SuttaCentral

It's never too late


#1

I’ve just been teaching in Dublin and Hamburg and one thing that I notice over and over again, everywhere I go, is that people come to talk to me with the same problems; of feeling unworthy, feeling not good enough. And I know those feelings myself all too well.

This is where our practice begins. We begin with what we tell ourselves. The messages that we give to ourself and to acknowledge that many times in the unconsciousness of our larger culture, there are these projections of unworthyness upon us, of being less then, not worthy, not deserving and maybe even ‘not human’. Those messages can be deeply internalized over our childhood and adolescence and it takes every ounce of effort, concentration, mindfulness, to counteract this kind of oppression.

We might like to close ourselves off, to go on retreats where we feel safe from those projections and can, for a brief moment, be ourselves. These retreats are very valueble so we can see and experience that which is gone: the insecurity, the fear, having to pretend, to wear a mask. These are places where we can learn.

But these retreats can also become a bypass: we like to stay within our comfort zone where it feels safe and not go back to the outside world where it is uncomfortable, where we have to interact with people we might not like or who might disagree with us. The retreat itself can become a prison that closes us off and keeps our fears safely hidden inside.

Meditation is not about bypassing or transcending a situation to make it go away. It’s about responding with an action that leads to freedom. And our hearts know what leads to freedom. Deep inside we know the right action to take.

The Buddha’s teachings invite us to let go of this fear and to open our hearts to ourselves and to others and to accept ourselves and others just as we are, with all our faults and imperfections, without judging, with kindness and love, and not to run or hide from what is difficult.

Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. I certainly am no exception (yes, it was me who crashed Discourse the other day!). But we do not need to feel insecure or wrong on account of it. Every mistake is an invitation to learn. No child feels ashamed for falling when learning to walk; it just gets up and tries again and it never stops trying.

The only wise action we can do is to not stop trying. It is never too late to cultivate loving awareness.


#2

Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu. Thank you, Venerable.


#3

Actually there is another group never go to a temple.
They think they are the most valuable and living life to the fullest.
I have seen these are the people very soon fall to the former.
We tend to move between the two extreams of existence and non-existence in short not understanding the Noble Eightfold Path and Dependent Origination.

If people do not understand these fundamentals they will fall to the same ptitfall when they leave the retreat and go home. Retreat should be just more than a short holiday.


#4

So important, even tho it can be a wrestle.


#5

This is an extremely valuable observation. What I would add to this is that it is not uncommon to take feelings of unworthiness and then project those feelings onto others. This is something I am trying very hard to overcome in my practice. It has only been recently that I have come to realize the extent to which I grew up subject to implicit and sometimes explicit insinuations that I or my actions were not good enough and/or that I was deserving of blame for real or imagined wrongdoing. I am now well into my 50s and have only recently realized A) how much this shaped my upbringing and, B) how much I unwittingly, unknowingly, and unintentionally projected this onto others.

The good news is that realizing this has helped me immensely in forgiving myself and forgiving others. My newfound practice has been essential in making this transformation. I am far from perfect, but no longer strive for perfection. What is important is to live by the Noble Eightfold Path and use every occasion to practice the Buddha’s teachings. It takes a lot of Right Effort, Right Concentration, and Right Mindfulness, and I make plenty of mistakes. But I try to see every moment as an opportunity for practice.

Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu @Vimala for your post! :pray: It is a wonderful reminder for why we practice!

Edited for grammar.


#6

The advise from the Buddha I found the most useful to eliminate these aversions: from the Sutta Nipata Sn 5.11: “dry up the remains of your past”.
And how do one does that? by using (outside the meditation cushion) the 1st 7 components of the 8FP in a Transformative Process of one by one eliminating the fears and aversions we acquired in our childhood/teenager times. The most important step being to develop a complete view about the issues that underline the problems; in particular acknowledging fully the dukkha we received when we grew up and then make peace with it.


#7

Thank you so much @Metaphor for your personal account of your journey. It is always nice to hear people’s own experiences.


#8

What’s I found useful for past issues is Right effort - I can think of several steps this would be comprised of:

  1. Stop blaming the outside world. I have a weakness that I can control, which causes my suffering. Blaming myself doesn’t help.
  2. Identify the defilement(s). Defilements may have been at play from a young age so may be felt as completely normal to that person. Use lists from EBTs or lists of emotions to identify negative emotions.
  3. Start work on dismantling those reactive patterns of emotions by challenging them. Vitakkasantana sutta (SuttaCentral) and other sutta or modern methods are helpful with this task and it’s a gradual process- the first instinct is to suppress it by force. A subtler approach is necessary.

#9

Indeed :hearts: