We can’t change ourselves by beating ourselves up and we can’t change our situation by rejecting everything in it. We can’t find happiness by following seven steps or find whatever we’re looking for by using some simple tips. What all of these strategies assume is that there is something wrong, something missing.
We’re too old, we don’t have enough money, our life is not easy enough, someone is not doing what we want them to do. Basically, it’s the feeling that life is not going how it is supposed to be going. We want something to be different, better. We even reject our own feelings–This feeling is “bad”. I don’t like it. Go away! –We disapprove of our own qualities–I don’t like this about myself. I want to get rid of it.
All of these thoughts in our head tell us that life is not right, we’re not alright. We crave. We crave more of the good and less of the so-called bad. We are all like addicts chasing after a high; searching for something to make the pain, frustration and confusion end.
I think what I have been craving and searching for almost all of my life is LOVE. After flipping through some old journals the same story kept reappearing. There were different circumstances but the theme seemed to be the same. When I was loved, or thought I was loved or thinking that love was possible, it was like I was floating on air. But when I was disappointed, hurt or rejected, I felt bad about myself. I felt down, depressed. My happiness depended on whether I was accepted externally.
Confidence seemed to be another things I thirsted after. When I was good at what I was doing, I felt good, comfortable. When I made mistakes, performed not so well or was not sure of my next step, it was like my self-worth was crumbling and the rest of my world was going with it. Perhaps I wanted to feel like I could handle life and everything was under control, going smoothly. I suppose what I was really yearning for was TRUST that everything was going to be okay.
LOVE and TRUST are good things, right? Why shouldn’t I seek them? The problem, though, was that I was looking for them outside of myself. I thought that if someone could just love me the way I wanted and give me support and attention, then I would be happy. It would be easy. At times, I would be filled with hope thinking that I had found the perfect love and finally I would be accepted and safe.
Confidence worked in a similar way. When I was in a job I wasn’t good at, it was like I was sinking. My trust in myself plummeted. It was as if my self-esteem was tied up in how well I performed.
Tara Brach’s investigation into trust shocked me. She asked, Can we really trust our ego-self? The answer was clearly No. How many times has our ego-self make mistakes because of fear and wanting? So what do we trust in then? How do we feel loved and secure in this ever-changing world?
For me, it’s becoming more and more evident that I can only find the love and trust I so desperately want in something much bigger than my ego and it’s surroundings. I think at times, I have gotten so occupied by my thoughts, believing they were true. I was recognizing them but still caught up in them as if they defined who I was. I not only busy with my own reactivity but also then criticizing my reactivity, thinking if I were stronger or more compassionate or not so sensitive I wouldn’t be so negative. But I recently learned that recognition of thoughts is not the same as being mindful of them, and observing without judgement.
So then I took a step back and just wrote down some of the thoughts–Oh, there is the victim-mind that cries out–Oh, poor me! Why am I going through this? This is so terrible!–And there’s the critical-mind that tells me–You’re not doing enough, not doing it right, not doing it fast enough. –Then there’s the blaming-mind that finds fault in others. There’s the panic-mind that wants to escape it all and there’s the fantasizing-mind that dreams of some ideal situation.
For quite some time, I had been swept up in the grasp/avoid game, clinging on to the thoughts and feelings I liked and trying like hell to push the “bad” ones away. Nope, that didn’t work! I had fallen into the trance, forgetting the larger, loving presence that is always there. In getting addicted to my thoughts I was forgetting one very essential thing–to FEEL!!
Our mind serves as a distraction, trying to protect us from all of our potent emotions. But at Brach’s wise guidance, I asked myself–What am I running away from? –I realized it was deep hurt and feelings of being rejected and unloved. All of my thoughts were just covering up these hard-to-face emotions. I needed to feel this in order to come back to life and come back to my heart. When we are caught up in our thoughts we essentially numb ourselves just as an addict will numb out by taking a drink or a pill, by gambling, shopping, over-eating or any other habitual behaviour that we become dependent on to soothe us.
You can try tips and quick-fixes but the only way to really free yourself from the small ego-mind is to meditate and be mindful in your daily interactions. This is how we WAKE UP. I am learning how to love and approve of myself. When I open myself to the greater mystery, I can let go more and trust in life. In sensing this larger goodness and love, fear and desires start to calm.
It is in this place of LOVE and TRUST that we can start to see the emergence of what really matters, of what is possible. It’s not that we want instant gratification, slimmer bodies, better jobs or bigger homes (although those things can bring temporary comfort) I believe the more we continue on this path of love and trust, the more we can let go. And the more we can let go, the more we feel PEACE. PEACE in a heart that is whole. And ultimately, there is freedom–freedom from our ever-craving minds. Freedom to simply be with what is.
And so I meditate so I can train my mind to keep coming back to the present, to keep connecting to the love and safety I know is there. I know there will be times when I fall back into my thoughts and fall off my centre, but at any time, all I have to do is take a breath and I am back, AWAKE.