"Mindfulness Practice isn't just about escaping to some magical inner realm devoid of life's challenges. The Practice is about calming your mind and opening your heart enough to engage Life directly, to be more fully Present in a kind, clear, and helpful way."

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call! The Musings of a Long-time Student of Meditation

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Me and My Shadow

“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back...They’re like messengers that show us,
with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck."
 --  Pema Chödrön

"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, 
but by making the darkness conscious...Knowing your own darkness is the best method
for dealing with the darknesses of other people."”
-- C.G. Jung

Many folks experiencing a lot of stress in their lives are drawn to meditation.  It's only natural to want to chill out and, to be sure, Mindfulness Practice can provide many moments of deep calm and clarity.

Yet -- and this is generally not proclaimed in the slick internet ads  -- it is also true that a regular mediation practice can bring to the surface a lot of feelings that we have assiduously managed to repress, deny or avoid as we scurry ahead in our lives.

Conditioned to operate in a fast-paced materialistic society, one that keeps us focused outwardly for fulfillment, we just keep moving.  Once we slow down and sit still for awhile to focus inwardly, our world changes.  Although we can experience greater calm,  it is also not uncommon to encounter darker, more distressing emotions at times.

Contrary to what we might think, this is a Good Thing.  It's a sign that the Practice is working!

In the process of a deepening Practice, we no longer skim across the surface.  We actually begin to get in touch with the aspects of our conditioning that have subconsciously operated to create the way we see and react to the events of our lives.  (How often have you winced and thought "damn.  Why did I say/do that!?)  

The good news is that, with Practice, we are able to make conscious what had been subconscious.  Over time, we are able to observe and navigate the more troublesome aspects of ourselves with increasing clarity and ease. 

Truth in Advertising

Adrift in momentary delusions of grandeur, I sometimes joke about beginning a high profile advertising campaign for Monday Morning Mindfulness with full page bold print ads, billboards and television commercials proclaiming something like:
(READ MORE)
    Want Sadness, Fear, Disappointment, 
Restlessness, Boredom,
and More?
Practice Mindfulness!

Besides possibly getting sued by Jon Kabat-Zinn and others, I don't think I'd get much action.   As Pema Chödrön points out, the actual process of meditation seems "counter-intuitive".  At a certain point, we decide to sit still and face what we have always fled from.  Who needs that?

Most of us do.

In fact, with Practice, we come to see that it is precisely our willingness and ability to carefully examine the nature of our own subconscious that unlocks the Gateless Gate of Ease and Joy.  When we finally face our fear and wander down into the basement with all its ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night, things begin to shift.  As we learn how to embrace the skeletons that we've thrown in our own closet over the years, a new world opens up.  We come to see that all the aspects of ourselves and our experience that we've deemed unpleasant, infuriating, disappointing, embarrassing, humiliating and otherwise "unacceptable"can be observed clearly, cradled in the compassion of our own boundless hearts -- and healed. 

On The Zafu and Beyond

As we commit to Practice, this process unfolds not only on the meditation cushion, it also occurs in our interactions with others.  As Practice deepens, we often find that those people who drive us crazy become some of our best teachers.  We come to see that when we exhibit "judgment mind," and find ourselves pointing the finger at someone else, we are probably missing the point. 

As we become familiar with our own mind, we see for ourselves the reality of psychological projection.  Oftentimes, the thoughts, feelings, motivations, and desires that we are unable to accept in ourselves and have repressed are then projected outward and attributed to others. Over time, we notice that if we are having a difficult time with someone else, it could very well be that we ought to take a deeper look at ourselves in the mirror of Practice. 

Although in the modern era this understanding of psychological projection was pioneered by Freud, it goes much further back.   It appears in the writings of Greek Philosophers, Buddhism and, in the Teachings of Yogi Jesus,  most famously in his words on the "mote and the plank."

"How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite*, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
--Jesus, Matthew 7:4, 7:5 NIV 

Although the teachings of the Prince of Peace were distorted as Christianity was institutionalized into the warlike Holy Roman Empire, it seems to me that the Son of Man and the Buddha were on the same page about the nature of Reality.  In the Clear Light of Mindfulness, the wisdom of "judge not and ye shall not be judged" becomes self-evident. The karma is instant.  You are either are Present for yourself and others with an Open Heart and an Open Mind -- or you're not.  

If you're paying attention, you'll notice.


As the Practice develops, you may even have moments where you truly do Love your neighbor as yourself because you've seen clearly that that person is yourself!  You know directly that we are each inextricably connected to one another within the Infinite Expanse of One Love.  

At those points, a walk down main street can become a stroll through the Pure Land of Amitaba Buddha or a ramble through the Kingdom of Heaven. 

I love it when that happens.

(* interestingly, although the word hypocrite has taken on extremely judgmental connotations, it merely meant "actor" in the Greek of the New Testament, someone who was playing a previously scripted role, not truly being present. )

7 comments:

Unknown said...

Beautifully profound and extremely beneficial insight into the world of our own fears. We ALL try too hard to find a logical reason behind many of our negative thoughts. Personally, and I am far from being an expert, I have discovered that taking time to truly look at the source of our attachments or unhappiness can more often than not, allow us to accept these as simply our own minds trying to subconsciously ignore the suffering these thoughts bring. If anyone, including myself by the way, finds that facing it when the suffering is too can also be put on hold until we learn to accept the slightly less painful negative thoughts. Then, with time and luck, we will find we are far more able to address the same issues with confidence that all we really need to do is look at it. Recognition of the true source can often be the first step towards releasing the negativity it brings us. As I have tried to humbly put across, it is different for every single one of us but the method, once we find it, that suits us best is actually similar in many ways to others methods. I do sincerely hope that each and everything being can find both peace and lasting joy from allowing our negative experiences to be our teachers and not our enemy.
In loving kindness
Matthew

Anonymous said...

We live in fear or love. Love can not reside in the drama of fear and anxiety. Awakening to 'reality' and in that moment to 'know' that all these outward stresses are an illusion, that we are never facing the illusions alone, is in itself, facing the fear head on with trust in love.

Lance Smith said...

Thanks, Matthew, for your insightful words. I share your hope that we can all open our hearts to the world "as it is" ,understand the lessons involved, and move skillfully to alleviate the suffering.
One Love,
Lance

Lance Smith said...

Dear "Anonymous",
Reading your offering brought to mind one of my favorite Hippie Gospel songs is "Get Together". It is indeed true that we "hold the Key to Love and Fear both in our trembling hands. Just one key unlocks them both." Yet, IMHO, sometimes for some of us, it isn't healthy to just dismiss fear and anxiety as "illusory" without opening to them deeply enough to explore the root causes and seeing if there is an action we can take to address those causes. The Practice, for me, involves opening to the One Love that is ultimately beyond all dualities. And, as you say, we are never alone in that. In Christian terms: "The Father causes his sun to shine both on the good and the evil".

imaculada figueiredo said...

Depois de ler este artigo acho que certas coisas fazem sentidos.
Dar e partilhar o amor que sentimos pelos outros ajuda o Homem a ver as coisas sobre um outro ângulo, prisma, as linhas.
Os obstáculos vão dissipando, esfumece e desaparece. A questão é dar, dar todos os dias.
Podemos constatar quando olhamos nos olhos dos outros e vemos o sorriso.
Quantas vezes perguntam porque esse sorriso? A vida corre bem? Eles são uns sortudos....
A questão é trabalhar bem a mente, procurar fazer o melhor para mim e poder ajudar com os olhos do BEM, PAZ. DÁ E RECEBES SEMPRE A DOBRAR.

Suresh K Dixit said...

Hari Om! Tat Sat! That Is The TRUTH!
"Me & My Shadow' write up is a novel way to Urge one to LOOK in TO THE ONE SELF!
Jai Gurudev!

Anonymous said...

The action to fear and anxiety is 'love'!, of self, as your neighbor, to open to them, to 'think' one can analyze it away is giving it more attention and more moments of negative energy. Trust cleanses fear. Trust cleanses anxiety. Love is the outcome. When fear rears it's ugly head, the more often one turns straight to love and trust in that love, the sooner fear fades away. It's all about 'practice'.