Contracting for Change

Contracting for Change

In many healing arts models, practitioners BEGIN working with clarity about the focus for change. Over time, this clarity devolves as the conversations become more rambling or real change is less evident or not as quick as both practitioner and client had hoped.

With AAIT, having clarity about the "change contract" is part of almost every session.

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Meeting in the Space of the Heart

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there." Rumi

I've read lots of articles recently about being with family in such a highly charged political environment. As healing arts professionals, most of us have worked long and hard on developing our skills in listening, setting boundaries and standing in what's true for us without bashing the "other." Nonetheless, it can be challenging, the best thing I've read so far on this topic was an article in the WSJ.

I want to take a minute and look at this topic of being with our friends and family from the perspective of the AAIT principles. Leaning into these principles can open us to new possibilities and deeper understanding in the face of varied points of view.

You know how it is when we get pulled off of core values and then move through the world in a cloud of muck? Yeah. That's not cool. And, it happens. It seems to be happening a lot these days. Principles can help us realign and meet others in the space of the heart.

The real self is not an object or the sum of a narrative. The real self is a BE-ing. Aim to align with your real self rather than the false conditioned, limited self. Aim to connect with the real self of others, beyond the layers of disagreement or agreement, beyond the layers of fear and anger. Many of you may have heard me say, "If you go deep enough in the stormiest of seas, there is a point of stillness. In the same way, if you go deep enough in the human heart, there is stillness, equipoise." I do this by leaning into my AAIT practice coupled with meditation and lovingkindness.

Self acceptance is a means and measure of well-being. Remember, acceptance is not about liking or approval. Start where you are. Even if where you are is feeling resistant to acceptance. Accept that. Identify what you are experiencing. Focused attention on acceptance is like "spiritual judo" as Zivorad would say. You can even use the Formula for the Elimination of Self Sabotage to help. Place two fingers to your chest, silently repeat "Even though I think / feel _______" I love and accept myself, my body and personality and the fact that I think / feel _______." Follow that up by placing your index finger underneath your left eyebrow close to the bridge of the nose and simply experience that thing you are working to accept while taking a couple of easy breaths. Lean into acceptance with the understanding that acceptance does not mean approval. If you follow me on Facebook, you know I'm quite politically vocal. Nor does acceptance mean acquiescence. 

Taking responsibility for and tending to our inner state is the source of our freedom. Start where you are. Is your state where you want it to be? If you are not in a good state of being, it is unlikely that you will be able to tap into connecting with your real self or with the real self of anyone else. The most empowering decision you can make is to take responsibility for and tend to your state. How will you tend to your state? What will help you come back home, to your real self when you have gone off course? Sometimes a little time out to tend to ourselves is just what we need.

Resolving reactivity reveals higher states of consciousness. Have you noticed this? Have you noticed how when you are not triggered, it's easy for you to land in some higher perspective? There are many ways of resolving reactivity, exercise, meditation, deep listening, deep breathing --- by far, the most effective and long lasting means of stepping into higher states of consciousness through the doors of reactivity are the integration tools I've learned from Slavinski and his students. We do not need to stay activated to be activists. It's likely that you can predict just who will "push your buttons" over the Thanksgiving dinner table. Bring them to mind and do a little pre-work. Zivorad calls this clearing the future.

Integration of two opposing states can alleviate suffering. For those of you who know reliable integration methods, you know this. This is a no brainer. If you don't know how to integrate two opposing states, it may be useful to simply bring the opposing state to mind. This will likely not result in a full integration but can give you some relief. For instance, if you find yourself feeling impatient or annoyed with someone, as unlikely as that might be, focus on the impatience take a couple of easy breaths just letting yourself feel it. Then think of some situation when you felt patient or saw someone be really patient, just notice what you experience as you think about that situation. Rock your awareness back and forth between those two states a few times and notice what happens for you.

Finally, many of my clients (mostly helping professionals) in the last couple of weeks have described feeling like the pain of others is sticking to them more than it normally would. Below is a little meditation I've offered several of them to help re-center. Perhaps this will be useful to you.

Why Home Practice NOT Home Work?

“Don’t wait until you are in the middle of a fire to practice a fire drill.”                 ~ Dick Olney

As a young therapist, I was not completely comfortable saying “I’m a therapist.” It felt much more congruent to stand in “I practice psychotherapy.” It’s a practice, the more we do it, the better we get. Practice implies a deep engagement with the subject of practice. Practice is distinct from work. 

Practice implies a repetition of something that contributes to enhanced experience. Musicians practice scales, dancers practice plies. Psychotherapists practice psychotherapy. Meditators practice meditating. Practice is active, engaged. Regularly engaging in practices that reliably untether us from the false conditioned self, empowers and liberates, elevating consciousness. 

The idea of homework is not new in psychotherapy or coaching. We know that our clients have to learn to take care of themselves at some intrinsic level to feel whole. In fact, if you have a conversation with a group of psychotherapists about this subject, one thing that’s likely to come up is how do you get your clients do the homework you give them? Within that question lies part of the problem. There is an inherent parent / child dynamic in giving or assigning homework. 

Home practice is means of engaging in mental health hygiene distinct from homework. Every single one of us could benefit from learning effective hygiene for our mental wellbeing. Home practice is inextricably linked to the AAIT principle, taking responsibility for and tending to our inner state sustains our freedom

With regular home practice, we all get better at recognizing the ties that bind us to compulsive reactivity. With practice, it is easy to untether and access the freedom to choose how to be. With strategic home practice, we help our clients discover the freedom of responding rather than reacting.

Why does home practice matter?

Home practice demystifies and de-stigmatizes mental health hygiene. Imagine if we were in the   dark ages and made no connection between proper dental hygiene and cavities. Now, for most of us, brushing our teeth is no big deal. It’s something we do daily. We have the tools and we use them.

These days, we have tools to tend to many of our mental health needs. Yet, lots of folks go to bed with hearts and minds cluttered with the plaque of tethered pain. Helping clients engage in home practice goes a long way towards helping them connect the dots between charged energy and feeling bad. They begin to recognize that cultivating a steady state of being, feeling more ease of being is within reach. 

It’s liberating. Home practice is offered in collaboration with the client given their goals. It’s one adult relating to another. It’s not a should, it’s an invitation. As clients engage in the suggested home practices and feel the difference, they learn how home practice is hygiene for the mind, heart and spirit. Through their own experience, clients understand the relationship between their practice and their inner state. Moreover, they discover how a steady state liberates them to more easily realize goals. 

Home practice empowers us and our clients to be our own saviors as we meander through the trials and triumphs of daily living. In The Six Pillars of Self Esteem, Nathanial Brandon writes, “no one is coming.” We are our own saviors. It’s way past time to stop waiting for someone to come and fix things for us. 

“Don’t wait until you are in the middle of a fire to practice a fire drill.”   ~ Dick Olney

My decades long commitment to sadhana informs a commitment to and understanding of home practice as a critical aspect of demystifying mental health care and becoming established in higher states of consciousness. Sadhana is a Sanskrit word that translates as “means.” Typically, this refers to practices aimed at transcending the ego. For me, sadhana has included meditation, contemplation, study and asana practice. However, it is my thirty plus year meditation practice that points to why AAIT is practice and not work.

Do you guys use home practice as part of your work with others? What kinds of challenges do you run into? What really works for you? I’d love to hear from you on this.