Beware of the attachment that springs from fondness,
for separation from those one holds dear is painful,
while if you take sides neither for nor against fondness,
there will be no bondage.
Dhammapada v. 211
As is evident from my blog throughout the years, energetic awareness is a topic that I’ve devoted much time, energy, and attention to in my life. From the early days of my path that sprouted over thirty years ago, energetic awareness has always been an aspect of my practice. What began as a simple intention to explore and familiarize myself with my own energy meditatively, quickly expanded to a multidimensional, multifaceted, and ever surprising force in my life. Sometimes, this force was painful and sparked aversion. Other experiences were joyful and filled with promise and elation. Always, the experiences were opportunities to expand my awareness.
What has changed over the years – other than me? When all is said and done, what – if anything – have I learned that’s useful in a skillful manner? A LOT! However, what is bringing this topic to the forefront of my mind recently is a dramatic reframe.
I know I’m not alone when I say there have been many many times when I feel like I’m drowning in another’s energy. Something is triggering me, resonating with me emotionally, and soon I am feeling disrupted and overwhelmed. Instead of grounding, I feel like I’m floating in a fog that’s settling in and taking over. There are a variety of approaches that I use to attempt to clear and center. Sometimes they’re effective, often times not. Regardless, I am faced with coping with the consequences of my reaction which is never enjoyable. Enter delusion: There must be some magic or preventative “fix.” Needless to say, in spite of learning a lot along the way, I was still stuck.
Enter The Triple Gem: The Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha along with the auspicious fortune of direct contact with monastic teachers who are far more aware and skilled than I am.
The first real shift came with a couple of points sinking in. One, what I thought I was reacting to as current had already taken place. I was mistaking (and still do) the state I was in as being representative of the present. Nope, it’s the past. The mind has already reacted. It may have been faster than the speed of light and not even have registered with our awareness, but that doesn’t change the reality that it already happened. It can seem so much easier to get stuck thinking that we need to change the present instead of remembering that our mind has already reacted and responded, so move on.
Second, was the repeated teaching that energy is not magically coming to us and overtaking us or sinking in. We are projecting!! In other words, first and foremost, we are searching (most likely unconsciously) outside of ourselves and THAT is what hooks us in. Suddenly, it’s not what is being done to us, but what we are running to and stumbling upon. As in the previous point, that means that once again, if we are overwhelmed energetically, mentally, or emotionally, then we have already reacted. Getting the theme? How often do we mistake our experience as being mindful or in the present when it has already happened?
The quote at the beginning of this blog refers to the pain and bondage that accompany attachment. For me, it applies to this topic because it can be an excellent vehicle for wandering around and getting absorbed into unskillful states and energies. Attachment is a deep subject in Buddhism. For the sake of this topic, I am referring to the mind’s attachment to people, things, and relationships. The word bondage seems so accurate. When we attach, doubt arises. We may lack faith and confidence in our ability to cope without some thing or one, which poses a threat, and suddenly it can be easy to feel powerless. Enslaved and held captive by our doubts and fears, we get stuck in an ongoing seamless cycle that feels like the present. Again, we can delude ourselves into thinking we’re in the present when we’re really in the past or grasping for the future.
In my experience, attachment and the bondage that follows is one of the sure fire ways to pop out and open myself to others’ energy. Instead of focusing on the space of my own consciousness, I avoid the discomfort I’m feeling by looking elsewhere. Naturally, there are many layers to attachment. For example, vulnerability which is laden with the potential for pain, lack of confidence in our ability to be OK or survive, attachment to ego identities and expectations, and the list goes on. Consequently, there are a variety of causes and conditions that are extremely ripe for over-personalizing. When we start personalizing our experiences, it’s easy to be absorbed into a non-productive mind state (aka, a dukkha making machine). We attach and become vested in ego views and states and bondage begins. If we want to break free, we are tasked with letting go and setting ourselves free by releasing attachments.
Ajahn Chah is often quoted as saying: Everything is uncertain. In spite of knowing that, I feel an opening to a sense of clarity that comes with growth and change. I may have a long way to go in terms of realizing the Dhamma, but I know when I bring my experiences, way of being, and attention to my own consciousness, I am moving towards something meaningful. I am able to transcend the mundane attachments and move more deeply into my own consciousness. I am able to bend with the energetic currents with more ease instead of being picked up like a speck of dust and carried away. I am creating the “fix” and being preventative by focusing within.
© Sallie Odenthal 2015