If personality is to become path rather than harden into pathology, we need to learn to work with ourselves as we are, without aggression or blame.
I spent most of my life convinced that there was something wrong with me, and I dedicated my life to fixing this broken person I saw myself to be. I went to therapy to fix my neuroses. I embarked on the spiritual path to transcend my neuroses. I tried diets, relationships, traveled the world, and piled up degrees all to erase my neuroses. But none of it worked. I still felt broken.
Until I realized (after much pain and agony) that actually there was nothing wrong with me. This doesn’t mean that I realized that I was a “good” person as opposed to a “bad” person. It means that I stopped focusing on the ephemeral nature of my “personality” and I started experiencing the true nature of my soul. I realized that my history and my pain, rather than being obstacles to my peace and happiness, were actually the vehicles for my awakening.
And it was into those darkest, most painful, scary places that I was called to go. I had to learn to, as John Welwood writes, to work with myself as I am, without aggression and without blame. By opening up to the totality of my experience, thoughts, and emotions and not judging, pushing away or transcending, I was able gradually to open up to the fullness of my life, and see my personality and my “stuff” as part of the “path”.
But, this doesn’t mean that life suddenly got easy or that my issues went away. But now, when I find myself dealing with uncomfortable emotions or an uncomfortable situation, I use a simple practice that has become a huge source of support.
In difficult situations, I first stop and take a deep breath. Then, I ask myself what I am feeling. I name it if I can—anger, frustration, fear. Sometimes I can’t name it and I just let it be an unnamed sensation or experience. Next, I go straight to the body. And, I breathe into that part of the body where I am holding the sensation. By breathing into it, and giving it space and expression, it loosens. I let the process take as long as it needs to take, and eventually it dissipates.
The “path” is everything that we are and everything we experience. The “path” is not a paradise where everything is perfect and everyone is perfect. Life is challenging, confusing, and painful…but it is also beautiful, glorious, sublime. I invite you to work with yourself as you are, to work with your life as it is, and to see that you are already to the peace and happiness you seek.