"That's the beginning of growing up. As long we don't want to be honest and kind with ourselves, then we are always going to be infants."
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön
I want to state clearly that I and my business firmly support Black Lives Matter, and centers black women and black people who identify as trans/non-binary as well. The wellness world has been taken to task, and rightly so, over the last two weeks for its lack of action on racial justice issues and I accept my responsibility for not seeing these issues in our community sooner.
BIPOC are always welcome to my work.
So here's the deal my friends, it's time to get uncomfortable, and uncomfortable is putting it mildly. We are suffering the karmic effects of centuries oppression, suppression, invalidation, and violence. We often think of karma as some kind of payback, but it's much deeper than that. Karma is a causal chain, it is a system, and no one can escape its effects. What we inflict on others, we inflict on ourselves. What we allow to happen to others, we allow to happen to ourselves. We exist in an interlinked system of causality.
Once we make this discovery, and see the effects generated by causes, we often think "well I can just make different choices that will create different effects." Yes, but that's only half of the equation. The other half is much more challenging. We must sit in the discomfort, the pain, and the suffering that we have been unintentionally or willfully created over years, decades, and in the Buddhist view, lifetimes. That is a tall order, and we will jump through any number of hoops to avoid this eventual reckoning.
But until we acknowledge the darkness, until we see everything clearly and openly, then we will always be in and cause suffering. We cannot shift a causal chain until we have the courage to see all of the causes and effects.
This requires a good deal of practice, patience, stamina, and guidance. This process is the work of true meditation. In meditation we practice, in a controlled environment, breathing light and awareness into all the dark spaces within us. It helps us to see where our defensiveness is protecting our shame, our denial is blocking our guilt, and our willful ignorance is masking our fragility.
Here is how this works in practice:
1. Sit and breathe. Notice your body.
2. Notice any feelings of defensiveness, blame, or denial.
3. Welcome those feelings into your experience as you would wise teachers and good friends.
4. Breathe and notice, how do these feelings manifest in your body? Where do you feel them? In your heart? In your abdomen? In your throat?
5. Now, notice the impulses these feelings bring. Do you want to escape, dissociate, argue? Just notice, think of it like gathering data.
6. What you are noticing, to a large degree, are the defense mechanisms that hold in place the self -image. The work begins when we can breathe beyond the impulse to defend our self-image. The Buddha was very clear that what we call our "self" is not so much a solid structure but a patchwork quilt of what we THINK about ourselves. The "self" or "ego" is a tapestry of images, memories, anticipations, ideas, and meanings. We will use almost any means at our disposal to try to hold that quilt together in an image that we like, or at least that feels familiar.
7. In seeing this, we can ask, "what am I so afraid of losing? Why do I want to hold this image together so badly? What am I afraid others will see? What will I make that mean about me?"
8. These questions will jostle loose a lot of difficult feelings. You must go slowly and you MUST seek support from a therapist or teacher to guide the process. The deconstruction of a self-concept can be very scary and you will need someone to witness and guide the process.
9. You breathe, and repeat the process as often as possible. You show yourself that your discomfort won't actually hurt you, in fact it's what will set you free.
We are unconscious prisoners of the way we insist on seeing ourselves. Because we believe the quilt of thoughts to be who we are, we feel that if it falls away then we will die, that we will cease to exist. This is the great chasm we come to in the depths of meditation. This is why we are often so reticent to do deep work. But it is this deep work that truly begins to heal. This is the alchemy that transforms negative causes into positive causes. We realize while one image of ourselves does fall away, it is only an image, and a wiser self begins to spontaneously appear. We cannot skip this step, even if it takes a lifetime of work. The health of our fellow human beings depends on it.
For me as white person, I pledge to continue to do this work to be a better anti-racist. It is uncomfortable, scary, and painful. Well, tough. That's the work. That's the work it takes to make a safer and more just world for all human beings. And this is the method that works for me. I've been using it for years to do a lot of personal healing and will use it to continue to heal delusions in deeper ways.
Some thoughts for doing this work yourself:
1. Commit to yourself that you will love yourself no matter what you see.
2. You will see a lot of things you don't like about yourself. You might see that you're difficult, needy, entitled, terrified, cowardly, imperious, or have made some really bad choices (full disclosure I've seen and still see all of these in myself and it always sucks.) But until we can see, and be ruthlessly honest about what we do see, we can't change. We will continue to perpetrate aggression towards ourselves and others.
5. Seek support. I cannot emphasize this enough. In the process of seeing the inner world, you will come up against a lot of very scary stuff and more so if there are traumatized spaces in your consciousness. It is very important to not re-traumatize yourself by opening too quickly. Seek the support of a therapist or qualified teacher to help guide the process.