As we continue the practice, there are always more challenges however; there is always more to learn. It seems to me that practice results in a gradual breaking down of the various views we accumulate.
Once something works for us in our practice, we often end up creating some kind of view about it. It’s another attempt of the deluded mind to establish some kind of security or foothold. Sooner or later we are going to meet the limitations of that view; it will all ‘fall apart’ and we’re going to find ourselves again in unknown territory, meeting the unknown.
Part of that process, at least in my experience, is that in coming to the edge of those views, it often feels like coming to the edge of ‘myself’, and having those views fall apart often feels like ‘myself’ falling apart, or experiencing this sense of dying.
When you meet the limitations of who you thought you were, when you meet the fears of your own failure, created from your own expectations of yourself – when you just can’t meet that image of what you’re ‘supposed’ to be – then what happens there is very powerful. In my own practice, this has been the point of the most incredible kind of pain actually, and the kind of effort it takes to stay with that process and the learning and letting go that can happen there is very powerful.
What you need there is the heart capacity just to be with the unknown, to be with the painful; the capacity to acknowledge the depth of your own hatred and fear of pain, to hold the strength of your own rebellion and resistance; you need the capacity to be fully present, compassionately, with all of that.
It is at once both a humiliating and empowering process…I coined my own term a while back: humilification – purification through humiliation – when you really do feel like a total failure. Fortunately, I had a good spiritual friend who advised me…’Great – just be a total failure!’ Huh? ‘Yeah, be a total failure, it’s absolutely okay.’
Oh, that was interesting. In just being able to meet this fear – the pain of: ‘Oh no, it’s really not working…I’ve done my best and it’s all going wrong!’ – in meeting that fear and resistance and letting it be, giving it space, in no longer struggling and resisting and denying, that feeling became very small actually, and dissolved.
Just like the teaching in the Tibetan story of Milarepa who came back to his cave to find it had been taken over by demons. As long as he tried to get rid of them and got angry and resisted them, they grew bigger, stronger and more menacing – they just fed on that. But with loving kindness and acceptance and being made welcome, they got smaller.
This reflection by Ajahn Jitindriya is from the book, Awakening Presence, (pdf) pp.82-84.