Have you heard of the “iso principle?” It’s a technique used by music therapists in which music is matched with the mood of a client, then gradually altered to cultivate the desired emotional state. So, you don’t meet someone in an agitated state and play them a lullaby. Instead, you validate whatever state they are in by matching it with an appropriate song, and then, once they feel seen and heard, gently invite them into another state with something slightly slower.
When I heard about this principle, I immediately connected it to the teachings of Pema Chodron. Pema writes, “We can’t just hear a piece of inspiring advice and immediately go from wanting to slug the person to being able to turn the other cheek. We have to work with where we are and allow a gradual transformation to happen.”
This goes against the preaching of our self-help-soaked-culture, which tells us that something must be wrong if we feel anxious, sad, angry, jealous, or just plain old cranky. Apparently, we’ve got to “dance like no one is watching,” “live, laugh, love,” or go get a lemon-lime bath bomb- anything but be the grumpy curmudgeon we actually feel like.
Pema teaches that in order to work with where we are, we first have to accept where we are. “I think it’s about being able to stay with difficult and unpleasant experiences, all those things we habitually push away. If we can be open to the entirety of human experience- the pleasant and unpleasant- then our experience of life is complete, and from that comes a deep sense of well-being and happiness.”
how do you lay aside your-too-many-to-count difficulties?
inquiry for today~ remember how your empathy teaches new stories….
The journey from teaching about love
to allowing myself to be loved
proved much longer than I realized.