How and why can meditation be of benefit to a victim of physical and mental abuse?
Tamami: Let’s say that someone was physically abused by her father for most of her life. This constant abuse has led her to believe that she is not worthy of her dad’s love. It has also caused her to make what she considers bad choices in her life. She is really struggling and has suffered suicidal thoughts from time to time. How and why can meditation be of benefit to her?
Adya: A lot of people are like her. There are so many people who have terrible upbringings and carried the trauma. I think the more traumatic episodes and the more painful episodes we have in our lives, often those painful episodes start separating ourselves from us. When we are in the grate pain, we often disconnect from authentic self, from truth. Especially, when we are abused from parents or someone we trust, we stop trusting ourselves. When you are adult, it is different. When you are an adult, you can say that is a bad behavior and you don’t want to do anything to do with it. You can dismiss it out of your life. But when you are a child, you can’t do that. You can’t even think of your parents in those terms. It would be too overwhelming. Your life depends upon them. You need them in your life in a certain way. So all the negativity often gets internalized. “They cannot be bad; there is something wrong with me.” I think to engage in an authentic spirituality can help people to start reexamining that.
First of all, just by meditating in a correct way. If you try to do it just a “right” way or a perfect way, it can exacerbated the sense of failure. But if you do it in a softer way and an open way, it can help to reconnect you because you get quiet enough. You start reconnect something that is authentic; something that people might think that they lost or feel like they lost. They can start begin to reconnect with it. And it is not unusual, but at the certain point, some of those old traumatic memories will start flowing back to consciousness which of course is not anybody wants, but it is actually quit necessary for that to walk away out of our system, out of our consciousness. If you are meditating being something allow staying in present, then they can start moving out. People who keep repressing and pushing them down, they never have a chance to leave, to move through. It can be a difficult process, but I have seen a lot of people make huge leaps and healing. And they realize that a lot of assumptions they made when they were children about their unworthiness and… it tends to perpetuate the cycle of violence by choosing perpetuators of violence even though they don’t want to… that’s what they know. That’s based on usually unconscious beliefs about their unworthiness. What it used to have a certain comfort even though it feels terrible, at least we know it. It’s familiar. So I think good spirituality can help us…it also starts very consciously question all of these beliefs about ourselves, about the world, about whether we are worthy or unworthy. A good spiritual practice will help us breakthrough those. A bad spiritual practice will exacerbate it, make one feel less and less unworthy. A good practice will highlight it and will directly address it. It will not try to cover over.
T: In your book, Falling into Grace you mentioned the differences between “ending suffering” and “managing suffering”. Why do you think that some people seek to manage their suffering, rather than end it outright?
A: Primarily fear, I think. People don’t even think that they can actually really go beyond it. They think you can manage it. That’s what they see in the culture. People are managing their experiences the best they possibly can. And this is unconscious. Nobody would come up and tell you this. That’s what you see everywhere around you. People are managing their suffering. But to really go beyond the suffering it does take a leap of courage. It takes questioning very deep seeded assumptions. And a lot of those deep seeded assumptions have to do with yourself. That can be quit frightening initially to really look at it. That’s why we don’t look at it. So it takes some courage. And it takes someone to say it is possible. You can move beyond this. Just that message– It’s possible and you can do it. It’s natural to do so. You don’t have to be Superman or Superwoman to do it. It is part of your make-up. You can do it. That’s maybe the biggest element of all. Just knowing that you can do it. It’s kind of like enlightenment. If you think that enlightenment is very rare and it’s going to take your life time, it probably will, but as soon as people open to the idea of maybe it is only been rare because it is what everybody thinks it is. Maybe it’s rare because everybody thinks one has to be perfect to achieve it. Maybe… and maybe it doesn’t have to be the way. Maybe that’s just been an ancient cultural belief system. It got in our way. It doesn’t actually help us. I have seen it over and over… as soon as people open their mind to possibilities, all of the sudden everything is possible. I think a lot of people have heard that it’s possible. You don’t have to carry this around for the rest of your life. You don’t have to manage it. I have seen many people, including some of them I asked to teach have had horrendous upbringings…unimaginably painful… in early of their lives and they can move beyond it. They really can. If anything, it make them very compassionate people and they are able to help people who have been through the same thing. That’s where we are all expert at. The things we had to work hard to get through that’s the area of our personal expertise in our lives. This is not just belief. I have seen many people who moved beyond their suffering and some of their really dark stuff of their lives. It takes greedy kind of determination. But they can do it. And knowing that you can do it is huge.
Majority of us cannot find a way to end suffering outright. We choose to manage suffering. why?
T: This is my own experience too… if I can get by today by managing suffering, I am OK. It seems like I can’t just let go because let of the suffering is losing my identity. By just managing it, I feel like I can still go back to “the place”. But letting go feels like I lose myself. Do you feel that this is because some people simply cannot find a way to end it outright, or perhaps make a conscious decision not to?
A: Yes, letting go is harder because part of the pain of suffering is things happen to you cause you to lose your identity. When you were young, something overwhelming thing happens to cause you to lose touch with yourself was what was authentic. You lose your sense of who you are. And then when you let go of the suffering, when you are adult, you have the new identity… you are the person who suffered. You are the victim of your life. It is an identity. And to let go of that, it almost feels in some strange way like you are getting robbed your identity for the second time. It makes kind of rekindles old wound of losing your identity. The difference is… the first time when you lose your identity is to lose your touch of your authenticity. To lose your identity in a spiritual sense is to return to your authenticity. You are losing your false identity. You are losing the identity that doesn’t work for you. You are losing the identity of suffer, of my past defining who I am. Your experience is very common in the sense that it does feel like… I am losing the only thing I have here…and I already did that. It was terrible and I don’t want to do it again. So it is not necessary for someone to let go all in once. I mean…who dose that any way? Really…it is pretty rare, isn’t it? Usually, letting go is a by-product of connecting with deeper truth. So to try to let go before connecting with deeper truth is very difficult. To let go once you connect with deeper truth is easy. That’s why part of my teaching is I don’t tell people just directly just surrender, just let go. I say surrender is part of spirituality, part of what happens, but almost nobody can just surrender. You have to connect with truth that allows you to surrender. ….When you really connect with deeper sense of yourself,…. Oh I thought I was defined by my past and my suffer today in the way makes me feel diminished, small and unworthy… and when I really look at it I can come to see, more importantly to experience that I am something completely different that I thought I was…something completely different. When you connect with deeper truth, then surrendering is almost automatic.
Too many people try to surrender first. It’s like the old teaching of non-attachment. Buddha talked about non attachment. It is a great teaching, but the way people hear it that they are mistaking for an effect of waking up for the cause of waking up. So when you wake up, non-attachment becomes kind of natural to us. It is much more spontaneous. It is not necessary a means to wake up. It is the natural by-product. That’s why I say you can’t fake it until you make it in enlightenment business. How many of generations of people try to become non-attached? Meanwhile, they are actually sitting there feeling angry, resentment, greed, jealously and lost. And on top of it, they think they shouldn’t be feeling those things. In that case spirituality has done them disservice. Non-religious person just wants it, the religious person wants something and they want not to want it. It is more conflicted.
If someone says, “I want…” the first question I ask them is “So what would you get from it?” He says “I don’t care about enlightenment. I just want to be loved.” “OK, if you get loved and got everything you wanted, then what would you be experiencing? What would it get you?” “Oh, then I would feel like this. I feel worthy… I feel…” “OK, if you feel worthy, what would it get you?” If you are following the line of wanting and attachment, it takes you right into the truth. But if you are opposed to wanting, it takes you far away. I am not the person who just says “Be non-attached.” I will ask “What do you really want? What your attachment is ultimately really getting?” We can take something quit egoistic and jealously or revenge. “If I can just get revenge on someone…” “Oh, if you got revenge, how would you feel?” “Oh I would feel great. I would feel powered. I would feel very good.” “If you feel really good, what would it get you?” There is always next layer of feeling, next layer of experience. And if you follow them all the way through, they all end up in the same place. “I would feel totally in peace. You start out with revenge and you end up in totally peace. Then you realize, “Oh, through revenge, the person is actually seeking peace and contentment at the end of the line.” And see someone can start connect with that, they realize “Oh, that’s what I really want.” Then they are not making desire bad. They are utilizing it. “I want to feel better about myself.” “OK, then what would it get you?” “I want to feel peace.” “OK, then what would it get you?” “Oh, then I feel free and I will feel happy…” all these desires convert into the same thing as someone who wants enlightenment. They all are converting to the same point. That’s why I say “Never make what you want wrong. Just follow it all the way through.” Because the drama of human being is so conflict within ourselves. And we don’t solve conflict in ourselves by creating more conflict. We say “I shouldn’t want what I want. I shouldn’t feel what I feel.” It doesn’t work. For how many thousands of years religious people are doing that? And where do they get there? Usually a lot of guilt and shame as far as I can see.