Accepting "What Is"By Emily Agnew
May 14, 2009
Provocative words from the Indian spiritual teacher, Krishnamurti, stimulated this article on finding the right support for yourself on your spiritual path and learning to accept "what is".
Why are we so frightened of what is? What is the good of running away, if whatever we are, is always there?*
Krishnamurti asks this most important of questions with increasing irritation:
Why are we clever and ambitious? Is not ambition an urge to avoid what is? Is not this cleverness really stupid, which is what we are?*
There’s a part of me that loves Krishnamurti’s directness and his impatience with the futility of our human self-deceptions and addictions. Reading him is like drinking whiskey straight up: I do it about once a year, coughing, spluttering, wiping my eyes and enjoying the burn. Krishnamurti is right: it is of critical importance to my life and happiness that I ask, and keep asking again and again, why I am frightened of “what is”. Refusing to accept “what is” causes chronic irritation, anger, judgment, and anxiety. It blocks love and it dries up gratitude. There is no more effective way I know to maintain a state of misery, than the habitual rejection of “what is”.
At the right moment, Krishnamurti can be a kind of tonic—a splash of icy water in the face, a sharp wake-up call. For some, this might be an ideal diet for spiritual support. As I’ve observed and experimented with my own spiritual practice, however, I’ve noticed that his impatience tends to activate my own self-criticism: “Yeah! Why am I stupid like that, anyhow?!” Instead of moving into compassion, I am now in my wounded self. As long as I continue to have this reaction to impatience, a spiritual teaching style like Krishnamurti’s will not the most helpful for me.
Inner Bonding is every bit as uncompromising as Krishnamurti, stressing that I am one hundred per cent responsible for my own feelings, words, and actions, for my happiness or lack of it. But the tone of the inner conversation stimulated in me by Inner Bonding is a compassionate one, arising from the assumption that there is internal logic, or apparently good reasons, for everything I do. For me, this assumption is the foundation of my ongoing effort to maintain a state of compassion towards myself and others.
With the Inner Bonding process as a key support, I choose again and again to assume that every person is always doing his best, given the resources he has in that moment. This is true no matter how lacking, terrifying, or even violent that best effort may appear to be. Without this assumption, I will never feel compassion; I will constantly judge myself and others. Yet my true nature, like that of all sentient beings, is one of pure compassion. Thus, to abandon compassion is to abandon myself at the most fundamental level. This is the terrible price of rejecting “what is”: denial of my true nature.
If my best effort is causing pain to me or to others, what recourse do I have? I am doing my best, given the resources I have in the given moment. But fortunately there is always a bigger resource at my disposal: the limitless store of universal knowledge and wisdom accessible to me through my spiritual guidance. This spiritual guidance exists as pure truth, beyond any label, religion, or belief system. I can access it when my highest priority is to evolve as a loving being.
As it turns out, my internal logic may turn out to be based on false beliefs, and the Inner Bonding process takes me through six steps to help me identify these beliefs, and to determine their truth by accessing the universal source of wisdom, through my spiritual guidance. For me, the firm, clear, and compassionate energy of this approach activates the part of me that wants to evolve. Inner Bonding calls this part the Loving Adult.
This is what I am looking for in the way of spiritual support, because having determined the critical importance of asking why I am afraid of “what is”, I want to be sure I am asking this most important of questions from a Loving Adult place. In Inner Bonding, the Loving Adult is the part of me that decides to take total responsibility for my feelings and my actions, and also acts as the conduit for my spiritual guidance. My Loving Adult is the part of me that is compassionate and curious about how I’m feeling, (or how others are feeling), and the good reasons why. My Loving Adult knows that my wounded self, the judging, self-critical part of me, can ask, “Why the #%*& do I do stupid things that hurt me and others?! ” until the cows come home, and never get an answer, because the intent of the wounded self is to protect from pain, not to get to the truth. Only my Loving Adult can ask this question in a helpful way, by asking my guidance for the truth and seeking loving action.
So once I’ve got that straight—what about the question itself? Why are we so frightened of what is? Why would we run away, since it is futile to do so?
We run away because we think we have to. If we had an emotionally challenging childhood, we faced a level of loneliness and helplessness that was overwhelming for us to contain in our small bodies. In an attempt to cope, we developed what Inner Bonding calls our “addictions”. An addiction is any activity, physical or mental, that we engage in to avoid feeling our feelings or taking responsibility for ourselves. It is this intent to protect, or to avoid pain, that characterizes an addiction. Thus an activity that can be harmless, like talking on the phone, can function as an addiction, depending on your intent. It is the same with eating, thinking, shopping, sleeping—we all need to eat, think, shop, and sleep, but these activities can also be used in an attempt to escape pain.
So we run away because a part of us, formed at a young age, thinks we have no other choice.
We do have a choice. Recognizing this is the first step towards exercising that choice. As adults, we have bigger bodies, which provide bigger containers to hold whatever feelings come up. We have the ability to read and learn about spiritual disciplines like Inner Bonding. We can learn to listen to the wounded part of us that gets overwhelmed and tries to control or resist “what is” by engaging in our preferred addictive behaviors, in order to discern the beliefs that underlie our current fears. We can enter into dialogue with our spiritual guidance about the truth of these beliefs. And we can take action, based on the guidance we receive.
It is your choice to evolve as a loving,compassionate being. Recognizing this, it is up to you to decide that you want to evolve. This intent is the most important part of growing towards more compassion. It is not a trivial decision, because you cannot evolve and protect from pain at the same time. To evolve, you must be willing to feel whatever is going on in you. And you must return to this willingness repeatedly, each time challenges arise in your life.
Once you have decided that your highest priority is to grow in lovingness and compassion, the gates will open to any knowledge or support you need on your path. Seeking and recognizing this support when it arrives is one of your central tasks as a Loving Adult. As you encounter different spiritual teachers, mentors, writers, and speakers, notice your reaction, keeping what is helpful for you and releasing what is not. The Buddha counseled, “Be a lamp unto yourself.” He was astute, and knew that different approaches work for different people. I find Inner Bonding profoundly supportive on my path to growth. Find out what supports you and use it. There is no more important work for you as an individual and for you as acitizen of the planet, than your evolution into greater lovingness and compassion towards yourself and others.
*The book of life: dailymeditations with Krishnamurti, (HarperCollins, 1995)
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