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The Tortoise and the Hare

by Dr. Amy Johnson on February 8, 2018

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This is my new favorite metaphor for what’s going on within us.

There’s a hare. It is quick and sharp but easily distracted. It darts around, seemingly with purpose…and then it stops unexpectedly, forgets where it is, or changes course.

If you compare the hare to our inner experience, it’s reminiscent of something like a knee-jerk reaction, an emotional outburst, or a distracted 8-year-old. It has a certain quality to it: personal, subjective, opinionated, energetic, scattered, fickle.

There’s also a tortoise. Slow, but steady. Reliable, but tiresome.

The tortoise is a lot easier to miss, especially when you’re used to the dramatic hijinks and quick bolting of the hare. The tortoise can bore you to tears.

And it’s not all about safety or making it to some finish line, but for what it’s worth…the tortoise is the only one you can count on for those things. It might be boring, but it is sensible and seems oddly wise.

Life shows up in both ways. Your inner life, I mean. There are different qualities, different speeds.

It’s like we’re riding on the tortoise’s back, guided safely through life. But we’re often listening to the hare. The hare blathers on and on. Speed up, do more!  What’s around that corner?! We’re not going to make it! Oh wait, what’s that shiny thing over there? I’m hungry, is anyone hungry?

Meanwhile, the tortoise quietly carries you home. Every single time.

The tortoise reminds me what it means to look within. There’s a slow and steady wisdom within. It is mind-bogglingly miraculous when you catch a true glimpse of it. And most of the time it feels boring, unimpressive, or it goes completely unnoticed.

And, there is a dramatic narrator of this slow and steady trek that doesn’t quite match. Universal wisdom always—without exception—moving you through life. And a dramatic, emotional, opinionated storyteller adding very colorful, constantly changing commentary along the way.

It’s like Gilbert Gottfried reading 50 Shades of Grey. Or Dick Vitale doing play-by-play for a golf tournament.

Just knowing these two guys are there—opposing styles and all—gives me a new appreciation for how life feels at times.

(Thank you for sharing this video, Amanda!)

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There are a few students in The Little School of Big Change who experience panic in large crowds. We’ve been exploring this on our forum. 

The LSBC students have seen quite a bit about where their experience comes from.

They have gotten personally curious about who they are—they aren’t anxious; they aren’t afraid of people. They are peace, safety, in-this-moment presence, while thought and feeling dances over the surface of that clarity, casting shadows that can look and feel like fear and anxiety and anything else a human can experience.

One woman says, “I know crowds can’t cause panic. I know it’s not the crowds causing this, but my mind.”

True. Crowds can’t cause panic. Nothing outside of you can cause or create something inside of you.

She continues, “But I still hate the feeling I have in crowded places. What am I not seeing?”

When she puts it like that, it’s pretty obvious, right? Crowds no longer look like the problem (which is great because they never were), but now she has a different problem: the experience her mind is creating.

She hates a feeling.  

Crowds are off the hook, but now she’s fighting what her mind is doing.

I ask her why. “Don’t tell me how scary, real, or uncomfortable it is. Don’t describe what’s like to have a racing mind or a pounding heart or skipped breath”, I say.

I feel compassion for anyone in that experience, I really do. But that’s not the answer to the question: What’s so horrible about a feeling?

I want to know what makes it so scary. What makes it scary rather than funny or exciting or boring? I want to know if it is actually uncomfortable? Is it? Or is ‘uncomfortable’ just a habitual thought that follows an experience?

Is it possible that it’s simply feeling—one loving, creative energy animating all things—that she’s used to calling ‘uncomfortable’, ‘scary’, ‘panic’?

It’s not that some feeling arises in crowds and that feeling is panic. The feeling that arises is feeling. Life, energy, creation, whatever you like. ‘Panic’ is the descriptor she uses to talk or think about it.

Cute, adorable, cuddly, monotonous, neutral, amazing, familiar, vivid, and energizing are other descriptors we give feeling. Feeling isn’t any of those things. Feeling is just feeling, descriptors are just descriptors.

‘Panic’ doesn’t arise, life does.

Before she knows it, she’s in “I hate this, this is so uncomfortable, here we go again, what’s wrong with me?”

The energy of feeling fluctuates and self-corrects. It does so faster and more naturally when we let it. When we aren’t tangled in dislike and resistance of it.  But it will fluctuate and change by law. Law of the universe, that is. Universal law. You can’t possibly get permanently stuck in it and you can’t possibly make it move faster (but given that it self-corrects, why would you try?)

I ask this question on the forum thread: Really, what’s so horrible about this feeling? Is it truly a “bad feeling”, or is it feeling that you’re used to telling yourself is bad?

This shifts something. Others chime in, really, really, really wanting to tell me how horrible their panic is. But one person says: “I don’t look deeper. I always stop at ‘it’s just scary’”

Don’t stop at “It’s just uncomfortable!”

That’s where your mind wants to stop because it can’t see beyond itself. When it’s being questioned it reverts back to the feeling and answers like “I don’t know” and “It just is”.

But you’re wiser than that. Look deeper. Is the stuff you don’t like really all that horrible? Or are you simply used to telling yourself it is?

Look past how it manifests to what it IS in its essence. You just might see that it’s actually just feeling.

Safe, neutral, pre-label, pre-concept LIFE.

I bet that feels quite a bit different than panic.


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