"When understood, the Buddha’s universe..is anything but alien and inhibiting. It is a world full of hope, where everything we need to do can be done and everything that matters is within human reach. It is a world where kindness, unselfishness, non-violence, and compassion achieve what self-interest and arrogance cannot. It is a world where any human can be happy in goodness and the fullness of giving." ❦ Eknath Easwara

April 30, 2013

How to Deal with Kickback and Reaction after Spiritual Victories

When you have made a moral or spiritual breakthrough, don't be surprised if you sometimes encounter a "kickback" or big reaction, or even a setback, right after your victory.  And then, if you aren't alert, you end up condemning yourself for a slip or fall and may think you haven't learned a thing.  Not true!

This reaction can make you doubt your victory, but what's really happening is that old, deep conditioned patterns are coming to the surface as "I" and "me" and "mine" and making a bid for your consent or acquiescence that these kleshas are in fact "I" or "me" or "mine."

This self-assertion of old, conditioned patterns can be so strong that you can almost feel like there's another person trying to assert him/herself as you.  Or, it can feel like dark malevolent external forces fighting against your progress.  Don't buy it!  It's all your mind and in your mind.

Whether we see/feel the resistance as some self-asserting old "self" or as projected "out there" as others and external resistance, you don't have to go outside your own heart and mind to deal skillfully with this noxious stuff—indeed, it's literally impossible to go outside your own mind and heart. I mean, where would that be?  

The very strength, even ferocity, with which these old self-identifications can arise merely show how much we may have identified with some old way of being and doing.

The kleshas—the hindrances or mental poisons of the mind—always lie and misrepresent.  It's NOT the case that you didn't have a breakthrough; it's just that often even very big breakthroughs don't get rid of all the junk in our mental basements.  That takes ongoing work and patience, helped and inspired by the light of our big breakthrough.

So, hang in there!  Over years of spiritual practice, I've almost come to expect such reactions and kickbacks as just part of the path of awakening.  Sometimes, a big breakthrough really is a clean break. You just move forward with new grace and authority. But more often, speaking for myself, I've been tested and tempted after the fact to be deceived by my old conditioning coming as "I" and "me" and "mine."  It's like Jesus talking about "the devil" or the Buddha talking about "Mara."  In reality, these things are just your "shadow stuff" not some supernatural power or authority.

When reactions to progress arise, see through the lies of setback or failure, and stand your ground in what you've seen and won.  The great Galilean teacher said, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" as well as "Resist not evil."  Both ways are skillful. [See "Non-resistance and the Art of Resisting without Resisting!"] Standing your ground in the face of reaction to progress is a skill that doesn't require belief in metaphysical powers or evil, anymore than "Mara" in Buddhism is a real entity or a metaphysical evil.

Don't be tricked or fooled! Know yourself!  Know your "enemy" but know it as not-self!   Everything you need to win full liberation and freedom is within each us and within the scope of our practice.  With each victory, we learn to trust this ourselves and our practice more fully and deeply.

A breakthrough is a breakthrough.  Sure, there may be more work to do. So what?  That just means we are human!  Love yourself and roll up your sleeves and move on to new fields of awakening.  You can't be defeated, and even apparent setbacks will make you stronger as you learn from them.

Steven Goodheart

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you Steven. You always give me just what I need at just the right time. Tashi delek _()_