Hello, and welcome to another episode of "Mindfulness+". I'm your host, Thomas McConkie. Thank you so much for listening today. We are still towards the beginning of a new year. I hope you've had a strong start and are feeling the creative energy and all the juju that comes with an open field of possibilities. I had an experience over the holidays that I thought would be helpful to share here on "Mindfulness+" as a practice tip, as a life experience. So I'll say, let's see, context here. All of my siblings, all seven of us were in the same place for the holidays, which I can't remember that ever happening. And it was just this great convergence of family all in one spot, and just beautiful to catch up with people and meet the new versions of their children who grow and change so much that they're different people every time you see 'em. And as all of that was happening over the holidays, my dad's mother was actually in the process of passing. So this was interesting. She was the last of my living grandparents, and for all of my other grandparents, they either passed away in the night or I was out of the country when it happened and felt quite distant from the death. But in this case, my grandmother, Juje we call her. Her legal name's Judith Stodder McConkie. We call her Juje. And I was up very close and personal for this one, and just could really feel the death process playing out through her. It was really profound. And it was Christmas Day, actually, where Juje was deeply letting go and family coming from all the four corners to say their goodbyes. Late into the night, early the next morning on the 26th at about 3:30 AM, she transitioned. And, you know, even as I talk about it I feel how much I was feeling in that moment. What I wanted to share with you is an experience I had that evening, the evening of the 26th. One of my brothers who was in town, Nate, he came down to say hi, take a look at his dog. We were taking care of their dog while they were in town. And we ended up going on a walk. And I think right when we stepped out the front door I said something to the effect of, oh, there's something I wanna say about Juje's death but I don't need to talk about it much. I like kind of preemptively told him and myself that I don't need to talk about this too much. And next thing I knew we had done five laps around the neighborhood and come back home and were gathered in by the fireplace still talking about my grandmother's death. So I'll just take a breath there. You might sense where I'm going, that I was feeling a lot and something in me didn't want to be feeling it. So much so that I actually falsely told my brother that I didn't need to talk about it that much. And I think if I could go back to that moment and be more honest about what I was feeling, what I really wanted to say was I'm feeling a lot of disturbance around Juje's passing and I wish I wasn't feeling disturbed, but given how I'm feeling I'd really appreciate some space to process this. So process it we did. And I'm grateful to Nate for that space and wanted to just share this mindfulness reflection with you that we can't fake our way through experience. I might have said in an earlier episode, it's a great quote from Ajay Shanti's teacher that says only phonies don't get enlightened. I was a supreme phony in that moment when I went out on a walk with my brother and acknowledged yeah, our grandma died, but I'm fine. I don't need to say anything about it. Oh, just this one thing. Oh yeah, and then just this other thing. And before I knew it, the floodgates were open and all of my energy and attention and intention was going towards making sense of this relationship that I had with my grandma Juje. But you know, gratefully, I caught myself in a moment of honesty and said, well, I guess I do have a lot to process here. I guess this is the only thing I want to talk about with my brother while he's in town. And I was able to relax into that and acknowledge it a little bit. And that opened up into processing for both of us and, you know, maybe airing of grievances, not with our grandma, particularly, but in all the, you know, family neuroses and dysfunction that we're aware of that I think is certainly not unique to our own family. But what was really powerful to me about that walk and that processing and acknowledging that I actually had a ton of energy around this death was that by the end of the walk, by the end of the talk after we'd kind of warmed up by the fire for a little bit, I was in a totally different place energetically. I had gone from the moment we set out on the walk, this kind of defensive, kind of preemptive, don't talk to me about this death attitude. To just totally opening up and surrendering to my feelings and the truth of my embodied experience around how this death was impacting me. So I was in a state of you could say rest and I felt a greater sense of stillness, peace. But above all, by the end of that evening I had access again to love, appreciation, and compassion from my grandmother. When we are false towards our own experience, whenever we're dishonest with ourselves like I was in that moment, at least two things are happening which come to bear on our practice and have a huge impact on our quality of life. The one is that if I'm not willing to admit how I'm actually feeling, then that feeling energy is frozen. It's stuck. And stuckness has a particular feeling in the body. So I was stuck with my stuckness, but not only that, I was actually spending energy trying to not feel my own stuckness. So I was, you know, kind of twice disadvantaged by my relationship to just raw experience in that moment. But the first grace is when I realized, oh, I actually am feeling a lot. I actually feel really disturbed. That was really helpful, just that moment of awareness. And the second grace was a willingness to be in direct relationship with that disturbance. Once I realized I was disturbed and once I was willing to admit that I was disturbed and have contact with it, things started to move again. Things started to flow and it was a lovely evening with a brother, a sibling, and falling more deeply in love with my grandmother, as she continues to transition into whatever it is that she's becoming in death. So I would say, as we transition into practice here today, whatever you're feeling in life right now, whether you're feeling let's say petty or jealous or prideful or vindictive or lazy or gluttonous or fill in the blank, we all have our vices. In the ordinary mind our typical avoidance pattern is to just go as long as we possibly can without feeling that, without acknowledging that, certainly not acknowledging it publicly. But the power of this practice that we do here in life, that we do here on "Mindfulness+", is that we realize again and again, we remember again and again that we actually have the resources to stay present to all that we're feeling. And when we can stay present to all that we're feeling, all of the disturbance, all of the intensity of life, in that process we gain greater and greater confidence in ourselves. Like no matter what happens, we can stay present. We don't have to abandon ourselves. And as that process deepens, matures, we realize that there's really no condition that could cause us to check out. There's no objective condition that could cause us to abandon ourselves. And I had a reminder of this on a really profound day over the holidays where I saw my grandma take some of her last breaths and transition into some mystery that I don't understand. And when I felt all the ways that that touched me and opened my heart and broke my heart and disturbed me, I remembered that I could be there for all of it. And that's my hope and my wish and my blessing to you as you listen to my words right now that we can practice this together. So go ahead and find a place, find a posture where you can settle in a little bit. So the practice here is to not be a phony. Easier said than done. To be honest with yourself and in yourself in this moment. Allow yourself to breathe freely, use the breath in fact, to feel more. Breathing full breaths, you fan the flames of sensation in the body. You start to become more aware of what you're actually feeling and experiencing in this moment. Notice physically any tension, any holding, any stuckness, frozenness and just breathe. If you'd like, you can send breath to that area, meaning you can focus on whatever area feels kind of tense and stuck and just hold it in awareness as you breathe freely. Or you can just hold the entire physical body in awareness at once as you breathe. But the point is not to change your experience so much as to be honest about experience, to experience more fully what you're experiencing already. In the experience I had the day my grandmother died, there was a kind of grief. There was a kind of pain in my heart that I didn't want to let in more closely. And perhaps in this moment, you can start to become aware of some aspect of experience that you've been holding at bay, holding at some distance. Maybe you've struggled to forgive somebody. Maybe you're angry at the government. Maybe what felt true yesterday doesn't feel true today and you feel lost and frightened. But the invitation is to relax, sit in this moment with this attitude that there's no problem to solve, there's no sensation that's objectively wrong, no feeling that you shouldn't be feeling. You can just be completely honest with and in your experience. When we pay attention in this way, when we're open and honest to what we're actually feeling, one of the challenges is that things can get worse before they get better. I didn't want to feel the grief in my heart that day. And the moment I noticed it and opened up to it, the grief intensified. I actually felt more of what I didn't want to feel. And that's a hurdle. We need to clear a willingness to feel more of the very thing we wanted to feel less of. But the good news is that as you do this again and again, you realize how well resourced you are. The grief that you thought would consume you turns out to be workable. The despair, the depression, whatever it is that we thought would drown us, it turns out to be very manageable. We relax into it. We unfreeze it with our open awareness, conscious presence. The ice begins to melt. The water begins to flow. And whatever it is that we needed to feel, we feel completely until there's nothing left to feel for now. Another hurdle that comes up when we feel more of what we're actually feeling, oftentimes we need to let go of a flattering self-image ourselves. With my grandmother that day I had an image of invulnerability. Death can't hurt me. My relationship with my grandmother can't hurt me. I'm just fine. Where was I? There was a more tender, vulnerable truth beneath that crusty surface when I was honest with myself. So another element of this practice is re-exposing your soft underbelly, if only to yourself. To just feel your soft animal body again and to feel how much you actually feel. And to realize it's okay to feel. You can do this for as long as you'd like. Stay with this process. The breathing, the feeling, the melting. You can hit pause, just keep going. Eventually you intuit the moment where the experience feels complete. There's nothing more to feel, no need to mull it over in the mind. It's just done for now until the next wave of feeling comes. On that cold evening, December 26th, my heart melted. I came back to a quality of peace and stillness in this space. I touched into a simple sense of appreciation. Let yourself return to the same simplicity. Okay, that's practice. Well done everybody, thank you. Happy holidays, happy new year. If you're feeling stuck, if you're feeling frozen, if you're feeling phony, hopefully you have a few more tools or a little reminder to enact the prime directive, to feel what you're actually feeling and flow with it. I'm Thomas McConkie, Mindfulness Teacher. This is "Mindfulness+". We'll be back with more next week.