0042 Thrive and Connect: Pain, Reactivity, and Mindfulness

Our co-host, Jennifer, talks today about dealing with chronic back pain and how it affects her outlook and ability to be either proactive or reactive to life’s events.

(Her situation takes an interesting twist which will be revealed in a future podcast.)0042-image-001

The four Immeasurables are reviewed along with the power of humility.

She shares her increased empathy for those from her past who lived with chronic pain.

Chronic pain sucks the energy out of a person.

The corrosive effect of the six realms of reactivity (rage, greed, instinct, desire, jealousy, and pride) inhibits being joyful especially with jealousy, e.g., “Why can’t I have a better life like that other person?”

The use of a meditation technique, tonglin, to help dissolve reactivity is explained. It opens a door to being joyful by letting go of watching others and comparing. Loving-kindness can be restored. Energy is also saved, energy that can be distributed in a positive way.

The question surfaced, “How can we show others what works for us in terms of mindfulness?” We just look for the opportunity without forcing it upon others. Jennifer relates it to her consulting work in conflict resolution.

Working in this way helps one get out of their head and reduce suffering.

The challenges associated with push-back being generated by someone choosing to stay stuck are discussed. There is only so much we can do.

For ourselves, when we practice tonglin are acuity increases. We see more and are more present, even if the other person is resisting. We become free to just be ourselves.

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0039 Thrive and Connect: The Power of Humility – Neutralizing the Poison of Reactivity

In this episode your host, Gary Monti, discusses how to neutralize one of the impediments to humility – reactivity. Topics include:

  • The danger or reactivity
  • Definition of humility and its benefits
  • Humility is contrasted with reactivity
  • A range of emotions associated with reactivity and the trouble they can cause
    • Rage
    • Greed
    • Instinct
    • Desire
    • Jealousy
    • Pride
  • Reactive patterns develop in response to the emotions if they are left unchecked
  • The patterns can grow and interlace with each other compounding the situation
  • Meditation can help dissolve the reactive patterns and return to a humble state
  • Mid-life crises are discussed and how one can work through them
  • The elusiveness of humility, especially as we get older, and its root-cause is discussed
    • Reactive patterns take on a life of their own
  • When it comes to meditating simply sitting still can be a big challenge
  • The eventual reward is to just be which makes room for joy, discipline, compassion, and empathy not to mention the opportunity to be with others and have community and a sense of flow

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0036 Thrive and Connect: Humility and Freedom

Today’s topic, humility and freedom, is a continuation of the power of humility series.humility

Recall the definition of humility is choosing to go to a small place, representing an awareness of what one can and can’t do. One side-effect (or benefit) of humility is experiencing freedom.

To get an idea of what freedom is let’s start with defining what it isn’t. Lack of freedom is being trapped and at the core of being trapped is suffering. In turn, suffering is based on being attached to something or someone.

An example of attachment is given: hitting my thumb with a hammer. There are two distinct components to this situation: the actual pain felt and how I decided to deal with that pain. Suffering is getting hung up on the pain, e.g., feeling sorry for myself, feeling I can take it out on others, etc.

A distinction is made with regards to the value of the physical pain, i.e., getting me to pay attention to thumb to avoid hurting it further and to allow it to heal.

At the core, freedom is being present with what is occurring and letting go of suffering.

Decision points deciding to be free or suffer occur throughout the day and I do have the power to choose to suffer, e.g., pushing my child to get an A on a test, that woman will love me, boss will give a raise, etc. Or, I can choose to simply be present with what is, immerse myself in the experience and be present. Choosing the latter approach frees me to see what is available in the moment. In other words, see options.

Choosing to attach to an experience and become reactive creates tunnel vision and options fly out the window.

Presence includes being with the specific activity or person in front of me while also being aware of the environment and what is going on in the periphery.

One example of enjoying the freedom that comes with humility and being present is sitting in the sunroom in the morning with Jeny, enjoying her presence but also being aware of the squirrel outside trying to steal seed from the bird feeder, the cats vying for position on our laps, etc.

Freedom can also be present with uncomfortable tasks. The letting go of the difficulties and/or uncomfortable feelings opens up the opportunity to see and pursue options.

Astronauts formally train to do this letting go activity by going through an risk management exercise called, “The next thing that can kill me is _______ .” This helps them learn how to respond to a situation rather than react and lose site of options.

How do I get to a reactive state? By having expectations. With expectations there is a desire to control someone or something beyond my humility boundary. Attention disappears and there is just a pushing of my agenda, e.g., pushing my child to get an A or badgering my spouse or partner to be a certain way.

Expectations lead to throwing away freedom. Suffering results.

This is an age-old problem. The Roman philosopher Epictetus (c. 50 AD) stated, “There is pain and there is torture. Pain is when we now the source of our discomfort. Torture is when we don’t.” Suffering creates torture and the associated blindness. When in pain I can see the options available and decide what to do. This is exercising freedom. This also applies to when feeling well.

Expectations lead to an unrealistic sense of control, a cause-and-effect relationship between me and the person or situation I want to satisfy me expectation.

The listener is challenged to look for situations where they abandon their freedom or decide to remain humble and embrace the freedom.

Now, there is a paradox with regards to humility and ambition.  It is fine to have goals and make certain sacrifices. However, it is important to watch out for the risk of turning oneself over to the desired goal and losing oneself, only having meaning based on becoming the goal. An example is Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada.

In order to pursue ambition in a humble manner the key is forming a team with like-minded people. Doing this with a sense of abundance where the tasks and rewards are shared with others not only helps preserve freedom it creates an opportunity for abundance where what is achieved is greater than the capabilities of any one person.

This sets the stage for joy to surface!

It is difficult to maintain humility in situations such as divorce, especially when one doesn’t want it to occur.  The power to hold the marriage together is gone. Embracing this reality is essential to maintain freedom through humility. The other person is on the other side of the humility boundary.

The courage to grieve and embrace the sadness is essential in order to be free and have options.

This gets to a willingness to accept the unfairness of life in order to be free. There’s a power in embracing being in a small place.

Remember, freedom exists inside humility. By linking with others through giving up some independence interdependence develops and, again, more can be achieved. It is expansive, both in terms of being with what is immediately present as well as awareness of the environment and what is on the periphery. It’s quite a paradox!

Freedom in the presence of failure is extremely important. Character is built based on decisions made and actions taken when in a failed state. Attachment to the failure dissolves humility and a blindness to options and possibilities sets in. Freedom disappears.

Well, that concludes another podcast in the Power of Humility series.

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0035 Thrive and Connect: Humility and Abundance

Hi, and welcome to another episode of Thrive and Connect, the second in a series of podcasts dealing with the power of humility. Today I’ll talk about how the practice of humility can lead to abundance.humility

  I am your host, Gary Monti, publisher of Aurelius Press, providing the only Jungian Type assessments, the Majors PT Elements and PT Inventory, that not only provide both whole Type, those 4 letters such as ESTP, but also real-time measure of the 8 Jungian mental processes, introverted Thinking, extroverted Sensing, etc., providing information on both how one tends to think based on the neural pathways established at birth but also adaptations that have been made while moving through life. For more information go to aureliuspress.com.

Let’s get back to our topic Humility and Abundance.

You might recall the last episode differentiated humility from humiliation and the results may not have been that exciting. After all, it might not sound very cheerful when even in health it’s all about going to a small place.

So what to do? This is where humility opens the door to something very powerful — abundance.

Personally, learning this lesson was a big surprise to me.

Without going into details I can say I spent a large part of my life in the confusion between humility and humiliation. The short version is I tried to make humiliation work. That created a rather painful, frustrating trap of feeling stuck in a small place with no way to get out since it was someone else’s fault I was in there and my only way out was by trying to please the other person who was rummaging around inside my head. Not a happy way to live!

In turn, I tried to compensate for this insanity by trying to please that voice inside my head believing I should be able to do everything by myself – I should be a Superman!

Well, if ever there was a death trap, that was it. No matter what was achieved it wasn’t enough. Humiliation is a black hole with an infinite appetite.

Eventually I burned out trying to fill it and started looking for something else. This something else ended up being humility, which, surprisingly, led to my discovery of abundance. Abundance makes it fine being in a small place. Abundance does this by facilitating connection.

Let me explain with a personal story — something that happened recently. I tried planning what appeared to be a rather ordinary social event. The secret reality was that while the event may appear ordinary on the surface it had importance to me. In fact it had mythic significance. Again, it was just meant to be a pleasant time, or so it seemed.

I was taken by surprise when one of the invitees said they were already planning an event around that time, it was something they did every year, the date was important, etc., etc., etc. They ended up inviting the same people that I was planning to invite. (I’ll come back to this other person later in the podcast.)

I chose to let go of my plans. This ended up being a triggering event that brought up the humiliation. Ironically, the getting past humiliations of the past was the mythic component of the event I was planning. Finally, I was free! Or so I thought. Can you believe it!

But then I thought, “Wait a minute! This is a chance to continue working with humility and getting beyond humiliation.” And that is what I did.

The work consisted of staying with the process of letting go of the reactivity humiliation creates and staying out of the personal hell created by holding on to urges to do whatever (you can fill in that blank with some of the urges you might have had in the past to set people straight, get even, etc.)

By the way, the work to free myself was done through Dharma practice (I’m a secular Buddhist) and I was able to go to the other party and actually have a good time.

But wait, there’s more! Something amazing happened at the party.

As frequently occurs at good parties, subgroups develop and I joined one. While we were sitting there talking and having a good time I asked about the cooking that others like. Several mentioned food that I had made in the past. This created an opportunity to ask, “Then what would you have for a nice meal?”

I took advantage of the situation to see if a meal could be built around the foods that I make. This led to asking, “How about Jeny and I put on a dinner party?” Everyone agreed and now we’re moving forward with the planning. The party may or may not occur. The point is, it supported me in staying with just being and connecting with myself and others.

A quiet sense of joy emerged. Behaving this way helped keep me out of the prison that hanging on to reactivity creates. Belief in abundance and committing to doing the associated work, i.e., having the dinner party, created the space within which I could experience the connection I was looking for in celebrating my release from humiliation. And if this dinner party doesn’t happen then I am free to plan something else! The abundance associated with relationships is still there because I am making the effort to care. The energy would just be moved to the work of that other event should this dinner party fall through.

In all of this it’s important to avoid sounding Pollyanna-ish. This work of abundance doesn’t come easily. Every brick on the path leading towards the creation of abundance is built from a reaction surfacing along with the urge to attach to it and then pulling energy away from that reactivity so I can let go and be free. It repeats over-and-over until the reactivity dissolves.

In Buddhism there’s a term for doing this work of sharing without expecting something in return in order to create abundance. It’s called loving-kindness. Doing the work of loving-kindness dissolves the prison created by reactive emotions.

In this case, offering to do the work of loving-kindness through a simple dinner becomes a statement to myself and to those around me that there is a way to get beyond the anger, frustration, and sense of woundedness associated with humiliation, perceived or otherwise. It can be an example for others which creates an interesting paradox. While working to take care of myself an opportunity for connecting with others is created. Pretty cool!

I want to switch back now to the individual who schedule the other party. You may have noticed during this podcast that I used the phrase, “Perceived or otherwise.” There’s a reason for doing that. When in the grip of humiliation it’s easy to perceive others with suspicion and believe they have dark motives. While these feelings may be intense they also may be inaccurate.

My feelings of humiliation actually are the reaction I choose to have in response to an action another person takes. This actually is separate from the individual’s intentions. That person may very well be intending to humiliate me or they may be doing what they honestly think is best free of intention to create harm.

This bears repeating. There are two important points here:

1. I need to take ownership of any reaction I have to someone’s behavior, and;

2. Space needs to be left to find out what the other person’s story is in order to treat them with the appropriate respect rather than trying to dump my reactive emotions on them.

Respect here simply means treating the individual appropriate for their behaviors. If I find out the person’s a jerk maybe I need to back up for a while or take action to protect myself. If the other person’s intentions are benign and I genuinely feel a sense of harm then we need to talk about making some changes. Finally, if their intentions and actions are benign then I’m back to dealing with my own reactions.

Well that’s probably more than enough for now. I hope you got something from today and can pass it on! I look forward to sharing more with you in the future.

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