The spiritual practice involves exploring who and what we ultimately are our true essential nature. However, western psychology focuses on the conditioned mind and illuminates it as brilliantly as the East illuminates the unconditioned awareness. Psychology allows us to understand the psyche, how it develops and becomes conflicted, and how it replays these inner conflicts within defensive patterns manifesting in interpersonal relationships. Based on meditative practice, Eastern psychology presents teachings of our essential nature, our sense of being, which lies beyond the scope of the conditioned mind. Letting go of the fixation of from, removing individual characteristics and attachments, whilst the Western emphasises coming into form and personal creativity.
The western approach tends to avoid dealing with their emotional problems, conflicts and growth.
Spiritual Bypassing – It is tempting for people with difficulty navigating life’s development challenges, especially within a dysfunction in Western society and its taboos and lack of family structure. So creating a new spiritual identity without solving the psychological underpinning is just a new form of retreat and escape. A way to rationalise and reinforce old defences with spiritual materialism, narcissism, and groupthink. All attempts to shore up development deficiencies and create a new false persona. Three basic tendencies keep us tied to the wheel of suffering :
- Tendency to reject what is difficult and painful
- Tendency to grasp something solid for comfort and security
- The tendency to desensitise is not to feel the whole scope of feelings, such as pain and pleasure.
Heaven, Earth and Man
The three major pitfalls of the human condition are egocentric self-absorption, numbing out and distraction. We are learning to surrender and let go of all investment in form, the concept of me, myself and I. New consciousness brings to light and helps us release the attachment to this limited notion of who we are, receiving our more profound nature, which lies beyond all form, structure and thought. We can then let go of suffering conditions such as grasping, aggression, ignorance, lust, pride and jealousy. We can replace poisonous tendencies with more virtuous ones, purifying ourselves of lower desires and impulses. The discovery of emptiness, surrendering attachment, and the mind’s fixations. This unlocks the vital energy contained in the poison of suffering, where new energy can be used for new passions and creativity.
As we awaken the heart, we step out of character, remove our armour to face reality and allow others into our personal domain. The frozen personality starts to thaw, illuminates our true nature and liberates energy. Attaching to the personality limits our consciousness and stirs up fears and resistance, which impedes fluid movement, reducing people to a state of hopelessness and dependency. Coercive attempts to dismantle the personality only heighten the inner divisions, conflict and ego defences. Children lack the capacity for self-reflection, objectivity, knowing and seeing themself, and holding the experience of awareness. They need adults/parents to hold, contain, mirror and reflect on them. Children show tremendous ingenuity in turning threats to their existence into a stable functioning identity.
Neurosis and sanity, imprisonment and freedom are all said to co-emerge, arsing together as two interwoven sides of the whole cloth. Inner resources can become so intertwined with defences and don’t know how to sort out the gold from the trash. Sooner or later, these defences do not serve us as adults, leading to an identity crisis, forcing us to look deeper at ourselves. The beginning of the path and unlocking of intelligence, where sanity and inner resources are locked within the conditioned personality. Three main choices tend to reinforce pathology, and the other is a path to freedom.
- Rationalise neurotic patterns, turn back from freedom
- Attach or punish ourselves for our personality or become an inflated ego (spiritual)
- open up to our experience, facing and working with ourselves. The capacity to stay present amid our pain, fear and feelings allows us to tap into inner sources and power.
Meditative awareness allows us to develop inner inquiry, witness our actions, and witness how we maintain our false identities. We can work with our sadness and sorrow, which reveals a deeper longing to wake up, tell the truth, to be real with a new desire to change and be authentic. Western psychology revolves around a functional ego as the transitional mental structure that serves as an interim caretaker for survival—protection, and navigation in the world. The “I” believes it is in control, with a sense of stability and security for the developing child, a way of trying to be. To be loveable by compromising ourselves, serving or saving our parents, or pleasing others. We can define ego strength as the capacity to function effectively in the world without being debilitated by inner conflicts. The central ego-self axis in which most people revolve is, at best, at an early emotional and psychological development stage.
Western psychology believes the child is born without an innate sense of self, and the self is created through interaction with primary caretakers, which helps construct the self. An identity is formed out of self-representations by internalising and identifying with aspects of their parents and how their parents relate to them. Eastern psychology translates the ego as “grasping at the self “or holding onto the ” I ” concept. The “I” I think I am chasing worldly ideas or spiritual experiences. Holding oneself separate, making oneself something solid and definite, identified with a split-off fragment of the whole experiential field. The more we disown our experience, the more we fall prey to the inner struggle, anxiety and alienation. This is the skandha, the birth of ignorance, where the child identifies with the body and a sense of boundedness. A limited perception of impulses, adapting a restricted stance of passion, aggression and ignorance. Passion means chasing, grasping, seducing, possessing or clinging to a situation that confirms our false identity.
Aggression involves attacking or rejecting whatever threatens our identity; we must ward off to protect against anything that invalidates or denies our identity. The creation of elaborate beliefs and interpretations of reality based on patterns of hope and fear. This reinforces and crystallises our defence strategies, aversions and indifference, and they keep us imprisoned and isolated in a self-perpetuating false world. The ego refuses to die or grow, unable to let go of these beliefs and thought processes. Anxiety underlies the growing ego’s birth and death, stimulating further grasping and clinging to avoid the fear of impending death (existential). The “I” is nothing solid and fragile, has no proper support and is continually threatened by the possibility of dissolving back into the egoless ground. Egoless awareness does not mean losing sight of conventional boundaries but permitting one to explore a deeper reality.
Play on the Mind
The mind is what creates both imprisonment and liberation, confusion and awakening. Eastern psychology asks us to look at non-thought, the emptiness, inarticulate gaps of space appearing between discrete thoughts and feelings. These undifferentiated moments give us a glimpse of larger realities beyond the mindstream. A between state, a primal state of potentiality that gives birth to new possibilities, as we learn to recognise the interplay between form and emptiness. Without sustained and disciplined inner attention, it is always impossible to discover, enter or abide in the absolute ground of awareness. Meditation is designed to help us move beyond the surface comments of the mind.
The gap between two thoughts is essence , without presence it becomes ignorance
Mediation reveals an awareness of a unified field, where a strict division between subject and object, inner and outer, conscious and unconscious, simply doesn’t exist. There are two different modes of perception in which the mind/body organism structures relatedness. Extra attention allows the whole field to be experienced all at once, a non-dualistic experience. In meditation, you can see the person you are and your perceived weaknesses, qualities, and values. The next stage is the transpersonal ground, which comprises deep responses and relating to reality intrinsic to our true nature. These archetypal perceptions always take on an individual form and meaning, determined by the person’s history, culture and immediate situation—the transpersonal breaks into consciousness in forms of sudden insight, divine inspiration, comprised of psychic phenomena. A flash of clarity and openness appears in the gap of thoughts.
The veil is removed from our eyes as we start to see clearly, with great precision and expression, beyond all manufactured viewpoints. Resistance, regression and defences are ways to amour against the openness threatening our attempts to establish a permanent identity. Normality becomes neurosis, repression of our true essential nature, an expression of pure vulnerability. The feared empty space is a fertile void; exploring it leads to therapeutic change. The gap contains the living presence, divine source, vitality, aliveness, and landscape expansion. We can help clients appreciate open space, not fear the void of emptiness, and not collude to fill it up. If we resist the space, the experience becomes terrifying, contracted and tense, as we cannot free ourselves from the old fixation that was starting to dissolve. Someone who can’t hold ambiguity or focused attention is not connected with presence, and nothing new happens.
Each step of inner inquiry brings a new facet of the felt sense, shifting a fixed engaged identity. Bringing the central concern, some confused or unresolved way of relating to others and ourselves into awareness help the tangled identity to unravel and be released. Dialogue between the therapist and client facilitates the unfolding process, referring to the felt experience carried forward through inquiry—a vertical shift from the realm of personality to one of pure being. Therapy reflects upon the self, which becomes divided into an object reflection and an observing subject. We start to observe our ego identity, a stable image composed of self-representation, taking ourselves to be something based on how we relate to others. Identification is like the glue to which consciousness attaches to its thoughts, feelings, images and beliefs. A primitive form of self-knowledge, the best we could do as a child with limited cognitive capacities. We become prisoners of our childish minds and the way we construct reality. The first step is to make the identification conscious and reflect upon it. We are stepping back from one’s experiences to explore our patterns, feelings and basic beliefs. In a dualistic fixation, the tension between “me” and my thoughts makes pure thinking problematic, limited and unconscious.
We learn to plunge into the world, descent toward it instead of surveying it.
We continually judge, reject and withdraw from pain, anxiety and discomfort. The inner struggle keeps us inwardly divided, generating stress and cutting us off from ourselves. We cut off our anger and our need for love, tenderness or sexuality. When a frustrated or split-off need becomes present, we have learned to disassociate and shut the experience away from our awareness. This requires ongoing maintenance as we prop ourselves up with defences against the onslaught of reality. Dualistic Western thinking is suspicious of emotions as we act out some of the prohibitions or suppress others. Self-alienation moves us further away from authenticity as our defences dominate our emotions. We deny the source of our passions, primitive chaos and a cauldron of seething excitement; we cut off the libidinal energy to help us grow. We must learn to open up to the energy and become one with it. Transmutation comes through discovering the open space of being, which cuts our emotional turmoils down to size, small drama against a vast expanse of awareness.
Spiritual work can open people up profoundly for an extended period, but emotional reactivity to psychological issues can hinder the process. We start to see our spiritual practice has barely penetrated our conditioned personality. Spiritual realisation can remain split off, leaving whole areas of the psyche untouched. The realisation is the movement from personality to being, leading towards liberation from the prison of the conditioned mind. The personal life needs to become a transparent vessel for ultimate truth or divine revelation. Western seekers tend to be unwilling to let go of their fragile ego and its defences, unable to give up the imagined safety and protection.
They may incorporate bypassing to compensate for low self-esteem, social alienation or emotional problems, using spirituality to make up for their failures, misgivings and lack of psychological separation, trusting in their own intelligence, decisions and delusions, leading to spiritual inflation and materialism. They are caught up in the us versus them mentality, groupthink and blind faith in charismatic leaders. The prospect of letting go of old, cherished identities brings tremendous fear and resistance. We must undergo a refining development process with continued births and deaths.