What a novel idea! Not mine originally I hasten to add, but one worth entertaining I think. And as a result, here’s what I’ve been noticing recently. There’s so much emphasis today about working on oneself, self-development, improvement, being better, doing better, living better. On achieving a higher state of being so we can overcome ourselves. It’s become a bit of an obsession spawning a vast array of methods, designs for living, tools, professions even, all with their own take on the new wellbeing craze and how to get to that “best state of being”. But what if the real antidote to feeling (suffering from) that modern malaise of dissatisfaction were simply just to stop trying so hard to “fix” things?
I’ve been listening a lot to teachings on Mindfulness for a teacher training I’m on at the moment and the key things that keep coming up are these:
So it seems perhaps we are putting the cart before the horse. Being “good at” yoga or meditation or whatever misses the point and simply won't help - it becomes just another way of seeking to change how we are, whilst being unaware of how we are in the first place. Letting go of anything can be very difficult because most things stem from or can be so easily corrupted from their original true purpose by the social patterns of doing and thinking to which we are soooooo conditioned. So conditioned we don’t even notice them really. We tend to want to just layer more things on top in the hope that will solve everything for us. But it won't. As Rumi says, "maybe you researching in the branches for what only appears in the roots.
So it follows that a good place to start is with raising awareness and acceptance of ourselves in our own particular context. EXACTLY AS WE ARE however repulsive or unattractive, the unfortunate reality of how people feel about themselves these days in many cases, that may seem and how uncomfortable it makes us feel.
We as humans are an embodiment of nature and life and perhaps are not able to, or in fact don’t need to, conquer or change that. Perhaps we just need to sit with ourselves. The reality is we are driven by our desires and most of what we do has an underlying vested self-interest – why? Biology – survival and satisfaction of need. It’s quite simple in fact.
But where does that us lead? Taken to the extreme it can be extremely nihilistic and dark. There’s no real point to all this because we are just animals and it doesn’t matter. We are all just selfish creatures and so it has to be survival of the fittest (enter Capitalism – I have nothing against it per se, but left unchecked……well, look around you). Indeed many, many people do pursue this to its logical conclusion and as we are witnessing it engenders a life denying, destructive pattern, in which many of us find we are stuck. Feel crap through the comparisons of not having what they’ve got or burn out through striving for more, more, more. Consume, consume, consume. Numb out. Destroy -ourselves and the planet - in the process.
And when you look at it, it really all comes down to avoidance of something. And we now seem to be at risk of simply turning towards using “healthy” mechanisms of avoidance as much as “unhealthy” ones. Avoidance is avoidance whatever the method of doing so. Avoidance of feelings, avoidance of fears, avoidance of doubt, striving to feel good all the time.
Mark Whitwell gave a great satsang recently on a visit to Koh Phan Gan in Thailand titled (very tongue-in-cheek) the Hoax of Enlightenment
(you can watch it here. It’s long, but worth it! https://www.facebook.com/amanecurated/videos/2324143334489702) The point, which he makes far more eloquently and at greater depth than I can here, is each individual one of us is already everything that we need to be if we can just cut through all the bullshit layering and conditioning to which we are subject, and that yoga asana, or whatever practice you chose, is simply an enhancing tool to participate in the pure intelligence of the body, spirit and mind that is already inherent in everyone. That’s true yoga he asserts. The Buddha teaches that too. The discipline of practice is not the end. It is necessary, but we as human tend to fetishise and ritualise as a matter of course from ignorance and make it all about that and miss the underlying truth.
Think about the word self-realisation. Realisation– becoming aware - not creation – making something. Realisation is an internal process of getting connected to something, not something externally imposed, nor a product you can buy. Ultimately it is experiential, beyond what is rational and empirical and tangible. It defies that.
So, then, all we have to do is let go of conditioning and be open to feeling and realising what is true in ourselves because everything we actually need in order for us to be as intended is all there within. Simples! Lol.
Easier than you may think. Just let go. John Kabat-Zinn says “instead of “let it go” we should probably say “let it be””. (Cue the music (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ra3rF4b6O3E). One of my faves as it happens.) Because letting go still carries an element of judgment and control that interferes with actual awareness of self and truth and feeling as it is arising in that moment, still risks a turning away from rather than a coming round to a state of realisation. The point is not to deny feeling this way or that, or try to discard or avoid it, but to accept it and without any idea of an outcome or purpose. Just for the sake of it. Thich Naht Hanh, of course, also writes some wonderful stuff about all of this and I am a big fan of Tara Brach who gives wonderful teachings on these issues too.
I’ve had to let go of one or two things recently and frankly the emotional backlash is distressing, but there’s a huge sense of relief and compassion for myself and the other person involved in amongst the loss and grief and sadness too. Sitting with the feelings has helped me realise that. I’ll see what happens and ride it out because it’s honest and it’s not my job to be in charge of what happens next. I simply have to be honest with myself and go with that moment-to-moment. In my experience, if not always immediately or in expected ways or ways I understand, only good things have come from getting more honest and intimate with myself.
See you on the mat! Namaste.
"Just to improve the physical health is not enough. The mental health must also improve, the nature must change, the personality must change, the psychological and the psychic framework also has to change."