Informal Continuous Practice
We can practice self-awareness on many different levels. On perhaps the most meaningful level, we can notice, moment-to-moment, our overall emotion or mood. Specifically, am I in the old me-alone-against-the-world, fearful, fight-freeze-flight mode, lost in the incessant "story of me" frame of mind - OR - is there just peace & loving-kindness?
The first is very familiar: the felt sense of struggle, heavy-heartedness - like a painful memory unwillingly revisited, a miserable habit we just can't seem to quit. Sadly, this familiar emotion or mood is a well-established, default "habit of mind," our autopilot, our go to, especially whenever we're under even the slightest stress - and we can always find something to worry about. Some of us don't quite feel alive unless we're struggling against something or someone. This is closely related to feeling bored unless experiencing or at least anticipating something big or new or otherwise exciting - be it pleasant or even unpleasant!
The second should also be familiar, but we probably rarely notice experiencing it. Why? Because we're obsessed with BIG emotional ups and downs. Our natural sensitivity to subtlety has been blunted by the noisy, distracted world of advertisements for bucket list trips of a lifetime, lifestyles of the rich & famous, royal weddings to movie stars, wealthy sports celebrities, etc. All this meaningless noise drowns out & often completely overshadows the wonderful details of reality. Distractedness robs us of the most precious & readily available pleasantness of ordinary daily life. We're so driven to make "me, myself & I" happy, that all we experience is fearful lacking ie we keep ourselves imprisoned in the me-alone-against-the-world, fearful, fight-freeze-flight mode. “Our neurotic selfing habit” keeps us lost in misery.
So what can we do about this? Intellectual understanding of our unhealthy patterns is a very small, easy, preliminary step. Practice turns thoughts into lived reality. If we're serious, we continuously practice changing our behavior until the new, desired healthy behavior becomes the effortless norm. In this case,
• we keep noticing, moment-to-moment WHETHER we're feeling fear-based self-centeredness - OR - peaceful loving-kindness?
• WHEN feeling fear-based self-centeredness, we courageously release the aggression, and gently, patiently, kindly, effortlessly shift into peaceful loving-kindness. It's a widely held illusion that fear-based self-centeredness, "looking out for #1" has anything to do with strength or power. Fear arises from weakness & low self-esteem. While in the grip of fear & its closely-related emotions of anger, anxiety, hatred, aggression etc, judgment is impaired and we feel profoundly unnatural, lost, disturbed.
• WHEN we're feeling peaceful loving-kindness, we are natural, authentic, powerful and fully at home. The sense of "me, myself & I" is minimal (hypoegoic), and we feel deeply, lovingly connected to everyone & everything. There is a sense of pleasantness or even joy, peace, ease, effortlessness, equanimity & timelessness. We no longer act out of personal hunger, greed or fear, but naturally do what needs to be done in order to decrease suffering & increase joy for all. There is a lightness & spontaneity to our life as if we truly had "nothing to do, nowhere to go, & no one to be."
• All of this only makes sense if we try it for ourself seriously and thus experience the benefits directly. Remember, fear, with whom we have a very old hate-love relationship, will keep returning as our default autopilot, keeping our world relatively miserable. It does take courage, patience & perseverance to extricate ourself from the quicksand swamp of discretionary suffering!
Courtesy of Buddha Doodles www.buddhadoodles.com