“This too shall pass.” - Unknown author
Why should we work on ourselves? What is the ultimate goal of such work?
It’s simple: to achieve permanent happiness. Or at least, to become much happier than our “normal life” offers. Even if our reason is curiosity or spiritual drive for the Truth, that’s again sort of happiness.
One might say that there are so many other methods to become happy, at least for a while. You can be happy by falling in love, exercising, eating, playing football, talking with your best friend, or doing countless other things. But, the emphasis here is on “for a while.” It won’t last long enough. And when such happiness passes away, there comes its opposite – suffering of various kinds. But that’s kind of expected result. Falling in love or eating – that’s not inner work at all.
On the other hand, even the sincerest self-improvement work will bring about some amount of pain into our lives. These difficulties are often unexpected so that we can talk about the side effects of inner work.
What is the inner work in the first place? It is a broad and fuzzy term. Many teachers and practitioners differ significantly on its meaning; however, I will describe it as conscious effort invested into achieving an ultimate spiritual goal or psychological development, on a regular basis.
True inner work must be comprehensive. It should include investing efforts toward spiritual liberation, developing love and presence, fulfilling and harmonizing goals, doing psychological work, and adhering to ethical standards. Otherwise, the achieved happiness won’t last much. Or all achievements will be accompanied by a lot of suffering.
However, even when you think you have covered all these areas with your work, you will still suffer from time to time. That’s inevitable until you reach the final liberation, or Nirvana as Buddhists call it.
Difficulties of Meditation
Some of the approaches mentioned above are in fact paths to Pure Consciousness, or Presence – meditation sittings, mindfulness, self-inquiry…and they all are inevitably accompanied by many unpleasant side-effects.
Whether you are trying to experience Truth through the process of self-inquiry or to empty your mind and live in the here and now through some form of meditation and mindfulness, you will unavoidably encounter many difficulties along that way. You will be uncovering a lot of previously suppressed emotions, long-forgotten decisions, deep-rooted beliefs, traumatic childhood experiences, fears, resentment, or other hidden mind contents. Even if you are simply trying to wake up pure love in your heart, you will also meet various unpleasant reactions from within.
During the meditation and mindfulness work your mind and body purify progressively. But there is a problem. As more and more layers of the subconscious mind are being removed, old, deeper structures that were mentioned above, emerge inevitably. As you are digging ever deeper into the microcosm of your psyche, any of these can be exposed to the light of your consciousness and triggered off unexpectedly.
As more and more layers of the subconscious mind are being removed, old, deeper structures emerge inevitably.
These unconscious structures can appear in diverse ways. They might manifest within your mind or physical body, so you could, for example, become depressed, anxious, over-reactive, or even physically ill. But if you are very stable mentally and fit physically, these long-suppressed subconscious contents will instead emerge in the outside world. You may experience all kinds of troubles, such as sudden accidents, serious disputes with your loved ones, or even attacks by total strangers.
It’s like the stillness within is telling us: OK, you are able to remain calm during your meditation sittings, when you walk, or during your chores. But are you able to maintain your stillness in this situation?
Or: OK, you can feel deep love of these people in those circumstances. But is your love really that well-founded? Can you love this person in this situation?
And you get the challenge to deal with. Only when you become able to deal with them appropriately, such people and circumstances will not appear in your life anymore.
Difficulties of Goal Achievement Work
Generally speaking, work on goals is even trickier than meditation or mindfulness. For a goal or intention to be fully accomplished, it must be:
2) Without much resistance from your other goals and various parts of your personality, and
3) To be “immersed” into the state of Presence or Pure Consciousness before its manifestation.
Therefore, you have to be very careful during any goal achievement work. Almost every goal carries with it a cluster of various desires, negative beliefs, emotions, and decisions, that are in fact obstacles to the goal’s manifestation. Also, there is always some amount of misalignment or disharmony with other important goals that you want to achieve or with many other parts of your personality. This conflict will produce friction and pain.
To attain the goal, most of these subconscious obstacles and all disharmonious tendencies must be removed peacefully, for example through some form of the Reintegration process.
Difficulties of Psychological Work
This is also a wide area. Psychoanalysis, Transpersonal psychology, Personality psychology, Transaction Analysis, NLP, Reintegration System, etc. – all have quite different approaches, but demand a lot of work anyway. Typically, these types of inner work are not about Pure Consciousness, nor achieving goals. They direct you toward the transformation or integration of various parts of your psyche. Still, they may also trigger numerous disturbing side-effects.
During such work, some aspects of personality are changing, realigning, or reconfiguring. There will be a lot of friction among them until a new mutual equilibrium is established. That friction unavoidably generates suffering, which can be expressed in many ways, too.
Any kind of unexpected physical or emotional troubles may appear. All sorts of unpleasant experiences may arise in your external reality, in forms of aggressive people, sad events, dangerous accidents or anything else.
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