Designs of Discomfort

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious. -C.G. Jung

 Five days from start to finish with space, quality time, and adventure as intentions took me on a journey to New Mexico with my six-and-a-half-year-old son during his winter holiday. I had planned this trip with the excitement of getting away, sharing sacred time with my son, and visiting a dear friend and her little family. 2012 had been full of life lessons, some of them difficult, so I thought getting away was the perfect solution to making up for what felt like, some long lost joy.

 Joy it was. COLD it was! And yet, still, there I was! I am grateful to have removed myself from my daily routine to recognize that my mind still will have its way, my programming is still doing its same old thing. I was able to catch my rigid tendencies of schedules and supposed tos. I recognized that in a moment of personalizing another’s benign remark, I wanted to make up an unnecessary story in defense. I became acutely aware that I can get lost in fear and presume the worst when resolution is not occurring quickly enough for my impatient mind. My awareness of patterns, and ability to stay tuned was showing me that sometimes – we must take ourselves out of the habitual routines to see our growth, to shine light on what has been lurking in the shadows.

 During this very cold visit, that I translated into a necessary experience of turning within, and with time on hand, I became more able to see designs of my personal patterning: my issues with attachments, and my incredibly reactive tendencies to discomfort. And I was grossly reminded of my tendencies towards flight. My friend Joe has explained to me that we can give ourselves permission to have absolutes while knowing there will always be exceptions. And we can always be reminded of this by the Taoist yin and yang symbol. While I would describe myself as a very committed person, an exception is that I have a mind-state that likes to jump ship at early stages of discomfort in personal relationships. In Buddhism without Beliefs, Stephen Batchelor says, “Flight is a reluctancy to face change and the anguish it implies.” He continues, “Anguish emerges from craving for life to be other than it is.” Oh- okay then. This translates into something that I have the courage to acknowledge for myself. I certainly have cravings for things to be other than they are: wishing for things that I do not have, and not wanting some of the things that I am presented.

 The gift of this trip– besides precious time with my son, riding in a toboggan, getting ten hours of sleep a night, eating home-made everything, and seeing my dear friends’ son growing– was the chance to see that, YES, I could stay with what is uncomfortable, and know that it is going to change! And while I really don’t love feeling like I am being pushed to the edge of my psycho-emotional comfort, there was something spectacular of seeing things so crisply. I saw how I perpetuate my own suffering with doubt when things go unexpectedly. I also noticed my incredible discomfort at the possibility of displeasing another, which inevitably happens. And I watched the ways in which I judge myself for certain perceived imperfections.

 My friend’s husband, who I am still getting to know, shared with me a bit about the work that he does. I had always placed his world of permaculture, and environmental design in a category that was fascinating but a language I did not truly speak. However, on this trip I learned that the work he does is really not so different than mine. He teaches people about seeing patterns as well. And while he may have an extra focus on living systems and ecology, it all still starts with the intricate web of our own minds. You can check out his work at http://patternmind.org/.

 I wonder about the patterning and the tendencies of others. This is why I love the work that I do. There is something so inspiring about witnessing other people’s process as a path to discovering their own light. What is it you are committed to in this winter season? How has your life become enriched by the vivid quality of clear seeing, into your own patterns, and by bumping up against your edges of uncertainty? And what might become conscious as you look into the darkness?