Going Down to Come Up

Recently, life surprised me with what one of my meditation teachers calls an AFGO (Another Freaking Growth Opportunity). These growth opportunities aren't fun, but they can offer a wallop of wisdom. I fell into a downward spiral of despair when someone I respected made a hurtful remark in response to a project I'm passionate about. I'm non-confrontational to a fault so my response was to freeze and ignore the burn. However, after we parted, I felt like a needle in a compass spinning spasmodically in search of orientation.

Often, when I find myself lost in thoughts I need to reconnect with my body and move. So, I went for a walk in the park, sat down on a bench, stared up at the sky and snapped the picture below. That patch of blue sky shining through the clouds was a harbinger of hope, and it reminded me of a story Tara Brach shared at a silent retreat. During the 1950s pilots were being pushed to defy gravity by flying higher than what was thought possible. After reaching a certain altitude, pilots would lose control of their planes. The more the pilots fought to gain control of their planes the more the plane would spin and move in unpredictable ways. Pilots plunged to their deaths at an alarming speed until Chuck Yeager's miraculous flight. When he went up in his plane, he began to experience the same distress his fellow pilots had experienced. The rattling knocked him unconscious and his plane began to fall at an alarming speed until it entered the denser layer of the Earth's atmosphere. He then awoke and was safely able to take control and land his plane. The irony is that he survived his flight only because he lost control during the scariest part of it.

If you've been reading my blog for some time, then you know how much I value poetry. I have a handful of poems bookmarked on my IPhone, which I've actually labeled "First Aid Kit." I began sifting through my collection until I found the one I was looking for... "Allow" by Danna Faulds.

Over the next several weeks, I continued to re-read "Allow" each time I felt haunted by that hurtful experience. It had already happened, but my mind was committed to replaying that painful scene, which was having a disastrous affect on my nervous system. Thankfully, right at this time I received a link to Jack Kornfield's newsletter titled "Break The Cycle of Repetitive Thoughts." In it Jack writes,

"Repeated thoughts and stories are almost always fueled by an unacknowledged emotion or feeling underneath. These unsensed feelings are part of what brings the thought back time and again. Future planning is usually fueled by anxiety. Remembering of the past is often fueled by regret, or guilt, or grief. Many fantasies arise as a response to pain or emptiness. The task in meditation is to drop below the level of the repeated recorded message, to sense and feel the energy that brings it up. When we can do this, and truly come to terms with the feeling, the thought will no longer need to arise, and the pattern will naturally fade away."

In yoga and Pilates there is a saying "go down to come up" in order to protect your spine and overall alignment. Well, I certainly went down but Danna Faulds's poem "Allow" coupled with Jack Kornfield's newsletter in addition to repeated rounds of RAIN helped me find my way back up.