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Lions Roar : July 2010
What Is My Most Be . . . . . . . . Can I See This as . IF WE DON'T ASK THIS CRUCIAL QUESTION, we're un- likely even to remember that this is our opportunity to awaken. Yet, it is essential that we understand that our distressful situ- ation is exactly what we need to work with in order to be free. For example, the person we find most irritating becomes a mir- ror-you could call this person "irritating Buddha" -reflecting back to us exactly where we're stuck. After all, the irritation is what we add. It is absolutely fundamental that we learn that when difficult situations and feelings arise they are not obstacles to be avoid- ed, but rather these very difficulties are, in fact, the path itself. They're our opportunity to wake up out of our little protected world; they're our opportunity to awaken into a more genuine way of living. This point can't be overemphasized. Of course, you may have heard this idea before-that our dif- ficulties are our path. But it's a lot easier to understand this intel- lectually than it is to remember it when we're in the middle of the muddiness of life. Why? Because, again, we instinctively want a life that is problem free. So we usually continue seeking comfort and safety until, at some point, if we're fortunate, we get disappointed enough by life's blows to realize that our strategies-control, try- ing harder, withdrawing, blaming, whatever they are-will never give us the quality in life that all of us want. At that point-with life's disappointments as our teacher-we can start to use our dif- ficulties as our path to awakening. Remembering the importance of this allows us to make the critical practice step of welcoming our distress, because we understand that as long as we continue to resist our experience we will stay stuck. t? ANSWERING THIS IS LIKE TAKING A SNAPSHOT of the mind. This question is tempting to skip over, especially since we often take our opinions as Truth, and it can be difficult to see what we're really believing. Even though observation of the mind allows us to see our superficial or surface thoughts with clarity, the deepest beliefs often stay below the surface. Thus, these deep-seated beliefs often dictate how we feel and act, and they continue to run almost unconsciously. For example, our deeply believed thoughts of personal insecurity may not be evident on the surface in a given situation; truthfully, we're often unaware of their presence. But their poisonous foot- prints often manifest themselves in our anger, blame, depression, and shame. These deeply believed and well-hidden thoughts of insecurity thus act like radar, and we often seek out experiences that confirm that our beliefs are true-the classic self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if you believe that life is not safe, all you have to do is get a bill that's a little bigger than you expected, and your mind will start weaving scenarios of doom. We have to know where we get stuck in our particular radar- like beliefs. And we have to know how to work with them. Again, the process begins with asking yourself, What is my most believed thought? However, if the answer doesn't come, you drop it, and return to your physical experience, rather than trying to figure it out with the mind. Then, a little while later, you ask the question again. Sooner or later, with perseverance, the answer will present itself, sometimes with an "aha!" quality. For instance, your surface thought may be, "No one should have to put up with this." This thought expresses the protective voice of anger and frustration. But when we go deeper, a more strongly held thought, like "I can't do this;' may be revealed with the "aha" of discovery. Then, as we get to know ourselves, there may be an "of course" quality. Haven't we seen this belief many times before? It's at this point that we begin to remove some of our investment in our deeply seated negative beliefs about our- selves. But to get to this place, first we must inquire into what our most believed thoughts are. SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2010 53