In the las blog, an activity exploring selfhood was introduced wherein one bore witness to what remained of a sense of selfhood when asked to imagine placing all roles, responsibilities and objects of identification upon the shelf. Recall in this practice, the body and the senses were also shelved, so that aspect of the self which remained is in the domain of what global wisdom traditions refer to as the subtle realm and what Western science would label non-putative. Globally there are as many as ninety-seven different names for that which is not subject to measurement! For our purposes, let’s stay secular and consider this subtle realm of self that is aware of all this essence of your selfhood is not, (everything placed on the shelf) to be our vitality or life force.
Many fitness regimes frequently make training the abs (abdominals) a core component of improving human performance, so here is a new twist on abs training.
( pun intended 😊) Subtle realm A.B.S. training asks us to Attend, Befriend and Sanctify to access our life force. These are foundational and interdependent acts. Throughout this year of writing on the topic of self-care, a steady drum beat has been sounded to develop basic mindfulness skills to curiously and kindly attend to all of our human treasures; the body, its vital energies, mind and emotions, our consciousness and spirit or soul.
A: To attend to our subtle realms requires some dedicated sensory clean up to get underneath all the shiny third world material things designed via neural marketing to capture our attention. It also requires the most difficult act of all for us Westerners; a period of non-doing! Overachievers can rest assured, the non-doing calls for periods of radical attention to replace pathological busyness, so there is still a challenge to meet. No learning happens until we can properly gather and place our attention and no growth is likely to occur without the ability to hold our attention where we need it to stay. Skillfully attending to our inner domain is an act of vulnerability that asks for courage to navigate uncertain terrain.
B: To befriend ourselves as we attend to our subtle treasures is a key component of the practice of self-compassion. Resolving to befriend whatsoever we may discover however may be easier said than done. This is where the mindfulness facet of non-judgement comes into play. Living through a pandemic in an increasingly divisive world activates our primitive brain, generating some intense feelings and emotions. Befriending is a related step in allowing and attuning which were described in both of these previously presented practices: the R.A.I.N. self-compassion practice and the G.R.A.C.E. method for cultivating compassion for others. Humans are hard wired with strong drives to approach or avoid, which is why adopting a non-judgmental perspective towards difficult emotions takes so much practice! We are less likely to approach those aspects of ourselves we are unable to befriend, yet those aspects are typically the very ones we most need to compassionately tend. Ultimately befriending ourselves as we are now, with the understanding our human treasures are inherently changeable, is the very an act of love leading us into the mystery of the nature of the self.
S: To sanctify asks for perspective taking of all life as sacred. For those who prefer more secular language, consider substituting savor for sanctify. This intentional mind-set seeks not only to notice, but also to savor, all experiences of beauty and wonder. We are also called to sanctify one another by learning to see beyond appearances to recognize suffering as common to our humanity and sense the essential goodness in one another. Pause often and generate feelings of gratitude. Acknowledge the meeting of needs we may have come to take for granted such as shelter, food, water, nature and loving relationships. Generating gratitude is a stepping stone for learning to sanctify.
Interdependence is evident in these subtle A.B.S. supporting our core being. To sanctify life, we attend to it by showing up to all of our experiences with our full presence. Appreciating the transient and cyclic nature of the pleasurable, neutral and painful moments we are alive in now, we learn to befriend ourselves amidst whatever is unfolding, just as it is. Sometimes we are empowered to sanctify and savor what we hold sacred only after we have suffered through the profane. I think 2020 is providing this opportunity for many around the world. May your self-care yield a strong physical and metaphysical core!