To move forward with a great resolution we must first fall back. Recently, I read this bit of New Year’s Resolution wisdom on Facebook (our endless forward-rushing stream of adages and quotes and clips and quips). It struck me that there was deeper truth here, beneath the well-worn nuggets about regrouping for a great battle or backing up for a running start.
To move forward on a path, we must dare to go down inside ourselves. The Buddhist path began with the Buddha sitting down under a tree, sensing the body on the earth, and the first step on the path that he discovered (or rediscovered) is intuiting the weight or consequence of our actions, registering that what we do and think matters, even if no one is watching. Moving forward on the path means going inward and down, daring to open to our deepest and most primal experience–opening not just to our childhood wounds and conditioned reactions but to our animal instincts. And we must open not just to our warm-blooded mother bear instincts, but also to the reptile brain and further back…to single-cell creature, membraned to know the difference between inside and outside, self and other.
We must see how we are triggered, how we are made. Holidays have a way of showing this to us. As Ram Dass famously said, if you think you are enlightened go spend time with family. But there is a gift to be found in falling back. As we learn to embrace the whole of ourselves with the kind of equanimity and compassion we wish to extend to our own children, accepting that certain experiences will trigger tears or rage or an impulse to grasp and not let go–well, this is the movement of awakening.
There is really not separating the heart and mind in the mind of awakening (in Buddhism the awakened heart/mind is called the “body mind). And yet it is very helpful to extend a welcome downwards, backwards–to occasional little freak-outs and tears of frustration–not to identify but to manifest qualities of the heart including generosity and courage towards the parts of our brains that are less evolved, less sanctified, conscious let’s say in other ways.
I’ve been reading lately about opening to a broader view of consciousness, including an “Integrated Information Theory” of consciousness. In other words, the more integrated the information, the synergy between the parts, the more complex the illuminated jewel of any particular brain/mind. In other words, acceptance enriches and deepens our consciousness. And acceptance can help ease the pain, tame the beast…liberate energy for that resolution.