I’ve been struck lately by how persistent the impulse is to use awareness practice as self-improvement. Absolutely we all know what we’re doing in awareness practice is not self-improvement, and yet….
Person is struggling with an issue. What to do? Got to figure out how to fix this. Pretty much 100% of the time the “conclusion” is “you need to x, y, z.” That conclusion of course is the result of lots of mulling it over, lots of looking closely at the issue. For us practitioners, it’s lots of bringing up the issue in workshops or radio shows or other forms of guidance. All of which can look like awareness practice.
What is the common element in every issue or problem or struggle or suffering? Get ready not to be surprised here: There’s something wrong.
I don’t want this, it’s too hard, I can’t, it’s unfair, it shouldn’t be like this, I don’t understand, I must be inherently flawed, why does this kind of thing always happen to me and on and on and on, push the replay button one more time.
Thus, off go good, sincere, dedicated practitioners to end suffering. All that’s required is to figure out what they’re doing wrong, fix that, and voila! Nirvana.
But it never happens. No matter how hard they try, they just keep struggling. Proof that there really is something wrong and the something wrong is “you.” If you did, didn’t, were, weren’t, could, would, started, stopped, were different, smarter, clearer, younger, cuter, richer, fitter, thinner.
One of my very favorite “teachings” is: The way to keep a person stuck forever is to convince them they must do a task that cannot be done.
That task is what’s being pointed at here. We will never end suffering around any content in life as long as we’re in a conversation with egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate about that content. Never. Ever. World without end amen.
So, what does this look like in real life? Say my issue is food, weight, substances, addiction, procrastination, crankiness, impatience, productivity, judgment, fear, loneliness, arrogance, anxiety, worry, health, fitness, relationship, money, career—yeah? Any and all content a human being struggles with and suffers over.
Let’s take money. I want to stop suffering over money. The very first thing I must do is end all conversations inside the head and outside the head about money. Period.
I can record and listen. I can find someone to guide/assist me and talk with that person—all conversations recorded, of course. But that’s it. Not a single thought or word is exchanged with a voice in my head about what or how I’m doing or not doing. Not a one.
When those ego/karmic/conditioned/self-hating conversations have ended, when I no longer even glance toward conditioned mind for its reaction, I can look to see where I am in my life with the content of money.
We don’t have this precious human incarnation to solve problems while being endlessly tortured by hateful voices in the head about a bunch of stuff those voices don’t care a whit about. We have this precious human incarnation to end suffering. And, the only way to end suffering is to STOP being in relationship with the only thing causing us to suffer. Yes, you read that right. We only suffer because of egocentric karmic conditioning self-hate. Only. Ever.
I was recently sent this excerpt from a previous email class:
“Ego is a master of deception. The great trickster. We make a start and ego leads us directly to the next hole we’re going to step into. Got it. Stepping out now...
Before long here’s another hole. Soon we realize it’s the same hole but don’t recognize it until we’ve already stepped in it. Okay. Good. Stepping out….
Away we go. Patiently, humbly learning to look to wisdom, love, and compassion rather than to ego. It’s a lovely, gentle process when we let it be.”
THAT is our alternative to suffering. Ending the conversation with the source of all suffering, not figuring out how to fix ourselves so we are the person we should be so we’re not tortured and beaten for how we are.
In case anyone missed it, the hole we keep stepping into is not the content the ego voices have identified as the problem. The hole we keep stepping into is the conversation in the head.