After about a year, after I was ordained, I was getting another practice. I was practicing very earnestly, and diligently with a lot of effort. And then there as this moment of hitting this wall. And, part of hitting this wall was this stark realization that was actually filling my diligence and my effort was actually a sense of unworthiness.
A sense that there is something wrong with me. Like a sense of lack. And then there was this dynamic going on that I started to realize. And the dynamic was, this would be one version of it, is I’ll be practicing diligently, and then there maybe the experience of having really strong mindfulness. And underneath that, this was fully a form thought, but it was like, “Oh! This is who I want to be.
This is the self I want. This is what I’m looking for. This is why I’m practicing strong mindfulness.” And then what would happen is that would fade away, that would disappear, and maybe there are some moments of mindlessness, or there would be more difficulties, there would be a lot of aversion, and then “Boom!” I’d be right back into the sense of lack. And then, there would be this confirmation of “Oh, there really is something wrong with me.
Oh, I really am unworthy.” And then, going through that phase, and I would be like, “Oh, okay, so let me see if I can really practice to get out of this again so that I can come back to this place that I want to be.” And then the cycle would continue again, and again, and again.
What was happening is that this was reinforcing my sense of unworthiness. I was actually using the practice as a way of, one, beating myself up, and using the language we’ve been using here and we spoke about this a couple of weeks before. The cycle of becoming. This was the hamster wheel of becoming. Being filled by unworthiness.
It was a drag. It was as if, underneath, it was this sense of, if I practice hard enough, maybe, I can be a person who feels like they’re good enough and I don’t have to feel like I’m not good enough.
Maybe you’ve experienced some versions of this, of seeing how unworthiness or judgment, self-judgment in on eyes. And this is what I want to share with you tonight. It’s just a little bit more about this dynamic. The dynamic around a sense of lack, or unworthiness. This sense of ___ to a particular behavior of becoming.
And then also ways to navigate it. And also to point out how subtle it can be. And how being able to see the subtlety of it can also allow the practice to unfold more deeply. For example, later on, I’ll be sharing with you this realization that ___ had that he was realizing, underneath his practice, was this subtle sense of becoming, this subtle assumption, which he calls, it was like, the thought of “I am somebody who needs to do something in order to become enlightened in the future.”
I am somebody. I need to do something. So I’ll come on retreat. You order to become enlightened in the future at some point. It’s pretty common thought.
But there’s a construct of fabrication underneath it. And it can be so wonderful to begin to see that. And again, this dynamic, the dynamic of unworthiness, or something is wrong with me.
And specifically, if you start to notice that you might notice that you can form around an idea, or, around an experience. It can be even formed around the wholesome aspiration. An aspiration to be kinder, to be calmer, to be more mindful. You fill in the blank. So that can fill the hamster wheel.
It can also be around the experience. You’re on retreat here. And you have some experience of deep equanimity, of strong mindfulness, of profound tranquility, and then there’s the grasping that forms ourselves around it. “Oh, this is who I want to be.” It might not be a fully formed thought.
And then, it’s the hamster wheel of needing more of it, and then if you don’t get more of it, then there’s something wrong you. Or if you’re not on that state, then there’s something wrong with you.
Noticing this dynamic, the wheel, the wheel of an unworthiness, and using the practice to reinforce it. And I want to point out, the wholesome pleasant isn’t the problem. Wholesome pleasant experiences—the wonderful, we want to cultivate them. We want to skillfully savor them, to nurture them. Without getting hooked by this dynamic.
An aspiration. Aspirations are beautiful. So important. Without the entanglement.
And you might notice around the sense of lack or unworthiness, there is, sometimes, a habitual patterns that comes around us. The habitual patterns of self-judgment.
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Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]
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