Tuesday, March 26, 2013

When your worst enemy is... you.

It's unusual for me to retain anything about my dreams, unless I immediately write them down upon waking. So when I clearly remembered one sentence, one fundamental idea, I figured it might be important.

You see, I've been struggling of late with what Buddhists call "aversion" (anger, bitterness, resentment, irritation, etc, etc). I was spinning myself into a frenzy over things I have no control over, and that's a slippery slope. Some issues were legitimate and I felt I needed  to speak up. But once I'd done everything I could do about "out there", I still spun out of control and that's when all I wanted to do was lash out, to the detriment of myself and cherished loved ones.

I realized there comes a point when all you can do is turn inward. You can't keep trying to control what's outside of you because 1) there will always be something else popping up and 2) it's exhausting. The challenge with turning your attention towards yourself is that it entails taking responsibility for your feelings and behaviour. Who the hell wants to do that in a culture of narcissism and blame?

Buddhist philosophy suggests we turn toward our aversion, in whatever form it takes, and remove our attention from the object we think is causing the unpleasant feelings or sensations. I've only recently scratched the surface of this practice but I tell ya, it is some powerful shit, incredibly self-revelatory.

Sitting with some resentment one evening, I immediately noticed that this felt quite foreign as we're so apt to blame things outside ourselves for our negative feelings. It was also immediately elucidating as I could no longer ignore the true source of my irritation - me.

Fear. It's all fear. My fear. Fear of disappearing, of being forgotten, of not being noticed, of not being good enough, of not measuring up. And I saw how my fear was distorting reality and causing me suffering. That's not to say my anger and resentment just melted away. It didn't. It still hasn't. But I'm  consciously trying to use it to learn more about myself rather than directing it outward and staying stuck in the same vicious cycle.

And then I had that dream I mentioned earlier, and I retained this: "Nothing really matters." My interpretation of this is that our human experience is nothing but an illusion, so we can remember our true nature, so the Universe can know itself. Nothing really matters because it's not real. As Marianne Williamson states: only love is real. Where there is no love, there is only illusion.

It's a big pill to swallow, I know, because, whether we like to admit it or not, there's a part of us that thrives on confrontation, on asserting our "importance", our "knowledge", our perceived "superiority". However, we waste much less energy giving up that fight because it's one we'll never fully win. Sure, there may be small victories along the way, but we'll never win the battle until we remove ourselves from it.

According to Buddhism, the spiritual path consists of the non-reactive witnessing of aversion. Easier said than done, but not impossible. I'm still taking those first few shaky steps towards something new, but really, what other choice do I have?

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