buddhism

24 01, 2013

Resist not Resistance

January 24th, 2013|buddhism, love|0 Comments

Upon a recommendation by a friend I’ve been reading “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, the author of the “The Legend of Bagger Vance and numerous other titles. It’s subtitled “Break through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles”. The book is separated into three sections, the first being all about the enemy of creativity, Resistance, which I’ll be focusing on. The second part is about what a true Professional is and the last section is a look at Inspiration, the muse and the spirituality of the creative person. There is some good material there, but what really made me thinking (largely because I disagree) is the first section.

In the section of resistance, there’s an emphasis on “just do it” – resistance is the enemy. It’s a war. Resistance is insidious. Invisible. It’s fueled by fear. It recruits allies. It’s akin to a state of victimhood. It never sleeps. It leads to self-medication. Rationalization is resistance. Often looking for ‘healing’ is resistance.

There are some good points in there, but I have a fundamental disagreement with any attitude that places a part of ourselves as the enemy. The need to create enemies is seemingly a great part of our culture. It’s part of how we were raised. “Just get out there and succeed! Don’t be a loser! Keep pushing!” The part of us that wants to rest and regroup turns into an enemy. The part of us that feels anger and says no to what we “should” do turns into something negative, often labeled “resistance”.

What’s Wrong with Resistance, Anyway?

These attitudes are so common place that we don’t question them, and so don’t question them when it happens inside ourselves. It turns into how we self-relate. We lose self-compassion, patience, and understanding. We want to force everything, and then divorce ourselves from our body because we don’t want to feel the consequences of not listening to “resistance”. We think that it’s just not worth listening to anything that we think is resisting.

An example in my memory is from years ago, when I took a course in song writing. I’d already learned much music theory but kept encountering blocks when trying to write a song. (I still do, even though in high school I wrote a fully orchestrated piece for the concert band). In the course, almost all of the instruction was not about music; it was a coaching of “Just do it! Write!” There was a constant a pressure to just write something, no matter how true it was or where it came from. It didn’t matter what price you paid. The problem was, I was already applying too much pressure to myself. I knew all about pressure. Forcing something can be great in the short term, but over the long term it creates rebellions. This is true in nations, in groups, and in the body and mind. And my mind rebelled. A stress response came up big time. I knew that if I continued to force myself, I would lose any love I have for song writing just to say that I wrote this song.

Of course, there was something in the resistance. It was a piece of me saying “no, if you do it, do it from the right place”. It was inviting me to connect with the passion of wanting to create, rather than pushing myself because I should create. That, to me, is the difference between great creativity and mediocrity. If you’re doing something because you should, it won’t have your soul behind it.

I probably had a bit bigger response than most people would in that class, but I see this as universal. Making an enemy, especially something internal like “resistance” creates a war. War creates violence. Violence leads to shell shock and disconnection from our essential gifts of being fully human. Disconnecting from our humanity (in itself the essence of trauma if taken too far) kills creativity.

Learning to Laugh

Now I’m totally for feeling the fear and doing it anyway, but to me that’s more about laughing with the fear. If you can’t laugh, you’re disconnected. And to me, the only enemy is disconnection. The opposite of disconnection is wholeness. Welcoming everything that’s inside you, even contrary, crazy ideas. When you’re whole, there’s no enemy in yourself, because everything is part of the whole. You don’t get whole by attacking a part of yourself, even if it’s an emotion or thought that feels bad. That’s how you disconnect. Learning to laugh about fear is about feeling the tingle that says “wow, this feels alive and out of control in a good way”.

I often go to the Vancouver Shambhala center, and there they talk a lot about Chogyam Trungpa’s idea of “basic goodness”. Essentially the idea is that every last part of us is unconditionally good. In reality, there’s no healing to do. Whatever is going on – fear, resistance, anger, all these “negatives”- is actually a part of that basic goodness. That’s the foundation behind being present and listening to the present moment. And creativity is fundamentally about listening to a deep-seated whisper and being free enough to let the body and mind be moved by that. When there’s the guns blazing of an internal war against resistance, that whisper is impossible to hear.

When I meditate alone, even after years of meditation and months of retreat, I still get huge impulses to distract myself. Without the presence of others in the room, there’s less restraint in following the desires that arise. I can reach for my cell phone, start a chore or just want to move because I’m feeling discomfort inside. I used to think this was bad, that the ideal was to stay rock-solid, to at least look like I’m a good meditator, even if I’m far from Buddha-like inside. But that’s again making an enemy of these impulses. There’s something beautiful in that discomfort. I find letting myself act on it at times makes it visible, lets me feel what’s really there. When I let my body show all these avoidant impulses, maybe even get up for a bit, then come back, I can meet them more consciously and see them more clearly. If I were to stiffen my body and mind simply to be able to stay still for an hour, I would lose connection. Why meditate if it isn’t to become more whole?

In that discomfort, I usually find shame. Gabor Mate recently said in a talk after the play “Medicine” that shame isn’t at all about shameful thoughts, but rather a primal state of brain chemistry that originates in disconnection. If a mother drops eye contact with her 9 month old child suddenly, the child will slump in a state of shame and create associations if it’s a pattern. Disconnection is a brother of shame. But it’s by allowing some of it, without getting lost in it, that reconnection can occur, that we can discover what was disconnected, and that it is “basically good”. So I allow resistance and listen to it. I allow myself times to run away, to procrastinate for a little while before I come back. Because if I hold a whip over myself, treating myself like a bad mule, meditation and creativity ends up being a war.

It’s unfortunate that we live in a society with so much pressure. It’s tempting to think that we just need to this last thing done. We just need to write, or act, or do something that’s “good for us”. The problem is in always living in short term, all-or-nothing thinking.  There will be times of crisis or need that we push through something to get it done.  But the key is to minimize that, to learn to live most of our lives from another place. If we focus instead on the bigger, long term picture, then there are different priorities. We focus not on results, but dynamics, making relationships (including to the self) better. We choose actions that develop peace and creativity, not actions that fake that we’re already there. We realize that the ends don’t justify the means – the ends are the means. We can’t reach peace and wholeness by any sort of violence, and we can’t be creative by putting ourselves in a small prison inside our mind.

In summary:

Fear is not an enemy. Resistance is not an enemy. Distractions are not an enemy. Discursive thoughts are not an enemy. The only enemy is disconnection. There’s always something to connect to. Connect with resistance and see what’s really there. I guarantee when it’s truly seen it won’t be called resistance anymore.

 

3 05, 2008

The flame of blame

May 3rd, 2008|buddhism, emotions, Intimacy, love, pain, relationships, transformation, wholeness|4 Comments

I don’t know about the rest of you, but past months have had some wild emotional swings to it, and some days I’ve felt as depressed and dark as I have felt in my life. It doesn’t help that my mobility is very limited by this illness which continues, of course!

One big issue of being online a good deal is the blame game. You know the story: you don’t see the other person face to face to see their inflections, so you can easily interpret words in a way very different than the other intended. Then this triggers emotions, and of course this means that the other person must have issues – or at least should have said things differently. It’s them, not me! This is not just online; it is reproduced all through our culture at all levels, as demonstrated by one of my own thoughts not so long ago:

“Why am I feeling so awful, like I’m being hit by something again and again? Let me look at what’s happened to me recently. It must be because of one of those things. Well, my best guess is you, so I’ll go with that.”

Blame

One definition of the word blame is simply “to hold responsible“. The more standard usage of the word is more “to assign fault” – but I like the responsibility aspect more. I’ll get into that later.

Now, what’s wrong with that thought I had? Aha – there is nothing wrong, for that would be blaming in itself! But if you look deeply at my mental processes, there was an assumption that there was a cause, a singular factor that produced my state, and that changing this one ingredient in the broth would change everything.

It’s all very well to say “do not blame” as an unspoken commandment of maturity. But if you look deeply at this urging, there’s a blaming aspect in that too. So what if you do blame? That makes you ‘wrong’. And thus you start blaming yourself for blaming.

Some of the online discussions that I’ve seen lately have quoted “let he who has not sinned cast the first stone” as a way to shut up and hold responsibility to someone who brought an issue to the public eye with a little bit of blaming. But of course, directing blame to those with some blame doesn’t help move out of it. In fact, the use of that quote for such a purpose is quite ironic, is it not?

Responsibility

Rather than continue to focus on the word “blame”, I prefer to use “responsibility”. Blame is a loaded term; you hear it and you think “bad! evil! I can’t have that!”. But if you think in terms of holding someone responsible, perhaps you can look at it differently. So let’s look at one basic thought here:

“You are responsible for these feelings in me.”

This is one of the most common thoughts in relationship fights. It’s happened in talks with my own mother countless times, which probably makes me rather normal. It’s happened with friends and strangers, on both sides. Yet beyond the pervasiveness of it, I hope you can see that it is never true. How can someone else have responsibility for my emotions? They may have an effect on me, but so does the weather, the day at work, back pain, getting interrupted by telemarketers, and so on. There is no way to isolate another person’s effect on you, and there is certainly no way another can avoid triggering me at all times. In Buddhism, this falls largely under the thought of dependent origination; there are so many factors involved that it is impossible to truly isolate a cause. And yet we do this because we seem to need to. Assigning responsibility is just another form of the blame game.

Some people see this, see the futility of blaming others, and then go the other direction. “I am always the one responsible for my experience.” While this sounds empowering, what happens if you have one of the darker days of your life? What if someone yells at you and you feel awful? What if you get let go from a job for economic reasons? Are you responsible for this, in the sense that we’ve talked about? This is a heavy burden to take on, if you think this way. While appearing noble and mature, it is in fact a way to blame yourself. Culturally, this may get you pats on the back, the image of maturity, and sympathy from friends, but it is absolutely unnecessary.

Letting go of it all

It is impossible to not blame when you have any thought of assigning responsibility to anyone or anything.

Let us repeat that: By assigning responsibility to anyone or anything for a given result, you are assigning blame. It is the need to look for a cause for an experience that is the major factor in blame. So if you want to let go of the blaming process, you must let go of a need to assign responsibility.

You may be thinking now, “But what is life like without this? Isn’t our culture based on people being responsible for their actions? Wouldn’t the world go to hell if there wasn’t responsibility placed for everything?”

In a word, no. Keep in mind that we’re talking about mental processes here. Much in the same way there’s a difference between the physical sensation of main and the experience of suffering, there is a major difference between the natural consequences of one’s actions and assigned responsibility. Consequences are how we learn and grow. There is no way that these can stop. However, the mental “it’s because of him” thought process can stop.

Eckhart Tolle, who’s been very friendly with Oprah recently, bases his entire teaching on being completely present in the Now. In other words, it is by surrendering to the experiences of living with such utter completeness that you can work on letting go of the ego-mind and the pain-body. This applies especially to the times when you are immersed in pain, anger, and the attribution of this to something.

So how does this relate to what I’ve been saying? It is simply that the root of the need to assign responsibility and blame is the desire to avoid whatever experience you are going through. If you have peace and equanimity about what was brought up, you would simply let them be there, and they will move on as all experiences do. But when there is a desire to avoid the experience, then you must find a reason for it so as to control future experiences to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Again, any time there is blame, there is always a lack of surrender to an experience. It is this resistance that creates the labels of ‘bad’ which turn into the desire to control events and hold someone accountable. When a feeling is seen as just a feeling – no matter how uncomfortable it is – then it enables you to move away from the perception of blame into a more expansive perception. Ironically, this expanded perception also enables you to make more conscious choices in your life about what experiences you wish to attract. In other words, it is by letting go of control that you can choose your life more consciously.

The wrap up

Working on the blaming tendency is not a simple “oh, just stop doing it.”? It is a lifelong process.? It is also connected with so many things; the journey to balance the centers, mentioned in the last article, is very connected with it.? But let us end with something simple.

So the next time you are in a situation where you want to blame, ask yourself these questions:

  • What experience do I want to avoid at this moment?
  • What, exactly, am I labeling as “bad” here?
  • What would happen if I simply allowed that experience and what is “bad” to be present to the ultimate degree?
  • What would happen if there were no labels at all?

There is no magical solution to blame; all such attempts will naturally have blame in them, because they will be based in the labeling of blame as ‘bad’. It is the allowing of Self and others, simply as they are, that is the different path to blame.

16 01, 2008

What is enlightenment?

January 16th, 2008|buddhism, channeling, love, non duality, Self, spirituality, wholeness|16 Comments

The following was a question received from Mary which is wonderful and brings a lot of common ideas out into the open:

Question: I’ve come across the topic of enlightenment so often lately that I’d like a clear perspective on it. I find the idea confusing because it seems to be a worthy aim for the spiritually focused, yet it is said that those who say they are enlightened are not, and others say that it is better to work for personal maturity rather than enlightenment. Others say that it’s no fun being enlightened, while others say it’s pure bliss. So what is it really? How to get there, what does an enlightened life look like in our here and now life?

The concept of enlightenment, I find with some humor, is one which is filled with much non-enlightened thought: that is, thought based in separation and ‘ego’. Firstly, the concept is a label for an experience decidedly without labels. It is an experience of utter freedom â???? but whatever thought you have of what enlightenment is will always be accumulated from others. It is again, something someone else tells you is a better way.

8 01, 2008

Letting go

January 8th, 2008|buddhism, love, non duality, Self, spirituality, wholeness|0 Comments

You may have noticed that amidst the bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget the turning of the seasons. Beyond gift giving and family, we have a fundamental connection as living being to this earth, and its movements move us. The wintry season with long nights, hibernation and repose, offer us time to reflect, re-evaluate, and release. Without dark nights, we would not awaken to a day that is new and transformed from those in the past. Letting go is emphasized by nature in this season, and listening to the nourisher of life on this planet provides deep nourishment in itself.

2 01, 2008

The essence of compassion part 2

January 2nd, 2008|allowing, buddhism, innocence, love, pain, suffering|21 Comments

The topic of compassion is of course very close to the purpose of this site âs it is an aspect of Love. However, this was instigated recently by the ‘Spread the Love Now!’ project of Wade of The Middle Way, Kenton of Zen-Inspired Self Development, and Albert of Urban Monk.Net. This site, as the ‘About’ page shows, has two writers, and we thought we’d each contribute something to this. So there are two articles about compassion, one for each of us. This topic is, after all, central to the purpose of this site – why else would we call it Loving Awareness?

If you haven’t read the previous entry on compassion, please do so. I’m going to add to it, starting with the first comment as a basis question – on the subject of child abuse. It’s a very good question, and representative on most people’s initial response to thinking of compassion in terms of awareness and acceptance, rather than having a duty to do something to solve a problem. I realize this is a touchy subject, and that what is written here may be controversial because of the massive cultural pain that exists. However, bringing compassion to such a painful area brings a huge amount of clarity to how it is applied in the world.