What happens when we are faced with recurring patterns or characters in our lives and we aren’t sure if we need to shift a situation or even walk away? If we are practicing, how do we know when to make a change? Until you rewrite the script, which could be looked at through the lens of spirituality, physiologically or through patterns, habits or even narrow or myopic vision, the same cast of characters may continue to show up. Often when the same patterns or characters show up, we blame ourselves or others; both reactions can make us feel stuck. While we are judging ourselves and others, we can inquire to notice if an unconscious pattern is behind a particular script. A slight change in our self-dialogue can bring light to a pattern: “oh hey, interesting, a pattern! How are you? I remember you!” to help relieve the endless feeding of a particular role or model. Our seemingly immovable judgments, fueled with personal and cultural morals and ethics, may stay until they are not useful any longer, but we can question them. Judgments are like electric fences, surrounding and protecting what the mind thinks the heart can’t handle…when it can. Practice for me is like a hidden way around the electric fence, so I don’t get shocked as much. The intention is to develop a new relationship to the judgment, or to whatever shows up when we are feeling stuck. Once our judgments are questioned there is some freedom to feel more and think less, with new eyes. Try starting with questioning the thoughts, quieting and listening.
- Does it serve my practice?
Let’s say practice represents our intention. Underneath it all, under the drama of he said/she said, lives a bottom line. Investigate what that may be (i.e., the experience of not getting my way, what I seem to fight for, deeper understandings of myself, etc.). They may lead you to a larger intention. “Does this serve my practice” means it’s not all about me. I am serving the larger me, for instance. I also ask this because it creates space from my automatic ego response of my personality (hang-ups or judgments). Then, I feel a shift inside and the question changes to “can I practice through this, or will I fall asleep inside my ego?” Knowing when I can’t IS the wisdom for me, knowing when I can doesn’t take this route; it is only seen as action. It doesn’t need the same relationship. So its almost like I’m getting away from my limited self to enter into an expanded version that has always known the “answer.” The use of my mind came in when I made practice the priority, instead of ego.
- Is what I am doing creating violence on myself or anyone else?
The violence I am referring to here is violence to ourselves and others experienced within things like affairs, lying, overworking your body, self-denying – again, is it serving your practice? Can you practice through it and with it, just as it is? Forget right and wrong for a second, to examine intention. Sometimes being human means yes, I am creating violence, and you start right from where you are to make a change in yourself.
- Can I practice with shifting my perception on this and peeking at another way to look at it?
Try lowering your eyes slightly just so you’re not distracted for a second – isn’t that a shift of perception? It can be that easy. Sometimes you might think, “who cares?” If you don’t care, then experience it; imagine you’re the other person – imagine a time in your life when you felt just like they do – compassion is like a muscle…build on it.
- What emotions are at the base of this for me?
If I feel anger at someone for, say, blowing me off, what am I hearing? For me, underneath it all, I hear I am not important, I am not loved, respected or valued. I can’t control them so I practice by shifting my perception inside and discover a possible pattern for how else this has shown up for me in life. I notice my self-judgment and recognize my reactions, as clues to where I can direct my practice. Each time may also feel different than the last, and the path of thought isn’t as natural. I turn to other practices to connect to my deeper intention and motivation. The key is staying fluid to feel for whatever is present for you.
- Is my suffering because I can not accept what is, so I’m getting myself worked up mostly on the way I think it should be? Can it just be what it is, can I truly see it for what it is?
Solving the riddle of our own suffering is a big question. Through experience and the study of many wise teachings, I have found that, yes…most of my own suffering is my propensity to not accept what is; my expectations seem to set up the suffering ahead of time. If we can practice with ‘what is’ we may get a different understanding of the story’s fuel source because that can strip away the story. And if suffering is still present, you’re only allowing your truth to be felt more fully. That alone may break a pattern.
6. Can I change the channel?
I laugh as I read this because I imagine there are people who have probably not heard Ram Dass explain The Channels (listen below), but it’s a profound way to see the psyche and notice how we are showing up in the world, so we can use our encounters with people as daily practice. I also laugh, thinking, who doesn’t want to change the channel of our mind sometimes? Ram Dass says… from one channel we can see ourselves in the human experience itself, from within the other person. And I say – “Is that you in there? I’m in here! How did you get in there? Far out!” Otherwise it can be too sticky for me, so I will walk away to create space for myself in the situation. Notice the channel you’re in; just notice. “Trying” to change the channel isn’t needed. Experience it for yourself and then practice just allowing.
So, try it on. Ask these questions internally, ask your own. Notice without judgment, if you can; use this as part of your practice, or to start one. When it comes to answering difficult questions I face, I dance in and out of understanding and accepting that I don’t really ever know the answers? It’s more that I move to a place I feel comfortable with an answer. I find life is experienced during self-navigation with life, not after each decision is proven to be “right” or “wrong.” Even dipping our toe into “what is” shows us a shift of perception, and the “how-to” is revealed. Sometimes just that is enough. My pain in these situations 95% of the time isn’t questioning walking away or not; I know I should – it’s my attachment. Practice. Be love. Watch what happens. It can even be LOVE walking away.
Katrina Chester, May 25, 2015