You would never do this to yourself consciously.
Nobody likes to suffer.
But when something in us insists on awakening, we have to become aware of the ways we self-sabotage.
Luckily, gone are the days when we could stay asleep at the wheel of our lives. Awakening means to end our pain and it is the very best thing we can do with our precious lives.
But be sure: the arising of this new consciousness will activate the many unconscious ways we insist to stay asleep and unwittingly cause ourselves pain.
These hidden dynamics have to come up so we can become free of them.
So, lets take a look at the forces that will fight to maintain the status quo within us, the forces that want to make sure our old way of being—and with that, our habitual level of suffering—is maintained.
These forces are two: fear of change and the pain body.
The unknown scares us, even when the unknown is happiness, peace and Self-realization.
Imagine for a moment living permanently in true freedom and joy. It would be like being in a different world, wouldn’t it? It would take us beyond what positive psychology calls your “happiness set-point,” which is the way we’re comfortable—not too happy and not too sad.
We may call it our comfort zone only because we’re used to it. But, looking from the vantage point of our immense potential for true happiness, it is really our “dis-comfort” zone. It is so much less than we actually are, so vastly below what we are really capable of. But we are attached to what we know and stepping out of the zone of what we are used to can be scary.
Well no, in reality awakening is not scary at all, but simply different from the way we know ourselves now. And the pain body, which is our unconscious commitment to staying asleep, will do something to prevent us from finding the happiness and freedom we want.
The pain body is our involuntary tendency to cling to the pain we are used to.
“Who would I be if I were totally free of my anxiety, my depression, conflicts or fear?”
This is a difficult question for many to answer. We’re just so used to our difficulties.
Have you ever had the thought during very happy times, “This is too good to last?” This thought, of course, sets us up for the fall. If we look deeply, we can find many such patterns of self-inflicted suffering.
We like to blame others or circumstances, but if the same issues pop up regularly, it clearly has something to do with ourselves. Unconsciously we produce our discomfort.
We create our reality through our thoughts and our conditioned emotional reactions. When these are negative, the same problems are likely to show up again and again until we change the roots of the patterns. This includes the ways we self-sabotage to resist our awakening. It’s a vicious circle. We can stay stuck like this for a long time.
Soon after we make the decision to take our lives to a higher level, the force of self-sabotage will rear its head. It is an inevitable part of awakening. Don’t fight it. Welcome it and be aware. It’s necessary so we can learn not to fall for it.
Observe how the many forms it can take all seem completely convincing: You have no money for the training you want to take, no time for your new practice, the effort is too much trouble, you find yourself getting distracted and on and on.
Although these may be pure pain body manifestations, they appear absolutely compelling to us. Like the cheated lover, we are the last to know.
Even more difficult to see are self-sabotage events that appear to come from outside: external interferences, family objections, accidents, illness, a sudden increase in problems or even outright chaos.
All these can be manifestations of our ego’s unconscious desire to reject our impulse to wake up and improve our lives. In truth there is nothing—and I mean absolutely nothing—that can keep us from awakening. Self-sabotage just makes it more difficult.
Some self-sabotage events, like accidents or illnesses, are unforeseeable. Most people would never suspect that such incidents can have something to do with their own subconscious mind—until they repeat themselves at similar junctions in life.
Another form of self-sabotage is what we might call “metaphysical delusions,” the conviction that grace will somehow take care of us, that all is fine and that no action on our part is necessary. But grace comes to us in exact proportion to self-effort. Grace is free and abundant, but we must make the effort to become ever more able to receive grace.
We do not need to know how self-sabotage and the pain body work. We are not here to write a thesis about them but to get free of them. That freedom comes with Self-awareness. Awareness unfolds when our yearning to experience spiritual liberation becomes stronger than the old habits of interference.
How does this happen? This inner maturing is accomplished by two forces:
• either by suffering and/or
• by a decision to do what is necessary to reach this freedom, aided by a deep yearning for it.
Yes, we have a choice here and we can make it right now. If we are able to set an absolute intention to do what needs to be done, and then act on it consistently, we can prevent immense suffering in the future! Without such deep inner commitment, we will have to wait for suffering to give us motivation.
We become free of the pain body by becoming increasingly aware how we get ourselves entangled in suffering through our unconscious reactions to people and situations.
It is not difficult to see many of the movements of the pain body. We know our habitual patterns. Observe how the pain body attracts certain thoughts, moods and experiences by which it creates the internal environment for depression, anxiety, a relapse into addiction, grief, anger and so on.
Self-observation is the key. See how you believe the thoughts, fall into the emotions and act it all out. Next you will react with your familiar patterns of FFIC (Fight, Flight, Indulge and Complain), all of which serve to strengthen, not overcome the problem because what we resist persists.
Sometimes these conflicts or negative moods may have to develop fully before we realize what is going on. Looking backward, be aware of the role of the pain body. How did I get angry, sad, insulted? What happened inside me? Did my pain body have anything to do with it?
At other times, we may be able to catch it early and, feeling the subtle onset of internal pain, stop it right there. Eventually the patterns will no longer come up.
A keen awareness of the pain body will dissolve it. It can only exist as long as we are not conscious of it, for it lives in the darkness of unconscious motivation.
I see this all the time in my personal mentoring of students. They make a powerful commitment to pursue their spiritual growth in a very focused way for three months or more. This courage and dedication brings up the pain body.
It always does; I can count on it. But their commitment is like a force that allows them to jump over the abyss of these unconscious habits, and it gives them the time and the skills to change these dynamics. Any powerful commitment to awakening works like this. It enables us to reach an awareness we could not see before.
When we look closely, we can see the pain body for what it is—an empty phantom, despite all the power it wields. And as soon as it is seen, it dissolves.
No dark force can survive in the light of awareness.
So watch for repetitive patterns of pain and ask: Could this be my pain body? It most likely is.
Becoming aware frees us of the contraction of the fear-based aspects of ego and opens you to the astounding presence of the higher Self.
This is the awakening to true freedom.
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Assistant Editor: Steph Richard
Photo: Jan Myhrehagen via Pixoto