October 26

The Seductive Pull of Familiar Misery

Reading time 6 minutes

It is a constant surprise, the multifarious ways that the ego mind colors perception negatively. Small annoyances may begin like the discomfort of wrinkles in clothing.
Gripes may grow in medium proportion such as concern over the state of the weather.
Complaints in our mind may loom large in the form of worry over life situations, finances, the economy, politics or the difficulties in human relationships.

It doesn't seem to matter to the ego which topic is chosen nor to which degree it intensifies. Its only priority seems to be to gravitate and maximize whichever pain is familiar.
It recycles disagreement with whatever arises in the present moment as resistance, judgment and criticism.

When we drive along a two-lane highway while feeling sleepy, we may drift out of our lane towards the side of the road.
If the wheels of our vehicle catch the outer-lip of the roadway, our vehicle is pulled off the asphalt, down the slippery grass, towards the deep muddy ditch.

The negativity of misery could be likened to spiritual sleepiness. We innocently drift out of the lane of Life’s Flow, away from our inherent nature. Misery, with its energetic "pull', yanks our feelings off-balance. Before we even realize it, we’re headed towards the muddy ditch of emotional suffering. Egoic or conditioned mental-emotional patterns, innocent thinking-believing-attachment errors, travel deeply-worn ruts of countless years and incarnations of human suffering.

SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, reports in 2021 that depression is affecting 264 million people worldwide. Seen from a psychological perspective, depression includes common errors in mental-emotional patterning such as rumination, catastrophizing and all-or-nothing thinking. Integrating and reframing depression in the context of spiritual awakening, we have the opportunity to watch the ego-mind’s strategies to avoid being present, right here, right now – its bouncing along the ditches of suffering.

The ego mind may flee the present moment by ruminating over the pain held in past memories (often ones of conflict). It catastrophizes by imagining a “future” containing horrible scenarios. It is stuck in its familiar rut of misery and pain. We can check this out for ourselves.

When we next experience a dark mood, we can “step back” from the content of the thoughts and ask ourselves, “where is the problem right now?” We can discover where the thinking mind, stuck in a past painful scenario, projects past pain onto a fearful imagined future. If we’re facing a present situation, we can find its fearful root, avoidance of past unpleasantness, anticipated to happen again. We can find the reflex point where avoidance of past pain is projected onto a current situation or is anticipated as a future outcome.

The next time we experience the jolt of our mood’s topsy-turvy tumble into the ditch of misery, we can ask: “is this a replay of a memory from my past?” “Is this a horror story of an imagined future?”
We can take just a moment to breathe, really breathe, taking deep and long inhalations and exhalations.
We can pause, taking a beat or two or three, to detach from the “story”.
Awareness will arise to fill the gap as thinking slows down.
In the spaciousness, we experience revelation.
Awareness steps forward into the newly-opened gap of quiet mind.

We discover the reference point from which the content of our feelings or thoughts spring. Present moment focus allows Awareness to reveal the workings of the egoic thinking mind.
This interrupts the choice-less pull of ego’s familiar negativity.

No matter what the content of the narrative, by remaining still, by focusing on our breathing, we open to the direct experience of our Beingness in the present moment.
This is the comforting place of no-thought, no “me”, no problems.
This pure Beingness, Awareness, Who We Are, arises.

Spiritual Awakening happens as our old conditioned patterns are reviewed and dissolved.
We cannot prevent these glimpses of our true nature, yet me might miss them if our attention is too tightly focused on the content of our thoughts or pulled into the ditch of emotional suffering.

During Awakening, we witness conditioned habits undergoing deconstruction.
We realize it most easily as we look back to notice our growth. We may feel temporarily off-balance as we become unable to rely on our past habitual patterns.
We’re experiencing movement towards a higher level of consciousness. Just before this new level stabilizes, we may feel tremendous discomfort.
Our familiar “go-to's” have vanished and we feel uncertain.
This ambiguity feels uncomfortable, yet we can and do bear it.

Even though the human brain, wired for primitive survival, resists the threat of ambiguity in the present moment, the Awareness We Are is unaffected. Our Beingness simply watches the ego’s attempt to flee the present moment, its recycling of past memories, its zooming forward to an imagined “future”. This point of volition, our open willingness, offers us the experience of freedom. Awareness alerts us to the experience of seeming choice, whether to focus on habitual patterning or to stay alert, awake to the present moment.

The ego’s fear cannot stand confusion and doesn’t understand the mystery of spaciousness, the openness which needs no protection nor defense. As thinking slows or stops, a quandary of "not knowing" might arise to engender temporary fear.
The seemingly scary ego, fear crystallized in mental form, struggles and strains to keep on course-in its painful rut of misery.
Ego will present convincing arguments to prove that negativity will last forever. It desires to “live’, to continue its familiar momentum. We see through the ego’s game when we stop to look upon it, to behold its “pull” in the light of Conscious Awareness.

Is it true that this temporary misery is “guaranteed”, will it “become” the future? Can this be so? It may be familiar, yet does it come and go? What is That which does not come and go?

This present moment is our opportunity to see through the ego’s “fake news”.
To notice that its promises of security and safety - found somewhere outside of the present - are simply innocent mental-emotional habits that perpetuate familiar pain. The ruts of misery. Seeing this through Awareness offers the view of both madness and hope. Ego-mind is insane when its thinking scrambles and spins, yet this moment of temporary confusion is an opportunity of great hope.

As we become still, as we open to willingly watch and observe in surrendered allowance and acceptance of whatever arises, Awareness expands. Intense inward listening and concentration reach the eye of the storm within ego-mind. Awareness, the center of the unknown, reveals Itself. The spaciousness of our Beingness steps into this gap of no-thinking to expand into an indescribable wellspring of peaceful calm. Eckhart Tolle: “The ego is an unsubstantial phantom which cannot prevail against the power of Presence.” This miraculous space, the gap between thoughts, dissolves the emotional charge of negativity. "Mind the gap" takes on a whole new meaning.

The human brain has the capability to change its internal shape and functioning. Thinking, emotions and behavior are responsive to environment, this is neuroplasticity. The brain’s marvelous adaptability of its neural networks to change, make new connections and adjust through growth and reorganization is a biological support system to the process of Awakening.

Scientific studies have confirmed that the practice of mindful awareness (mindfulness) calms and balances the mind and alleviates imbalances in the brain. This is encouraging news. Although the mental prison of depression is familiar, we can leverage neuroplasticity’s support of our freedom, a biological pardon.

Awakening will present the exact tools that suit our particular mind-streams. We might try the practice of gratitude to disprove specific complaints of ego-mind. We may use contemplative investigation to disprove the story that negative thoughts tell. We might use thought-substitution or musical distraction to disrupt the busy mind. We may practice meditation, mindfulness, radical surrender or inquiry. We may simply watch and wait, testing the present moment to see if what arises is indeed as terrible as the ego’s negative thinking predicts.

Whichever method or technique we use, we are Awakening’s movement from darkness to light.
We are the Awareness which watches the awakened discrimination between fallacy and truth.
We are That which releases the attachment to egoic mind that we experience as freedom.

The direct experience of the fruits of the Truth of Who We Are: peace, certainty, strength, wisdom await us in the gaps between thoughts, Here-Now-in the present moment. This is becoming our new normal, the return to our inherent identity as expanding Consciousness. We melt into the seduction of our very Being, trading the misery of ego-mind for the restful, wise Certainty of the Divine Heart.

With You as Awakening Unfolds

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