In this episode, Robert and Dave discuss how to trust wise thoughts when you’re suffering. They emphasize the importance of not distancing or judging our feelings but rather accessing our inner wisdom to guide us. This involves being able to operate at two levels simultaneously: respecting our challenging feelings while finding a place inside of us that wants to care. By doing this, we can stay open to our feelings and allow them to guide us toward our most supportive thoughts.
The guided meditation that follows allows you to go inward and be your own example of facing challenging feelings and finding your inner supportive voice. Through this process, you can cultivate the conditions in which you trust your most wise and supportive thoughts.
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 93.
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 (00:46):
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 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 going to focus again on deepening our capacity to integrate friendly mind into our lives. As we spoke about in the last episode, is deeply counter-instinctual or counterintuitive, especially as we’ve upped the ante to the very most difficult feelings or situations that we’re facing in our life. Severe illness, chronic pain, sleeplessness, death of a loved one, divorce, et cetera. We’re so wired to care about most what we feel, and the focus is virtually never that what we think might be more important than what we feel—especially when our feelings are really challenged.
Now, I hope you get that we’re talking about, and I’m asking you as I’m even going through this introduction, that you start to access your most challenging feelings and realize what an evolution it is and or would be for you to be able to remember that, oh, I have a possibility of going to my friendly mind or my wisdom and have that thought process guide me. And it’s more important than what I feel and I don’t have to change my feelings. I need to guide myself. I need to go to this different level. We need to deepen our realization when we’re really, for lack of better words, feeling fucked. We need to change our thoughts as when the feelings are this powerful, we can’t change our feelings, but if we dedicate ourselves, we can change our thoughts. When we realize what a severe challenge this is, we can start to revere ourselves for having the courage to say, ah, I can see, I can observe my challenging feelings and I wanna remember to not have that spawn off into endless more challenging feelings and thoughts. And I want to remember to bring in my friendly mind that has wisdom to offer me. This is a major victory. Each time we can observe what we feel without any distancing or judging or with lesser distancing and judging and access our need to care for ourselves and also asking for our friendly mind to speak to us. Before I go further into this, I’d like to introduce Dave, my dearest friend for 50 years and my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation.
Robert, as always, thank you. And to have this reemphasized with an emphasis towards going inward compliments everything that has come before from the book to all of the different podcasts on the book itself, the examples of others, now we get to be our own example.
Robert Strock (04:31):
It’s the perfect place to emphasize, which is all the way through not only the guided meditations. All the way through, I’d like you to hear what I’m saying one quarter, but I’m asking you to three quarters be in your feeling state itself and doing the looking for your friendly mind. Because everything we’re doing in these episodes is aiming at that integration and that’s starting to seed the ability to operate at these two very distinct levels at the same time. So I’d like to repeat really briefly what we’ve covered in the last episode, which really emphasizes how difficult it is to value friendly mind, or our wisdom, when we’re feeling so bad because we’re really a race that values feelings more than thoughts. And so, to actually value both is almost like a lobotomy. So you’re being asked to respect your most challenging feelings and then to find a place inside you that wants care, that will lead you to remember that “Ah, friendly mind,
I have the possibility of not just being a victim to these feelings.” And friendly mind allows us to stay open to our feelings and guides us with these thoughts that are most supportive. So we need to remind ourselves over and over again, which I’m asking you to do now that we can’t change our feelings when they’re at this level of severity. And as we mentioned last time, we have to solve this issue at a level that it isn’t existing. We can’t fight fire with fire, we can’t fight feelings with feelings. We need to transform or more accurately coexist with these feelings, with our wisdom and with our friendly mind.
Can you elaborate a little bit about what it means to respect our most challenging feelings?
Robert Strock (07:02):
Such a large percentage of us treats our challenging feelings like depression or helplessness, terror, pain. We treat it like it’s forbidden and we need to privatize it. We need to go off into another room and not share it with anybody at best case. Oftentimes we don’t even go to the private room, we just simply unwittingly put it in the basement and try to function above it. So what we’re talking about is actually realizing that these most challenging feelings are pregnancies that can allow us to have the birth of how to take care of ourselves. And it’s so important that we not try to go beyond and above our challenging feelings, but that we revere them, we recognize them as a big part of the core of our humanness and a pointer that can make us realize that we have needs and we have a capacity for wisdom and a friendly mind.
This may almost seem like an act of magic and unrealistic at first. Yeah, right. Right when I’m at my most challenging feelings, I’m gonna just jump right in and develop my wisdom. But the truth of the matter is through many, many years of exploration, there are thousands and thousands of people that are practicing this now, and it’s utterly realistic for you as you’re listening to identify your challenging feelings and to see that you wanna have a pause, you wanna have a pause where you’re saying, of course I wanna care for myself. And of course I haven’t been taught to recognize that when I’m in my worst shape, this is a new kind of idea for most of you that you’re interrupting your most challenging feelings, not eliminating them, but you’re creating a pause, a pregnant pause where you’re asking yourself, do I wanna care for myself?
Well, of course I want to care for myself. But I can’t right now on a feeling level, so how can I do it? And that’s where friendly mind starts to become illuminated. And when that starts to happen, you see that it is sort of like an act of magic but there’s no suppression or repression that’s being asked for. We’re not asking to transcend to friendly mind. We’re not asking to transcend to wisdom. We’re asking to coexist with the depth of most difficult feeling or feelings and at the same time being able to ask for our friendly mind to join us. This is gold, on a heart level. These directional thoughts that are really like a rerouting our brain and even the direction of our thoughts, it’s like we’re using Google Maps or Waze and suddenly instead of going in this direction, we’re saying, no, take a right turn
don’t take a left turn. Taking a left turn is gonna keep making it a tidal wave of hell. Taking a right turn is giving us a chance to guide ourselves and to take great interest in how we can care for ourselves. As we’ve spoken about before, we might say something like, I’m really sorry you have to go through this. And don’t expect friendly mind to be all juicy. Your friendly mind when your system is overwhelmed with primal feelings, needs to be revered for its astuteness, for its practicality, for its wisdom. And you need to teach yourself that feelings are not the center of the universe. Of course, we’d all prefer to feel good all the time, but we all know by now that’s not possible. But what is possible to be, uh, is to be a guide unto ourselves while we’re in this type of hell.
So, we’re switching the level of focus when we are aware of our most challenging feelings, which again, I’m asking you to stay in touch with yourself as we’re talking and focusing on empathic thoughts and we have absolutely no pressure to feel the thoughts. We recognize their sources of guidance and we’re learning to trust our thoughts at these times more than our feelings. That is a huge thing. That’s where the Lobo comes in. Most of us trust our feelings more than our thoughts. And so in these times we need to trust our wise friendly thoughts more than we do our feelings. What else can we really do? What other options do we really have? So let yourself make sure you’re in a private space. You know where, where you won’t be interrupted, your phone’s off and you can just stay present where you are. So we can start the guided meditation. 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 long-standing patterns from suffering toward a state of wellbeing, 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. So settle, just listening to sounds around you and hear whatever’s there, including possibly silence, appreciating that for a few moments. You can just be your ears and disconnect as much as possible from your mind. Just be content with being a listener. And you may even enjoy just the presence of being quiet, being receptive through your ears. And while you’re listening, let yourself also feel whether your body is in a comfortable state or whether you have sensations that are uncomfortable for you. You may even be able to be aware of thoughts, whatever’s in your mind right now. See if you can just echo thoughts and let them go. And wherever your attention goes, start by asking the question, what is my most challenging emotion during this time period or now? Or perhaps something that you’re deeply anticipating and let it be the very most difficult feelings that you’re addressing or that you’ve had or that you think will be coming. And start to see if you can crisply identify, ah, this is terror, this is pain, this is exhaustion. And see if you can let yourself identify it gently.
And as you’re doing it, stay in your body by breathing into the sensation to allow it to be its full self or its full essence in its natural form or formlessness. And ask yourself the question, what is this very most difficult feeling? And ask yourself, what is the name of this feeling that you’re facing as you’re letting yourself go into it? And see if you can literally notice what your normal reaction is to this feeling. What kind of thoughts happen if it’s fear? What kind of fear thoughts do you have? If it’s anxiety, what kind of anxious thoughts do you have? If it’s depression, what kind of gloomy thoughts do you have? You may notice that it might be more than one feeling. And if that’s the case, just briefly and gently identify this feeling too. It may be fear and anxiety. It may be sadness and irritation, but stay with what’s most challenging to you and pause and let yourself feel it as much as possible because you’re in a safe place right now.
And by feeling it, you’re allowing yourself to be pregnant with knowledge about what you need. By feeling what’s difficult, it becomes more clear. What would potentially make things easier and feel the part of you that wants to care for yourself or see if you can find the place inside of you that wants to care for yourself. Even if you can’t at all, which is very, very likely you will not be able to care for yourself. But that doesn’t mean you don’t want to. And ask yourself for friendly mind to be there as a source of guidance and wisdom, literally using your words to say friendly mind, mind that is wise. Please show up and tell me the kind of thoughts that will be helpful for me right now.
It may be empathic thoughts that are saying, “I can see that you’re in hell and I am with you; you are not alone.” It may suggest that you be more gentle if it’s at all possible or that you lie down or that you take a slow walk. But whatever it is, recognize that you’re having a dialogue that is being led by your friendly mind. And if you can’t get there, keep asking for friendly mind to appear because you want to create a place that no matter what you’re feeling, that you have this capacity to develop this caring for yourself and this source of wisdom that’s only interested in your wellbeing. And I say that again. Can you let in that you have the capacity to ask yourself the question, what guidance can you give me, friendly mind?
So do that now. Allow yourself to coexist in the feeling that’s so challenging and I still know I want to care for myself. And what are the thoughts that uniquely will guide me in this situation? And recognize this is the very most difficult time as you are looking at the feelings that usually will bury you. You’re looking at feelings that you usually bury everyone, but you are adding to your capacity, the creation of a friendly source of wisdom that you’re remembering to ask for. So see if you can plant a seed right now, feeling the feeling and make it like a Pavlovian response where when I’m in this feeling, I wanna automatically ask for friendly mind to come to me. And I am dedicated to friendly mind because if I stay with my feeling, I can see that I’ll just have more and more thoughts and feelings that are gonna be profoundly difficult.
I want to develop friendly mind, and friendly mind speak to me now and see what it’s saying to you. And as you’re listening to it, recognize that friendly mind focuses on what is actually possible. If you can’t walk because you’ve had spinal surgery, you’re not focusing on wanting to walk, you’re focusing on how can I get a scooter or how can I be resilient and create more options for myself? So you’re focusing on the possible. Sometimes it might be simple actions like maybe it’s a time for communication or a doctor’s visit, or maybe you need to try some medication. Maybe it’s a time for exercise. Or if you’re in a situation where you know it’s impermanent but it feels permanent, your friendly mind will say, this is impermanent. I’m telling you, even though you can’t feel it, this is impermanent. Remember all the times that you’ve had difficult feelings where it felt like it was permanent, but it was impermanent friendly mind is only interested in your well-being and feel how much you would like to have this ally be inside you at this time of your greatest needs.
Remember, you cannot solve and change this feeling by trying to have another tidal wave of great feeling come in. You have to go to this different level of yourself that is wise, that is capable of guidance, and we all have it. You have it. But you must ask if you wanna receive friendly mind. Friendly mind requires an invitation from you. So ask it to come right now and plant a seed to remind yourself that when this feeling comes, I wanna remember to ask for friendly mind to appear. And giving yourself endless suggestions now and reminding yourself you wanna do it throughout the day. This requires endless preparation because if you can do it when you’re not in the depth of the feeling, you’re gonna be able to do much better when you’re in the depth of the feeling. So give that suggestion to yourself and keep coming back to the present.
Ah, this feeling is still here. And the part of you that wants it to go away is an addict that we need to recognize the wisdom of going to this other level and friendly mind will you remind you, you’re not doing this on purpose, you’re not trying to hurt yourself. You know this would be difficult for anyone. Who do you know that would, this would be easy for and that will at least allow you to see that you deserve mercy even though you can’t feel it for yourself right now. See if you can summon up the courage to tolerate the feeling as much as possible and keep letting friendly mind know I’m asking that you join me right now when I most need you. Allow yourself to recognize this is universal. We all have depths of existential feelings like this by the nature of being human and being mortal.
And that this is not just bad luck that we all have to face these times, but you are one of the fortunate ones that has a chance to develop this capacity to think in a different direction that is supportive of you and not demand that you’re feeling change and not demand that you’re feeling change. See if your friendly mind can say things like, I’m proud and trusting in you. Even when I can’t feel any different at all, I see that this is my most courageous time. This is where I am most heroic. By being able to, at my most disabled feeling time to find this ability. I see that I don’t want to create a chain reaction of suffering and I want to change the momentum. Friendly mind helped me see that I want the thoughts that arise at this great time of difficulty as being a source of healing, and that I can use these challenging feelings as a pregnancy to deepen my wisdom and deepen your ability to guide me friendly mind. I wanna make you my very best friend and thank yourself for doing this very most difficult guidance at a time when you feel the exact opposite. So even though you might not be able to feel thank you, let yourself see if your friendly mind can thank you for the effort at this time when most of us fall asleep and are a victim to these challenging feelings.
So I don’t know anyone that doesn’t have at several points in their life feelings like this. And the only ones that I know that let’s say could even be a candidate is someone who dies young suddenly. So everyone else is in the same world as you, where this is guaranteed to be part of your existence. The only question is how much does it make sense to you as you’re listening right now to cultivate friendly mind at your time of greatest need? Cuz you’re what matters. I’m taking care of myself, but you are what matters right now. How much do you feel dedicated to interrupt the momentum of cataclysmic feeling and thinking? How much does that make sense to you? How much can you be motivated even when you’re not in it, but especially when you’re in it? And can you see the necessity to practice it when you’re not in the grip of these feelings?
What degree of confidence do you have that you’re motivated? Not that you can accomplish it fully, nobody can accomplish it fully, but what degree of confidence do you have that you’re motivated to go on the path? And you need to listen over and over again to cultivate this voice because it’s not truly natural for virtually anyone at least multiple times weekly. That friendly mind needs to be cultivated, friendly mind. Please join me. Friendly mind. I can see this might be coming up. These warnings are like doing our homework except it’s homework for the heart. It’s homework for the soul. And part of friendly mind is saying It’s okay, no matter whatever you feel, you don’t have to get over any feeling. I am going to coexist with you if you ask for me. And Friendly Mind gives the most simple guidance possible in words that support you when you’re in the most severe challenging emotions. And the key thing there is simple words, not having to be felt, but they’re directional and they can change the momentum. This isn’t magic, it isn’t unrealistic, but it does require deep dedication. So I wanna thank you for your dedication to listen to this in such a deep way. And I hope that it leads to you thanking yourself even if you can’t feel it, that you know you wanna devote yourself to a mind that is devoted to supporting you.
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