Only One Chance

Dear Scott. I have read your posts, and have enjoyed them immensely. They seem to be full of truth – so much so, that I think I have not visited that often because of it.

I have a specific issue that I am in need of getting some advice from someone who speaks the way you do, in terms I understand. I am almost afraid to get an answer because I think it will mean doing something I don’t want to do. I’ll try to remain open…

Specifically, I can’t seem to get past a certain place of anger with my mother. Every time i see her (it seems) we get into an argument. It’s usually me accusing her of not listening to me, or valuing me, or telling her how much smarter I am than she realizes. I know she has issues, ten times more than me perhaps, but when I see her I forget all of that, the gloves come off and we’re fighting again. I’m almost crying right now because it seems as if I have already answered my own question. She has issues. When I wrote that, I forget all of that when I see her, it was almost as I could read what your response would be. “Don’t forget then.”

It sounds so simple, but it’s very hard to do, or so I think. Maybe that’s the problem. I think. I think it’s hard, and so… it’s hard. But isn’t it? I mean… isn’t it?

Please help.

P.S. I just read your “Understanding and Compassion” posting. It makes total sense, and seems like the answer to my situation. I have read the thing about “everyone wants happiness and no one wants suffering” many times, and have even heard the Dalai Lama speak about it. But still, I forget it. When stuff comes up, I totally forget it. It’s easy for me to say “Don’t forget it”, but it’s harder to do. Why? Addiction? Habit? The endocrine system that you speak of so often (please elaborate on that if you are able)? If so, how to change? How, how, how?

Any light you can shed on the situation would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks Scott

Among all of the lies that we tell ourselves, one of the most harmful is the assumption that we have time. In that assumption, we rely on the idea that there a future in which we will be able eventually wake up and take responsibility for the quality of our lives. That notion is absurd, both scientifically and spiritually naive. The “future” we are reassuring ourselves with is a nothing but a fantasy, made entirely of recycled memory. If you will take just a moment to examine it very carefully and honestly, the insanity of it will floor you.

At the center of this fantasy is a flow of mental images, labels, descriptions, and story lines, each one with its physical and emotional baggage, all about someone I imagine to be a private, separate “me”, living “my life” against a backdrop I think of as “the world” (which includes “other people”). This is not life, it is life as thought about, as fantasized, nothing more than an endless flow of internal soap operas and melodramas, all of it driven by clinging, craving, fear, worry, frustration, anger, sorrow, and loneliness. It is all performed in the isolation of mental and emotional fixation, cut off from life as actually lived, cut off from direct, immediate contact with everyone and all that surrounds us.

There is only now. This, here, now, is it. This is everything. What could possibly exist outside of now? There has never been anything but now. Now is everything and everybody. All of your relationships are now. There is absolutely no other time or place for them to be. How you are living now is your life.

Your mother’s apparent refusal to recognize and approve of you in the ways you want her to could well be your salvation, if you are willing to let the energy of this motivate you to look deeply at what you are doing.

In order to understand a problem, we must first set aside all rationalization, self recrimination, and guilt in such a way as to become aware of it in its totality. Otherwise, we perceive only fragments, attacking them and punishing our bodies and minds to no avail. In the meantime, the anger, aggravation, and all of the story lines and spin-offs continue. If we truly want to understand what is happening, we have to take a few steps back, quietly listen, and let it tell its whole story.

In order to be sure, let’s get a little more specific. Where, exactly, is this separate “me”? Does it exist anywhere outside of thought? I may think of myself as my body, but even that is made up entirely of thought (that is, mental pictures, labels, and descriptions of my body, all derived, again, entirely from memory). It is anchored by muscular contractions and other sensations, so that it feels “real”, but where is the reality of it? (How much do thoughts about my body have to do with the highly complex, delicate mystery of my body?)

So let’s call a spade a spade. “I”, as thought about, has no truth or accuracy to it. It is just a flow of story lines tied together with mental labels and images and physical sensations, that’s all. If it is not absolutely clear that that is so, please stop and check it out for yourself. Take as long as you need. Otherwise, we cannot proceed any further.

So, if there is no separate “me”, then what is left?

Everything is left. The entirety of now is left. Both past and future are nothing but the present play of memory. Whether we call it consciousness, Self, God, the mystery, the infinite, the unknown or whatever, all sensations, thoughts, memories, fantasies, feelings, perceptions, people, places, things, and circumstances flow through it. All sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings, thoughts, any and all other experiences as well. Furthermore, your mother, and your thoughts and feelings about your mother, too.

Take another moment or two to let the truth of that really sink in.

So, there is this wide open present flow of everything. Because of this case of mistaken identity, certain memories and attendant emotions seem to dramatically stand out (because you imagine they are about you). There is the one of my mother, misunderstanding me, dismissing me, insulting me, and all of the rest of it. Or at least it looks like her. Just like she has always done. To me. Or at least someone I imagine she thinks of as me. Well, maybe it’s not really me, but in memory, it sure looks like me…. and so on.

I hope you can see the comedy of it by now. So it really has nothing to do with your mother (whoever she may be). What ties it all together is the clinging and the resistance. To what? You are clinging to the desire for recognition and approval, and resisting the hurt and the frustration of having that desire thwarted, perhaps many, many times over. And who, or what, again, is the center of all of this emotional activity? If she treated someone else that way, say Arthur Redfield, who lives in Australia, how much emotional charge would it have?

When we cling to how we want it to be, or how we want somebody to be, we become a slave to that desire. In that fixation, awareness is severely restricted to the painful story lines, so there is no discovery, no understanding, no joy, no freedom, and no love.

Beginning right around puberty, I began to perceive my parents for the most part as judgmental, narrow-minded, controlling perfectionists who were always criticizing me and almost never satisfied with anything I did. Still, I craved their approval and deeply resented them for withholding it so often. I nursed that anger and resentment well into my forties, until one day it occurred to me how much we had always loved each other and almost never seemed to communicate it anymore. That realization was a painful shock, but I let myself feel it. From that point on, I let go of wanting anything from them and decided just simply loving them was the only thing that made any sense. They sensed the change almost immediately, and it allowed an openness in which the love that was always there began to blossom.

How we are living NOW is everything. There is nothing, no life apart from this. The easy, natural presence of honesty, humility, affection, understanding, compassion, joy and peace occurs only when awareness is open and unobstructed by self centered fantasies and obsessions. What happened before, what could have happened, should have happened, might happen in the future — none of that is of any value.

Happiness is so simple. Let go of desire, fear and anger, and simply be intimate and wise with all that is. It’s no more complicated than that. What do you have to lose?

-Your own Self-
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