Monday, 26 January 2015

Releasing Samskaras - it gets Worse before it gets Better

Samskaras: Impressions from experience stored up in memory. They have energy, and influence character and personality. Although usually considered to be positive or negative, really they are neutral. 

If we observe closely we will notice that the actual moment of recognition of inner change occurs in an instant. It is like the blink of an eye. One moment we are seeing something in the usual way, the next, in a blink, there has been a change, perception has shifted or altered. Of course because it happens so quickly we may miss it, but that’s another matter.

It’s like a bubble rising from the bottom of a deep lake. There may be some time between the moment of release at the bottom and the moment it arrives at the surface, but when it breaks through at the surface it happens in a moment. In the same way what has been 'bubbling under' in the mind for some time breaks through from the unconscious to the surface of the mind in an instant.

Even when something appears to dawn on us gradually, if we could slow down time we would find that this gradual recognition is a series of instant moments one after another that add up to what we later call recognition.

The value of recognition

The time directly after the breakthrough - from the unknown to known - is very valuable. A moment of self discovery most often comes as a revelation of something about our personality that we have kind of lived with - oh that’s just me - or we had not known about before, but which either way now looks somehow unacceptable, out of place.

For example, there could be something there in the back of the mind, you know it, what it is. From time to time it crosses your mind - a similar incident, something reminds you - but you usually don’t pay much attention. One day in a quiet moment, maybe in meditation, it comes at you fully in all its clarity, and at that moment that same thing you had glanced at and passed by, maybe many times, is seen accurately, and now it may just be so embarrassing as you see it in a clear light for the first time. You feel it and think about it and it becomes no longer acceptable in the same old way. What to do then?

It puts us in a position to have to decide: deny it to ourselves; push it back down as unwanted; think how awful we are because of it. Or recognise it for what it really is, realise that now you find it no longer acceptable, and make use of that valuable knowledge to trace it back to its source to transcend it.

The challenge

There will be many who will take the first options, but if you really are intent on finding out there'll be a kind of frisson with any increase in self-knowledge. Even so at this point a problem arises. After recognition there is a usually a protracted period of time of coming to terms with what then follows after in more particular detail.

Seeing in an instant, a revelation even, is certainly a turning point, but it is not coincidental with transcendence. We have work to do. This can easily be misunderstood. There is a connection between cause and effect, between a moment of insight and what might happen later, sometimes much later. Often that connection is not so obvious. It’s like Pandora’s box. You start this business and peek inside, you don’t know what's going to come after.

Samskaras are never stand-alone. There is a matrix in the mind - a vast association of interconnected memories, which influence us in thought, action and behaviour. So, lift the lid of Pandora’s box, look inside, celebrate what you first discover - the moment when the bubble breaks the surface - and then put up with and manage all the funny stuff that comes after. That can be tough. For myself I call it the shadow. 

Once seen it can be known

This is where the next stage comes in: Observation… for some time…. perhaps for a long time…… observation will have to take place. Observation of course is the practice of awareness as we have discussed in these posts - now there is something really to be aware of! Can you let the first moment pass and then watch the parade of all that follows - in the form of associated memories, thoughts, emotions, feelings, reactions etc etc - now that Pandora’s box has been opened?

It’s tempting to resist what may come after. We may feel we are getting more than we bargained for - well there’s an oxymoron right there. We may think that somehow we are not progressing, that we are even sliding backwards, getting character traits that we didn’t think we had. But it is clear: These qualities were in us, having a very powerful overriding influence, but unseen and unknown. Once seen they can be known, and when known they lose their power.

It gets worse before it gets better

When we first see them they appear to get stronger, but that is just the process of release actually taking place… if you let it. How long it lasts, how intense it is, is in direct proportion to the quality and level of awareness. At this stage they may appear to exert a greater influence as each in turn they reach the surface: this… then this… oh, and that too… and so on… But that will all be temporary if the quality of awareness is maintained, by allowing the process to continue, unhindered but closely observed.

Like herding sheep through a narrow gate. You have to be there for it to happen, but you don’t push, and you don’t block the way. Then they can pass through. Because these samskaras are not who we are; we are not defined by them permanently. That’s the discovery.

Paradoxically the better we are able do this, the more stuff the mind may release up to the surface. In other words as awareness gets more accurate, we get to face more of our hidden stuff. This is what is supposed to happen, because there is a universal inclination toward, and in us a desire for, harmony and equilibrium; and a bunch of energetic samskaras from another time stored up in memory is what has to get out of the way.

Keep in mind there is always a symptom of release. There has to be an experience that comes with chang. It may be in the mind as thought or memory, or image or symbol. It may be in emotions, as something more extreme than, or different from usual. It could translate into sensations in the body as 'psychic pain' - strange sensations. It may be very literal, seen, known and understood. Or it could be esoteric, vague and diffuse, seemingly unassociated. But it will manifest as an experience in some measure, in some way. We just have to put up with it.

The momentum toward equilibrium is inexorable and can sometimes be quite ruthless; it does not pander to New Age idealism. There is an inner movement to push inaccurate stuff out of the way. Any pain we experience is a result of our own resistance to it, even if unconscious. But there is an unexpected result: if the breaking news from inside can be observed and fully accepted, turbulent events from outside then have less to stir up, and we are not so influenced by them. Harmony in action.


This may go on for some time. Ever found yourself saying something like, "I’ve accepted it (dammit!) why am I still having to deal with this?" The observation has to be accurate, and the acceptance has to be total, at every level, for final release to take place. Every time there is that moment of acceptance, it drops a little deeper to another level where another level of acceptance has to take place. That’s how it works.

Until then practice and more practice with continual awareness and faith in the eventual outcome, no matter how long it may take. Because after all, once anything is dealt with something else will happen. Those are the conditions, that’s the deal of being human, as life constantly reminds us.

High level acceptance will kind of want to invite self knowledge in this way, where all eventualities are accepted, not for their own sake to be enjoyed or rejected, but purely as a means of increasing self knowledge. It becomes a purpose in life. Live life for enjoyment or suffering of samskaras? Or live all samskaras for knowledge of life?

A quick round up 

First, Recognition, which is instant or a bunch of instants. Then Acceptance, the outcome of the practice of awareness, which is gradual and takes place at many levels. And Release. I prefer Dissolution; it dissolves gradually. It turns from substantial, influential, into insubstantial, space with no influence.

Lastly, but actually first, it really helps if you decide to go there, to do it, to want to find out. It cuts out a lot of crap and works out much better this way. And in the end it seems we have no choice in the matter because sooner or later life, an arbitrary teacher(?) comes to get us for the same thing. Isn’t that a fact.

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