By: Patrick D. Goonan
We all have some habits we would like to change. It is the human condition that we want to grow and in some way transcend ourselves. Sometimes, we are successful, but other times we get stuck. This article addresses why and how to overcome this tendency.
I believe with J. Krisnamurti:
“that seeing the truth deeply is what liberates, not our struggle to be free.”
In other words, the harder we try, the more stuck we seem to become. It is only by letting go of this antagonistic orientation toward ourselves that will allow the mud to settle out of the water of the mind. That is to say, in order to see clearly one must quiet the mind and let all the things that are obscuring clarity go. It sounds easy, but in practice it is not because we are a prisoner of our own conditioned ways of looking at the world and by overidentifying with thought, we miss the deeper layers of experience.
So, how does one begin to unravel this? I believe it starts with a compassionate orientation toward yourself. If seeing the truth deeply is what liberates, it is the ability to hold what we see with compassion that limits the depth of your perception. In other words, if you can’t handle what you see then your psychological defense mechanisms will kick in and obscure deep insight.
I think these two aspects of approaching your most difficult problems are the key to unraveling the knot of confusion and frustration that keeps you stuck. As you have probably noticed, we all have an internal critic and it is difficult to quiet its voice. An attitude of unconditional friendliness toward oneself needs to be cultivated. From this loving stance, one can start to see below the level of conditioning to the truth as a state of consciousness rather than a concept to be grasped.
These two points are a good starting point, but one also needs to employ skillful means to deal with conditioning. This is important because we all have assumptions we haven’t examined and automatic thinking that puts us on autopilot. To overcome these tendencies, we need to quiet the mind, but also counter the internal hijacking with effective practices. This will be the subject of part two of this article.
In addition, we need to be dedicated and invest time and energy. This assumes we have identified what we want to change, the methods we are going to employ and made a commitment to working toward whatever our goal is with passion, integrity and accountability.
Inevitably, when we try to make a change, there is a point where we must pass through a desert. Any change to our habitual way of doing things represents a threat to the ego and on a felt level this seems like a threat to our survival. Therefore, a commitment to stay with the discomfort of being between two levels of understanding is essential. While it’s possible initial insights might be enough to bring about lasting change, usually it requires persistence and determination to embody these changes into a stable trait.
When one has dedication, along with unconditional self-acceptance and deep penetrating wisdom a synergy starts to happen. When these forces work together more of one, leads to more of the other and this energy can eventually carry you beyond your own neurosis or limitations.
In order to speed up the process and make a transformation more likely, it is good to work on all levels of your being i.e. body, emotions, mind, soul and spirit. While this doesn’t guarantee that you will reach a higher developmental level in whatever you are working on, it certainly goes a long way toward stacking the deck in your favor. This is not an instant solution, but once achieved the change endures.
These combinations of practices applied at every level of your being are a part of Ken Wilber’s Integral model. According to this model, one must first transcend the old pattern of being and then include it in a higher understanding that permeates all levels of the self. These practices are called Integral practices because they allow all the fragmented aspects of your self to be brought together in a new coherent and healthier whole.
In other words, utilizing integral life practices allows you to become conscious of what was previously unconscious and integrate these parts of yourself into a higher order understanding. The third part of this article will talk about integral life practices and integral theory in more depth.
This is a short article, but it covers a lot of ground in terms of how we sabotage ourselves. It touches upon attitudes that favor a transformation and points to a method to work on ourselves at every level for the good of our entire being.
It is unfortunate that there is no instant solution to overcoming the obstacles in our life. It is a journey that can take us to some uncomfortable places. However, we need to cross these existential deserts in order to grow. It is the process of growth itself that is the destination and a trap of the ego to believe that once you achieve the next step you will be happy. Happiness is practice and in a sense how you do the path is the destination. The time to be happy is now, as you are in this moment, once you realize this you cease struggling against yourself.
If you want to read the next two parts of this article, please consider subscribing to my blog. I welcome your comments, feedback and personal insights. In the meantime, I wish you happiness and peace of mind.