Deeply trusting in our direct experience
Recently it came to my attention that I am not trustworthy. Or rather, I hold a strong, deeply entrenched view that I’m not. The story goes something like this: I should not be trusted. I subconsciously operate from ulterior motives and manipulative schemes designed to get my own way, at the expense of the needs and desires of others. My whole life has been built around an idea that I actually care about others, but really I’m just in it for the bolstering of my own ego and the satisfaction of getting what I want.
When I look more closely at this view, what I find is that it is tightly tied up with a part of me that doesn’t completely trust in my experience. And when I don’t trust in my experience, the habit is to tell myself stories about my experience. For example, if anger arises. The habit when I get angry is to go into all sorts of rationalisations and justifications for my anger. It’s as if I can’t believe that it is possible for anger to arise without something to project it onto.
But what if the only thing that makes anger ‘anger’ is the projection itself? When I trust in my own experience, like the momentary arising of anger, and sit with the raw sensation of it, there is nothing else there but energy. What if, instead of slapping a label on it, and making up stories about it, I could trust myself enough to let go into that energy, letting it course through me fully and uninhibited? What if I could believe that this creative act will lead to its liberation?
When I have practiced in this way, these questions answer themselves. My anger becomes something much more powerful than I could ever imagine, and yet a lot less scary. And it also becomes something that I can trust in, an energy that I am becoming familiar with, and that can therefore no longer control me. My confidence deepens in something beyond the momentary arising of anger, my own integrity and the integrity of my practice.
Meeting the shadow of our past
Based on the Buddhist teachings on karma, we get angry because we have gotten angry in the past. We want things to be different, because we have resisted our direct experience in the past. We are confused, because we have spent a lot of time in states of confusion in the past. Something happens that we don’t like, want more of, or don’t understand or know how to relate to and the habitual response is anger, craving, or confusion. We are living in the shadow of our past.
So how do I reconcile with the shadow of my past? Even after years of ethical practice, I still can’t quite face old parts of myself. They rear their ugly heads when I’m triggered and set off painfully familiar thoughts and emotions. And no matter how much I wish I didn’t have these patterns, they never seem to go away. Even when I can see clearly what they are and where they come from.
For a few years now I’ve been practice what my teacher calls “flipping the script” on my demons from the past. What if the message these parts of myself carry has some integrity to it? What might happen if I could really trust in my experience and my practice? What if this trust supported me to turn towards these parts of myself, listen deeply to them, and fully feel the still yet unprocessed emotion there?
Lately I’ve been playing around with a theory. The theory is that the only way to become more trustworthy is to learn how to deeply trust. And deeply trusting means coming into relationship without an agenda. Wanting something to go away is the surest way to ensure that it sticks around. So that strategy ultimately works against us. The practice is therefore to learn to meet our experience without any ulterior motives.
Perhaps the reason I hold a view that I am not trustworthy is because ultimately, the ego that likes to think she’s in charge of my life, is not trustworthy. She’s the one with the ulterior motive and that motive is to be the ruler of my experience. There is an arrogance there that is subtle, but still operates within each of us. As practice deepens, we can become more sensetive to this kind of conceit and begin to also come into relationship with it in a new way. If we can see it for what it is, it won’t have as much power over us and in time, the less we identify with the stories it tells us, it will begin to dissolve.
Moving beyond acceptance and rejection
When the ego we’ve put our trust in begins to loosen its hold on us, what we begin to open up into is the awareness that supports all of our experience. This awareness is completely spacious and yet it holds us here. It is totally clear, and yet things appear to arise and pass away within it. It is totally sensitive, and yet nothing can taint or diminish it.
When we begin to open to this awareness as the basis of our true nature, a deep trust begins to also develop within us. This trust is no longer based on shoring up a sense of ourselves based on what we like and don’t like, but instead is based on neither accepting nor rejecting anything that arrises in our experience. Everything is allowed the space and time required to come into being and pass away, without any need to interfere at all.
The gift of confidence
As we learn to deeply trust ourselves, we can also begin to more deeply trust others. And when we are able to deeply trust others, they are also more able to deeply trust themselves. This is a gift we can give each other, a deep and unwavering confidence in our innate capacity to meet our experience fully and transform ourselves in the light of that awareness.
When we’ve done our own inner work to meet all of ourselves without agenda, we are in a much stronger position from which to come into a relationship with others that is also free of an agenda. We stop trying to take advantage, control others, decide what’s best for them, or give advice. Instead, we can come into relationship from a place of confidence that, given the right conditions and support, each person has it within themselves to find their own way towards freedom.
This ‘agenda-less’ way of relating is based on curiosity, rather than any false sense of knowing. It is based in mutual respect, a kind of respect that goes beyond seeing ourselves as better than, less than or even equal to others. It relies on a deep inner confidence that whatever we meet in another person, we have already, or could at any moment, meet within ourselves. Therefore, there is nothing to judge, nothing to fix, and nothing to reject in the other person.
I believe deeply that in order to be truly trustworthy, we must each find our own inner integrity and then share it with others through exemplifying this radical way of relating. It is only in relating to ourselves and others so openly that we will begin to create a culture of trust where all of us can fully discover ourselves and our deepest potential and have the confidence to live from that place.