© Barbara L Cummings 2020

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Not What You Think

October 25, 2018


When I did my first deep dive into meditation, both the practice as well as teaching, I was introduced to the idea of paradox ("a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true") and the part it plays in our every day lives. A perfect example of this was my experience of taking time out of my already over-scheduled, busy day to sit quietly -- an absurd idea since I needed every single minute just to barely catch my breath -- and then, discovering that somehow my whole day slowed down and I ended up with extra time at the end of day!  In fact, I started to question many things in my life that I thought I already knew. Over time I realized that I truly didn't know what I didn't know. 


This went against so much of my upbringing and even culture. Born and raised near Boston, Massachusetts, a city with over 35 colleges and universities, I believed that our strength was in what we thought, learned, and how well we were informed. There was a cartoon in The New Yorker magazine one time of a person's head complaining that it had to carry its body around. So much for the concept of trusting one's gut or intuition!


I am grateful for so many ways that meditation has improved my life. This week's Monday Quote called attention to one of the most important concepts I've learned to embrace:

"It's my experience that if something seems counter-intuitive, it's definitely worth exploring further." 



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The first time I bumped full on into this idea was when I was leading a class on pain. Two-and-a-half hours of exploring pain (unavoidable) and suffering (optional) through mindfulness and meditation and we probably could have continued for another two-and-a-half. As I lead the participants through a guided meditation I encouraged them to not only seek out any part of their body that hurt, but to actually spend some time and focus on it. If they had an emotional ache, I asked them to give it their full attention. This definitely went against their first reaction or response. 


Usually we do our best to either ignore or find ways to distract ourselves from any discomfort we may be feeling. There are two sayings that pop up when I consider that -- "What we resist, persists" and "When we feel, we heal". By asking my students to get in touch with their pain I was helping them make friends with it -- what a crazy concept! The thing is, we are much more tender and accepting of our friends than our enemies. If we make our pain the adversary we will get up in arms and ready for battle. This creates more stress and tension and general misery. If we try to comfort ourselves by "holding" what might feel like agony, we stand the chance of relaxing into a better feeling.


If you find that you often try to "think" things through, see what happens if you decide to explore a new suggestion for a different approach. Stay open to at least considering that there may be a radically new option available to you. What might feel like counter-intuitive could be a new way of blending how you both think and feel about something -- this is what I wish for you. 


Love and Sparkles,



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About the Author

Barbara L Cummings, MS, RN

is a sassy mentor and guide who provides people with life support. Using meditation, mindfulness, and loving conversation, "I help people figure things out. You just have to ask."

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