Deb and I had a pretty good fight a week back. We have been separated by about 5,000 kms with her in Nova Scotia in our new home, and me in Sun Peaks, BC, where we operate our business. The longest we’ve been apart in our nearly 30 years together has been 12 days when I went to the Fijian island of Naitauba in 2007 to see Adi Da in person. I can say for certain that had I not taken that trip, Deb and I would not have survived the difficult years that followed, particularly when she asked for a divorce.
So on or around the 12th day of our current separation, while Deb was a few drinks of wine into a very long, lonely evening, and I was 12 days straight of 14 hour days working, we both found a way of triggering each other’s deepest traumas with childish words. She was feeling sorry for herself, and my reaction triggered feelings of guilt. I lacked the ability to empathize with her when I told her to “Suck it up princess!” She hung up and we didn’t speak for two days.
While the phrase “suck it up princess” might sound unduly harsh, it was meant to harken Deb back to one of the most powerful, watershed times of our shared history. We were in a personal growth workshop called, The Enlightened Warrior Training Camp in the fall of 2003. Deb was, prior to this period in our life, very introverted and fragile. But during the 3 days of this workshop, she evolved into a fierce and driven spirit who actually raced ahead of a large crowd to be the first in line to walk on 40 feet of burning hot coals.
There was a moment in this workshop when a very petite, mousy, asian woman shared with us all the words of encouragement she used in her interior monologue when things got tough, “Suck it up princess!”, she announced aloud in a tent to a couple hundred would be warriors. The contrast of her very high octave voice and diminutive stature set off against her brash, “Suck it up” was not only hilarious, but it registered as true. She was as tough as she was tiny.
Deb didn’t find these words funny when I said them, and to be honest, I didn’t say them with any mirth. I was pissed off and feeling her complaints as blame. Her statement that she didn’t have a choice in being separated from me triggered my deepest trauma; I felt guilty and helpless to “fix” things and rage that she was blaming me while not taking responsibility for her own feelings (ironically, exactly what I was doing in that moment feeling she was responsible for how I now felt).
And yet, somehow amidst this pattern of guilt and anger, there was still the thread of bliss. As words rose through my mind, justifying the feelings and arguments for unhappiness, there was a deeper felt place where I was still loving and blissful. It was from this depth that instead of being overtaken entirely by feelings of anger and guilt, I noticed these feelings as objects arising separately from my “self”. I was attention, prior to the body-mind of A Cage, and from that place in waves of rising and diminishing bliss, I felt through several days of this deep pattern until it lost all force while leaving behind a level of insight and understanding I’d not previously had.
Still, these two days were the most unhappy I’ve felt in the past two years for sure, particularly since this yogic ecstasy began to reshape my patterns. While this drama was unfolding, I was also involved in a process to try to get my nephew, Masen, to Nova Scotia where he plans to sober up on that coast, a long way from the company of his own deepest patterned triggers that we believe are presently responsible for his alcohol addiction. He’s a 21 year old who shakes and sweats uncontrollably if he doesn’t have booze by noon.
His patterns are bound up deeply with an incredibly traumatic childhood, largely related to his own parent’s failures to love due to their own traumas. The patterns just keep re-generating down the line from parents to children, like wounded DNA.
While talking with a person who knows a little something about alcoholism, the name Gabor Maté came up. He’s a very famous and effective psychologist dealing with addictive behaviour and its roots in trauma. His core position is that virtually all addiction arises from trauma and that efforts to simply stop the addictive behaviour lead nowhere without facing and dealing with the underlying traumas.
Upon hearing this, I immediately understood how Deb and I had animated each other’s deepest traumas and that even at this point in my life when I’ve been overwhelmingly happy for the past two years, I understood that my unhappy experience of the past two days was explicitly about the trauma I experienced when my 18 month old brother was killed in an horrific accident when I was 3 years old.
He was sitting on the pavement outside our motel in front of a parked, Mac, dump truck. The driver of the dump truck had been visiting next door and arrived without a child in sight so when he climbed back into the truck and began driving, the thump of the right front tire ending my brother no doubt became a lifelong trauma for him.
Who can say, really, what the child me felt or thought at that time. I know from a lifetime of seeing this pattern arise, that I have an overdeveloped sense of guilt and of responsibility. Twin aspects of the same trauma?
So when I felt the unloving, angry and agitated thoughts and feelings arise, I also deeply felt the “search” implicit in them and instead of putting my attention on the content of the thoughts, I was drawn to notice the underlying pattern. In this case, the search manifested as notions about what should be changed to stop feeling this way. Maybe it’s time for Deb and my relationship to change. Maybe it’s time for me to finally take up spiritual life full-time and end this frustrating marriage. Maybe there’s a way of fixing this crap once and for all.
But the bliss was there, underneath the frantic insanity of baby Cage hoping to escape my present dilemma. The waves of felt bliss were abbreviated initially between waves of noticed upset. But over the next day or so, the force of love-bliss continued to win out. Between the wounded Cage thoughts, I’d feel the transmission of Adi Da Samraj as love-bliss and see the self-contraction trying to draw attention and energy, to give the unhappiness renewed life.
There’s no possible change in the patterned relationship between Cage and Deb that leads to happiness or perfection. She doesn’t need to feel or say things differently so that I can be relieved of unhappiness. It’s always my own activity, my present moment’s self-contraction.
In the days since this event, I’ve begun to understand more deeply how the patterns related to this past trauma actually work in the present moment. While I don’t have any memories of my brother’s death or the time filled with tears and suffering that must have surrounded it, my own feelings in these triggered occasions are the present moment’s recreation of that past event’s feelings. The feelings themselves are the present moment’s recreated experiential memory of the pattern of previous suffering, suffering that I recreate NOW in the present moment giving it immortality with the new energy.
This is how we abuse our present moments with self-contraction. Our memories are nothing more than present moment recreations of patterns of image, thought and feeling we animate in the present moment irresponsibly. I say irresponsibly, because inevitably, we fail to notice that it’s our actual activity that is generating the unhappiness but we’re always inclined to think the cause is something outside of us, happening to us.
In this way, we give the pattern renewed present moment force so that at some other time in a future NOW, the living momentum of this pattern of unhappiness and suffering will be that much easier to reanimate. Like a spinning top, given new flicks to keep it moving perpetually.
Adi Da Samraj, in the very earliest years of His teaching period, speaks about how our patterns becoming obsolete. This talk definitely describes how by retaining the relationship to the Divine, noticed in my case as love-bliss, in Satsang, the force of the pattern is diminished through self-understanding.
A Cage is merely a pattern generating and storing machine. Those patterns related to traumatic experience seem to have the greatest amplitude and frequency. For most of the past couple years, many of my patterns have melted away without my even being aware of their dissolution. But the really deep one’s are still awaiting Graceful undoing.
What that looks like now is growing self understanding. Half a dozen times in the past week even, I’ve felt the subtle self-contraction that takes the shape of guilt. The difference now seems to be that I feel it beginning to take shape and almost immediately see how I am its source through a specific activity, doing “guilt” and not being the one who feels guilty.
While it’s likely presumptuous to think this deep pattern has been made entirely obsolete, I recently felt it begin to arise in a conversation with one of my sons. I felt the pattern begin to arise. Guilt. Responsibility for another’s unhappiness. But instead of animating it further in the present moment and feeding it energy, I smiled as the self-understand allowed it to be released.
It’s so much easier to let go of something that’s got hold of you when you realize you’re the one, in reality, that’s holding on.