Zen is teaching us that when we are facing a problem in our life it originates more often from our thoughts, opinions, beliefs, expectations and desires rather than from the outside world. Most problems come from our self-centered mind that we call our shadow.
This is very difficult to accept since our ego will always say: “Not in my backyard”, “Not me”. In fact we have the tendency to find that our excuses are coming almost exclusively from the outside world and rarely from inside. “I cannot meditate because of my busy life”, or “because of lack of time” meaning that if I cannot meditate it is not my fault but the fault of time! or the fault of life. “I am divorcing because she/he is impossible” Most of our denials are “NOT ME” denials because we are denying our own shadow that is self. Entering our own shadow rather than denying it. By entering it you say: “IT COULD BE ME” rather than the “NOT ME” self defense.
It will greatly help you even if you perceive it as conter-intuitive.
Entering our own shadow
Entering our own shadow means to realize that we are trapped in our self-centered values and personal agenda. Most of the time we see life according to our own views and expectations and not as it is really.
We become upset with x,… y, …z, and worried with the Why? What? When? How? Who?
When we look at people and things just from the point of view of our separate ego-self, we may dissociate ourselves and cast a wall that obscures reality and almost everything in our life seems dark, painful, frustrating and hopeless.
If we learn to turn and face the light, we will rise above our limited self-interest and see the whole picture.
When we learn to observe life as it is and not as we want to see it and when we do not focus on ourselves all the time, everything may or will become smoother, clearer and more acceptable.
How can you achieve this?
We cannot discover and understand people and situations that we are facing unless we are able to discover understand and modify ourselves first. This is “entering our own shadow”. If we follow this initial but mandatory step we will be able to perceive our lives and the lives of others differently. Of course this attitude does not mean that we have to ignore or negate ourselves. The Middle Way approach – avoiding extremes – is the key.
Thoughts to contemplate:
- Is there a situation in your life that seems dark, hopeless, upsetting, frustrating, confusing?
- Do you often feel being misunderstood, ignored or victimized? Then enter your own shadow that is your self-centered mind and look again with new eyes.
- Is the situation really dark or is your ego-centered mind obscuring and distorting realities by controlling your values, opinions and expectations? If you learn to cease to worry about your own self-interest during this “dark” situation you will simply let life unfold and it will.
- Are you facing a problem supposedly without solution? Analyze carefully the sources of this problem. You may realize that the real problem could have several sources including your own perceptions, values, or expectation of this situation. Maybe the real “problem” is that you perceive it as the actual problem! Try to accept it as a challenge that life wants you to face as it always does. If you are convinced that there is no solution then tell your mind that there is no problem since, as Zen says, a problem without solution is not a problem but just a fact.
Thank you. Ven. Ji Gong Sunim Nov. 2015