During times of intense emotions, it is frequently not easy to change our feelings, but with dedication, we can learn to identify them and respond with empathy and wisdom.
By acknowledging and clearly seeing our emotions—without allowing them to take control—we can develop greater self-compassion. Our feelings are just one part of ourselves, and there is another inner voice that is often referred to as inner guidance, friendly mind, or wisdom. We can realize our potential when we access this inner voice during emotional challenges, rather than reacting with a sense of dread, failure, or fear. This is the beginning of learning how to follow our wisdom.
As a psychotherapist with over 45 years of experience, Robert has observed that many of us have become addicted to our emotions. To help lessen this habituation, he will be guiding you through a meditation that focuses on the challenging emotions that are most present for you right now. By acknowledging these emotions and seeking out our most lucid and compassionate thoughts that are rooted in wisdom, we can learn to care for ourselves and open our hearts and minds to others. This is not a traditional therapeutic approach, but rather a strategy for finding the part of ourselves that naturally cares deeply. Whether it is fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, or impatience, any difficult emotion can serve as a starting point for directing our guidance toward self-care and greater compassion toward others.
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 94.
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 (00:48):
A very warm welcome again to Awareness That Heals where we focus on bringing heart and wisdom to our life’s challenges. We start again and again with being aware of what is most difficult for us and see where these difficulties are universal for all of us, whether we recognize them or not, and how we can care for ourselves at these crucial times. Today we’re gonna focus again on friendly mind. As you’ve heard in the prior episodes, it’s radically subtle and in a miracle whenever we can pull off friendly mind. It’s counterintuitive because we’re so wired to care most about what we feel, and the focus on our wisdom thoughts as being more important than what we feel, is revolutionary.
We’re addicted to our feelings, and at these crucial times, we need to focus on our wisdom. We deepen a realization that when we’re really, for lack of better words, feeling fucked, we need to change our focus to our wisest thoughts because when the feelings are this powerful, we can’t change them directly. But if we dedicate ourselves, we can change what we trust and rely on to be our friendly mind. When we realize a challenging feeling is happening, we’re being encouraged to have an Oh, good. I can see it, rather than, oh shit, not that feeling. Again, this gives us the best chance to use the awareness to move in a direction that we can let it be the beginning of starting a healing direction with our friendly mind. Again, rather than getting sidetracked by suppressing our feelings or judging them, this is a major breakthrough and victory. Each time we can observe what we feel without any distancing or judging. And before we go further, I’d like to introduce Dave, my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation. And Dear, dear Friend, for over 50 years,
Robert, thank you, as always. This series on Awareness That Heals, and I, it’s been so many subjects and depth of understandings that we’ve been through, in the 90 plus episodes, originating from the book itself that I hope people really take the time, reflect back, and maybe even one of these times that we do a retrospective moving through, of how we get here.
Robert Strock (03:44):
I wanna make an emphasis that as you’re listening, let your focus be on what your most challenging emotion is in the background, and let yourself hear what I’m saying, may be a third, but you’re kind of tuning into here’s the challenging emotion that I’m going to be staying with during this podcast, so that as we talk about how we can deal with it, you’re staying with yourself. You are the most important person, and you staying focused on your challenging emotion and ultimately how friendly mind can help you is what’s gonna allow the most to happen. This is not an intellectual exercise.
So let’s summarize what we’ve covered in the prior episodes of Friendly Mind because this will be the last one that we’re doing. It’s so crucial that we stay aware of our challenging emotions and guiding ourselves toward the guiding thoughts that will help us. And we’re remembering that we’re dealing with the very most severe, challenging feelings, not just ordinary daily difficult feelings, but ones where it’s severe health, it’s severe relationship issues, it’s severe bankruptcy, the very most difficult feelings in life. And remembering that we cannot start this evolution unless we really have awareness. Not only are we feeling our challenging feeling, but we need to have this awareness again. We can’t feel the thoughts that we’re guiding ourselves with friendly mind because the suffering is so great. It’s so important that you remember that.
And we need to learn to be tolerant of this schizophrenic type feeling that at the one hand we’re feeling so deeply something that’s as difficult as anything in our life, and yet we’re looking for wisdom, thoughts that are going to guide us. And we need to focus on what’s possible in the near future rather than some abstract thinking about what’s really going to help us. These thoughts are our wisdom, and we’ve never learned how to do this while we’re in crisis types of feelings. So it’s gonna require lots of practice. It’s kind of like in real estate, location, location, location. But here it’s practice, practice, practice, and it’s lifetime work. As I look through all my years of counseling, I’ve never had a session where there isn’t a need to frame and reframe thoughts to help guide us in a direction that’s gonna move us toward well-being. So, if you really pay attention, you’re gonna see the need to reframe or frame the direction. We wanna take ourselves with our wisdom when we’re having deeply challenging feelings, even though it’s counter-instinctual and counterintuitive. It is profound and it’s also important to recognize that’s why it’s so difficult because our feelings are taking us over like a volcano. And yet we need to remember, ah, friendly wise mind.
I just wanna, for my personal experience, express as I hear these words, how difficult this is when you first make this effort. Because it is so ingrained to absorb and feeling. And not only ingrained, but honored, uh, encouraged, uh, there are many therapies, based around identifying which is good, but then expressing and being the feeling. And so to say “friendly mind,” needs to be really understood that this is going against a long-standing, for most of us, lifetime pattern.
Robert Strock (08:22):
And as you, for lack of better words, wisely put. It even conflicts with many therapies. So it’s important to recognize this is not a traditional therapy approach. This is really a strategy to find a place inside us that most cares about us, it’s most astute, and we’re gonna put our trust in that when we’re in our most challenging feelings. And yes, it can’t be stated enough that it’s so challenging at the beginning, but when you get the hang of it, it’s like you have a best friend accessible at the time of your greatest need. So, as we go into the guided meditation, which we’re gonna do next, I wanna emphasize that your priority is to be yourself and to guide yourself to where you are most challenged and then to cooperate with the suggestions that are going on. But don’t let this just hover in your head it. So let yourself just settle in a comfortable position. Guided meditation is for so many people, the best way to truly gain benefit in your response to personal challenges. As you invest and bring your own experience to the guided meditations, you’ll give yourself the best chance to change longstanding patterns from suffering toward a state of well-being, peace and healing.
It’s important to put yourself in a comfortable body position in a private space where you’re not disturbed. Turn off your phone and be ready to really be alert and just start by listening to the sounds around you and let it vacillate between sounds that you can hear and just appreciating the silence in between the sounds. And if possible, let yourself enjoy that you’re just resting in being present. And include an awareness of any body sensations that are going on, which might lead you to move your body a little bit to be more comfortable. And start by asking the question, what is my most challenging emotion during this period of time? Or perhaps right in this moment? Let it be crisp. This identification, ah, fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, impatience, whatever is yours is where you want to be. And breathe into it. Let it percolate in your body. So you really not only have your awareness, but you can feel the sensation. So keep asking yourself, what is the feeling that is most difficult that you’ve faced in your life, especially the one that is closest to present time, or perhaps a time that you see that’s coming
Or that’s been with you as the most challenging over a recent period of time? And keep looking. And if it isn’t clear or if there’s more than one feeling or thought, then just allow it to be that way and keep your precious awareness on it. See if you can say, oh, good, I can see both the challenging emotion and my reaction to it, which is likely to be either a self-rejection or perhaps you might be withdrawing from it because the feeling is so difficult. So notice as you’re there with your very most difficult feeling, what comes right after it? Is there an oh shit or an equivalent? Or can you start to develop the capacity to see, oh good, I can see it. And that gives me a chance not to get distracted from it by either withdrawing or judging. You’re looking for the time where you’re most out of control with pain loss or something that’s equivalent to grief. As you see this challenging emotion and you recognize you want to guide yourself with these wise, friendly thoughts that it might leave you right now feeling a little bit schizophrenic, a deep feeling that wants to take you over. And yet you have these wise thoughts that are saying things like, this is really difficult. I want to care for you.
I’m gonna ask you questions of how can I most care for you? I’m gonna make suggestions to you. Be gentle with yourself. This would be difficult for anyone. Do you wanna lie down? Do you need to put your hands on your heart? Do you need to breathe? Do you need to call someone for help? Do you need space? What would these wisest thoughts be to guide you how to best take care of yourself When you’re immersed in feelings, and very likely you don’t feel motivated to do anything else, but you find this place inside you that wants to care and leads you to these simple thoughts that can either be supporting you or asking you questions that will lead to support. And remember, as you’re here, you want these thoughts to be centered on the present or the near future. And you know these thoughts are supportive. They’re, they’re where you want to put your dominating attention. You don’t want to allow yourself to be owned by the feeling. You need to find this place of wisdom that knows that it wants to care for you no matter what you feel. Take a moment. Does this make sense to you that at your time of greatest suffering, which is now,
You wanna put your loyalty, you wanna put your devotion into your wisest guiding thoughts and plant a seed that you wanna remember this for the real times in life, throughout your life, every single time you have the most difficult feelings, you want to plant a seed. I want to remember my wisest thoughts, my friendly mind, and remember that you won’t be able to feel better right away. And that’s usually the criteria of when you think it’s working. But know it’s your single-pointed devotion to friendly mind, to your wise thoughts. That will be a source of you not reacting from the feeling, but reacting from a different part of your soul, of your depth. So keep coming back to your challenging emotion, feeling it in your body and seeing if thoughts want to take you into the future or want to criticize you or if you want to disassociate. But come back, come back and ask what is friendly mind telling me? Now, you may hear my voice is softer, but you will not be able to be soft because you’ll be in the feeling, but you will be able to hear this voice if you call for it.
What is possible in this moment? That would be the thoughts that would guide you to your own sanity, to your own balance, to a direction that will make the feelings least potent as possible. But having no illusion, you’re gonna take them away. And as you continue recognize, this is lifetime work to gain the confidence to be able to have this loyalty be to your depth, wisdom, friendly mind, and not to your feeling spawning thoughts. Only you can do it. Nobody can do it for you. It’s the ultimate test of courage and human character that you’re developing right now to be your own guide. When you’re in this kind of hell, as you ask for friendly mind, you’ll see that you can receive. You need to find the sincerity of wanting to care for yourself even at this time. And remember, it’s kind of like Einstein, where you are reminded that you need to find a different level inside you than the feeling in order to have a chance of moving toward healing. We can’t look at the same level and heal it. We can’t fight a feeling of this magnitude with another feeling, and we can’t look for the feeling to be the solution. We are content as we grow into this with our wise mind, taking over, not taking over and eliminating the feeling, but taking over our attention.
Friendly mind says, I want to become as close to friendly mind as possible for my greatest time of need. I wanna be a light unto myself when I’m in the greatest darkness. So, notice how you feel after you’ve done this, after you’ve completed the meditation, maybe you’re spaced out or relieved or hopeful, inspired. Maybe you’re discouraged cuz you weren’t able to stay with it. And no matter how you feel, see if you can recognize the importance of having a window of light into your darkness. And it doesn’t matter whether you feel discouraged or whether you can be inspired. What matters is you see the wisdom and you’re motivated to continue to develop no matter what you feel.
My wish, my prayer is that it allows you to be inspired to keep developing. I wanna give you one major caution. It’s so easy to understand this, but it’s not realistic to come up with the most wise thoughts immediately. And again, of course, it’s not possible to change the feelings. Don’t measure yourself by what you feel. Measure yourself by the devotion to your wisdom. In your awareness guiding you expect yourself to be in and out of the gap. And friendly mind will tell you to be patient and tolerant and not to have to a high of an expectation, but to persevere and recognize that as you really realize, the dearness, the sense of purpose, the sense of having a radar to where you need to go is your capacity. We all have the capacity for friendly mind.
There’s always a danger of being a bit too grandiose or impatient, and you need to practice over and over again. So you don’t think you can be, oh, I’ve got this one. I got it handled now I understand it. Or I’m so frustrated I can’t do it. No, it’s like if you’re an athlete, it might take months or years to start to develop, but what would be more worthy to improve your quality of life and to be able to guide yourself when you’re most inclined to be taken over by something that’s one of your worst nightmares. I
Think what you just said after this meditation is so, so important because the pitfall—and I have personal, much personal experience with this—is to add another layer yet on top of the feelings I’m trying to work with and feel I’m a failure because I can’t extinguish them, which is unrealistic to begin with, but it’s what I hope for because I’m suffering. I want to not feel this. And so to add a second difficult feeling on top of the one we’re originally working with is so, so terribly ineffective and so terribly adding to the suffering at my moments when I do that.
Robert Strock (24:58):
And it’s inevitable that that will be in and out, in and out, in and out, which means that’s great. It’s in and it’s out. That means sometimes we’re in friendly mind if we get it 20% of the time at the beginning, that’s great. And for further encouragement, the very next podcast we’re gonna be doing is gonna be relating to what you’re saying, Dave, exactly, which is self-rejection and or or self-abandonment where we’re saying, oh, I can’t do this. And then how do we get reentered and not reject ourselves? How do we not get caught in that second reaction? So that’ll be the whole focus of the next podcast. So by now, if you’ve listened to a three podcast on Friendly Mind, you’ll know very clearly that friendly mind needs enormous practice. You’re developing a new skill that hasn’t been taught to you. You’ll need to be tolerant of not feeling better, and yet your wisdom can see the benefit.
But that doesn’t mean you can because you aren’t yet connected very likely, consistently to your wisdom. So when you can’t see the wisdom, then you need to ask yourself, where is my wisdom? What is my wisdom saying to me? And it will be encouraging you to join the wisdom because there’s nothing better. You don’t need to feel better. In fact, you can’t. And so it’s a massive breakthrough if you can value the wisdom when you still feel horrible. It is a massive breakthrough if you can value the wisdom of friendly mind when you still feel horrible. The rewards, which is really important to focus on, are almost beyond comparison because you have a key inside yourself to feel better ultimately, but it requires you to tap into your wisest source and to value it.
We hear a lot about the mind body connection, but not nearly as much about the mind heart connection. This is what we’re putting our focus on, our mind being connected to our heart. That means our wisdom and our heart are uniting. Real wisdom supports the heart, supports our wellbeing all the time. My greatest wishes that you appreciate that you are even starting to put your attention on this, and my prayer is that you all and we all will make this a priority for ourselves and ultimately for the impact for the world. Thank you very much for your attention and the goodwill that it comes from.
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