Digging Into Patterns of AvoidanceAs always, I encourage you to get a pen and paper. You may also want to find a good psychologist or psychiatrist to help uncover your patterns of avoidance. The therapist allows you to talk out loud in a safe space; the journal allows you to talk to yourself in a self space. Until you can talk honestly to others and to yourself, you will not go very far with this issue. You will very likely continue to delude and deceive yourself, and the cycles of pain and suffering will continue in your life.
But the good news is that you can change all of this in any given moment. That's just how powerful you are, but you can't own that power without owning every aspect of yourself--both the light and the dark. That is the path to true love, which embraces all. This isn't some extraordinary phenomenon beyond your current abilities. This is a basic birthright that all human beings have at all times and in all moments. We've only allowed ourselves into being deluded to think that we don't have this power. Just imagine if all our of movies, TV shows, and Internet sites reinforced the power of infinite love instead of useless junk like a man biogenetically morphing into a lizard man and trying to do the same to everyone in NYC. I mean, if I brought that up in conversation, more of you would probably believe in that power than in the possibility that we can be and live from a space of infinite love. And that's just sad.
Finding the Seminal Moments of AvoidanceA lot of avoidance techniques and strategies often started when we were young. We didn't want to get hit, yelled at, demeaned, or otherwise made to feel bad. So we found ways out of those uncomfortable situations. We built the basis of avoidance there. Perhaps we also watched our parents, relatives, and friends avoid difficult things. So we learned a few more things. Pretty soon, we did and said things regularly to avoid any perceived threat that might make us feel marginally uncomfortable. This may have been closing and deadening the heart, so you wouldn't feel hurt. It may involve not taking any perceived risks to achieve something that you love to do because you've been told that you're no good at it or that you can't make money/survive doing it. There are so many ways that it all got built up, and you've got to tear it all back down if you want to truly understand the truth and live from a space of love. And the clock is ticking.
"Ticking? What do you mean ticking?"
Ultimately, we are here for a small fraction of time in this life and this body. It can end any second. Yet every day I see people coasting along, trying to do what is expected of them so that they feel safe and out of harm's way. And every day, they are missing the opportunity to embrace the moment and live their lives. Over time, people get harder, more upset, or more lost. They get angry because they're doing what they were told they were supposed to do, but it isn't making them happy. In fact, the family, six-figure job, four-car garage, and breeder's choice labradoodle are making them miserable. They keep waiting for some magic moment to come and give them ultimate, unending happiness. But how could it? If a man with the keys to your love knocked on you door, you are so used to avoiding things that you might just slam the door in his face.
Unlocking Yourself and Committing to Being UncomfortableI regularly point people who are interested in working with me and who say they want to honestly walk the spiritual path to the blog post called: "Facing Discomfort on the Spiritual Path." It's not that the spiritual path has to be hard. It's that we've avoided all the hard work, and now that's a lot of what's left. It's also because the immense beauty and love that's locked inside you is underneath all of that junk. And it's time to get to work.
However, this doesn't have to be a long drawn-out hard thing. This can be extremely easy when you are truly and honestly willing to let it all go. Spiritual awakening is not a sum of the work you do. It is the arising of consciousness whenever we finally make space for it and when it is right in our soul path. Awakening won't come to everyone. That's fine. Just follow your heart, and do what you love. That's where awakening would take you anyway. But even if you wake up, you still have to commit to love again and again until it is a natural rhythm in your life like the breath. Each current moment is another chance to commit to love. Each past moment is already gone, and each future moment isn't here yet. So you also have to re-commit to love and healing in every moment of every day. It is a process only in the sense that you live in a world based on time, but it is also not a process because you are only ever here and now.
Still Trying to Live in the Not Here and NowNow, I have to ask you a question, for all that planning and trying to get somewhere else, how does that make you feel? Are you enjoying the anxiety to achieve something else? Are you living in fear that you might not get to where you want to be? It's always been a pretty miserable feeling to me. Even when I look at it and breathe into it, it's still a miserable program that I've been hacking and working on deleting from my inner computer system. It gets me nothing, and it perpetuates fear.
Looking at these inner programs is important. It shows how you are still trying to be somewhere else. In essence, you are avoiding the present moment. It's crazy, right? You can't ever avoid the present moment. We are so lost at times that we run right into things that if we'd been present we would have easily addressed. The irony of trying to avoid yourself is that you will keep running into yourself and all the issues that you've been trying to avoid. So you keep attracting unhealthy situations. You only find romantic partners who can't show up or commit to you. Your job opportunities keep evaporating. There are plenty of other situations that I can describe that will reflect what you are avoiding, and these external mirrors are showing up precisely to get you to face yourself and to be in this current moment.
5 Ways to Come Back to the PresentYou only get this one life as this particular person. Take advantage of it. Here are five simple ways you can back to the present:
- Breathe. You always have it, and the breath is never in any other moment. Focus on a few deep breaths to come back to the here and now
- Squeeze your hands. You can do this with any body part, but this is another way to call your attention to this present moment through sensation. Your body can never been in the future or past. A light squeezing of the hands can be an extremely easy way to come back to the here and now.
- Call a close friend. This may be trickier if you've never really listened to someone and if you've never really talked honestly before. Truly listening to another and speaking from the heart can pull you back into this moment and out of whatever noise is going on between the ears.
- Paint an Object. Paint, color, draw, draw in the sand with a stick, or do something artistic that requires you to focus on what you are seeing. This requires you to focus in this moment Keep in mind that you're not here to draw great art. You may do it with a simple little doodle on a sticky note. The point is to re-focus on what is presently before you.
- Exercise. This requires more time than the first two, but it's how a lot of people get more present to themselves. Be sure not to be hurting your body through too much exercise. Hoever, learning to commit to move through discomfort is also important.
Re-Committing to Yourself Every DayEvery day is a new chance to re-commit to yourself. If you fail a thousand times, you will still have another chance to re-commit. As I mentioned earlier though, you need to look at where this self-avoidance and lack of commitment are coming from. This is how you bring awareness to yourself, and through that awareness you can make mindful decisions and start to re-program yourself and your mind. Otherwise, you will continue a reactive pattern, and each new thing you do will be another drug--another away to drag yourself away from you. This includes what many people are doing on the spiritual path. They are chasing gurus, experiences in India, breathwork, hallucinogenic trips, and other experiences to avoid themselves, instead of going deeper. But the spiritual path isn't going to take you away from these issues. The true spiritual path takes you right into them, and until you have the willingness to commit to yourself, you will very likely leave the work you need to do right when the going gets tough and the opportunity to be more fully you is right at your doorstep.
The photo comes from my friend and reader, Becky Stiller. Please feel free to check out her beautiful work on her flickr link.