By Greg Ascue
In facilitating people, in teaching new facilitators, and in teaching self-inquiry one thing that I like to introduce is the notion of “ending the war against yourself”. Many people tend to carry a lot of shame, judgement, and negativity about themselves. They are at war with themselves. On the flip side of this there is a subtle form of this war which is the grasping to hold on to things that are pleasant, as if life cannot be trusted to unfold in a manner that is right.
Because of this we often use words like “just experience this as it is” or “thank you for arising, I love you, your welcome to stay” while doing inquiry. But there is often a lot of misunderstanding of what these words are pointing to. What people often hear is “just experience this as it is and now it can go” or “thank you for arising, I love you, you’re welcome to stay, and now you should leave”. Or people think what we are suggesting is that, somehow, they should just suffer and forget any other possibility for their lives. Neither interpretation is exactly right, it’s more nuanced that this.
We truly are suggesting that people try to accept presently appearing words, pictures, or energies as they are, without trying to reject, hold on to, or change them. And (the “and” here is important) we are not saying that your experience of life can’t change, that you cannot experience peace, well-being, and happiness. There are the outer circumstances of your life and your inner experience of them. It is possible for things to remain as they are (on an apparent level) and still feel at peace. Paradoxically, the change in inner experience sometimes leads to a change in outer experience. A good example of what is being pointed to is how many people, when they are told or know that they are going die, let go of the small stuff and experience deeper meaning in their lives (sometimes for the first time). I have, personally, heard someone say that their fatal cancer was the best thing that ever happened to them, that they would not trade what they were experiencing for anything. That for the first time they were living without fear. They, ultimately, did die but they lived before they died.
In the end, it’s not so much that this war is wrong or bad – it just doesn’t work. Moreover, in not working people tend to hurt. To understand this, one thing that I invite people to do (when they are feeling some strong energy/ physical sensation/ emotion) is to try to make what they are feeling go away instantly (using all of their attention and effort). This is most often not possible; it even makes things stronger for many. Then I invite them to try to hold on to strong energy/ physical sensation/ emotion (again using all of their attention and effort); to not let it get stronger, weaker, or change in any way. This, too, is most often fruitless. I then ask “why do things that don’t work?” Then I invite them to feel the energy as it is, without the struggle. This small example can be used as a little reminder of what is being discussed here, a form of self-inquiry (self-inquiry is a range of skills and tools).
Why wait until you are about to die? End the war against yourself.