This article is adapted from the Dharma Ocean Podcast Episode 193 – Every Mind State is Workable, by Dr. Reggie Ray, Dharma Ocean Spiritual Director. This talk was given at the Blazing Mountain Retreat Center in Crestone, Colorado. Dr. Reginald “Reggie” Ray is the Director of the Dharma Ocean Foundation, dedicated to the evolution and flowering of the somatic teachings of the Practicing Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.
Probably most of us, at some point in our lives, have experienced moments of true peace, openness, and maybe even freedom. At the same time, we are obviously deeply embedded and enmeshed in the messiness of human life. We may be a person who feels we don’t have that many problems, and we may be able to keep pretty much clear of psychological melt-downs and upheavals. Or, like many of us, more so today than ever, we may be a person who feels we have a lot of inner emotional chaos. Either way, especially in today’s world, there is the likelihood that we are going to get triggered or activated by situations, our own emotions, or other people. It is quite likely that something is going to come and disrupt whatever modicum of peace we may have managed to corral.
The good news is that, through the practice of somatic meditation, when difficult emotional or interpersonal things come up, we can work with them in a fruitful way. In fact, over time, we can develop the confidence that we know what to do with any state of mind. We can work with the body, we can let go of the storyline, and we can allow the situation or the emotion to move through and to do what it needs to do and communicate what is needed.
There are going to be times, especially if we engage in regular meditation practice, that we do feel tremendous peace and clarity and real freedom, and these are important moments. They show us the fullness of our being. But it’s also important for us not to try to hang on to that state and to have a willingness to let it go when something else turns up. Otherwise, our peace can be the cause of great struggle — us trying to keep it going — and pretty soon, there is no peace at all.
When we do the Somatic Meditation, meditating through our body in a “bottom-up “ approach, we are able to meet the unpredictability and messiness of our own inner life, and work through them, learning and changing as we need to. And that feels absolutely great, fantastic actually. Initially, we may think that we’re going to have it all together soon and that we have a technique that is going to enable us to manage the more troublesome dimensions of our experience. And from one point of view, that’s true. In other words, when things come up, we actually do have a way to work with them and integrate them and move forward.
We start to feel a kind of relaxation and ease in our body and confidence in our ability to work with things. But we notice that emotional states will pop up that are outside our realm of competence. Someone may say something that sets off anxiety or fear. Just a little comment, a little something. We may feel attacked, like, “Get out of here. I’m feeling good. What are you doing bringing this, throwing this in my face?”
We must realize that the more open and competent we become, the more the deeper stratas of our own ego and unconsciousness material are going to surface. The more we work, the deeper the levels of fear that arise. It’s important to realize that this actually is the fruition of practice. This is not some kind of irritating mental event or bad dream, or inconvenient human encounter that has come out of nowhere. These things are actually incited by our practice. And our willingness and skill in meeting them are essential to our further development, our psychological/spiritual maturation.
So truly, there is no endpoint in practice itself. That raises the obvious question — if the path is basically going deeper and deeper and if there’s always more to deal with and more to work through and more to resolve and integrate, why bother? If life is going to be painful and difficult, and destabilizing, why do we bother doing the work?
Because the work leads to clarity and a sense of connection with ourselves and a kind of creativity that we long for. The positive is the development of our own sense of being and of working with our life in an effective way — having confidence that we can handle things when they come up. Not just handle, but benefit hugely and find a source of endless creativity. Isn’t that ironic?
The other reason for doing the work is the deeper we go, the more helpful we become to others. When somebody comes in at our own level, the same things that freak them out freak us out. They tell us about their problems, and we freak out. And even if we’re in a helping profession, we freeze, and we can’t really help them. Through doing this work, the emotional states and human encounters that used to completely trigger us no longer do because we’ve worked through that, and there’s a sense of space around it. We don’t freeze up.
So the more we work, the more we notice the painful spikes of our emotional life and our human encounters. And at that point, the invitation is to open and open further. And strangely enough, that’s how you handle difficulties. The emotions that we consider unacceptable are, in fact, not unacceptable. In fact, they are our own life trying to come to birth, and the more room we give to emotions, encounters, situations, and people, the more we discover why they’re in our life. And truly, they’re not there to create annoying disturbances. They’re there to enable us to move forward as human beings to grow into being more creative and more present to our lives. And what a gift to everyone in our life that we know this truth, not just intellectually, but in our bodies, our basic being, our deepest person.
Welcome what comes up. Of course, if somebody throws a bucket of cold water in your face, your initial response is not to welcome the bucket of cold water. But once you shake off the water, you can welcome the encounter and feel the invitation to open and extend and let go of personal territory. And then to discover exactly why this occurred and what a miraculous opening it can be for us.
About Dharma Ocean Foundation
Dharma Ocean is a non-profit global educational foundation that focuses on somatic meditation as the way to help students – of any secular or religious discipline, by teaching them the importance of embodiment in both meditation and their daily lives as taught in the “practicing lineage” of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The foundation was established in 2005 by scholar, author, and teacher Dr. Reggie Ray, and is located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Southern Colorado.
Their Blazing Mountain Retreat Center in Crestone is a sacred and protected space that hosts a wide range of retreats and meditation groups. Students can immerse themselves in the richness and depth of their most fundamental being through connection with spiritual tradition, community, and nature. Dharma Ocean also offers online programs and specialized training for students who wish to become Vajrayana practitioners.