We recently had a gathering of Live Conscious graduates join us at our home for a discussion about meditation and psychotherapy and how to live without resistance, which I refer to as living with “Fierce Grace.” This expression comes from a movie about the spiritual teacher Ram Dass. It’s worth watching.
We cause ourselves suffering to the degree that we resist ourselves.
I shared with people a powerful idea that I’ve been living with for a while now. This is the idea that we cause ourselves suffering in proportion to the degree that we resist ourselves—we resist what we know to be true and we resist what we feel. When we resist we immediately assume a defensive posture in our lives.
We find ways to avoid certain feelings, to avoid expressing ourselves, or I should say, we avoid maturely expressing ourselves—because immaturely expressing ourselves is just another defense mechanism that often keeps other people at a distance.
Living a defended life is based on fear, suspicion, and the expectation that others will hurt us; so we hide and hold ourselves back to avoid being hurt. In doing so we hurt ourselves.
I believe that to live fully—to live with “Fierce Grace” requires us to stop hiding, to stop holding back, to stop living in fear.
I concern myself that those of us who want to live with “Fierce Grace,” may be using the tools that we think will get us there, such as meditation and psychotherapy, but using them to unknowingly defend ourselves—to avoid feeling and maturely expressing ourselves.
Many forms of therapy, medications, and even mindfulness practices can partially inhibit our growth. As one of our group members said, “They can be like opiates, something that soothes us while we keep ourselves closed to deeper awareness and growth. If we soothe ourselves just enough we can keep our shadow-parts locked up in the basement.”
Please don’t misunderstand; I’m not saying that meditation and psychotherapy, even medications, aren’t helpful and appropriate at times. I’m saying that they mostly encourage us to dissociate, to intentionally redirect our attention—often away from what we don’t want to feel. There are times when this is appropriate. But not always and not forever.
If our desire is to wake ourselves up and fully live our lives, we must learn to associate—to step fully into ourselves, to feel ourselves and to maturely express our feelings.
What do I mean when I talk about fully associating? It’s easier to describe what this is not, than to describe what it is:
- Fully associating is not narrowing your attention by focusing on just one aspect of your experience.
- Fully associating is not having an agenda, even such an agenda as, “notice your breath.”
- Fully associating is not labeling.
So what is associating?
It’s not trying—it’s being. Being in a non-focused way, without labeling, almost as if we remove a cerebral filter. The philosopher Heidegger spoke of a state of being in which we focus less of how things are in the world, and focus more of the miracle of being, allowing ourselves to marvel that things are, that we are.
If you want to learn more about the differences between dissociating and associating, and how you as a teacher or therapist or practitioner can learn to do both, please read the full article (only 4 pages) on this subject. Just select Meditation and Psychotherapy from the list below and we’ll email you the article.