By Fiona Robertson
Many spiritual teachers and traditions talk about finding what we need within ourselves. We’re encouraged to look within, rather than seeking salvation outside ourselves. Ultimately, this is great advice. However, if we perceive ourselves to be lacking or deficient, it feels totally counter-intuitive. The whole seeking movement (whatever it is we’re seeking, be it spiritual sustenance, enlightenment, material possessions, or personal achievements) really emanates from the sense that we’re not enough as we are. This sense of lack can be really visceral; it can feel like there’s an insatiable, unfillable void or black hole right in our centre.
The notion of deficiency lies at the heart of nearly all the beliefs we have about ourselves. We believe ourselves to be lacking or failing in some (or all) areas of life. It’s hardly surprising, then, that we look outside ourselves for things to make up for our perceived shortcomings. We stand or fall (in our own eyes) on whether we manage to fill the gap that we feel in the centre of ourselves.
The sense of our own deficiency is deeply compelling. In fact, we take it to be fact rather than a matter of belief. We make statements about ourselves – I’m not good enough or I’m the weak one or I’m a victim – as if they were objective truth, because what we believe about ourselves feels true, of course. The statements come with images and bodily feelings and sensations; we experience our beliefs in both mind and body.
The bodily feelings often come with labels. Tightness in the chest might be called ‘anxiety’ or ‘anger’. A churning feeling in the stomach may be labelled ‘anxiety’ or ‘stress’. Each of us has our own unique language, as it were. We’ve often taken the bodily sensations and energies to mean something, too. As we inquire, we discover exactly what meanings we’ve ascribed to each sensation; we unravel the associated words and images, delving deeper in to what we’ve assumed to mean that we’re deficient in some way.
As we begin to look and feel, letting every element be as it is, we often make surprising discoveries. The feeling in the belly that we’ve been mistaking for weakness all this time turns out to contain strength as well. The sensation in the chest that we were convinced meant that we were irretrievably damaged was actually a simple and natural longing for connection. So often, in sessions, there’s a moment when transformation occurs. A previously terrifying image becomes benign. A word that’s always held such negative meaning turns into a mute collection of letters. A seemingly significant energy begins to move or change, and the meaning that it’s held disperses into the ether.
It would appear that no thing can be present without its seeming opposite being somewhere in the mix, even if it is hidden. (This idea is most beautifully illustrated by the yin/yang symbol, of course). If we identify as weak, we’ll inevitably find strength (or some similar quality) when we really look. The endless void transforms into a fountain of fullness. We discover that the sense of lack contains all that we desired. Despite the appearance of opposites, and our identification with one over another, we find that really we’re part of an indivisible whole. We come back to the source, and are re-sourced. We discover rich resources right where we least expected to find them, in the darkest, most deficient and painful places.
Fiona Robertson is a Senior Facilitator/Trainer of the Living Inquiries, and the co-creator of the Anxiety Inquiry. She loves her work, and she also loves writing, music (she used to be a bass player) and dancing (in the kitchen, mostly). She intends to live in a house by the sea one day. You can find out more about the Living Inquiries here: www.beyondourbeliefs.org and you can read Fiona’s writings here: www.whilstwalkingjack.blogspot.com. Feel free to email her at [email protected]