Stress, worry, angst, dread, fatigue, agitation, fear, anxiety, frustration, pressure. Have you noticed how often the inner landscape of our lives feels this way? We live all bunched-up and contracted much of the time, don’t we? Tightened muscles, churning stomachs, shallow breathing, sleepless nights, tension headaches, obsessive thinking.
We live in a near constant state of dis-ease. Furthermore, we spend an enormous amount of time, money and energy on alleviating this contracted state of existence. We turn to massage, comfort foods, Xanax, yoga, shopping, television, sex, church, alcohol and even meditation as ways to “medicate” our dis-ease.
There is nothing wrong with those things in and of themselves, of course, but when we need them to relax, to open, to stress-reduce and generally ease the inner contraction, we’re simply medicating the symptoms and not dealing with the root cause of our dis-ease. And if we don’t deal with the root cause, the dis-ease returns as soon as the “medication” wears off! Life then becomes a cycle: Dis-ease, medicate. Dis-ease, medicate. Dis-ease, medicate. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It’s madness, yet this is how many of us live, me included.
I’m tired of the madness. I want to live wide-open and relaxed, no matter what’s occurring, easefully moving with life instead of always fighting against it. And I don’t want to medicate my way through life, engaging in all sorts of temporary fixes. They don’t work. I want to go deeper and address the root cause of dis-ease and face it head on. I’m hoping you feel the same way.
In my experience, dis-ease comes from believing two simple thoughts:
• There is something wrong with my experience—and it needs to change.
• There is something wrong with me—and that needs to change too.
The first cause of dis-ease is judging our present experience as being wrong or bad and seeking a different experience. Seeking something different than what’s here now is dis-ease. It’s felt as stress, worry, angst, dread, fatigue, etc., but it can be summed up by a single word: dis-ease.
Maybe we seek to change an uncomfortable emotion or feeling, the number on the scale, the balance in the checkbook, our aging, wrinkling, sagging bodies, the company we work for, our spiritual understanding, our kids or our relationship status. Whatever. The way life presents itself sucks, and it needs to change.
With such resistance, we become like a sweaty, exhausted blacksmith trying to pound life into the form we think it should take. In reality, though, there isn’t anything wrong or bad with the form life is taking. We only judge it to be wrong. Life is the way it is. It’s neutral, neither good nor bad. But we create dis-ease in our body-mind by wanting life to be different than it is.
However, if we relax into the form life is taking, if we surrender to its flow, wisdom, and reality and stop our hopeless attempts at reshaping life in our image, the inner contraction ends and dis-ease dissolves.
The second cause of dis-ease is the belief that something is fundamentally wrong, not with the way life is, but with the way we are. We aren’t comfortable in our own skin because on a deep level, we believe we’re deficient, inadequate or incomplete in some way. This causes us to move through life with either the fear of being found out and consequently hiding, or, we overcompensate by projecting some false sense of superiority and confidence. Either way, it’s fear felt as dis-ease.
Most of us are painfully aware of our perceived deficiencies, aren’t we? That annoying voice in the head reminds us of it all the time! What needs to be discussed is what to do about it, because frankly, the usual approaches don’t work very well.
Most things like affirmations, positive thinking, meditation, creative visualization, new-age philosophies, self-improvement workshops, church attendance, memorizing bible verses, talk therapy and self-help books are ultimately ineffective at soothing the savage beast because these approaches are like “putting lipstick on a pig.” They’re cosmetic approaches that don’t deal with the core issue, which is an identity-level belief about who we are. When we believe something at the identity level, no amount of “make up” will change that.
I’ve been on the so-called spiritual path for a long time and the best tool I’ve come across that deals directly with core identity/deficiency issues are what’s called the “Living Inquiries.” It’s a simple conversation with a trained facilitator (me), where the person who assumes they are “not good enough,” or “unlovable,” for example, actually looks to see if they can find those identities in their direct experience.
Most of us have a great deal of evidence as to why we believe our particular deficiency story is true. Perhaps life has given us a bunch of examples; perhaps parents, lovers, bosses, teachers or friends have told us we’re inadequate in this or that way. So an identity is formed and our whole lives, then, become a reaction to it.
What we haven’t done, until now, is question the core story itself. Can we actually find, for example, “the one who’s not good enough?” We just assume it’s who we are and then we spend the rest of our lives trying to change it, and if we can’t do that, we cope with it, and if we can’t do that, we numb the dis-ease with our chosen “medication.” Madness.
Yet if we simply do an Inquiry, we’ll discover that we can’t find the “one who’s not good enough” or the “one who’s unlovable.” It’s not there. It’s unfindable. It’s merely a thought that doesn’t have any more power or reality than if you thought you were a green frog. You aren’t Kermit, you aren’t “unlovable,” you aren’t “not good enough.” But you have to personally engage in an Unfindable Inquiry to know this on an experiential level. You can’t get this intellectually. Doing an Inquiry with a trained facilitator is the only way to find true, lasting freedom from our core stories of deficiency and the dis-ease that comes with it.
I invite you to do that with me, because what replaces stress, worry, angst, dread, etc.—better known as dis-ease—is a wide open, relaxed presence in the world, a sense of not being separate, isolated and alienated from life or from others. And isn’t that what we want?
It’s just an Inquiry away.