The spiritual alchemy of giving something up turns lead into gold.
This is not a new idea.
Every religion proposes a multitude of practices to create this environment of purposeful resistance within oneself. The aim of each is to grapple with our lower nature.
Mr. Gurdjieff called it Conscious Labor and Intentional Suffering.
The most common form of this practice is fasting and runs the gamut all the way up to the Sufi notion of “be not absent for the length of a single breath”.
Working with any of our obvious addictions can bring us face to face with the subtleties of the subversive tactics of our Ego. Our addiction to self importance and superiority can be just as dangerous as any dependance on drugs, food, or alcohol.
In fact, the things that seem so “moral” can be worse addiction than we imagine, one that promotes the illusion of self and pushes who we really are into the dark recesses of our psyche.
The stronger our addiction to improvement, to being positive, to being “good”, to being enlightened, holy, pure, successful, and in tact, the further we get away from our essence.
Initially working with something simple has always been my best tactic.
Since it is the beginning of Lent and having grown up in the Episcopal church, it is basically hardwired in me to maintain this tradition. Even though I spend all my days aiming toward intentional inner friction within myself, I get especially ramped up for the season.
Forty days of anything will yield mega results unless you have chosen something that is too easy. The nature of your choice requires inner struggle.
Giving up alcohol, sugar, morning coffee, going out to eat, netflix, internet or any other beloved habit can be extremely effective.
What about giving up complaining or doling out opinions? If you are quick to speak and not listen, how about not talking until someone asks you a question?
Adding a discipline like meditation, exercise, stopping for a brief pause on the hour is also recommended.
Adding a gratitude practice on the daily can be life changing.
As the struggle crops up, the importance is to recognize the yes and the no simultaneously. Bringing the practice of sensation in your body while the struggle is happening will open your eyes to phenomenon that exist behind the actual addiction/discipline.
Work of this sort becomes the gateway to a flood of new impressions.
That is how we learn about ourselves and feed our consciousness. The more we begin to see the more difficult it is to accept our mechanical nature. We know much more vividly how it operates.
In a way, things can seem worse before they get better when we see “the horror of the situation”, but it is the only way through. We can’t do it by not seeing. We can’t continue to numb ourselves into oblivion. We cannot hide in our identification with what is good or bad, like being a nice person, or being disciplined in a practice, or pleasing others.
…and the same goes for when we struggle with a more obvious addiction.
This is why in my courses, my mentoring and in my groups, we work with doing things we don’t like. We start with small practices and work our way up to seeing how we act so inauthentically.
Acting inauthentically is often concurrent with doing what we like and staying in a comfort zone. That comfort zone may be persistent self loathing, self bashing, guilt and shame.
I wish you strength and courage in your choices for the 40 day period. Please let us know in the comments below what you have chosen to do. Even the smallest struggle reaps great benefits and prepares us for the deep dive!