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The Treadmill of Self-Deception

February 20, 2012

Dennis LewisPeople often look for panaceas in their lives: a spiritual teaching or teacher, a concept, a belief, a positive affirmation, a transformational technique, and so on. And, to be sure, we do need plenty of help and guidance–and we do need to practice. But practice what and for what, exactly? What is my aim, my motivation, not just the one I proclaim to put myself in the best light, but the actual impetus behind what I do? We need to face this motivation honestly and realize that it often is not what we believe it to be. Sometimes it is fueled less by the quest for understanding and truth than by the desire to bypass our discontent, unhappiness, confusion, loss, fear, anxiety, anger, trauma, and the many other aspects of our being we find too painful to face. Unless we see and face ourselves as a whole, however, and release through intimate awareness the powerful energies locked into these difficult emotions and experiences, our efforts and practices are likely to keep us on the treadmill of self-deception, with little hope of self-transformation or self-realization.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Dirk B permalink
    February 20, 2012 12:55 pm

    in spiritual circles there is often the thought that people are trying to avoid difficult emotions and challenging circumstances; but the truth is that we are trying to develop the inner landscape so we can experience those things as well as joy.
    it is the cultivation of the inner landscape that should be the focus…not what people are avoiding.
    many are wounded. teach them the skills to venture inside to develop themselves and their resources, and then the resistance to challenging thought patters, emotions, experiences will lessen.

    • February 20, 2012 1:50 pm

      Yes, true! There is also the circumstance, quite common, where people attempt what John Welwood calls “spiritual bypassing.” This really needs to be seen if “the inner landscape” is to be cultivated in such as way that transformation is possible. We need to see our actual motivations! The resistance you speak of is often the effort to avoid seeing the truth about ourselves, and spiritual teachings and techniques are often used to aid in that effort. A good teacher, however, understands that process and helps the student understand it too.

  2. February 20, 2012 2:33 pm

    Thanks Dennis. It’s always been a struggle for me to remember this. For me, the hope that “if I sit then I’ll feel better” tends to be this underlying and really rather unconscious motivation for meditation practice -even though I understand that it’s about working with my current state of being, not trying to fix it. It’s kind of like a secret wish even though I know as you say we have to face ourselves as a whole. Funny how that works. I guess we human creatures spend a lot of time bypassing life on many levels. Then again maybe that’s part of the whole of it.

  3. February 20, 2012 6:03 pm

    I often find myself on this treadmill. Counting helps, but I still am not sure where I am headed. Maybe that is the magic of it all…

  4. February 20, 2012 6:32 pm

    A good spiritual teacher would never allow you to simply bypass the harder stuff. A good teacher takes you inward where you examine everything so that it can be cleansed from your system for ever and this is one of the reasons why it is vital to have a good teacher. People think that they can do this on their own, but the ego gets in the way and delusions crop up instead of the process of self illumination.

    • February 20, 2012 6:47 pm

      Your own inner sincerity, though, is not the responsibility of the teacher (however good she is) who can point things out and create good conditions but cannot do the work for you. Seeing, accepting, and welcoming the truth is up to each one of us.

      • February 20, 2012 7:35 pm

        Of course, but a good teacher leads you to the work that needs to happen which the ego conceals. You must do the work. The teacher cannot do it for you, but without a teacher you’re lost because the ego veils the truth. A good teacher is vital to liberation from the ego’s grasp. It cannot happen otherwise and to think that it can is pure delusion.

  5. bruceparksme permalink
    February 20, 2012 6:41 pm

    Maybe Kim has the answer. If we only focus on accepting life as a whole, as it is, then each of the struggles has no singular effect? I too just sit to feel better and the process of accepting each circumstance is wonderful, but each occurrence repeats. I am always better for looking at the truth but in fact I want the happiness of not being on the treadmill. So while I don’t feel I am bypassing life on any level, I am surely too focused on correcting every issue instead of thoroughly enjoying the ride.

    • February 20, 2012 7:17 pm

      Bruce…something in what you said sparked a memory of a moment or two from last week when I was experiencing some difficult physical sensations. Must be my age (hot flashes), but I have this kind of heat that arises and then a constriction in my abdomin/chest. Usually I’m trying to get away from this but instead I rode the energy. I’m not sure I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, but taking the ride was better than my usual resistance. Anyway, I can just really relate to everything you’re saying. May you be blessed with the happiness of not being on the treadmill.

  6. NIDHI SHARMA permalink
    February 23, 2012 6:56 am

    There are many times an individual who experiences turmoil and pain in his life looks for SOMETHING that makes them FEEL BETTER.Stumbles and gropes for a support and in all of this when one does find IT,the release of those pent up emotions which according to social norms and our conscience are incorrect ,leads them to a pathway of lightness.Why,coz due to this ‘teacher’one gets the COURAGE to face the deception of self illusion that one was living in .Facing the REALITY is a tough call.When one does it the individual is motivated and knows what is it that one is striving for,looking for,as the most difficult bridge has been crossed by him. Then it is just matter of time that all the feelings get sorted out,of course,the path is tumultuous and that is where the actual journey begins.

  7. June 18, 2012 7:46 pm

    One thing that i have learned in my life is without a path there is nothing to clear so the ego is the path that i want to clear. I am so happy that threw the ego i can confront my emotions and set them free it is not easy work but to be truly happy for no reason we must go threw our pain our attachment our karma to be free is too be without but to be without is to be free then we can see what is truth and awaken to love our only true self some call it nothing but to fell bliss has to be something. life constantly gives us changeless to work threw not to ruin us but wakens us to what is love. oneness is a huge part of love we are not separate but whole we need to stop the story from one to another and instead spread wisdom to one another. I am happy for the decision I have made it is teaching me two concepts to help or bring harm we need to stop bringing harm and bring love to all this will show us the way to be true to our own hearts.

  8. February 27, 2014 9:53 pm

    True that i m finding the same lack of impetus, fear along with anxiety in my thoughts; fear that withdraws me from an action of moving forward in life. I do feel that i need my actions to be what i love to do, but as explained by u , confusion, lack of motivation is creating an invisible barrier inside or around me which has forced me to me look for a concept , transformation, idea or techniques to overcome what i have become for the past many months. Slight glimpses of my past and the real me pops up, but just fades away later ..

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