Deep down, many of us feel that there is a part of us that is broken, or something in us that needs to be fixed. In this exchange with a student at our recent New Year’s retreat, Caverly explores this painful belief and offers wisdom for how to relax into a deep experience of acceptance and compassion.
Student: I would like to share a little bit about my experience from yesterday. I began to experience what a hell my mind is. There was this one topic that was coming up quite a bit that I couldn’t let go of. It was just like a hammer – so painful I didn’t even want to be inside my body, I didn’t even want to be with myself. Even with the awareness that I could continue to come back, it was still so much. So that part that was just incessantly attacking me. I thought “If I have to live with my mind for the rest of my life, I don’t think I can do this.”
So I realized that this part of myself had to die. And when I experienced that, it did, and I could reside in the awareness and everything shifted. When we did the exercise about finding our central limiting paradigm, what I came up with is that there’s something broken in me, and I need to fix it. So my mind was attacking itself, thinking that I need to fix myself with awareness.
Caverly: Can you feel the violence of that statement?
Student: The paradigm?
Caverly: The violence of “There’s something in me that is broken and I need to fix it with awareness.” It’s just important to pause and recognize that when this is going on inside of us, we don’t see it as self-hatred, or as cruel. But can you imagine – to go back to the image of a young child who lives next door to you, maybe it’s not even a kid you know – would you ever say if this kid was crying, “You’re broken, but awareness can fix you.” It’s just really cruel.
Watch out for the temptation to get into a war. Even the language “I saw that this has to die.” Just be lovingly aware. My first Zen teacher talked about “watching things from the corner of your eye.” The second you look directly at it, it’s like “Nothing to see here!” Just keep an eye out for that experience of there’s something that’s broken, or there’s something that needs to die, or there’s something that needs to be fixed.
I’m not invalidating the insight you had – that insight is important. But just watching for any energy of “there’s something that needs to die,” because usually that means that there’s someone who needs to kill. Because according to awareness, there’s nothing that needs to die. Awareness is never born, and it never dies. There are life cycles within the vast field of awareness, but awareness doesn’t have an agenda for something to die. Awareness simply doesn’t define death and birth the way that conditioned human beings do.
Student: Right. So where I’m at now is experiencing that I’m already whole. Earlier I wrote down something that someone else said: “I’m the one that I’ve been waiting for.” And if I’m the one that I’ve been waiting for, then it means I’m already whole. It creates a wholeness and then that story that something is broken just dissolves. It brings in this simplicity where there’s nothing to do.
Caverly: And can you pause and acknowledge the kindness and compassion of that approach? In fact, everyone in the room: close your eyes for a minute and feel what happens in your energy body when I say, “There’s something broken. There’s something broken in you, and you need to fix it.” And now just watch what happens in your body and your mind and your energetic system when I say, “You are whole. There is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing to fix. There is no one you have to be in order to do any fixing. You don’t have to become the fixer.” What do you notice?
Student: I notice all this incredible aliveness, gratitude, and tears. My deepest desire is just to fall in love with that self, that part of me that is truly me, and just be with that for the rest of my life.
Caverly: And I think the even more subtle and beautiful piece of all of it is that you can only fool yourself in moments of delusion, which we all have, into believing that it won’t be possible to do that. What you are speaking about is what is inherent. It’s what is primary. It’s not even my awareness. It’s just awareness. It doesn’t belong to a separate self.
Student: Yes, that’s actually very relieving.
Caverly: Yes, it’s very relieving, because the second it’s mine, the second I fall for the story that it belongs to me, then I might not be aware enough. I need to work at this, I need to dress it up. Britt’s awareness is better than my awareness. But fortunately my awareness is better than Susie’s awareness. She just started practicing. (Laughter). You know, it’s just so crazy.
Student: It still doesn’t take away the body sensation. If there’s pain, then that creates the story that there’s something broken and I need to fix it: I need to breathe better, I need to sit differently. So what would you say – if there’s pain in the body, rather than create a story, it can just be another place to put attention?
Caverly: Yes. You could focus on surrendering those places you find in the body to awareness. Just offering up. Not because they need to be fixed. Not because these places of tension or pain or held trauma need to be changed. Just surrendering to awareness. It’s already held in awareness, it’s already comprised of awareness, right? It’s made of consciousness. But it doesn’t feel that way when we experience it as a knot in the body or in the mind. A knot in the mind could be defined as a mental limitation. Physical limitation, mental limitation – meaning something that veils or creates the appearance of finiteness within infinite consciousness.
Student: Thank you.