Silent Sundays: On Conflict, Karma, and Moving Beyond

At some point, most of us have been told—by ourselves or others—to: “Be the bigger person;” “Take the high road;” or, “Rise above.”

Often, it is sound advice. When in a situation of conflict, one person embroiled needs to ease up enough to allow for an overall adjustment; or, fully disengage. As I used to joke with a friend, “It takes two to tangle.”

What of those circumstances, though, wherein the walking-away spurs the opposition? To that person, the feeling of being ignored becomes tantamount to a battle cry: They may feel dismissed, misunderstood, or undervalued, thereby motivating them to further negative words or actions.

Recently, such a situation has re-entered my personal realm. I have learned to keep a distance from this relative, but as I have positive, ongoing relationships with other members of the family (who maintain communication with him), separation can never be entirely complete.

Now, the person has been put into a position of authority in a particular family matter. The result? His rededication to asserting control over other family involved. One of those family members is me, who, for reasons unclear to any of us, triggers his worst tendencies of emotional tyranny.

I have a hunch that as he witnesses my psychological and spiritual growth, his fear-based self aims his missives at me: In denigrating or attempting to thwart my evolution, perhaps he feels less imprisoned by his own choices and trajectory.

I do pray for him: that that darkness within yields to Peace. We once were close; to watch him wrestle with deep-seated dis-ease leaves me sad.

I have learned over the course of many years, however, that the best approach is to not engage. But in this case, sheer refusal to address my relative’s behavior will result in practical impediments to my professional and personal goals.

In order to proceed, I must walk into the lion’s den.

With good reason, to entertain this decision awakens anxiety. But I have spent decades learning how to assuage this nervous, fearful state; I am better equipped now to deal with the discomfiting situation at hand.

What trips me up the most, perhaps, is the ever-deepening realization that such “surges” from the antagonist likely will never cease. His calls to battle will resound periodically, all borne from a place within him that thrills to taunt and tussle.

In my best moments, I imagine that the tension and upset he tends to leave in his wake are his calling cards for help. Perhaps his inner anger feels as bad to him as it does to those of us at whom it is directed. When I think in that way, I feel compassion; I send up my prayer.

I share this personal story, because I recognize that such dynamics are those that many have experienced. Regardless of the relationship or embattled circumstances, such situations may call for a layered coping approach.

First, as always, it does help to put forth genuine effort to see the matter through the other person’s eyes. Rev up the compassion and imagination. Give all the credit you can muster that the person means no ill, that their heart is fundamentally “good.”

If and when the hits keep coming, retain the idea of a wounded soul seeking connection: that the only way they know how to have a relationship is by wreaking havoc on the hearts and minds of others. Hold tight to this thought. To “do battle” from a place of “knowing the enemy” will help you stay the course (even if what you “know” is a false narrative you have conjured).

Along with this spiritual generosity—which is a mighty task in itself—protect yourself. To lay oneself bare leads to martyrdom, which seldom, if ever, leads to evolution. Be steadfast in the aim to proceed in and with Faith; if the arrows pierce, pray that the Divine and the Universe help you sally forth nonetheless.

For so long, I tried to rise above and move beyond: My mother infused me with the idea that I needed to be the bigger person, because I could. I heard those words as compliments to my character. What I did not recognize is that my mother’s own trepidation when interacting with the challenging person was her motivation for me to keep the peace.

It was not until about 10 years ago, after a particularly distasteful awakening of the person’s negativity, that I felt I was being martyred. More significantly, I realized that I did not have to be: I could say no; I could protect myself.

As noted above, my first and foremost way of ushering in a feeling of protection is to call upon the guidance of the Divine and the Universe. Within those eternal realms of wisdom and grace lies the most sure haven.

But sometimes, such as the case before me now, that security must serve as the fortress from which to engage more directly with the situation. Be it an intervention of legal or personal nature, there are occasions which demand that one fight for themselves in a tangible, earthly way.

In the midst of all of this arrived inspiration in the form of a talk from the Self-Realization Fellowship. (The SRF is the affirming foundation for my spiritual beliefs and practices.) The service concerned “even-mindedness,” specifically with regard to its relationship to karma and meditation.

Certainly, each of the ideas discussed could have a separate and lengthy address of their own. What resonated for me, however, was the reminder that one must perform “right action” without an attachment to the consequences. So, when I think and pray in the “right direction,” I must focus only on that energy, and not the outcome of my intention. 

An “even mind” helps one to release expectation: Do or think what feels most in accordance with the Divine Decree; then, double-down on Faith that the outcome will usher forth that which the Divine intends (i.e., even if it is different from what one hopes for or plans).

When one detaches from the results, be they welcome or disappointing, a karmic bond can not form or continue. 

I was struck by this with regard to my interactions with my relative: Before I disconnected from him, I played into whatever “karmic bond” we have. Once I cut off interaction, my Self—my spiritual essence—felt lightened and liberated.

So now, with a resurgence of negativity pointed in my direction, I feel buoyed by the SRF talk: I can add to the karma that binds me and this relative; or, I can push forth in Faith, trusting that no matter the outcome, I will have weakened, if not broken the karmic bond.

And this brings me to a short, but potent routine that prepares me for and sustains me through such times.

First, continue whatever practice rises to the fore for you during such times. Perhaps it is physical activity, or discussing the matter at length; perhaps it is more internal, e.g., prayer or meditation. Repeat, repeat, repeat your personal practice: Shore up the strength.

Then, dare to inhabit the mind-space of the “opponent.” As described earlier, imagination  can lead to compassion; even an illusory, temporary state of understanding can help when in conflict.

On a very mundane level, try pacing. Think of it as a precursor to—or condensed version of— a longer, contemplative walk. The idea is akin to the premise behind labyrinths, or walking meditations. Distinct from seated meditation, a moving meditation encourages thoughts and feelings to be consciously contemplated; and ideally, reframed or released.

Pacing often happens naturally; most of us pace while talking on the phone. The repetitive motion circulates the energy that arises from whatever is being discussed. Just as physical circulation propels physical processes, such as digestion, to circulate mental energy helps to process thoughts and feelings.

After a few minutes or so of the fervent pacing—or any full-body movement of your choice., e.g., jumping jacks or body swings—move into shaking: simple, powerful shakes of the entire body. I tend to begin with one arm, then the other; followed by each leg; and culminating in a vigorous, full-body shake. Shake for at least 3 minutes.

The pacing and shaking not only expel anxiety and overthinking, they lead to fuller, deeper breathing.

With these optimal breaths at the ready, assume your preferred position for meditation. Rest both hands on the knees, palms up, and configure Gyan Mudra: thumb tips touching index fingertips. 

Call to mind a comforting or empowering affirmation: scripture or sutra, mantra or encouraging word. With closed eyes gazing up to the Third Eye, begin long, deep breathing. As you inhale, begin a silent recitation of the supportive words; as you exhale, complete the inner chant. Impart the vibration deep within. Continue for at least 5 minutes.

Then, release the mudra; turn the hands, so that the palms rest softly on the knees. Maintain the Third Eye focus, and simply breathe. Allow your natural breath to connect you fully to the frequency of the equanimous state you have evoked.

Happy Sunday…

Silent Sundays: Ode To The Lobes–Conclusion

The past three posts—written and audio (at anchor.fm/ellen-sanders-robinson)—contribute more than expected to today’s conclusion to the series, “Ode to the Lobes.” Part One revealed the wonders of a brain in perfect harmony, with an emphasis on the Frontal Lobe. Part Two noted the relationship between an anatomical understanding of the brain and aspects of higher consciousness, specifically through the Parietal and Temporal lobes. In between those two pieces, I offered a quick routine to cope with Mercury in Retrograde.

Cut to the day of the following piece. As I puttered about in my apartment at 4 a.m., summoning the “spark” necessary to delve into writing, the lights went out. A quick check told me that the entire house was powerless, as were nearby houses. No light, no landline, no supplemental heat source, no internet: in the dark, in every sense of the word.

Yet, as I lit favorite candles and clicked on the artificial ones, I, too, began to feel a “lightness.” After reporting the outage with my rarely used cell phone, I went to my meditation space. I used the time to center myself physically and mentally. As I moved into the soft dimness, a clear path toward Part Three came into view.

First, with regard to Part One’s whole-brain and frontal lobe attention, the need to remain on an even keel and to hone in on the bare necessities becomes readily apparent in the face of any challenge. Second, Part Two’s “ode” to the temporal and parietal lobes underscores sensory awareness as a means to navigate physical space. And finally, Mercury’s infamous games with all things electric and communicative were enthusiastically at play during the outage: The ability to adapt and move inward rises to the fore when pitched into darkness.

And for those first minutes before I found alternative light sources, my sense of balance was swiftly upset with the loss of visual function. Those functions—balance and eyesight—are controlled by the Occipital Lobe: the focus of today’s Conclusion.

It is not groundbreaking information that when one closes the eyes, balance is thrown off. In today’s session, however, we see how the brain provides alternative means to remain centered. The following practice stimulates those “second tier” abilities: The entire brain pitches in when a typically reliable player is benched.

Metaphorically, today’s routine highlights this comforting notion: No matter how deep in the dark, one can find a way through. More often than not, that means turning to means not typically considered, be they from within or without. The following practice will both strengthen the physical eyes and improve balance. In doing so, one will discover that the physical empowerment yields improved insight and confidence: vision and steadiness.

To begin the practice, stand in an unencumbered space: nothing to trip on or knock over. Establish a balance pose. It may be Tree Pose; it may be a knee held up at waist level; or it may be bringing foot-to-buttock, and holding the foot. Or, as you are getting your bearings, simply lift one foot slightly off of the floor. Note the body and mind’s first reaction to the removal of stability. 

In your selected pose, hone in on which muscles contract to maintain the posture; how the breath shifts; and where the energy flows. To be steady, the physical core—hips to chest, front and back—must be strong. A resilient calmness must prevail. And your overall vibration should emanate from your sense of a “center,” as it reverberates evenly and steadily throughout the subtle energy bodies.

Breathe consciously and evenly: Then, slowly close the eyes. If your body sways or shifts, notice any emotion or thought that arises.

Then, pause briefly, and open the eyes. Take stock: Did you release a breath that you may have held for most of the previous move? Do you feel a sense of relief, or realize that there was a diffuse sense of “threat” as you worked for balance? Simply make an inventory, and then proceed to the next move.

Still standing, create your balance posture on the other side: From the first thought of doing so—on what you may perceive as your “bad” side—the brain already is gearing up for greater effort. Yet, you have the same resources and abilities to achieve balance on both sides, regardless of your preconception. Take the time to observe your physical and mental reactions, just as you did on the first side.

Now, take a break. Move into a seated position, either on the floor or on a chair. Here, you will revisit some moves from a previous podcast about the eyes.The exercises ease eye strain and introduce a feeling of “fresh eyes.” The mental focus necessary to play with visual focus ushers in an initial sense of disorientation, and then finds its home as you adapt. When “in the dark,” or presented with a confounding situation, new strategies and perspective are the way through.

First, turn your head slowly from side to side: Look to the left, using the eyes to track and focus; then, look to the right. Go back and forth a few times, inhaling left, exhaling right; be aware of the how the eyes travel with the movement. 

Then, when the head is turned to the left, maintain the left-facing eye focus as the head turns to the right. When the head is turned, bring the eyes to join it on the right. Then, keep looking to the right as the head goes left. Again, repeat the move until you achieve ease, still inhaling left, exhaling right. Once you feel comfortable, repeat 4 more full rounds of the alternating turns with oppositional focus.

Next, bring the head to center. Tilt the head to look up, then down—inhale up, exhale down: Again, bring the eyes along for the ride. After a few of these moves, prepare to engage the opposing eye gaze: As the head tilts back, look down toward the nose; when the hid tips forward, look up to toward the forehead. Repeat until you find fluidity, and then repeat 4 more full rounds.

When you have finished working the eyes, close them. Breathe deeply for a few moments. Then, come onto all fours. Place your body into Bird Dog position: left arm extends forward from the shoulder, right leg extends back, raised to hip level. Keep the eyes closed: Let the core help you establish steadiness in this balancing, conditioning move. Breathe deeply and consciously for 3 full breaths, then switch sides. 

After 3 breaths on the second side, switch again: take 2 full breaths before changing arm and leg. Repeat one more time, using one deep breath before switching. When finished, shift back into Baby Pose for a brief, centering rest.

When you are ready, help yourself to stand. Once again, find your initial balance pose. This time, configure it first on what was previously the “unnatural” side. Slowly close the eyes. Let the mind and body’s now-balanced eye function; stimulated core; and steadied vibration supersede any uneasiness. Take a couple of deep breaths, then open the eyes. 

Now, balance on the first—your “good”—side. Again, close the eyes. Remain here until the brain and body find stability: Breathe consciously and deeply. With all that you have done to harness the brain’s power, note the likely greater ease with which you can inhabit an inherently “precarious” situation. Call upon this potential whenever darkness descends

To close, return to a seated position for a grounding, yet elevating mediation. These seemingly opposed qualities are the same ones that must function in harmony when one is “in the dark.”

Bring the left hand over the head, palm down: Use your kinesthetic intuition—what somehow “feels right”—to tell you how far overhead the hand should be. It may be but 2-3 inches; it may hover aloft as high as you can reach. 

On the right hand, create Rudra Mudra: Touch the thumb tip to the index and ring finger tips. Although this centering hand gesture is typically associated with the Third Chakra—solar plexus—use it today to ground to your very foundation. Place the pinky-side edge of the hand on the low belly, a couple of inches beneath the navel point, just above the pubic bone: Palm is up.

With the eyes closed, gaze up to the Third Eye. Breathe in and out through the nose: Exhale for at least 2 more beats, or counts, than the inhale. (For example, inhale for 4, exhale for at least 6.) As you breathe in this stabilizing, calming way, maintain the closed-eye Third Eye focus; all the while, be aware of the hand on the belly, the mudra on the hand. Simultaneously, sensitize to the air and space around the raised, down-turned hand: The field in which it floats is the aura. Note the feeling of uplifted steadiness that you now abide. Continue for at least 3 minutes.

When you are ready, move into Svasana for as long as you like.

Happy Sunday…