I am a very fortunate person. Things have gone well in my life. Although I have had the odd set-back, my mum says of me that each time I fall in a pile of crap I come up smelling of roses. And yet still I worry.
I find myself in a lovely new home, my dream job, happy family and yet I am struggling to enjoy each day because of catastrophising about all the problems that may be coming down the line. Absolute madness, caused by engaging in thinking and not letting the thoughts go by to come back to a present moment focus. The habit and the fear is too strong. The underlying core belief is that I am not good enough for such a life. I am resisting the joy for fear of losing it. This is made worse by an additional layer of expectation that after all my years of practice, I should be better than this by now.
The unsettledness that is caused by this is triggering my habit of control, with endless lists of what to do when, in order to manifest the life of a perfect practitioner. When I moved to a new house I took it as an opportunity for a new and better lifestyle, but what I find is a different place, same crap. My neuroses haven’t vanished just because I moved house! In factm the stress of the move has made them worse!
This has been going on for weeks now, has become relentless and I am so bored with my constant rumination.
Anyway, what is great is that I see all of this. Also, I have a supervisor and practitioner friends that help me find perspective.
Gladly, I feel I am having a breakthrough: I am letting go, I am surrendering to the reality that surrounds me, rather than fighting it. I have simplified my practice from the previous regime, which I was struggling to get up for. I have changed my retreat plans for something more simple and solitary. A practice that will nurture me, instead of adding more pressure.
I am giving myself time to enjoy, I am letting go more of the worry, I am allowing it to ‘be’ a bit more, buying in a bit less. At least that is what is happening just now. Who know what it will be like tomorrow?
It reminds me of a story about the Buddhist Saint Milarepa who went out of his cave to pick nettles to eat. When he got back, his cave was full of demons. For a long while he worked very hard to throw them out of the cave, but they kept coming back. In the end, he surrendered and accepted that they would be staying with him for a long time. When he did this, all but one of them vanished. The biggest and scariest one was left. Milarepa went over to the last demon and said ‘Why don’t you eat me’ and he put his head in the demon’s mouth. Then the last demon disappeared.
What we resist persists – the more we push difficult emotions away, the stronger they will manifest – it is like pushing a beach ball under water – the harder we push it down, the stronger is pops back up!
The only way forward is unconditional acceptance – without any hidden agenda of wanting things to change. In my experience, this is what creates the conditions for change and transformation.
So can we accept our demons? Can we put our head in the mouth of our biggest, scariest demon? Or can we be OK with not being able to do this now and just keep going?
What helps me is my training in the four immeasurable qualities of loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. I am looking forward to delivering a retreat on these qualities as part of the Compassion training at Samye Ling next year, along with Jane. I am looking forward to revisiting this training in detail for my own practice and sharing it with others.
Why don’t you come and join us on one of our Compassion trainings some time soon – check out our Compassion courses here.
In the meantime, have fun with your demons!
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