Saturday, March 8, 2014

Stuckness & the Many Ways Out

     Most of us have some sense of "who I am." There are two levels to our self-concept: obvious personal qualities we & others judge to be good, bad or ugly, & a more mysterious level that's largely subconscious. Many of us are sadly resigned about, & firmly identified with (cognitive fusion) the obvious aspects: "that's who I am, & I'll never change", "can't teach old dogs new tricks." This melancholy stuckness is strangely offset by the comforting sense of being a unique individual that, in our mind, remains untouched by time. Most of us stay clear of the mysterious portion - our subconscious. Most of us have no training to intelligently & wisely investigate this part of our life. We sense its power, but our fear & ignorance turns this vital part into a paralyzing taboo.
     EVERY aspect of the above universal human tendencies is considered by Buddhist psychology (& increasingly by Western psychology) to be misguided, AND to cause suffering. Many of us remain stuck in the above predicament for life.
     An ever-increasing number of us realize that all wisdom traditions (Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc) were specifically designed to address this sad situation. All these traditions have 2 levels
          1) Basic support (dogma, rules, rituals, sense of community) for the masses who, like most of us, are also by & large avoiding the mystery.
          2) Specific guidance for an intentional journey along the well-travelled path into the heart of mystery - self-discovery, self-transcendence, & beyond. Traditionally this was, & mostly still is, restricted to monks ("mystics") doing long silent solitary retreats.
     North American Buddhism may be unique insofar as it is explicitly a path to self-discovery, self-transcendence, and beyond FOR EACH PARTICIPANT.
     Mindfulness training (MBSR) is even more easily approachable, since it is secular, starts at self-regulation ie stress-management, which naturally evolves into self-discovery, self-transcendence, & beyond FOR EACH PARTICIPANT.


Steve McCurry


  1. I like the clear distinction here about wisdom traditions offering structure as a way of assisting people, rather than as a form of oppression/repression. In every wisdom community, (including atheism) an array of people seek some combination of structure and transcendence in accordance with their needs. They "come to the well" thirsty for different things. In an MBSR class care is taken from the very beginning to encourage and support the awareness skills that allow people to access cultural/faith traditions for the richness they offer. Thanks again, John for this great blog!

  2. Yes Geri, most of us need intelligent, understandable structure - sturdy handrails & well-traveled paths - to start climbing the mountain.