February 21, 2016 § 1 Comment
The mind does not like unpleasant things. As surely as the ear ducks from sharp noise and the body recoil from high heat, so does the mind turn away from mental anguish.
If suffering comes from a momentary cause then the strategy of turning away is useful. If it stems from a direct threat to one’s identity then turning away acts as a barrier that blocks awareness of what will relieve that same suffering.
It is a common experience to run headlong into a blockage while sitting in meditation. Where one sitting may be relaxing and easy, the next may be filled with tension as a blockage arises from which one can neither turn away nor think beyond. So unpleasant is this that it is often easier to take a break from meditation than be caught in a block.
The way through any block is to turn the attention directly upon it with the aim of letting the blocked thoughts and feelings flow freely into awareness. For this to progress it is necessary to let go of one’s position and identity, at least a little.
In the attempt to keep things as they are in the face of on-going change lay the cause of mental anguish. The more we identify with what we hold “dear” the stronger the resistance to allowing loss and how it reflects upon us to enter our mind. This resistance stops the mind from considering new possibilities. Once blocked, we become stuck in the impossibility of trying to stay the same and safe when things have changed. Yet simply accepting the possibility of your position and identity being different initiates a resolution to this conflict.
A blockage may be described as the statement, “I don’t want this! This is not me!” I found myself saying or, rather, feeling this way when the possibility of a change in my life arose. Though I knew I could survive the change I felt great stress, as if my life was about to be torn away. My mind naturally turned away from these unpleasant feelings creating an impasse that I could not see beyond it.
All my turmoil was contained in a rather vague image that I could not dismiss that someone was going to come to my front door. I realized latter that behind this image lay a complex web of fears about my worth, being judged and anger. It was these fears that I was blocking and that block was symbolized by the image of someone coming to my door.
It was only after much mental suffering that I unblocked the image by actually allowing myself to see this person coming to my home. Bit by bit this new image released the emotions the first image blocked. As I accepted my fears their power began to wane and the mental block dissolve.
We all block unpleasant emotions as a means to self-protection. We neither want the suffering these emotions evoke nor want others to see our vulnerable points. These blocks naturally arise in the meditative life as a subtle form of thought following. The thought being, “Don’t look at this!”
People can be caught in these blocks thinking they have achieved silence when, in fact, they have built a wall of blocks around themselves. We must therefore heed the advice to let thought and feeling arise and fall naturally. So when you find yourself blocked, move to let your awareness include what lies behind the block. Accepting unpleasant feelings and allowing them to flow through us is perhaps the true meaning of practicing non-resistance.