Thursday, January 24, 2013

When aversion rears its ugly head and all your equanimity goes out the window

Mostly we like what we are good at or praised for and we hat what we do badly or are criticized for.  It's how the ego protects itself and how we are conditioned and enmeshed within the world.

For me, as a child everyone went "oo" and "ah" at my drawings so I liked art and thought about being an art teacher one day, until I got to senior high school, Australia's year 11 & 12, and they told me I wasn't avantgarde enough to go on to art school. Geography was doomed because the teacher took a dislike to me or maybe it was just all those history dates and economic production stats yet my interest in the world survived.  My French teacher, said I'd never be good at languages - Ha! Proved her wrong! School sport meant being out in the cold and wet, running around until my childhood asthma played up, wearing hideous sports clothes and trying to vault something way to high for me in what seemed to be and old barn.  I always got picked last for any team game during the compulsory physical education classes.  I ended up hating sport, couldn't see what others saw in it and was the only girl in the whole school that seemed to be exempt from being on an after school team.

And so it goes on through life.  Pursuing the line of least resistance and greatest rewards to the ego with only a few genuine interests, like my love of languages, persisting due to bloody mindedness and love.

It's exactly that level of determination (bloody-mindedness and love) that you need to free yourself from this revolving mouse wheel of carrot and stick, aversion and attachment conditioning.

The last year or so has been pretty kind to me. These days I take responsibility for creating my own reality so when something I don't like comes my way I have to assume that I at some level I wanted to test myself and strengthen my skills (in this case my equanimity and ability to abide calmly) in the fire of experience.  However, being human my initial inclination is usually "how can I avoid it?" and probably the next thought after that "why me?" followed by emotions of anger and helplessness (not unlike going through the stages of grieving but lower on the Richter scale). However, negative emotions are pretty quick to hurt not only those around us but also ourselves.  Plus I'm sure a negative mindset is some kind of cosmic magnet that draws in more of its like. So...
  • Breathe out! Release!
  • Ask yourself what have you truly got control over.  Yes I create my interpretation of the world and draw certain events and people to me through my thoughts and action but ultimately I'm the only one who can truly manage my internal state. So the answer to that question is "me". Sometimes it's better to just say that the external world is what it is, not as a statement of helplessness but as a statement of release. There are always variable you can tinker with but when it comes down to it it is a co-created reality that you're either love, hate or are neutral about.
  • As Tenzin Wangyal says, isn't it better to be happy of no reason than to rely on external conditions.
  • The only way not to project your temporary state of negativity on to others is to become aware of it.  Not fostering it, not trying to suppress it, not judging it... just being aware of it.
  • Once you're aware of your current state start to become aware of everything else around you.  become aware of the space around you.  Space is immutable, vast, all pervading and eternal. It's a refuge.  As you connect to that refuge your focus on your current state lessens, it starts to dissolve into that space. If you work with this a bit you become aware that your vision of doom was a creation of your mind and it too is empty.  What you were experience was a collection of past memories of a similar event, situation of person neatly packaged in all its related, conditioned aversions and attachments   It was that "vision of mind" that was pressing the "DefCon 1" flight and fight response. this understanding of the vision of mind gives you a bit of perspective. From there you can either use deeper meditation techniques such as Dzogchen and/or make a logical, clear-head assessment of what you are trying to avoid.  Is it going to kill you, harm you or others? If not it's probably not the end of the world, not as bad as your "vision of mind" would have you believe. Do a risk assessment of the problems and opportunities involved in pursuing an avoidance strategy. Ask yourself if you're willing to take up the challenge of abiding in your reclaimed calmness and facing what you seek to avoid? Know that whatever you decide is the right decision for you at that point in time but only make decisions once you've regained your equilibrium and clarity. Meditate and reflect as often as you need.
  • Remember that for everything you dislike there is some, possibly weird, person out there that likes it.  There are also a lot of others that feel the same way in the same situations so don't judge yourself for the way you feel.
  • Treating yourself with a hot bath or chocolate helps in the short term but make sure you do it when times are good too otherwise it could just become another way to condition you.
  • Support the above with expert advice on what herbs, mood altering foods or other medications may help lessen the conditioned response. Address any underlying issues: nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, phobias, inferiority complexes or trauma.
  • Skillfulness, knowledge and your network of people are always vital. Make sure the people who are important to you know you have an issue and importantly reassure them that they are not the cause of it, or at the very least not responsible for your reaction, that their support is welcome and that you're doing what's necessary to get back on track. Be willing to receive their compassion and empathy and hear their stories too. Since we tend to attract like minded people to our company they may have similar aversions and attachments they've had to face.
  • Breathe.  Any deep breathing, light exercise that requires breathing or connected breath work.  I like pranayama and the breathing involved in Tibetan yoga and Tai Chi to clear my energy channels and reground myself.

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