We all know that even with the best intentions, the sincerest prayers and the most careful planning, that nothing is guaranteed to us. Any of us who have been to the funeral of one or more of our children know that things can happen in this life that bring enormous suffering. Whether you believe the cause to be an act of God, a “soul choice” or just your rotten luck, the suffering is unavoidable and your challenge will be to find a way to live with it.
Whether your losses are related to loved ones, finances or health, no one likes loss and although we are told that there is a great lesson to be learned from suffering, we would all gladly pass on the experience. However, when you open your front door to find loss in any form waiting there to greet you, you have no choice but to face it and all that comes with it.
These things do happen, so I am not talking about finding a way to avoid them. But there is one area where you can create some wiggle room for yourself and that has everything to do with how you meet, greet and treat yourself as you face the day-to-day events of your life.
YOUR INNER ALLY —- CULTIVATING A LOVE YOU CAN DEPEND ON —- THE WORKBOOK
STEP ONE —- The Question
(If possible purchase a journal or find some paper. To fulfill all the steps in The Inner Ally Program, it will be helpful to have something to write on).
On the first page of your Inner Ally Journal write down the following question:
In the midst of a problem, would you say that you are a warm, compassionate ally to yourself, a harsh critic or something in between?
Think back to your responses to yourself when you have been in difficult situations in your life. Write down what comes to mind in terms of the kind of voice and attitude that surfaces in you when you are frightened or upset. Would you describe the inner voice you hear as a friend, a foe or something in between.
This is very important, so take your time. You don’t have to show this to anyone, so be honest with yourself because nothing can be changed until it is seen. The first step to making any change in yourself comes from introspection and insight.
STEP TW0---THE EMOTIONAL TIMELINE
By now, I will assume that you have given this matter some thought.
Take out your Inner Ally Journal and on the top of page 2, draw a line like this:
Mark the place on that timeline where you would honestly place yourself. Remember we are talking about the way you treat yourself, especially when you are going through a difficult time.
If you have placed yourself close to “friend,” then close the journal because you are exactly where you need to be, but if you place anywhere on the emotional timeline that is more compromising, then let’s get on with it.
STEP THREE---EXAMINING THE QUALITIES INHERENT IN AN IDEAL BEST FRIEND RELATIONSHIP
Can you imagine what it would feel like if you treated yourself as if you were your own best friend?
Write the answers to the following questions in your journal:
A best friend listens
A best friend is someone who will listen to you while you pour your heart out expressing your innermost feelings.
Do you listen to yourself and allow yourself to feel all your own feelings?
A best friend lets you be yourself
One of the greatest things about good friends is being able to relax and just be your normal self around them. If you gain or lose ten pounds, it doesn’t change the affection your friends have for you.
Are you equally accepting of yourself? Do you accept yourself just as you are or do you compare yourself to others and feel inadequate? Do you ever try to change who you are in order to fit in?
A best friend is loving and loyal
If your best friend needed help, you would be there in a flash. If someone lied about your best friend behind her back, you would defend her reputation. If your best friend had a bad day, you would cheer her up and remind her that better days are ahead.
Do you treat yourself with the same level of love, care and attention?
A best friend gives you honest advice without beating you up
A best friend will give you honest advice. She will not make up lies for you, but in a kind way will try to point you in the right direction.
The classic question is: “Do these pants make my butt look big?” A best friend will say, “I’m sorry, honey, but this is not the best look for you. Let’s move on - obviously this designer does not understand what real women need!”
A best friend will not lie to you but neither will a best friend diminish or shame you.
When you have to tell yourself a hard truth, can you find a way to do it without beating yourself up?
A best friend gives you treats for no reason!
Recently one of my dearest friends sent me a surprise package with a silly gift that made me laugh and laugh. Life is not about pleasure alone, but pleasure is important and often overlooked. Today we know that happy feelings, pleasurable sensations, joyful moments, and a positive attitude are important for the health of your body.
Do you ever treat yourself to a special gift for no reason?
A best friend is your biggest cheerleader!
Would you say to your best friend, “Why bother? You know you’ll never make it work anyway”?
Best friends do not discourage you. On the contrary, they encourage you and speak positively about you and always help you to move in a forward direction.
Do you inspire and encourage yourself? Do you give yourself positive reinforcement?
A best friend does not judge you harshly
We are all human, which means that none of us are perfect and that we all make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are small ones, other times they are big, but we all make them.
Best friends will not judge you when you make a mistake. They will stand by your side, try to help you find a solution to the problem, and give you comfort to the best of their ability.
When you make a mistake do you stand by your own side or do you judge yourself harshly?
The First Focused Breathing Exercise: Observing Your Thoughts
The ability to witness the workings of your mind is a great tool. Until you can step back from your thoughts and observe them, it is difficult to be objective about them. It may be that you own personal thoughts are making you unhappy and yet you are unaware of this.
Many of our ways of thinking are habitual and began when we were very young. Acquired from the people who raised us, much of it is unexamined and limiting, if not detrimental.
The following breathing meditation will allow you to step back from inside your thoughts and simply observe them. Where in the past you would think a thought and then react to it, now you will be able to simply observe the thought.
Focused Breathing Exercise #1
1. Start by finding a quiet place where you can sit or lie comfortably. Turn down the volume on your answering machine. Turn off your cell phone, oven timer, alarm clock, television, or anything else that will distract you.
2. Begin by inhaling and exhaling through your nose.(If you have a cold you can use your mouth.) Now bring all your awareness to the tip of your nose and imagine that you are the gatekeeper at the gates of a big city and that it is your very important job to watch the comings and goings of your breath.
3. Focus solely on your breath, and feel it as it passes in and out. On the inhale think, “I am breathing in cool," and on the exhale think, “I am breathing out warm.” Try to feel the cool air as it enters your nostrils, and the warm air as it leaves. Breathing in cool... breathing out warm. Breathing in cool...breathing out warm. In cool...out warm. In cool...out warm. Try to keep your awareness on your breath.
4. Now, inevitably, your mind will wander. This is called “Monkey Mind” and it is common knowledge that as soon as you try to quiet your mind, the “Monkey Mind” will surface. The experience of most people is that their mind wanders off constantly. Thoughts will flow from one into another the way a monkey swings from branch to branch: “What did she say? I can’t remember. It had something to do with the dog. Did I remember to give the dog water? Oh, this isn’t working, I’m supposed to be breathing. I can never do anything right. Did I remember to give the dog water?” Or your thoughts may fire off in random directions: “What do I have to do later? Did I remember to take dinner out of the refrigerator? What time is that appointment? What should I get for a baby gift? The weather’s supposed to be bad on Sunday. Where is that article I was reading--?” and on and on. Like a young puppy, the mind wanders off. As soon as you realize that you have lost the awareness of your breath, gently lead your mind back to your breathing, just as if you were training a puppy. Again and again your mind will wander off. Again and again you will return to your breath.
5. Breathing in cool...breathing out warm. Breathing in cool...breathing out warm. In cool...out warm. In cool...out warm. Eventually, from this process of continually catching yourself lost in thought and then returning to the breath, you begin to see your thoughts from a different perspective. As you are returning to your breath you are stepping aside from your usual stance in the middle of monkey mind. All of a sudden you can see that you are not your thoughts at all, but the awareness in which all of your thoughts take place. You can sense that this awareness is much bigger than thoughts, for it extends way beyond the reaches of your thinking mind.
This is your inner awareness which some call their inner self and I like to think of as my Inner Ally because deep inside, beyond my thoughts, that inner awareness is on my side always. And every time you choose to return to breath, overriding your thinking mind, you are demonstrating to yourself that you, the inner awareness, has the power to think certain thoughts – or not and that you don’t have to be run by your thoughts anymore.
You are taking the control away from your thoughts and giving it to yourself, where it should be. The mind is a very good tool but not the best of friends and therefore it is vital to our peace of mind that we, meaning the inner awareness, learn to control our minds.
Keep in mind, this is not about stopping thought, which you can't do anyway. It's about backing off from the thoughts by returning to the breath and then observing and noting what the thoughts were. You will be amazed by some of what you will observe going on in your head.
I should warn you that this can be a very humbling process. You may think of yourself as a very loving person and then observe some downright mean thoughts. You will likely find some insecure, angry and jealous thoughts, because when you quiet your mind, the monkey mind has a field day, but remember that this is the path to self-understanding which ultimately will allow you to free yourself.
For now just work with the process of observing your breath, returning from thought to breathe, and observing your thoughts as you return to breath. After a while you will notice that you have your own habitual thought patterns and a top ten all of your own. Later on will work with the contents of what we discover. For now what is important is to cultivate the witness, observe your thoughts and realize that you are the awareness in which all the thoughts takes place.
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