I tend to see the world through the eyes of a writer. I imagine how I would write the conclusions of situations as they are happening before me. The phrases dance to the right of my head as if streaming across a floating screen. Looking at a tree on fire with fall foliage, I alternate and play with combinations of colors to describe the cloud of crimson leaves. Awareness helps me glean meaning out of my daily experiences and from this I find material for my writing. To gather these treasures of insight, I know I must observe with a clear heart.
At the same time, focusing on words too much can cause mischief. I notice I can lose the present moment because I am too busy imagining how it can be written into an essay or screenplay. A day can become glorious based on the words given to you in a glowing compliment, or the evening can collapse because of the harshness of an emotional jab. To be dependent on words to receive validation makes me reliant on each comment to positively or negatively affect my personal standing. This does not building individual integrity. This kind of reliance is tricking oneself into false notions of empowerment. Words can be employed as tools in the art of communication and clarity, but I do not want to get trapped in their meanings or become attached to their emotional connotations.
Beyond these realizations, working with Lujan through the online sessions gave me a profound and invaluable understanding of my relationship to words. I developed a larger appreciation of what is to be shared and what does not need to be spoken. It was as if Lujan took my hand and helped me leap over a wall that obstructed my view of a sun-glistening ocean beyond it. He did this through natural guidance of shamanic practices and his own insight of what came up during our sessions.
Transparency became a part of my lexicon in a powerful and healing way. Lujan stated, “We can’t hide anything because hiding fills spaces that should be empty.” I see that what was kept silent was taking energy away from a clear space that could be full of potential. In the past, I may have talked about some of my feelings but often kept hidden what was underneath, the true source of my fears or needs. To share that deeply felt too vulnerable and raw. To me, being transparent and sharing from the core of my fears and internalizations felt like I was clearing out the clutter of heavy furniture in a room that wanted to be filled with just light and clean air. We can move the furniture around in our internal lives by noticing our emotions, but to truly create empty space, we need to move beyond the surface feelings and peer into our conditioning.
I was imprinted by a culture that gained a sense of power by not sharing necessary emotions and maintaining a stoic attitude. I grew up with a knowing that being quiet did not mean that there was peace within or harmony between others. It meant something was hidden to be discovered or deciphered by trying to read someone’s mind. In rebellion, I spoke loudly and often dramatically to affect someone’s actions or feelings. But these words were not from my heart; they were from my hurt and a sense of wanting to stake my claim to power before someone overpowered me. Lujan’s lessons helped me realize that I can share from a place of seeing and expressing without an expectation of how it will be received. He also gave me a way to perceive what I was doing in relation to my own issues with power dynamics.
If I see the world through a fog, then what I will receive and give out will be cloudy and tainted too. But if I can clear the haze within, then I can see myself and others with more clarity. Being transparent in my communication with others and loved ones, I began to see internally and be transparent with my intentions. I could see when I was trying to speak to direct an outcome or when I was being triggered from an imprint or attempting to gain power from feeling powerless. Acting from these places would only inflate the dramatic energy around me, whereas speaking from heart could innervate both the speaker and receiver. Reading Lujan’s books along with his online sessions gave me a resource of new perceptions and a wealth of vocabulary to apply to my experiences.
I started to notice that the most dangerous talk often happens in our own minds. This is also fed by the resonance that is matched externally by our internal fears. The distorted formulas that we internalize as the initial imprints from our childhood are continually fed by the dynamics and patterns we perpetuate in adulthood. I recently understood a childhood formula or perception of mine. I had internalized a belief that I had to betray myself or be betrayed by another to be loved and accepted. This occurred because I was the estranged black sheep in a family of traditional values. Their love translated into a strong wish and pressure for me to become normal in their eyes. They often resorted to abusive tactics when I did not comply.
In reflection, I see that I have allowed people into my life who then also seem to be manifestations of the same formula where I have to betray who I truly am or be abandoned or be deceived in a close relationship. Through this insight, I was able to see how I was trying to live out the same pattern in my current relationship even though it did not exist on those terms. I began to repeat the pattern by my perception and imprints rather than seeing what was truly before me. I suddenly could see that my own inner critics (those pernicious allies in fear and scarcity) are voices I thought were my own but are really of our cloaked inner child. Now, I find moments when I notice and hear the words of this imprint but recognize them for what they are and do not attach meaning to them. In this process, I feel more free than I have ever felt before.
What came out of this development was a type of non-speaking. The non-speaking happened in the pockets of silence within when my mind did not have a hold of me. These empty spaces between self-talk occurred more often when I practiced the Eight Gates of Dreaming Awake as instructed by my teacher, Lujan. Directing my eyes inwardly helped me notice what arose within rather than being reactive. Directing my ears outwardly helped me to focus away from my self-talk. Becoming awake to the space around my heart felt like coming back home to my true self, full of innocence and personal strength.
Non-speaking came from letting a trigger or thought reveal itself from within, in my inner recesses. It was as if the potential reaction was sealed within and allowed to be observed and shift as it needed to. I would notice something arise through a bodily reaction (a flushed face, cold hands or nose, or a heaviness in my belly) but from there, I just held this within the space of my body and watched to see what would happen next.
Sometimes this would inflate the inner critics and all sorts of what if’s would arise trying to get my attention. Even then I let it be and let it be absorbed without letting it take me. I could see and not judge myself like the way I would see my young son struggling to tie his shoes but not interfere. Lujan spoke about letting things that affect us swirl inside and see what it will become. This was important for me to practice from a place of detachment and heart. In the past, when I withheld something, I held back out of fear of being exposed or how I would be received. This manipulative intention felt very different than the non-speaking I was able to practice with my whole being.
To be able to retreat and not react has been a powerful discovery for me. It forged an empty space between a trigger and a reaction. In that gap, there is room to perceive and time seems to decelerate. In this slowness, there is potential to block harmful responses from slipping in and cause a deeper groove in our habitual patterns. That space is like the silence between notes that is so necessary to hear music in its full scope. The music that I heard from within was of the air traveling quietly into rooms that were once occupied with resistance and defensiveness. I recognize them for what these false protections are – place holders that keep us stagnant and cemented weights to our conditioned limitations.
The space in between the triggers and the automatic reactions is not something that I acknowledged before. Previously, the trigger and reaction seemed to exist in the same space like a dot instead of the two dots separated by a line or emptiness. When I am emotionally reactive, I am working from my past even if that past was just a few days ago. When I can have some distance to let it unfold or see what arises, then I am undoing what was a past connection or link to an imprint.
I am not always skillful, and this practice seems to elude me when I am tired or emotionally stretched. But now, I can see in hindsight what has occurred and how it fits into the context of our past habituation. I can also see the tendency to speak from imprints in the people around me, and this allows me to take it less personally. Sometimes, I choose to remove myself from these types of dynamics and move away from interactions that hook me into this cycle. More and more, I can let go because as I see it in myself, I can see it in others. This commonality creates more empathy. If I can forgive others, I can forgive myself, and this removes the wall that we perceive as dividing us from one another.
Lujan opened my eyes to many avenues of awareness previously unknown to me. I take responsibility by witnessing this observation in myself and in others and applying what is known to my actions. It also means using it not only to benefit my progress but also to witness and support the blossoming of others.
Words can heal and they can harm. They can be spoken, or in silence, they can transmute into insight. I am learning to appreciate the silence and absence of words. I can let the reality of the present moment unfold without imagining how I can recapture it later. I can allow for renewal and trust over defensiveness and fear. This is how I choose to live, while applying what my teacher has revealed, with lightness and freedom.
Soo Young Lee