Buddhist Cartography: maps of self.

February 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

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The self may be thought of as a map drawn to guide you through life and your relationships.  This self is not the real you any more than a map is the city, town or country it represents.  Yet the vast majority of us believe we are our maps.  Buddhist practice is designed to dispel this false belief and awaken us to our true nature.

We typically have more than one map representing the self but here I am only concerned with two.  The first draws with relative accuracy our inner landscape as it is.  It is a landscape mapped through a process of denying and affirming parts of our basic human nature and experience.  Some examples of what may be included on this map are our cultural values, religious beliefs and family mores.  Others may be more specific to our person such as how intelligent, athletic or talented we are.

When denial or approval is brought about through fear or coercion it may leave us with unresolved fears, false beliefs and aspects our nature that we then seek to avoid.  To do this we draw a secondary map that distorts our inner landscape.  This map leads us away from our discomfort zones that then become “holes” in our consciousness we do not wish to explore.

The secondary map represents a false self that keeps us from being in the moment and opening our hearts to others.  Buddhist practice requires we examine these maps with awareness, especially where feelings of discomfort, pushing away and denial arise.  These feelings point to the holes in our maps that we need to explore.

A word of caution, traumatic holes are highly charged, sensitive areas filled with pain, fear and shame.  Secondary maps act as a safeguard to stop people from falling into these holes.  It is not recommended that any traumatized person venture into these uncharted areas without a qualified teacher or therapist.

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