Claudia Ghetu WELLness

The Wisdom of Ancient Science for Advanced Healing and Transformation


Leave a comment

The Greatest Love of All

“There are whole parts of ourselves that are so unwanted that whenever they begin to come up we run away. Because we escape, we keep missing being right here, being right on the dot… Only to the degree that we’ve gotten to know our own personal pain, only to the degree that we’ve related to pain at all, will we be fearless enough, brave enough, and enough of a warrior to be willing to feel the pain of others.” – P. Chödrön

It is often impossible to love ourselves with the same unconditional ability and fullness of heart that we are capable of extending towards loving other people. It is equally far more difficult to forgive ourselves, by comparison to our innate ability to forgive others.  Usually the anger we feel towards other people has a beginning, middle, and end. The anger or disappointment we tend to carry towards ourselves, however, seems to fester and persist beyond chronological borders, sometimes spanning the course of a lifetime.  Indeed, beyond all the self-denial and armored resistance, it may be possible that we are in fact the hardest people to love, accept, and forgive.

To fully realize and accept such a harsh universal truth, I believe we must arrive at a point of absolute stillness, a stripped-down-to-the-bone self-awareness – to the point where we can milk and digest everything that is raw and excruciatingly honest about ourselves, with a painstaking clarity that transcends ego and self-denial. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche asks the most poignant question of all:

‘Have we ever unmasked, stripping out of our suit of armor and our shirt and skin and flesh and veins, right down to the heart?’

And Pema Chödrön, perhaps the most outspoken writer and teacher on the topic of cultivating self-love, forgiveness, and self-healing, writes that this journey to face ourselves, “(as) embarrassing and painful (as it is), it is very healing to stop hiding from yourself.”  Simply put, healing comes from not hiding from oneself — from being able to face the truth about who we are, as imperfect as we may be, despite all the flaws and embarrassing mistakes we’ve swept under the rug.  Ironically, it seems that the things we elusively seek from other people are the things we are not fully capable of giving to ourselves: love, forgiveness, and acceptance.  In fact, the harder it is to love, accept and forgive others, the harder it is to turn and face the mirror and turn those sentiments towards ourselves.  How can we be loving and compassionate towards the world if we cannot overcome our punishing preoccupation with our own imperfections, self-scrutiny, and relentless self-blame?

“When we hear about compassion, it naturally brings up working with others, caring for others. The reason we’re not often there for others – whether for our child or our mother or someone who is insulting us or someone who frightens us – is that we’re not there for ourselves.” – P. Chödrön

The founding pillar of Buddhist philosophy is unconditional love, which is the natural precursor to compassion – beginning with love for the ‘self’ and extending to love for all living beings. The Dharma strongly stresses the importance of not judging ourselves too harshly, and treating ourselves with the compassion and respect that we ought to show others. The ability to maintain a ‘soft heart’ towards oneself has been translated by the venerable Chogyam Trungpa Ringpoche as ‘unconditional friendliness to oneself,’ or maitri.  It goes without saying that one can only love another insofar as one can love oneself.  Everything begins with the Self – and it is only within the self that we can begin to cultivate the greatest love of all, not only for our benefit, but also for the benefit of the greater world at large. So, during this period of renewal, on the onset of a new year pregnant with the possibility of rebirth – I invite us all to sit for a moment and reflect on everything that is good, worthy, and lovable about Our Selves. At the root of this effort lies the very seed destined to sprout the most priceless gift – a gift valuable far beyond scrutiny and doubt, a gift worth cultivating and preserving above all others.  The gift of maitri.

***

 “We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement.  All these trips we lay on ourselves – the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds – never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake.” – P. Chödrön


Leave a comment

The Noble Truth of “Non-Striving”

Buddhist philosophy is founded on The Four Noble Truths, The Third Noble Truth being the truth of the goal, which is Non-Striving. Only in the absence of struggle are we able to start seeing the reality of things, including seeing through our delusions and our ego-driven, suffering inducing schemes. Our greatest pains and disappointments arise from those things we try so hard to grasp on to and secure. We are constantly struggling to achieve and possess ‘things’ which are outside our means, and ironically those very things we want, or think we want, don’t even in fact exist or satisfy beyond our illusions. They are just thought forms built out of the smoke of our ignorance. How many times did you think you might look good in a certain outfit, only to try it on and say to yourself: what was I thinking? How many times did you have a set idea or plan rooted in mind which once realized was not at all as great as you had imagined. We live in a world of a rampant imagination running wild and dictating our thirsty cravings, and a blurry reality which we must learn to befriend even in the face of our greatest fears. The perfect ‘this’ and ‘that’ doesn’t exist. Yet we convince ourselves otherwise and thus strive ad infinitum for those things which we can never possess; things we think we want but aren’t in fact sure we even know how or if we can handle. When we begin to cultivate a still mind through the Forth Noble Path, which is Meditation, we begin to embark on a transformative journey of awareness and calm which allows us to finally see the forest beyond the trees. No judgement, no attachment to outcome. In order to pacify our untrained neurotic minds we have to sit and observe our uncontrollable fears and impulses and face them head on. Buddhists believe that those who are not yet enlightened are afflicted by mental neurosis, which subjects them to delusional, obsessive, and impulsive thinking. Thus we begin to detach ourselves from those mental addictions, from those things we falsely and ignorantly identify ourselves with – wealth, power, beauty, perfection. When we reach the place where we can let go of striving to become a certain way, we are liberated from the exhausting pursuit of ‘achieving.’ Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche said, ‘There is no need to struggle to be free; the absence of struggle is in itself freedom.’ When it comes to wanting to ‘better ourselves’ we have to be mindful and compassionate in our intention, and try to put all goals aside. Goals make us strive. Goals make us fail. Goals make us blame ourselves.

When we get guilted into changing something about ourselves, by others or by our own selves, we inevitably embark on a path that is counter-productive to our own growth and well being. Psychiatry still focuses on one’s mental affliction or illness and what went wrong/failed instead of one’s intuitive righteousness, mental strength, and innate intelligence. An individual goes on a diet believing there is something wrong and bad about how he or she looks, striving to root out something that must be eradicated. We are wired to believe there is always something or someone to blame – and that blame is often self-inflicted projecting the ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ self. Where there is blame, there is guilt, and ultimately there will be punishment on some level. Sometimes we have to allow compassionate room for failure in order to succeed. We are already perfect as we are – it’s just a matter of becoming more aware of that fact, and being able to reconnect to our own perfect nature with pure, unconditional compassion, another pillar of Buddhist philosophy.

When we strive for something, or try to push or discipline ourselves to accomplish a particular goal, we tend to stand in our own way by taking an overly rigid and judgmental attitude toward ourself. That is why most people abandon their conviction that they can overcome something – because it is too hard to attain anything under those harsh self-condemning conditions. So if you want to truly get somewhere, don’t make a big fuss about it. Don’t try too hard to get there. Begin walking in the direction where you want to go, and the path will gently and unexpectedly unfold before you – leading you to a better-than-you-could-have-expected destination, beyond delusion and beyond goal reaching. Remember, it’s always been about the journey not the destination in the first place. You just never saw the forest for the trees, because you always tried too hard to see much farther.  When you stop trying, you get to where you need to be.

Ask Yourself: When was the last time I was overly judgmental and hard on myself? Are the goals I set for myself unrealistic, or self-sabotaging? How can I be more compassionate toward myself and others, and struggle less in my daily life?