Early this month I spent a week or so in the Toronto area to attend a conference, as well as to see some friends and relatives.
So it meant train rides, rental cars, hotel room, racing to get to the conference sessions on time, meeting a ton of new people and trying desperately not to be late getting to my friends 'n relations. Lots of fun, to be sure, but also really hectic and full of unforeseen challenges.
And when you have that combination of a hectic schedule, constant changes of plan, events you don't control, new people, great people, and difficult people, it can take you on quite an emotional roller coaster ride. And, indeed, I was aboard that one, and not always to my liking!
At one point I just felt like yelling, "STOP the world and let me off!"
A Common Delusion...
We often think that if this would just stop, if my boss were different, if my spouse weren't so self-absorbed, if this person just liked me, if...if...if... then my life would be peaceful and joyful.
Fortunately, ancient traditions know better. In both Tibetan Buddhism and Orthodox Christianity, they tell us that our real problem is never "out there". Rather, it's our tendency to view reality from the ego's perspective. And the ego always divides reality into 3 categories - I love it, I hate it, or I just don't care. These can be thought of as attachment, aversion and indifference.
Think of anyone you know and your thoughts will tell you immediately which bucket they're in today!
Buddhism refers to these 3 attitudes as "poisons", and it's easy to see why - they cause you constant suffering and keep you chained to your tiny egocentric self. We instinctively know this and that's why we tend to react to the strong emotions the 3 poisons bring in one of two ways:
- we repress the emotion, or
- we act out the emotion
...and neither works at all. They just continue our slavery. The poison just gets worse. And we think, "if only the poison didn't exist, all would be well." So we resist, we try to control our world, we repress some thoughts and accept others, all without understanding what's really happening, and so we suffer more.
But what if.... what if there was a way to transform this very poison into healing medicine?
A Spiritual Path that Actually Works!
Once we realize the poisons are within us, we can take ownership and even relax a bit!
Now, when we feel strong attachment emotions for someone or something we see as desirable or strong aversion emotions, or complete indifference, we can simply say to ourselves, "Oh, here comes that heavy emotional stuff again... ho hum." We can relax and watch the movie without feeling the need to repress the thoughts and feelings or to let them take over.
Suddenly we feel this huge spaciousness all around us. Everything's calm, even though the situation hasn't changed. The boss can still be a jerk and my neighbor can still be drop-dead gorgeous, and the emotional reactions associated with these still come over me, but there's a huge difference.
For the first time, I've truly surrendered. I'm willing to just be with the emotional energy. I'm willing to accept what seems unpleasant, as well as what feels pleasant, and watch it all. So, for the first time in my life, I've gone beyond my old default setting of running toward what I thought was pleasure and running away from what I thought was pain.
Now, at last, I'm breaking free. I can simply BE.
And what used to strike me as uncomfortable, as messy, as pleasant or painful, I now relate to as the richness of life, as the raw material for my emotional growth and spiritual development. In a metaphorical sense, I've learned you really can transform lead into gold.
And from now on I know that there's nothing I can't handle, because I no longer need to "handle" or control anything.
~ Dr. Symeon Rodger :-)