With practice, Friendly Mind helps us identify with who we are becoming rather than with our feelings in a given moment or situation. Friendly Mind steers our focus and understanding toward our own wisdom, with it becoming clearer and clearer that Friendly Mind’s guidance and response is more important than what we feel. This Friendly Mind could be called wisdom, God’s guidance, or intuition. However, listening to and finding the best guidance, no matter what we call it, to deal with our greatest challenges is the most important step. We will explore the second arrow in Buddhism, which teaches that the response to suffering is the key to giving ourselves control, not changing the original feeling of suffering itself. This golden truth promotes real healing that we all can learn. Exemplified with personal stories and experiences, we’ll see how to lessen or eliminate primary and secondary ways we unwittingly add pain.
Resources related to this episode
Robert Strock Website
Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
Free Downloadable Introspective Guides
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Awareness That Heals Episode Seven.
Robert Strock: (00:06)
We’re really looking at friendly mind, being able to literally change our identity because we become a friendly mind as well as a human being combined.
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: (01:03)
So a sincere thanks for joining us again, I’d like to introduce my closest friend, Dave, who you’ve heard about from prior episodes. So I won’t belabor the longer version of it. Uh, and Shelley, uh, both of them. Dave is my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation. Shelley’s involved with Global Bridge Foundation and is also a psychotherapist. So we’re gonna continue with friendly mind and hopefully you’ll see this organically grow as the subtleties of what’s needed to make it more effective, become clearer.
David Knapp: (01:44)
I struggle. Uh and my friendly mind, uh, which, which we’ve been talking about in the past few episodes, uh, the, the wrestling with the, uh, uncertainty, the knowing that in so many ways, there is nothing more that I can recognize at least, uh, that I can do other than self-care, which is what I’m looking to my friendly mine to offer me to, to, uh, I won’t even say comfort, but just be with me, be with me in a self-empathic way, with difficulty, with suffering, with uncertainty, uh, with coming to the end of efforting to learn, to see what’s possible in a medical situation, that’s reached a certain point of uncertainty that is, just plain is, and often I will, in that state that I am in right now, replay the tapes.
David Knapp: (03:02)
I will look back, I will say, okay, are you sure? Um, well, yes, I’m sure. Is there more than you can do? Um, it feels like I want to say to myself, sometimes there’s always more that you can do. I’m never, ever going to be satisfied. I’m never ever going to be reaching the end of possibilities for where else I can research. Uh, the medical field and medical areas are so large, so huge, experimental alternative treatments and on and on and on it goes. And at some point, um, there is a point where it’s not helpful and the recognition of that point is not always clear to me. And that is where I feel my friendly mind is most important and helpful for me because I can endlessly chase dead ends maybe even approaches that would cause harm. And it’s, it’s a cautionary thing. It’s, it’s, it’s saying, yeah, looking back, you you’ve done a lot. You’ve done a whole lot. You’ve done everything that, you know, as possible. And this is an exercise in trying to control the uncontrollable, which is my way to try. And I see that in my life and working with not trying to exert my control over the uncontrollable because life ultimately is not to be controlled. There’s no way no. How, uh, and, and it’s hard. It’s hard to give it up.
Robert Strock: (04:49)
Well, several things in response to that, a couple of them are subtle. Uh, this is my way, uh, for, for everyone. I think it’s so important that we say up till now, this has been my way that we don’t make it into an identity. Uh, even though up till now, it has been our identity, but we’re really looking at friendly mind, being able to literally change our identity because we become a friendly mind as well as a human being combined. Uh, secondly, you said something that I thought was very important and that is that I want my friendly mind to be with me. So it is an ongoing dialogue that tracks your inner experience. It’s not like you just start with the original feeling and then you’re, you’re endlessly relating to the original feeling and not noticing that you’re now three feelings later.
Robert Strock: (05:57)
So you might start off with anxiety and then you might be at anger and friendly mind needs to keep staying present with your present most difficult feeling. And then the third thing is that you related to it as being empathic at one moment. And it’s so important that we recognize that we don’t require our friendly mind to be empathic. We required to be empathic in his thoughts, but because our feelings might very well. And I would say in these situations do dominate that we continuously remind ourselves that friendly mind doesn’t have to have a feeling tone of empathy. It just has to have a precision of thought that is empathic. And that’s one where we’ll keep going over and over and over again. Uh, but it’s an important distinction because sometimes it’s really impossible to generate that kind of warm empathy, but it’s a lot easier to guide ourselves, even though it still requires a lot of steps.
David Knapp: (07:07)
I want to relate to that specifically. Um, and I, I appreciate the distinction. There is a sense of companionship. There is a sense of, uh, that I experience as, um, a different kind of empathy as you described, but it is a being with myself in a, in a different way. It is, uh, creating a space to be with myself in a different way where it’s not about what I’m feeling, but it is being with myself.
Robert Strock: (07:46)
Exactly, exactly. And that’s, that’s a way of being with ourselves that isn’t taught in school. Uh, isn’t taught, uh, in our institutions. And so it’s so important that wow, we get to be with ourselves in a different way. If, and only if we’re dedicated, this is a practice that requires to really be effective, not only day to day, but hour to hour, especially when we’re in those zones, not every day, because we’re not in the most difficult place every day, but when we’re in the most difficult places, then it does require us to have it ongoing. As you said, being with myself.
Shelley Pearce: (08:38)
I think for me, Robert, as it relates to, um, my internal process, my, my, my mind is not that active. I’m, I’m not that ruminative, it’s more like flash points throughout the day where I might, you know, there’s, there’s no real thought process about it, but I may feel, um, bad or deficient or out of control or angry with myself or upset with myself that I don’t have the wherewithal to make change that in my mind, I think I should or could. So it’s these flash points. And then, and then it’s just a general sort of Malaise of feeling like, um, I’m not at my best. So how would, how would you advise me?
Robert Strock: (09:31)
Yeah, I think what you’re saying is, again, probably more common than not, and it really, it really does go back to the first chapter, uh, or the first series of podcasts, where we were talking about fleeting awareness, where, where you’re much more intuitive. Um, and there are people that have fleeting awareness that are not intuitive, but you are intuitive. So you do sense virtually everything. So that gives you a leg up, but, you know, it requires the fleeting awareness that only intellectually sees it for a brief moment and then flips out. So the fleeting awareness needs to become a more stable intellectual awareness and then add the intention to heal, to have it be able to be more useful, because if it stays as a intuitive feeling and a series of bombarding feelings, then you can’t take access, you can’t utilize the access of friendly mind in an optimal way because you do need to identify the suffering. And as we said, stay with it for more than two seconds with awareness with thought. And then that allows the friendly mind to come in with awareness, with guidance after the intention to heal kicks in. And you also give that a moment of, no, wait a minute. I do want to care for myself and I can see now I’ve been giving myself a bombarding series of difficult feelings about my body image, by the way, Shelley I’m feeling jealous.
Shelley Pearce: (11:14)
Well, if you don’t mind, I, I’d kinda like to jump in here. I’m the, just the recording engineer for this project, but I know I’ve thought a lot about friendly mind over the last years. Um, and the way that it, that I think of it, which is probably just my own. See, I need a friendly mind to say this, just my own stupid head, but, um, friendly mind to me knows where the fish are. It knows, uh, it knows that I let my children love me. It knows that if I listen, which is, is, is to me the key activity of friendly mind, I need to listen and it knows the trajectory of my life. There at least it knows how to pull me in the right direction. It knows how to be patient. And when I am none of those things and full of anxiety, I can ask a simple question, yo friendly mind, what do you want?
What do I have to do? And that answer is usually a sentence that I feel, and that is Mark. You know what to do. And you know, that you need to just trust yourself. You don’t have to doubt yourself and it’s going to be okay. That, that to me takes place within 30 seconds of meditation, or at least, uh, a whole hearted, honest ask of my friendly mind, my, my best self that is sort of in my shadow, on my shoulder, in my thoughts. And that’s kind of how I think of it. And it’s partly, I could say, it’s God. I could say, it’s the universe. I can say, it’s my dog. It doesn’t matter. It’s just the willingness to ask. And the willingness to listen at this point, I wouldn’t know how to live without that, my friendly mind isn’t 63. It’s not out of money. It’s … doesn’t feel like, you know, it’s that other part of me that has trust and patience and acceptance and is willing.
Robert Strock: (13:30)
Yeah. So, yeah .Yeah. And I think one of the beautiful things that you’re saying is that friendly mind is just one name and what we’re really talking about, some people might hear as God talking to them, some people might hear as their pet talking to them or the trees talking to them, um, or their wisdom talking to them. And the key is it’s a guidance that no matter what label you put on it, it’s going to suggest a direction that’s going to help you right where you are. So I think illuminating, like you mentioned anxiety, so I’m feeling anxious or I’m not sure what I want to do today or whatever it might be. And then you remember, Oh, that’s right. I do care. I do. I do want to live a life today that’s going to be a value to me. So friendly mind, what do you have to do?
That’s it? Yes, very much.
Robert Strock: (14:38)
So, that’s great. So thank you all. Uh, there is a concept and really, it’s more of a wisdom than a concept in Buddhism. It’s called the second arrow. And the second arrow in Buddhism starts off with the understanding that we as human beings all have a level of feeling or suffering. That is part of being human. We’re all going to die. We’re all going to get sick. We’re all going to lose people. We’re all gonna have losses. We’re going to have relationships that don’t work out. We’re going to have, some of us are going to have monetary issues. A lot of people, a lot of us are gonna have monetary issues and on and on and on body image issues. And that’s natural. So in Buddhism, there’s a profound acceptance of the human realm that it’s going to happen on its own. And then there’s an incredibly wise distinction, which is very similar to friendly mind. And that’s why I like what Mark was saying, because it, it really expands the ways it can be seen where the second arrow says, okay, so you’re in fear or you’re in anger and it’s raw. It’s natural. The second arrow is what’s the second way that you, or the first way you respond, but that is a second level to the first suffering. And that second arrow, if it turns negative, if it turns critical, if it turns against us is the source of suffering that we have the potential to either avoid, or at least lessen.
Robert Strock: (16:44)
It’s important to really take this in. And again, to apply this to your life that you wake up and you have your one or two or three or four ways, hopefully that you’re aware of where I suffered this way. I’m insecure with my husband or my wife. You know, I don’t like my body or I’m worried about money and those feelings just, or I feel lonely. I’m living in a location where I don’t, I don’t have friends. And I feel bummed out that I don’t have friends. And that feeling is just a feeling. That’s not those words. And then you can go, yeah, this really sucks. Or I hate this. I can’t stand this. I got to get out of this. That’s the second arrow where you’re adding a level of thought that makes the first emotional space, which is natural, much more problematic, much more difficult, and not understand and not understood that it’s a universal condition that we all have human feelings at the base and friendly mind is exactly the opposite of the second narrow.
Robert Strock: (18:04)
Instead of having thoughts that come after our most challenging suffering, we guide ourselves to what would allow my thoughts to move in a direction that won’t compound the original suffering that is this universal part of being human. And it’s a particularly poignant example in the tradition, because obviously in the early Buddha thinking or more accurately seeing he saw that it was natural for all of us to be human. And it was, and that, that wasn’t something we could just get an eraser and erase our human feelings. However, we could find something wise that could be a response to it and not being a victim to the second arrow or more accurately being less of a victim to the second arrow is something that gives us a sense of purpose.
Robert Strock: (19:18)
It is inspiring. And for those of us that haven’t found, let’s say an external purpose or an external inspiration this alone is one that doesn’t require us to do anything other than their own best efforts in our own situation. But we don’t have to fulfill somebody else’s dreams, or we don’t have to accomplish traditional standards. We just need to ask ourselves what really matters am I doing what I can? And when we have these universal feelings of fear and anxiety and anger and jealousy insecurity, inadequacy, emptiness, how can I respond to it so that it’s not a secondary?
Robert Strock: (20:09)
So hopefully that’s clear in your life that you can see, it’s almost like they appear to be all interconnected because it happens so fast. I feel lousy. And now I’m thinking I feel lousy. And now I’m feeling thinking I hate to feel lousy. And now I don’t know my wife or my husband doesn’t look quite so good. Um, and the day looks a little bit gray and, you know, it’s just contagious and it can go on and on and on, or we can start to see friendly mind can be a, a permanent installment without any payments. You know we can have it installed in our being. And it’s kind of in our brain heart, even though it comes out through our brain, it requires a heart awareness to be able to guide us to the thoughts that are most going to serve us.
David Knapp: (21:04)
As you speak. I, again, relate to my current situation. And I, uh, God, it’s so many times in different circumstances of my life. I’ve asked myself and others, what is the utility of worry? What’s, what am I getting out of worry, especially when I’ve done, which in this case, I have everything I know that I can do. And it feels like the worry is, is exactly that if you want to call it the second arrow is adding insult to injury. It has no real utility. It’s not advancing me anywhere. That’s useful. It is simply piling, suffering on to a circumstance that I’ve done. Everything that’s possible. The circumstance is what it is, and it’s not comfortable at the moment. It will change. It will be what I’m not saying. It will be better. I’m not saying it will be worse, but it will change. And the worry has no utility. And yet I do that.
Robert Strock: (22:18)
And how does your friendly mind respond to that?
David Knapp: (22:22)
It’s, it’s struggles not to get upset. It’s dry, which, uh, which again, on top of worry, I can also add a third, uh, very creative at it adding elements of suffering. I can get off with myself for worrying, knowing that there’s no utility in worrying. So it’s, at its best it’s kindness. It’s patience. It’s uh, yeah. Take a quick review. Yeah, I’ve done everything I can do. And if I haven’t activating whatever it is, I haven’t, if there might be something new I’ve been able to see, I can do. Uh, but mostly it’s, it’s, it’s kindness it’s being with, it’s recognizing those are things I do. And, and being with them, being with myself, uh, again, that friendly mind type of empathy really.
Robert Strock: (23:19)
Hum hum. One of the things that happened very subtly is the laughter that laughter itself and humor is one of the keys to friendly mind, because we can see the absurdity of getting angry at ourselves for worrying so much, and then getting angry at ourselves because I know better. Cause I know about friendly mind and here I am still doing it. And here I am still doing, it’s never too late to start with friendly mind. And humor is often the greatest vehicle to wake us up into a new intention because we can see two levels at the same time, the level of worry and the level of, I might as well just relax as much as possible because the worrying is doing nothing but adding worry to whatever’s going to happen anyway. So one of the important understandings is that friendly mind isn’t a new moral standard where we’re saying, gee, I really should be implementing friendly mind more because it’s going to help my life. What’s wrong with me? Why am I not doing?
Robert Strock: (24:40)
And there’s a danger that we need to be aware of and probably more accurately enter into our practice of friendly mind, because at first it probably will be a moral standard. I should be implementing this because it will make me feeling better. Now the real friendly mind would come in and say, gee, it sounds like you’re putting pressure on yourself to create a new imperative in your life. And I actually want to give you a thought that is more friendly than that. And you don’t need a new moral standard because that’s just adding another whip and we don’t want to whip you. So I’m grateful that I can see that I’m criticizing myself for getting anxious and I’m going to take those seconds no matter how many layers of a constellation down of one difficult feeling to another difficult feeling, to another difficult feeling like Shelley was talking about where it’s not necessarily thoughts.
David Knapp: (25:53)
And then you, at a certain moment, wake up and say, you know, I want this to be supportive of me.
Robert Strock: (26:03)
And I’m talking in a tone that isn’t in friendly, mind’s tone because it can’t necessarily be, I think I am warm. It can’t necessarily be warm. It might be something more like I really don’t want to add to my suffering. So, I really want to re-channel my, my anger at not being able to follow it, toward this would be difficult for anyone. And so therefore I want to move toward acceptance and I don’t have any illusion. It’s going to be capital “A” acceptance where I’m going to accept it. I want to move in an arrow in that direction. And I want to start to learn how to nip it in the bud. When the thoughts started happening, I’d like to catch it with, what a stupid op … stop it right there. You know what? I’m not doing this on purpose. This, this would be difficult for anyone.
Robert Strock: (27:04)
I want to take a deep breath. Do I want to lie down? Don’t want to reach out to somebody. Do I want to call somebody that can give me guidance? How do I take care of myself? I know I want to take care of myself. I’m in that intention to heal. So again, applying this to your situation, hopefully that’s what you’re doing because the whole purpose of this is to apply to your situations and inject friendly mind in a way that it becomes more and more usable for you. And it literally is when you most need it. So it’s important to understand that part of friendly mind carries a bit of wisdom because in that intention to heal, you do need to be thinking from a place of what would be wise for me, what would be guiding me and friendly mind. Oftentimes, maybe even most often starts with a question that’s designed to solicit wisdom.
Robert Strock: (28:18)
Like how can I best care for myself? How can I be kinder to my suffering itself? Or even how can I be kinder to my suffering about my suffering, but that has a bit of wisdom in it. And another feature of it is that friendly mind is invariably almost invariably focused on either the present or the near future. And it doesn’t get caught in abstractions. It doesn’t go, gee, you should be nicer to yourself. Instead. It would say, how could I be nice? What would I say to myself, to be nice to myself, that isn’t frosting on garbage? It may, it may be something like I’d like to be nice to myself right now. So I think I’m going to lie down, or I think I’ll put my head in my heart right now, because that will allow me maybe to change the momentum of the reaction to the negative feelings I’m having. So this focus on the present and the near future is a very key component of friendly mind. Now, as we go on to the further episodes, we’ll get more into clarifying how we can stay present and focus on the near future and how crucial that is to deepen the impact of friendly mind.
Robert Strock: (29:57)
So again, I want to thank you for your attention and thanks to all of you that Dave and Mark and Shelley for helping and look forward to connecting in the next episode.
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