All the previous steps create the conditions to naturally turn towards our experience rather than turning away from it. We set up ease so that we begin to note or become the witness or neutral observer of our experience. What I like about this is that it is natural or effortless or unforced. So much of my previous “habit dismantling” seemed filled with harshness, a “have-to” energy or a sense of forcing change. The words accepting, allowing, and playful curiosity really brings forth a spirit of letting experience just be our experience. This spirit is the underpinning for non-identification. These sensations, emotions and thoughts of this present moment are seen as alive, moving and changing. It is not necessarily a moment that is “me” or “mine” though it is happening in my consciousness. When our awareness becomes ever so slightly larger than the experience, this becomes the gateway to seeing through our solid and often oppressive stories that surround our experience. Things are just as they are and because they are impermanent, we can move through them. We become less caught up or stuck in our stories. We can just note the details of the now. What are the sensations, feelings or thoughts that are making up this shifting moment?
Tara Brach writes, “Non-identification is freedom. Who you are is not fused with or defined by a limited set of emotions, sensations or stories. When identification with the small self is loosened, we begin to intuit and live from the openness and love that expresses our natural awakeness.”
It relaxes me so much to hear that awareness is effortless. Awareness is receptive. It is the natural state of our life. There is nothing to do except experience. At some point in the development of our awareness, noting and being the witness becomes “extra.” At that point, we can drop the witness and just be. We can rest in a receptive, natural awareness.
“N” can also stand for Nurture. It’s helpful to add self-compassion and kindness to any observation. This is an active gesture of caring for yourself. Because of my history, I have a very strong and harsh inner critic. What I have found most effective in negotiating with my harsh inner critic is loving-kindness practice. Sometimes I have said that every abuse survivor or addict would benefit from a loving-kindness meditation practiced every day for the rest of their lives. Bringing forth gentleness towards the self, towards our history, and towards others will bring relief. If we don’t have self-compassion, noticing and then interrupting our habituated habit patterns will be too painful. Loving-kindness is the foundation of all awareness and mindfulness practices. Otherwise, we won’t have the perseverance to repeat the breaking of the pattern over and over and over, which is the path towards letting something habituated go and making new habits.
Self-judgement and the inner critic are also habit patterns. We can interrupt them by the practice of gentleness and kindness and self-acceptance. Our old habit patterns are not who we are – they are just our habit loops.
One of the Tibetan Lojong slogans is “Practice the Three Difficulties”
These three pointers are:
- See your patterns as patterns or see neurosis as neurosis
- Do anything differently
- Vow to repeat this over and over.
And perhaps we can add, do all those things with underlying kindness for the human predicament.
Let it rain!