a conversation, you know, saying I’m aware of feeling this way. Wondering if you feel that way. The thing about friendly mind is there’s no pat answer, everybody’s circumstances are unique. So my way of interacting with people is to continuously ask them questions. It reminds me of my early, uh, I won’t call them exploits, but let’s say my early experimentations with being sexual in my twenties. And at that age, I was aware of, you know, watching movies and everybody knows exactly what to do. And, and the, you know, no words have to be exchanged. It’s, it’s not like I like it slow or I like it fast, or please touch me here, please touch me there. But it was like, I just naturally said to the woman, I said, you got to give me some hints.
Robert Strock: (14:27)
You know, I’m, I’m young, I’m somewhat clueless. And from what I gather, every woman I think is a little bit different. So somehow friendly mind needs to honor, not only the uniqueness of you, but the uniqueness of anyone that you’d be talking to and trying to tune into well, knowing her or knowing him, what’s friendly mind suggesting to me. And after a while, it really does become, if you’re not feeling terrible and you’re just feeling kind of bummed a little bit, friendly mind becomes like good music. The kind of music you like, where you, you, you, you get a sense of being in gear or you get a sense of being in a flow, because you know, you’re asking the question that matters because you’re trying to do something with your life in the very near future, in the present. That’s, that’s very doable. You’re not stabbing yourself with impossible standards.
Robert Strock: (15:44)
You’re gracing yourself with invitations to ask what’s possible. And when we asked that question, it’s like inviting ourselves to be ourselves, our best selves, our best realistic selves. And we clearly don’t know the answer. And as I alluded to a few minutes ago, not knowing the answer actually means it’s a great question. Not you’re screwed up because you don’t know the answer. So the more questions we can ask where we don’t know the answer, we know we’re on the right track. And it means it’s worthy of, as long as it takes. If I don’t know how to make my next move, I’d like to know how to make my next move, so I’m going to keep asking. So the more we can, the more you can find the feelings that are challenging and ask for the next steps. And again, it’s twofold. One of them is how do I take care of the feeling and the other one, is there a response then I need to make, that’s going to help me with a feeling that’s not going to hurt anybody else unnecessarily.
Robert Strock: (17:10)
As I even say that I can feel a certain peace recognizing that whenever I’m there, I feel like I’m alive. I feel like I have potential. I feel like nothing is hopeless because I’m not going far enough out to make it hopeless. I might, I might feel a little bit hopeless cause I haven’t found the answer, but I have a sense because there’s not a demand in it. Then I’ll come up with something, I could at least say breathe gently, or as gently as you can. And then when you fail at breathing gently to say, okay, I know that was hard. Yeah. Give it another try. That’s it. That’s it. That’s about as, let’s say preliminary and frequent that a lot of us need to do is to just take a breath that is going to be a slightly more sensitive breath to ourselves. That’s possible, may not even be probable cause a lot of people can’t breathe below their Adam’s apple, but maybe I can get down to the bottom of my Adam’s apple.
Robert Strock: (18:26)
And you can hear this as being almost like a, a cop-out like, well, you’re really lowering your standards. So you’re not going to accomplish very much in life. And you know, I’m into bigger things, but the way the bigger things are to take a lot of small steps. So hopefully you won’t let yourself be diluted by that. And one of the keys to being able to develop this is to recognize that for everyone. And I do mean everyone. This is a practice. This is a practice that requires as much as you’re willing to dedicate to it, but you could practice this 300 times a day, guiding you to the moment. And, and if you do it for a while, you won’t have to do it consciously, your unconscious will pick it up and you’re just naturally on a feeling level, be interested in the next step.
Robert Strock: (19:30)
You won’t be guided way out in the future.
Mark Spiro: (19:32)
Yeah. Um, you know, you started the last episode, you talked about, um, kind of compartmentalizing, but, but taking a moment at a time or an hour at a time, right. Day at a time. And that’s the way that I think about it, uh, about friendly mind. I, I think I can pretty much deal with today and I can ask or inquire to my friendly mind what I need to do to do that. And that becomes acceptable to me. And then each day I feel like, this might not be the right word, but I feel like I’m making micropayments to my friendly mind and that it’s growing and growing and growing until hopefully, and I think it’s a spiritual thing, hopefully one day there isn’t a whole lot of difference between my friendly mind and me. And that’s kind of the way I look at those, what seems unimportant, it is important and it’s as little micropayments.
Robert Strock: (20:32)
I love the word micropayments and I like the association, I mean, I really liked the association with it, it can really be a part of you. And I like to say that it can be the central you, but that it actually can be more you than your feelings and your feelings are of secondary importance. They’re important because it gave you the clues of what you need. But friendly mind is the mechanism that you want to see. You can’t do that much about your feelings arising, but you can respond to them with friendly mind. So those micropayments is really a beautiful title.
David Knapp: (21:12)
Dave here, as always thank you for the participation, opportunity, the important things. And Mark, thank you for sharing. Um, very much, um, have had some opposite experiences in, in the same circumstance. Um, won’t go so far as to say I’ve been slapped, um, but close and yes, I, I’ve, yeah, I’ve, I’ve tried a lot and been rejected a lot and um, learned a lot, but . . .
Robert Strock: (21:53)
Uh, do you have a hang on, I want to, I want to clarify that Dave is happily married. He’s not talking about present time.
David Knapp: (21:59)
Yeah. I’m I’m I’m now, um, I’m now 32 years in, but it’s, and this is something actually I wanted to bring up in that context because in the earlier part of the relationship, uh, when I, you know, I’m always learning, but knew a lot less, a whole lot less, and had the idea that the way I was and the way I responded to a particular situation would naturally be, and obviously be the way it would come back to me and was shocked and surprised to find out, uh, that no, that it doesn’t work that way. There is no person, I’m not married to myself. I’ll put it that way. Um, and in certain respects, that’s what I expected. That’s what I wanted, especially when it comes to stressful circumstances. Um, and again, in particular caring for, um, for whatever reason, the, the difficult, some of the others, there’s areas of my life that we haven’t spoken about, but the ones that we’ve spoken about, more about health and, and looking after and taking care of family in our house became something that was natural to me, but not natural to my spouse.
David Knapp: (23:34)
Uh, and for reasons I had no comprehension of, it seemed like just an automatic, just automatic. And it was, it was, uh, not something where I would say I had any friendly mind around it. I had no part of me that could relate to that being okay. I simply rejected it and I simply thought it was flat out wrong. Um, and it, it was, uh, it was so stressful that it, it was a threat to the relationship at that point. And we had to do a lot of work to have each of us understand and be able to really see each other from each other’s points of view to forgive, uh, to, to let go to, uh, yes, some things felt at the time unforgivable, um, certainly, but over time and, and over and with understanding. Hm. Um, and recognizing now, um, in, in fast forwarding, quite a while ago from maybe maybe 13 years ago for a personal health scare with my, with my wife, um, and difficult time, time for me, and this is not, this is in the last year, um, where again, and watching and now much more awareness, much more capacity, uh, to see what I was doing much more, t hank, thankfully, uh, learning, listening to, um, uh, as Mark said, you know, the, the micropayments to friendly mind had, I had, uh, I had a pretty decent friendly mind-bank account build up and my capacity to see what was coming towards me and the package that came towards me being different than I would have given it, was okay. It was okay because I recognized,
David Knapp: (25:49)
Hey, I am not going to be able to control how my wife responds, as much as I would like to have it packaged and come at me in a certain way. Uh, it wasn’t going to come at me in a certain way, but I could, as Robert, as you just said, I could work with how I responded to what did come my direction. And that made such a magical difference for me. It made things that were otherwise very difficult into almost a, the capacity to say, okay, it’s seeing how it’s coming at me, seeing how I’m, I’m reacting at the same time and, and just being, breathing into it, not being hard on myself. Um, as much as I otherwise have been because of this aspect of friendly mind and because of the capacity that it built up, and it is a miracle.
Robert Strock: (26:52)
So just to make a transition there that I know you made, but it’s sort of one of the holy ground statements of friendly mind as it matures. When you’re looking at relationship friendly mind asks you, how can we best take care of both of us? How do we understand both of our needs? And that’s a lot more complicated than just what do I need, requires a lot more maturity to realize, like you alluded to, where some of the needs that she had didn’t make any sense to you. They weren’t comprehensible unless you outdid them and had a better sense of where they came to. So I think it’s very important as you, the listener, are taking this in that, that statement, as you’re looking at your relationship, how do we take care of both of us? What is it the both of us need? And if that doesn’t happen, it’s going to create a limitation in the relationship.
Robert Strock: (28:16)
And that is friendly mind asking that question and is clear that’s going to need to create a dialogue. Or there’s going to be, as Dave said, so, uh, articulately, we all expect a copy of ourselves to be showing up. And it’s humbling. That’s why relationship is such a great humbler, because we just think that we’re going to look in the mirror and there’s our partner. So really summarizing and finishing up this series of episodes on friendly mind, and understanding that it took so many episodes because friendly mind isn’t as simple as it appears that it starts off with being aware of our challenges, which eliminates a pretty high percentage of people, unless they dedicate themselves to it and take the time to say, what are my challenging emotions and situations, and then learning how to think empathically, which is quite a skill because you have to get through the step of feeling like it’s a booby prize, cause you want to feel good. You don’t want to just think good to realizing that when you’re really in a hard time, you don’t even have to be friendly to think friendly when you’re really wiped out. And then you recognize that there’s no frosting on garbage that you really have to make your best realistic effort. And that there’s a tendency to go into the impossible, which will keep you suffering forever. And then finally, where we are in this last episode, by focusing on the possible, we all have endless potential to improve the quality of our lives.
Robert Strock: (30:15)
And I truly hope that you are taking this personally and maybe listening to it as much as is needed to let in the subtlety, but yet the incredible support of developing our friendly mind. So thanks so much for joining us through this key part of the whole series of episodes, cause friendly mind as you’ll see, is really visited in every episode because it is an assist to all the other practices that we’ll be going into. So, thanks again.
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