INQUIRING DEEPLY ABOUT HOW WE CHANGE
Many – most — things that cause suffering are beyond our control. But even those circumstances in which it appears we do have some choice may be stubbornly persistent, hard to manage, or intractable. Life has a momentum which tends to carry our problems forward into the future for reasons both seen and unseen. We suffer from the tendency to repeat old patterns over and over again, reenacting painful events or putting ourselves in situations where the same dreaded outcomes are likely to happen again.
Sometimes we bear our struggles and miseries with an added sense of shame and the perception of our own unworthiness. Nonetheless, within us there is potentiality for change. Freedom lies in the wise awareness of alternatives and of the ability to choose. How can we cultivate this freedom?
In order to come to terms with our problems, it is helpful to have some place to “put them”: a positive context/ frame of human understanding within which the situation can be held and integrated. Problems entail any number of dysfunctional, ego-centered assumptions, but they also direct our attention to what we need to see. When we can be deeply present with what is happening, we can see the situation more clearly and discern what is wanted and needed; what is wise. Very broadly, we need to understand what we think needs to change, and probe the reasons why. These dimensions of support allow us feel into the problem or difficulty.
In the framework of deep self-inquiry, we can approach stubborn difficulties by “living in the question” of them. Somewhat analogous to the Zen idea of “koan”, this means that we endeavor to sit with the question; be with it; and repeatedly ask the question as a means of inviting a transformational shift of view.
This idea first came to me in the form of an epiphany in which I recognized that the problem was the problem! The very notion that there was a problem supported the idea that there must be a way out, a solution; which in turn led me down a rabbit hole of trying to figure it out. It was also clear that the process of struggle was counterproductive, distracting attention away from the feelings at the core of the emotional difficulty. Moreover, getting stuck in trying to figure things out often turned into a problem in its own right. In contrast, living in the question of something often revealed to me that “the problem” and “the solution” were two sides of a single coin.
Short of waiting for illuminations and epiphanies, there are strategies and practices that we can engage to cultivate change:
- Clarify your intention. “Inquire deeply” within about what you are trying to change, and why. What result are you trying to produce? What are you trying to be, do, or have? What are you resisting or avoiding? Who are you trying to become?
Endeavor to see your intentions clearly.
- Clarify the obstacles. “Inquire deeply” about how you may be getting in your own way.
In addition to what seems to be in the way, notice especially how you are being with whatever is happening. What attitude(s) are you carrying? How are you inhabiting yourself? What are you embodying?
Endeavor to soften into your experience.
- Contemplate: are you willing to be changed by change*?
Change is facilitated when we understand what is at stake for us. The following questions are helpful:
- How would you be different if life no longer contained this problem or challenge?
- Who would you be if there were no problem to solve?
The ability to change rests upon our wise and compassionate awareness of the matrix of meaning in which we live and construct our personal experience. We need to cultivate the awareness and self-reflection that will make this possible.
*Moffitt, Phillip www.dharmawisdom.com