When I was little, I had chronic anxiety and insomnia. At bedtime, I was terrified of monsters, robbers, or intruders coming after me. I would lie awake in the dark, analyzing the movement of every shadow and sound, frozen with fear. Many years later, I realized these monsters continued to exist in the form of disturbing emotions like anger, confusion, and self-judgement. Do I have enough (money, time, resources)? Am I following my dharma? Am I a good person/friend/partner/daughter? We all have these "monsters" in different forms, and they are often rooted in fear.
In meditation, we learn to be with what is. As it turns out, a great deal of meditation practice is allowing ourselves to be uncomfortable. At first, the body is very uncomfortable -- your legs fall asleep, your back hurts, or you feel fidgety. With some time, we realize the discomforts of the mind too. Our tendency to reject pain and attach to comfort becomes very apparent. With practice, we can find any discomfort, or even suffering, useful. These moments of tension (both in mind + body) wake us up, especially if they are very painful -- our deepest patterns, subconscious beliefs, and childhood trauma all rise to the surface for us to behold. To confront our fears, we must develop trust. We must allow our hearts to break open over and over again on this path of spiritual warriorship. To keep letting go of what we think we're supposed to do or be, to unravel into the great spaciousness of not knowing. It's a very brave and scary thing to do. It means getting out of bed and going into the shadows to take a look around.
When we start to take an honest look at ourselves, we might not always like what we see. We see our greed, our anger, our judgement, our ability to blame and reject others. We might even surprise ourselves if we are a "spiritual" person -- that we still have to face our demons after all these years! If we can hold even our darkest pain, we realize our innate wholeness. In doing this with ourselves, we begin to do this with others too.
In the midst of our heartbreak, we can still be soft and open. We can allow our emotions of come and go. We can recognize each of our shortcomings as an opportunity to awaken. We realize the monsters are within. So when someone else triggers us, we find ourselves asking "What part of myself needs to be heard or seen? How have I ignored my true nature?". We greet the feelings of abandonment, rejection, or hurt with a big breath and start our inner work anew. Strong and soft, we become a spiritual warrior.
Confess your hidden faults
Approach what you find repulsive
Help those you think you cannot help
Anything you are attached to, give that
Go to the places that scare you
Sentient beings are limitless as the sky
Machig Labdön was a great Tibetan yogini of the 11th century. These are the five slogans that were given to her by her teacher, Dampa Sangye. She is the mother of the Tibetan Buddhist practice chöd.
We will be exploring the path of the spiritual warrior on our upcoming Desert Revival Weekend Retreat. If you would like to learn more about these practices, please feel free to connect with me over a private session.