Apr 19 2011
I had an epiphany watching Tiger Woods play in The Masters recently. It was the last day of play and he was in the zone, playing like his old winner self and moving up in the pack. But then he made a mistake, and another, and another. He began to grimace, obviously upset with himself. His frustration only tightened the grip of this losing self that had taken over.
It became clear to me that the real Masters game of life is to become aware of these ego mindsets that hijack us, and to shift out of them and get back to present time, back to the soul zone of infinite possibilities. The ultimate winning is when we realize that we are not who we think we are – it is knowing that we are SO much more.
On the ego level there are many selves, personas, stories that we can get lost in and think that is who we really are. Like multiple personalities, each one takes on a life of it’s own, requiring and expecting different things. Each self believes that they are the only one and that this is the only way it is and ever will be.
In the book The Bell Jar, poet Sylvia Plath writes that her episodes of suicidal depression were like being in a bell jar where she could only see life through that oppressive distortion. I know what that feels like. In my late teens and early twenties I was also suicidal and, like Sylvia Plath, I experienced that through that filter of depression life did not seem worth living. In that context it seemed that life was unbearable, always had been and always would be — from that limited perspective I could not see it ever getting better. The bell jar is a dangerous place to be.
It was about that time that I started reading metaphysical books and realized that I was trapped in a mindset. I was excited and hopeful knowing that life would change if I could change my hardwired thoughts and beliefs. That was the big challenge that life was offering me. I accepted the challenge and after much work I eventually got free of the bell jar.
I was also trapped in a mindset about relationships – I believed that I was alone and always would be because I wasn’t good enough to be loved. This was a painful self-fulfilling prophecy that served to keep me alone and, therefore, safe from the perceived greater pain of loving and being hurt. That mindset was only able to see the possibility of hurt. When I finally realized it was just a mindset, I set out to change it. I deliberately started seeing myself as a glorious, magnificent, beautiful soul. I bought a lavender glass swan as a symbol to remind me, “I’m not a duck, I’m a swan.” Imagining myself being loved became easier and easier, until it eventually became a reality.
In the book, Love for No Reason, Marci Shimoff talks about the love-body, which is the opposite of the pain-body (that painful mindset that Eckhart Tolle writes about in The Power of Now). The love-body is who we truly are. While the pain-body is contractive, the love-body is expansive. We can build our love-body by focusing on love. Having experienced cancer nipping at my butt, I am very motivated to focus on my heart and build my love-body — I know that in the realm of love there are infinite possibilities far beyond what any of my limited selves can imagine and create.
My love-body was tested recently. I had gotten into a bit of a funk and had fallen down the ‘rabid’ hole. It was a brief but intense revisiting of an old neural pathway of misery. I hadn’t felt that bad in many years, but I remembered well that terrible feeling of being unloved, unlovable and unloving. My husband Tom was being his sweet and loving self, but being loved was not congruent with this self I was trapped in. This self feels ugly and bad. Tom didn’t fit in with this miserable self’s story of woe. This self looked at him perplexed, “What is he doing here? He loves me? How could he love me? Doesn’t he know I’m unlovable?” In the midst of my misery, a witnessing part of me was watching all this, well aware that I was stuck in a pain-body, and knowing it would soon pass. This is what was different from all my depressions in the past – I had developed a witness that was able to see the light, even while I was in the grip of darkness.
In the thick of this episode I had a dream about being on a train that was filled with drama and danger. In the dream I had an ah-ha moment when I realized that it was all an illusion sprung forth from my imagination — I knew that I could focus on my heart and all the drama would fall away. The train represented my being hijacked by a runaway train of thought. Focusing on my heart brought the train back to the station, back to the present moment, back to my love-body. The train is also a symbol of me training myself to make that shift.
The greatest mastery in life is being able to shift out of our menagerie of mindsets and return to the present moment where love resides. I’d like to share with you a simple formula I devised that helps me do this, using the acronym NOW which stands for:
Notice — my body sensations, breath, feelings, thoughts and beliefs
Own — This is one of my selves. It is not who I am. Which self is this?
What’s the truth? — Who am I really? How is it really?
Here’s an example of this is from the recent brief bout of depression I described above: I notice that my breath is shallow, my body is rigid, and I feel angry, sad, and scared. I own that I’m stuck in a pain-body, I call her Chopped Liver, who feels unimportant and bad and is sad and mad about it. I ask myself, “What’s the truth?” The truth is I know that I am loved, that I’m important to people. I know that I’m important to myself. I see the reality check that Tom is in my life, showing me how far I have come, and I deeply value myself for that accomplishment. I take a deep breath, recognizing that I am a strong woman and a beautiful soul. The runaway train has returned to the station.
Are there mindsets of yours that take over and have you thinking it’s who you really are and how it really is? What are ways you stop these runaway trains of thought and return to the station, to your magnificent, present moment, True Self?