The Struggle

Nothingness: nonexistence, empty space, a void...

For everyone there is a certain amount of struggle involved in living life. We all struggle at different times with issues like relationships, money, family, career, loss, addiction, health, love, etc. Often our life struggles are paralleled by resistance on our mat. In our practice, the struggle shows up first as tightness or generalized fatigue in our muscles. As we deepen our practice we notice that the feeling of physical resistance is purely a symptom of mental distraction and inner contraction. If we pause here and look closely we see that our struggle stems from some outdated mental form used to prop up our ego...

During particularly intense periods of resistance and struggle in my own life, I have had glimpses of what lies behind the difficulty in letting go of rigidity and learning to loosen up. (I can think back to being a small child and wandering off from my mother through the clothes racks at the mall. Upon realizing that I had lost her, the department store that seemed so pleasantly stimulating just moments before, suddenly became ominous and intimidating.) Letting go can feel very much like being lost or disappearing. In the space of a heart beats brief life, as we loosen our grip on security, an awareness of panic often floods our senses. The physical or mental act of letting go releases an emotional wave carrying within it the energy we were using to hold on. At the apex of the wave our consciousness is subsumed by a more instinctual part of our brain formulated around our drive to survive. Like a falling leaf, we become displaced from all that seemed cozy and familiar. For just a moment, as we stop controlling the forces around us, we disappear into the chaos of unfamiliar territory. Our dislocation, even if only an instant, is like a miniature death for our ego... So the struggle is always about trying to maintain or extend some false sense of security we are attempting to carry with us into the present. Even if the security we cling to is obviously self-limiting, it’s difficult for us to believe that it will be replaced by something else, often something more fulfilling. In this light the assertion, made by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, that ignorance is the greatest hindrance to enlightenment could’t be more compelling. It takes a great deal of courage and insight to even acknowledge that we are clinging and even more to choose to release our attachment. Over the years I have learned to welcome the intensity that comes with a good struggle because, in Pema Chodron’s words, “to lead a more passionate, full, and delightful life...we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how our world ticks, how the whole thing just is. If we are committed to comfort at any cost, as soon as we come up against the least edge of pain, we’re going to run; we’ll never know what’s beyond that particular barrier or wall or fearful thing.” Pema Chodron from The Wisdom Of No Escape

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