Monday, March 19, 2018

Our Narrow, Conditioned Self-concept AND Something Much Larger

     “Beneath the fragile sense of personal identity, the individual is actually an innumerable swarm of disconnected impulses, thoughts, reactions, opinions, and sensations, which are triggered into activity by causes of which he is totally unaware.” Jacob Needleman

     "Self-knowledge ... is solely a matter of digesting deep impressions of myself as I actually am from moment to moment: a disconnected, helpless collection of impulses and reactions, a being of disharmonized mind, feeling, and instinct." 
       John Welwood ed. “Awakening the Heart. East / West Approaches to Psychotherapy and the Healing Relationship.” Shambhala, 1983.

      “We have little choice about anything, moving around as we do in a sleepy, anxious cloud of habit and conditioned response. …
     The only choice we have anyway is to wake up.” Stephen Butterfield
       John Welwood ed. “Ordinary Magic. Everyday Life as Spiritual Path.” Shambhala, 1992.

      “The essential purpose of practice is to liberate us from attachment to a narrow, conditioned self-structure (our 'conditioned nature' or 'small self' as described above), so that we realize we are something much larger (ie discover our 'true nature' or 'unconditioned nature').

     Becoming fully human involves working with the totality of what we are – both our conditioned nature (earth) and our unconditioned nature (heaven). 
     On one hand, we have developed a number of habitual personality patterns that cloud our awareness, distort our feelings, and restrict our capacity to open to life and to love. We originally fashioned our personality patterns to shield us from pain, but now they have become a dead weight keeping us from living as fully as we could. 
     Still, underneath all our conditioned behavior, the basic nature of the human heart is an unconditioned awake presence, a caring, inquisitive intelligence, an openness to reality
     Each of us has these two forces at work inside us: an embryonic wisdom that wants to blossom from the depths of our being, and the imprisoning weight of our karmic patterns. From birth to death, these two forces are always at work, and our lives hang in the balance. Since human nature always contains these two sides, our journey involves working with both.

     ... practice involves exploring who and what we ultimately are – our true, essential nature, shared alike by all human beings. The direct, experiential realization of true nature has been a particular specialty of the Eastern contemplative traditions.
     Eastern teachings emphasize living from our deepest nature, turning the mind around so that it can see into its very essence, rather than constantly facing outward, focusing on tasks and objects to grasp and manipulate. Recognizing the essential nature of our awareness as an open, wakeful, luminous, and compassionate presence allows us to relate to our life in a much richer and more powerful way. This realization is what allows us to liberate ourselves from the chains of past conditioning … 

     As humans we have two kinds of awareness available to us at any given moment: we are focused on personal problems, needs, and feelings, while also having access to a larger awareness that allows us, if only briefly, to step out of those problems, take a larger perspective on them, and experience some freedom from their entanglement
     Real change and growth happen in therapy when both these levels of awareness are addressed, namely: 
     (1) when we first of all respect our needs and feelings, face them directly, and see what they are telling us, rather than belittling or avoiding them; and 
     (2) when we can bring our larger awareness to bear on these personal issues, so that we can begin to see how what we are is always wider and deeper than all the problems we carry around.
     It is in being called on to span and connect these two halves of our nature – the personal and the more-than-personal – that the heart begins to stir and awaken.

      ... meditation provides a very direct, practical way to discover the larger awareness and aliveness in us and to learn to trust its natural direction toward well-being. ... It helps to cultivate a friendly attitude toward all the phenomena of the mind – so that the inner struggle and conflict of trying to get rid of neurotic patterns can be replaced by ... unconditional friendliness toward oneself. At the same time, it allows a person to tap into a larger awareness in which ordinary emotional entanglements are seen in a different perspective – as clouds in the sky, rather than as the whole sky itself. Meditation, then, provides a basic practice for awakening the heart – which includes both developing warmth and compassion toward all our fears, insecurities, and emotional entanglements, as well as discovering our basic oneness and goodness underneath them.

     "If man fails to recognize his true nature, the true object of his love, the confusion is vast and irremediable. Bent on assuaging a passion for the All on an object too small to satisfy it, his efforts will be fruitless, a terrible waste." Teilhard de Chardin

       John Welwood. “Toward a Psychology of Awakening. Buddhism, Psychotherapy, and the Path of Personal and Spiritual transformation.” Shambhala, 2002.

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