Thursday, September 23, 2010


When we begin to notice our experience, it does not take too long to notice that on some level, we are uncomfortable most of the time. Perhaps things are not going as they should. Or perhaps our main problem is that we don't know what is going to happen, and yet we think we should know. This kind of discomfort can easily become fear, or anger.

Much of what we do to cope is aimed at easing these emotions. We may eat or drink as a way to numb ourselves. We may spend many hours at work to avoid confronting an issue or a disagreement at home (or, occasionally, the opposite). Or we may dive into something from an intellectual perspective, trying to learn and know as much as we can about a topic or hobby. Sometimes that hobby can be ourselves--constructing theories about why we do the things we do. We can turn discomfort into an intellectual exercise, and in that way get some space and relief from it.

But instead of numbing ourselves or distancing ourselves, another approach is to fully open to our discomfort. This can sound absolutely crazy. The prospect of confronting our fears can itself be truly frightening, and not many of us are capable of actually being with our experience for even a few moments.

What happens when we do this? First, we find that the experience itself is always changing. What we fear in one moment can become something completely different in the very next moment. Pain can be followed by laughter, and vice versa. It can be surprising to see how fleeting our emotions are when we just let ourselves experience them, without resistance, without clinging.

Second, we begin to notice some space around our experiences. When we open ourselves fully to what is happening, right now, we see how little of it is actually the things that concern us. The sun still shines, the flowers bloom, the rain falls. Children laugh and play. Everyone else around us is in their own world, and we begin to notice, perhaps for the first time, that what is happening to me isn't all that important to many people but me. That can be the beginning of freedom.


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