BLACK ICE AND BANANA PEELS: Getting A Grip On Your Mind - Chapter 7 Excerpts

I didn't fix it and nobody died?

We sometimes find ourselves in situations or conversations feeling lost, confused, frustrated, angry, etc. It's easy for this to happen when our mind is full of the judgments, meanings, perceptions and beliefs through which it attempts to control the world. It's especially likely when we are heavily invested in particular relationships such as with God, our family of origin, significant others, friends or work. We can be aware that our mind is operating at full speed, yet we often don't give ourselves permission to simply stop and get off that express train that we never even intended to board. Giving yourself permission is like giving yourself a breather, a step back for a larger or broader perspective, a moment to reflect without having to act. We feel the pressure to respond because we believe we must give quick answers in order to be loved. The child wants to know so it can give the right answer while the adult can take the time to listen, learn and use a beginner's mind.

Identifying the emotional charge such as confusion, anger, self-righteousness, etc., is the red flag that tells you it's time to take a break from the conversation, go for a walk or hang up the phone. Without permission, the chances of clearly feeling, seeing and hearing what is going on, both within and outside of you, are greatly reduced. It really is okay to take a break; it's not a life or death situation, only your mind telling you so. You can always come back later and continue. Permission is like a wise person behind you who stops the action and says, "This is a good time to stop, take a break and look inside to feel what's going on." It's very hard to feel, see or hear clearly when the scared child, your mind, is in charge of the action. When you're ready, whether it's moments or months later, you can come back to the point when you gave yourself permission to stop and, then, continue. It may feel like it's really serious or it's critical that it be resolved immediately, but that's your mind talking.

Permission is intimately related to self-trust and choice. The feeling that we are stuck, which is a lack of permission to look for, identify or choose another option, is perhaps one of the most subtly destructive feelings there is. Remember, we're not feeling stuck because of actual limits on what we can do. We're feeling stuck because we misperceive that there are no other options. Feeling that you have a choice is much more important than the variety of choices themselves or even which option you end up choosing. Much of our stuckness comes from failing to realize that at a certain point in our development, we started to give ourselves permission. It may have started by saying, "No" or rebelling in other ways. But because it started out as a reaction to another person, we don't recognize it as permission. When that other person is no longer around, we find it difficult to do it for ourselves. We're caught in the belief that permission is something given to us by someone else. We'll keep waiting for it until we realize that we can give it to ourselves.

Q: How do I give myself more permission, when I don't even know that I'm holding myself back from doing so?

A: Lack of permission is, mostly, a reflection of our unwillingness to accept what is. Acceptance is an essential kind of permission. It's permission to stop fighting against the world, against God, against others and against ourselves. We invest so much time and energy trying to change what is, trying to prove we're right, that we often fail to realize what we're actually doing. Permission first requires recognition and acceptance of whatever's going on right now in order to then identify what we'd like to be different.

Let's say you're in a relationship that is just the way you want it, in most ways, and there are a few things you'd like to be different. What are the options? You can keep expecting the other person to read your mind and continue to be unhappy when he/she doesn't. You can say to yourself that it's better not to rock the boat and just be happy with what you have. You can use any one of a number of strategies to try and get the other person to change. None of these are likely to work very well, if at all. It's not just that they're ineffective means of expressing your desires; they won't work because you probably haven't taken the first step, which is to truly accept what is. Instead, you're denying your feelings or pretending they don't matter because your afraid of what might happen if you directly expressed them. Acceptance includes accepting what feels unacceptable. This is how our mind works. It limits our permission to try something different by judging our desires and through the fear of losing what we already have.

One of the big things we have in our favor, though unfortunately we often forget it, is that the other person usually has similar fears. So when one of you is courageous enough to take the risk of saying how you feel, it's usually a relief to the other person because now he/she has increased permission as well. We all would like something to be different in our lives but we've gotten so many silly messages like, "You can't have your cake and eat it too," that we've fallen into the trap of believing our mind's self-imposed limitations.