Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Being present on the journey, releasing the destination

Today it became obvious that someone has a problem with me. Now I think most people encounter difficult relationships (or difficult patches in good relationships) from time to time. My self-talk in these moments tends to oscillate between, This is totally not my fault. There's nothing I can do. This person has her own issues, and, I'm a horrible person. I've ruined another relationship. It's all my fault. If only I'd..., I could have prevented this. Most of the time (and probably in this case), it's somewhere in between the two extremes. But also, placing blame is beside the point.

"To practice is to use all that arises within us for the growth of understanding, compassion, and freedom."
~ Jack Kornfield

So there is the difficulty itself, and then there is my response to the difficulty. I sat this afternoon in meditation, watching the thoughts surrounding this relationship swirl around and recognizing that they resemble other thoughts that often come up for me in meditation. I'm reading A Path With Heart, and I tried to follow some of Kornfield's suggestions for exploring what he calls insistent visitors. Kornfield explains, "When any experience of body, heart or mind keeps repeating in consciousness, it is a signal that this visitor is asking for a deeper and fuller attention... We must recognize that this is its way of asking us to give it more attention, to understand it more clearly. This process involves investigation, acceptance, understanding, and forgiveness."

So that is the journey. I started to explore the physical sensations, feelings, etc. associated with these thoughts. I sat there, trying to experience all of this, trying to understand it further. And suddenly, I heard this little voice under all that practice. It said, Do you understand it yet? If you can just understand it, you can fix this... and then you won't have these problems any more."

That kind of stopped me in my tracks. Wow. Is that where I think I'm going? Is that what I've been practicing for all this time? So I won't have any more difficulties? So people will love me? I asked myself these questions, and whatever had spoken inside me shrugged and said, Yep.

OK then. Now we have a problem. Even going as far as enlightenment, assuming this state exists, is no guarantee of being loved by all beings. It is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. It does not exempt one from all future hardships. It certainly doesn't pay the rent. But more importantly, here is a deeper, more insidious version of the story "It's all my fault. If only I'd..., I could have prevented this."

So I guess now my practice is to learn to be present on the path, not to arrive at what I perceive to be the destination, but to truly experience what the path is. To fully experience what surprises I might encounter along the way. To truly seek understanding, compassion, and freedom as they exist everywhere on the journey and not just at the destination. To go deeper down the rabbit hole and see what illusions and attachments are hiding in the next layer down.

Darn it, says that little voice. I really thought we were getting somewhere. I was sure that universal admiration was just around the corner. That would have been way easier.

All I can do is shrug and say, Yep.