The Welcoming Prayer

Sadness, loneliness, depression — feelings most of us don’t welcome.

Speakers like Tony Robbins and Sharon Pope as well as a growing number of Psychologists say that suppressing or avoiding feelings is not good for us. This includes suppression of negative emotions. Experiments show that suppression of emotions leads to increased sympathetic activation of the cardiovascular system and worse memory for social information such as names or facts about individuals seen on slides 1.

There are also authoritative references that link cancer to a “type C personality.” Type C personalities are known for their tendency to “suppress wants, needs and desires.” 2. The implication being, I suppose, that suppressing these things somehow increases the risk of cancer.

The logic goes that feelings that are not acknowledged continue to arise until we pay attention to them.

“If you ignore an emotion, it will get stronger.”

All feelings carry information for us and therefore none are really negative, according to Karla McLaren. Sadness tells us we experienced a loss. Jealousy that we need better alignment with a source of love. Anger that we need to restate our voice or set a boundary. And so on. When we push them away, we reinforce a belief that ignorance is bliss, a truism that only applies to subjects we don’t need to know about.

I have discovered from my own tendency to ignore unpleasant emotions, that  ignorance is the mildest form on a spectrum of illusions about “what is.” At the extreme end are delusions I only wish were true. I like them better than what is actually going on. Denying what is and clinging to a fantasy, however, is dangerous to my mental health. But so is stark realism. Some optimism and a positive outlook can motivate me to change situations in my life that initially seem insurmountable, but never the less are not; and a dream that is “not yet” true can inspire me to improve the world, not just for myself, but for others.

But I always found it difficult to figure out when to follow a dream, and when to face reality. Two years ago I discovered the Welcoming Prayer.

WelcomingPrayer600I began using this prayer daily to start my meditation time. I found it difficult at first, especially when trying to welcome things into my life that I perceived as truly awful. I was welcoming loneliness, sadness, fear, and anxiety. I was welcoming sickness, pain, loss, and hardship. It seemed outrageous to welcome nasty people, unfair circumstances, and painful conditions when what I really wanted was them all to go away. I wanted freedom from them all. So then I let go of the desire for freedom!

It felt crazy to let go of my desire for survival too. What if that meant I didn’t survive? “What if” indeed.

I discovered that the key is to focus on those desires that are causing me suffering. Worried about loosing my job? Welcome anxiety, let go of the desire for self sufficiency. Sad about a relationship that didn’t work out? Welcome loneliness, let go of the desire for affection and love.

The crazy thing is, it works!

When I embrace whatever I am pushing away and let go of the underlying desire, I really do open to the the love and action of God within. Even when I am doubting the existence of God. Sun Through Spirea

This prayer sends a strong message to the subconscious that I will not be driven by desire. It is a mindful transfer of motivation from biology and fear, to what practitioners call the “true self.”

The True Self

The true self is understood by different people to be different things. But whatever the true self is, they all agree that surrendering the things you desire most — puts you in contact with it.

The true self is your authentic self, your imago dei, that part of you that is connected to God [or higher wiser part of yourself if you don’t believe in God]. Once you’re in right alignment with that, you can decide what you are going to do in the outer world from a place of calm acceptance. Sometimes you might choose to fight, achieve, compete, or strive for something important. Other times you might choose to acquiesce.

The important effect is that now the choice is not made from desperation or grasping. It is made from a sense of thoughtfulness and reflection.

And I find this state very similar to that dearest interest of mine, sabi. When desire has been disengaged the poetic vision can unfold. This kind of poetic vision is it’s own reward, but it also opens the mind to the layers in any experience. Paradox, irony, pathos, all become richer and more interesting. This is a mellow and tempered state, full of richness and value.

So, it seems, the Welcoming Prayer is a practice that can foster connection to the True Self; and being so connected allows most of us to more easily enter the state of being that is, or is very similar to, sabi.

Could it be that the poetic drive, specifically the poetic drive behind haiku and other forms of nature aesthetics, is a way to connect to the True Self? I am beginning to think so…

Footnotes

  1. Richards, J. M. , & Gross , J. J.(2000). Emotion regulation and memory : The cognitive costs of keeping one’ s cool. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 410-424. see also Gross, J. J., & Levenson , R. W. (1997) . Hiding feelings: The acute effects of inhibiting negative and positive emotion. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 106, 95 – 103.
  2. http://emedicalhub.com/type-c-personality/

The Way of Elegance

When I was at David Thompson University Centre I took my first course in Linguistics. I discovered that the study of a word’s history, it’s parts and evolution, was strangely pleasurable and enlightening. More than any other course I took that year, it inspired me to explore the meaning wrapped up in words and language. Here are a few Japanese words that I have found helpful in uncovering this way of life I seem destined to live.

Way of Elegance
Two root Japanese words michi (way or path) and
fuga (the elegance of poetry) make up the phrase.

Fuga, refers to the elegance of poetry. The word is made up of two root words: ‘Fu’ which means the habits and manners of the common folk and ‘Ga’ which refers to the grace or gracefulness of ceremonies at court.

Ga is achieved by a poet who is experienced, recognized, and advanced in artistic studies.

English words that convey a similar quality are ‘cultured’ or ‘civilized’.

The renowned Japanese court poets tried to express ga with idealized and romanticized images. Thus ga is sometimes thought of as artistic and spiritual purity. With this in mind we might translate fuga as ‘common ways with grace’, or ‘blue-jean eloquence’ or even ‘spiritual art grounded in reality.’

In the classic literature of Japan a writer who wished to create literature that was fuga would practice furyu by retiring to nature for solitary contemplation.

Furyu literally means ‘wind and stream’ or ‘in the way of the wind and stream.’ It is a practice that gradually expands your sense of beauty, taste, and aesthetic appreciation. The poet Yosa Buson re-introduced Basho’s concept of furyu after it had fallen out of use. A master of both poetry and painting, and a leader of the haiku revival that occurred between 1765 and 1785, Buson refocused Basho’s concept in what he called ‘the principle of rizoku,’ which meant ‘transcending the ordinary.’ To achieve transcendence Buson said a poet should study classical verse, distance herself from the realms of commerce and competition, and contemplate the simple beauties of nature.

The Way of Elegance is a phrase that combines elements of Fuga and Furyu. Two root Japanese words michi (way or path) and fuga (the elegance of poetry) make up the phrase.  Think of a well educated farmer or an artist who supports herself washing floors. The Way of Elegance involves following furyu, and practicing artistic expression as a form of spiritual discipline.

Still in the stream refers to this journey on the way of elegance. “In the stream” is being immersed in flow — being Furyu. “Still” suggest unmoving persistence or patience. Patiently being in the stream doing creative things. Being in the creative “zone” to such a degree that time stops. Most people has some idea of this feeling I think.