Recently, I’ve observed a pattern that I would like to break. Its in the area of self-sabotage or sabotaging life. I’m trying to get at the root of this, as it’s a behavior that I find incredibly frustrating and corrosive. Some typical examples:
- You spend an incredible evening with your lover, feeling close and full of love, and in the waning moments of the night you make a terribly insensitive comment, seemingly undoing the magic that just unfolded.
- Its Friday night, and rather than go out with your friends you decide to stay at home and reflect in silence. You read a few pages of one of your most inspirational books, and as the last glimmers of sunlight fade into the night you are feeling incredibly open, connected. There is a sense of peace and serenity that you typically don’t find during your busy life. You feel like you’re losing track of time and space- yet before you actually realize what you’re doing, you have your iPhone in front of you and you’re reading some sort of news about some place in the world that serves to do nothing other than take you out of yourself.
- You meet your best friend for lunch, and in typical fashion you jump into an intense conversation about life, dreams, frustrations, fears and aspirations. Your friend provokes your unwillingness to make a career shift, despite your constant complaining of your current situation. You find yourself coming up with excuses, citing the many reasons its not a good time to make change, how there will be a better time in the future. You head back to work, feeling terrible.
I’m sure we can come up with a few more. Do any of these ring a bell?
What is at the root of these behaviors? I would like to focus mostly on the first two examples which share something in common: A fear of deep intimacy. Whether with another person or with the world (which at some level are the same thing), there is a pulling back from love, a return to the safety of one’s own shell. The insensitive comment or pouring your attention into the iPhone both serve a similar function: providing a separation between you and the world. By drawing this line, our ego can remain comfortable. It no longer has to worry about disappearing in the vastness. It creates clear boundaries between self and other and rests comfortably on its side of the line. On your side of the line, you can hide your vulnerability, you can choose to remain ambivalent to another man’s pain. You can rest comfortably in your own projected world, allowing your body, speech and mind to reinforce this projected world.
Yet what happens when you start to observe the patterns above? You realize that your actions are simply habits that serve to return you to your safety-net and reinforce your projected world of separation. In those deeply intimate moments with your lover or in nature, you can taste an entirely different way of being in this world. Just the thought of maintaining that level of intimacy in all your interactions is overwhelming. Yet why would you not choose this?
This returns me to the original question: How do I break these patterns? I don’t think there’s an easy answer. Developing the witness and noticing the patterns is the first step. Then slowly cultivating the ability to remain, or rest in these new and unknown situations of intimacy is the second. Which I think also implies living in a way that creates the conditions for intimacy. For me, some of these conditions are: living with a lover, slowing down my pace, meditation and spiritual practice with others, being regularly in nature. Once the edges start to break from these habits, it’s a matter of time, attention and intention for them to dissolve more fully.