by Robert Wilkinson
A long time ago I learned a natural and direct process that stops negative parts of us from externalizing. While some may believe this is easier said than done, I assure you success if you diligently work the process, applying its precepts, and don't give up through impatience, ego judgments, and other obstructions getting in the way of the discipline. I can say this since it's worked for me and countless others over many years.
I first gave you this about a year ago, and it’s as practical and effective today as ever. It’s basically an exercise in mindfulness, and helps us regard our negative patterns as belonging to a being that is separate from who we really ARE. That’s why we begin today’s lesson by remembering that we ARE an Eternal Consciousness that is Unconditional in its Love, and it's only the personality that confuses who we ARE with all the other strange learned emotions, speech patterns, and behaviors that are not helpful to anything or anyone.
We pursue pleasure and happiness, and along the way often find pain and unhappiness for all kinds of reasons that often have little or nothing to do with us personally. Our 5 senses and minds tend to obscure much in pursuing life in this 4 dimensional existence, and the processes of sequence, selection, desire, fear, vanity, and attachment often don't help us see things clearly.
In the process of remembering we're Unconditional Love we often get frustrated when the conditions of worldly love are taken away, or we are denied that which we believe is pleasurable and worthy of our desire. It’s human to have the unfortunate tendency to believe all things are possible, as well as compare ourselves to others who seem to have it easier than we do or possess what we want to possess.
Of course this is an illusion, since each has their own unique destiny to pursue, and that precludes many things that could lead us astray from our Higher Purpose, or Dharma. In this impermanent world things are taken away or denied and we move on whether we want to or not. It is how we deal with our reactions that determines whether we're having a good time or a hard time in this worldly process.
Though there are many schools of thought about how to deal with negative feelings, I don't believe it's useful to indulge or externalize those types of feelings, nor to deny them. Remember that a pattern repeated becomes a habit, and getting into a habit of expressing unhelpful feelings usually only breeds more. And of course, repression only builds pressure until the behavior that’s been repressed comes out, usually with extreme force that usually is out of proportion to whatever sets it into motion.
The Buddhist practice in mindfulness I’ve embraced over the years has led me to the view that when confronted with our own imperfect and/or negative response to a thing, person, or circumstance, we should observe the tendency of negativity as it arises with infinite dispassion and detachment. By observing the behavior impersonally, and seeing it as something that only exists if we feed the habit, we will be able to release it however we are able in ways appropriate to that moment.
There are 4 stages of realization in this process. The first stage is when we notice how we were negative in our responses and feelings after the fact, and resolve to change the behavior "the next time." This generates positive intention and mindfulness which are necessary to transmute negativity. That's why we can't get too down on ourselves even after we've indulged the passions, since self-loathing is not helpful to generate positive feelings and intention.
The second stage is when we notice the negativity while we're in the middle of the passions, and stop the behavior during the experience and move our mind and speech into different directions. We can train our mind to "flag" certain feelings, attitudes, reactions, and other learned behaviors and redirect the energies to more productive ends, which may or may not have anything to do with the thing that triggered our negativity to begin with.
The third stage of realization is when we feel the arising of the negative response and at the moment we could externalize it, we don't go there. We stop the behavior before it starts, whether by not saying something we feel like saying, or not reacting in a negative manner to whatever confronts us. This is the true beginning of self-control, since we are changing the pattern as it begins to arise and move our energy in a different direction of our own choosing.
The fourth stage of realization is when we sense the beginning of the tendency that could externalize as negativity, and with detachment and compassion for ourselves and whatever triggered the response, see it as something unreal so that it never becomes any form of potential action, feeling, or thought at all. This breaks the pattern of negativity externalizing in any way even for a short time. Eventually the passions do not control us, nor even reside in us as something to be externalized, but only a prior tendency that isn't as strong as before.
Whether you're at stage 1, 2, or 3 of this process in any given stressful situation, do not judge yourself for doing it "good enough" or not. Simply apply this formula even to your own self judgments, and resolve to be mindful of your own thoughts, feelings, speech and actions so you can observe what moves you. Then you can choose your responses, and eventually eliminate the patterns of externalizing negativity in every way by transmuting them into positivity and altruistic intention. The rewards of pursuing this self-discipline are infinite.
© Copyright 2008, 2014 Robert Wilkinson