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The Jackal Train to Freedom

Several days ago, I wrote an email to my sister letting her know I would be in town and asking her if we could get together. Today an email arrived replying that she would be leaving that particular morning for Tassajara Hot Springs and therefore could not meet me.

Here’s what flashed through my mind the instant I read her email:

“Tassajara…I’m the one who goes to Tassajara, not my sister.”

That’s not her kind of place—she’s too conservative for Tassajara.”

She will have to go through my town to get to Tassajara—why didn’t she let me know she was coming through town or even invite me to join her?”

Body contracting. Breathing getting shallower. Welcome aboard the Jackal Train.

Thankfully, I’ve been a meditator most of my adult life and a NVC practitioner for the past nine years. I’ve been trained to watch my Jackal (Eckhart Tolle calls it the Pain Body) and while I’m not always successful, it gets easier. The amount of time I experience this contraction has shortened over the years.

Here’s my process. Take a breath. Breathe again. Keep breathing until contractions release and the body relaxes. Understand what the egoic mind is attaching itself to: comparing, evaluating, interrogating. OK, so breathe, relax, soften, open, and expand. When I open and expand, I embrace the universality of this moment to encompass the external world—in this case, my sister’s reality.

And what is the Observable Fact here? My sister told me she is going to Tassajara. How am I feeling? Disappointed, Envious.

My Jackal jumps in again “Those aren’t very nice emotions.”

Breathing again. Releasing tension from the body. What’s the habit-mind, the Jackal Show doing now? I’m evaluating my emotions. What’s the need here? Acceptance and openness to all emotions, no matter how uncomfortable.

Breathing again. Relaxing. Opening. I can accept these emotions, allow them to exist, knowing they are only e-motions—energy in motion—passing through me, temporary, impermanent. Recognizing this, I can know the nature of the habitual mind and release it’s impossible burdens.

What’s my need vis-à-vis my sister’s trip? Inclusion, Connection, Fun, Play. Do I think these needs are unmet and she has to meet them? Can I breathe into these needs, knowing I can meet these needs anytime I choose—I don’t have to wait for someone to invite me to meet these needs.

I can mourn those needs which seemed impoverished to me at the moment. I mourn I wasn’t invited to accompany my sister to Tassajara. I mourn that she didn’t let me know she was coming through town.

So what would I like to request? I really don’t want to ask her “Can I come?” or “I’m curious why you didn’t invite me.” To be honest, we don’t socialize much outside of family gatherings and I’m not sure I would want to go with her to Tassajara. Besides, I can’t go Monday even if she had asked me. Now I’m mourning that we don’t socialize much—we’re not as close as I’d like to be with a sister…and I can forgive myself for not working harder on this relationship and set the intention to work at it.

And so I turn the request to myself. “After acknowledging your feelings and needs, has anything shifted?” The answer is emphatically “Yes”. I recognize these thoughts as passing through—I don’t have to believe or buy into thoughts my mind is telling me. I don’t have to pick up that second arrow and pierce my heart. Instead I can recognize the truth of impermanence and not believe in or act out my habit mind’s reactivity.

Now what am I feeling and needing? More spacious, more alive, more self-connected, peaceful. I wait a few hours until my Jackal Show is completely over and I hop off the Jackal Train. I write my sister an email something like: “Tassajara. How cool is that! Have a wonderful time!” And I truly mean it.

How precious my Jackal.

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