Do you have a love-hate relationship with life?

“I might as well tell you right at the start of this talk that
you’re not living your own life and I want you to listen to the
talk tonight so that you can get a start on living from who you
really are. You’re living from who you are not now, whether you’re
aware of it or not. You don’t have any true strength inside of you,
anyone can do anything, and that is no way to live. And doesn’t
this make sense what I’m going to say next. Regardless of the
endless anxiety and the deep wounds and the scars, regardless of
how many you’ve collected, isn’t it about time you stopped? Isn’t
it about time that you see through the enemy called suffering?”

-Vernon Howard

The question is why is it that we humans are not comfortable with ourselves? Why do we feel uneasy and dissonant? Most of us feel this as unease and difficulty and discontent and depression. In the more extreme states, this manifests as cruelty and genocide and all that we consider evil and bad in our species.

When we are open we can see that the core of most spiritual and religious traditions and the mystics through the ages point to the truth that the basic problem is our deep identification with thoughts. By thoughts, I mean everything that is mind-created: thoughts, beliefs, emotions, embodied patterns, fears and so on.

Through certain practices, such as being present and being aware and letting go, we can see through this.

That’s easy enough to understand, especially for those who have suffered and are open.

The question then is why is it so hard to put into practice?

Geneen Roth’s book “Women Food Love” is wonderful because it points out that our relationship to food is an exact analogue of our relationship to life. We can understand awakening through understanding our relationship with food.

Eating is a tangible thing that many of us can relate to. Accumulating new beliefs and concepts is like going on a diet. When a person goes on diet, there is some initial excitement because it works. It works because the person is trying and is temporarily aware. There is the insistent energy of the newly-converted. “You have to try this new white-food only diet!”

You might notice that mixed with the excitement is always an underlying fear that this will not last. There is the fear that just a little bit of change, a slight deviation, a life event, will be enough to derail this new-found discipline.

That is the question on my mind these days. What place does discipline have in the practice of awakening?

Self-discipline can be important. There have been many times that some self-discipline has seen me through. For example, when I first started meditating, I felt considerable agitation and discomfort. I worked through it. When we first start any awareness practice, such as observing thought, it can take some reminding and effort and self-discipline to see us through.

And yet, there many other times when self-discipline has worked against me. With self-discipline I can accomplish many things—I can live in the way which I think is best for me. I can develop certain habits, of exercise, sleep, diet, meditation and so on which I believe would be resonant.

When we stop to consider, it’s actually amusingly schizophrenic. Why in the world would we have trouble doing the things which we know are good for us?

It has to do with the fact that what we think is good for us is based on beliefs. It is based on beliefs and concepts derived from learned concepts of self, and what our parents and society and the media have told us, and the patterns which the need for control, approval and security has created in us.

We rush to newly-discovered beliefs—whether it’s the law of attraction or positive thinking or spirituality or a new definition of karma or self-improvement or some pithy saying about relationships we’ve just ingested—we rush to these beliefs and feel pretty sure that this is exactly what we need. But it never lasts, because nothing has really changed. It’s not that the beliefs are right or wrong. It’s just that operating from beliefs and concepts is a constrained way to live. It’s just more of the same old…

This moment, right here and now, is fresh and innocent. And yet, from habit, we bring the entire burden of our past and fears and beliefs and concepts and embodied patterns to bear down hard on the freshness of this moment.

And so, beliefs and self-discipline play a very familiar game of tug-of-war in our heads.

I don’t have an answer here which will satisfy the mind. In fact, the answer I have is decidedly unsatisfying to the mind.

Watch. Allow. Be present. Let go. Develop self-honesty. Let go of concepts and beliefs. With a smile!

12 thoughts on “Do you have a love-hate relationship with life?

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Dennis,

      Yes, it’s funny how so many of us recognize ourselves in this. Thanks for visiting and thanks for commenting!

      light and peace,

  1. Liara Covert

    As one drops any sense of fear or preconditioned beliefs, then patterns fade away. One is awake and aware and there is no process of awakening so much as a process of unlearning what is not.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Liara,
      As usual, your pointers are simple and direct. Awakening is a process of subtraction.

      I hope you are well!


    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Linda,
      Very well said, encrust the freshness of this moment. It takes a great deal of effort to encrust the freshness of the moment, but of course it is a long habit, so we do it automatically.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting!

      love and peace,

  2. Jeff Lapointe

    Thank you for your post. I love how you place us ‘ordinary’ citizens as being on the edge of schizophrenia – so true. I agree with your take on beliefs but have this to add as my own opinion.

    The mind can only define a thing (be it a person, part, object, experience) by creating an inventory of what it is not. Exclaiming an orange is an orange holds no meaning unless we are familiar with other fruit. In this way, defining good – comes from defining what is not good. Being improved is defined by what not being improved is. In this paradoxical enigma – we strive for good by focusing on what we consider is bad (as part of our beliefs – thank you BK). This is a tricky place of the mind which wants to measure and compare and therefore improve on the definition of good, nice, kind etc.

    True goodness, love and compassion are objects of the heart which emanate on another level that do not require communication – in essence I think they ARE communication.. They do not require definition for definition would not be adequate. When we connect with these than self discipline is not needed – so how do we do that?

    Good question – anybody have a good answer?

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Jeff,

      Well, you’ve gotten right to the heart of the matter. When we are awakened, aware, conscious…we are no longer slaves to the dualistic patterns of the mind. Being does not require analysis or definition.

      And so how do we do that?

      That’s what awakening is all about. What I do, and what I recommend is:

      1. Be aware. This can be practices of meditation, observing thought, just being aware, being present, and so on.
      2. Learn how to release. It’s easy to release the emotions and beliefs and fears which grip us, once we know how. Learn a good release method, and soon it becomes very natural.
      3. Allow and accept, with love and patience.
      4. Do not cling to particular beliefs and concepts, not even spiritual ones.
      5. Develop self-honesty.

      This is what I suggest. There are many other ways, and different techniques resonate with different people. Along the way, we can have all sorts of surprising and paradoxical revelations. One of the most surprising, for example, is that there is great wisdom in giving up control. Surrendering makes us easy and powerful.

      Thanks for your insight. You have asked an essential question. How do we be that which is constant and loving and present and joy in us?

      love and peace,

  3. Brenda (betaphi)

    “…operating from beliefs and concepts is a constrained way to live.”

    Throwing out my cultural, political, and religious beliefs may be the single most liberating thing I’ve ever done. Add to that my total inability to formulate and maintain any kind of practice and you have what appears to be the makings of a very free spirit. I’m now able to rely on my inner authority, which seems to eschew effort, self-discipline, and practice in favor of ease. Ego is becoming less of a problem as I accept the possibility of reprogramming the old “I” into a newer better version of itself. There have been times when I hated events in my life, and there may be more of those, but I can’t hold life responsible for the machinations of the mind. Life unconstrained is good.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      That’s beautiful, Brenda, and very well said. When we are able to unhitch from beliefs, life opens up, and awakening seems to work on its own.

      I hope you are well!

      love and peace,

  4. Liara Covert

    The ego mind personality is sometimes confused with the universal mind. Some people use the term ‘mind’ as a synonym for wider, cosmic consciousness.

    Love and compassion are infinite. They communicate messages through every perception and experience, provided one is open and receptive to what is forever unfolding.

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