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Lions Roar : July 2010
takes over. At this point we're likely to attack, with- draw, or go numb, none of which are conducive to awareness. To be honest, when caught in cognitive shock, we're fortunate if we can even remember that we want to be awake. When clarity becomes obscured by the dark and swirling energy of emotional distress, it is useful to have some concise reminders to bring us back to reality. The real question is: What helps us awaken? The answer to this overarching question can be bro- ken down into five very straightforward and specific smaller questions, each of which points us in the di- rection of clarity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . It is absolutely fundall1ental for us to realize that difficult situations and feelings are our opportunity to awaken into a ll10re genuine way of living. This point can't be overell1phasized. 52 SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2010 What Is Going On THIS SIMPLY REQUIRES HONESTLY acknowledgingtheob- jective situation. But to do this we have to be able to see the dif- ference between our view of what is happening and the actual facts of the situation. For instance, when we experience the panic of losing our job or seeing our investments disappear overnight, it is easy to get so caught up in our fears that we lose all sense of perspective. But what is actually happening in the present moment? Aren't we usually hijacked by the thoughts we've added of the im- pending doom of homelessness or hunger, rather than actually experiencing homelessness or hunger? Clearly seeing our be- lieved thoughts-often based in negative imaginings about the future-allows us to come back to the objective reality of what is happening. Another example: when we're caught in the swirl of emo- tional distress, we almost always add the thought "something is wrong" -either wrong in general, or, more likely, wrong with another person or with ourselves. In addition, we will almost al- ways think about how to escape from the distress-through try- ing to fix the situation, or through blaming or analyzing. In short, working effectively with our emotional difficulties requires that we first see clearly not only what is actually happening, but also what we're adding to the situation, through our detours, escapes, and judgments. How much of our distress is rooted in the stories we weave around our experiences? Dropping our storyline is critical in be- ing aware of what is actually happening in the present moment. We need to see the storyline for what it is and stop rehashing it over and over with our believed thoughts, since all they do is sus- tain and solidify our painful experiences. This is especially true when we are self-justifying and blaming. Asking the first practice question- What is going on right now?-can help us get out of the poisonous loop of our stories.