today i stumbled upon a putrid corner of guilt that had been dormant for a time and was constantly coming into conflict with my spiritual path…
i discovered this during my morning meditation when all of the sudden i began to drift off into thought and one of these thoughts related to my being in a position to help one of my friends overcome one of the primary obstacles to starting a spiritual path. as i continued to sink into this imagined circumstance, as always, believing it to be true, the situation developed further. all of the sudden, i found myself confronting this evanescent imaginary agent in a very severe and frank way, which resulted in the following imagined response: what makes you think you’re better than me?
now, at the moment that this happened, the ebbs and the flows of mindfulness began to seep slowly back into attention, bringing me back into the present moment and away from this mental simulacrum. by the sheer coincidence of these two events — the imaginary confrontation, and the return of mindfulness — i was brought into intimate contact with a latent motivating mental factor that had been festering like a gangrenous wound. i had discovered that there existed inside of me a force of thick fortification and cunning camouflage. this was the factor of guilt. i realized that for the majority of my life, i had always taken care to not appear too clever in front of others for fear of being seen as arrogant and cocky. and the power of this force is so intense, that even in its dormant unconscious stupor, it is still busy at work sifting through the years and years of living experience in my life for the slightest hint of an occasion where i displayed competence or any other good trait for it to color over with the darkest shades of black.
actually this realization came to me in several stages. but it has been a recent process nonetheless. it began when i made a confession to one of my closest friends that i have a very big mental wall regarding being seen as better than others. in the deepest and darkest corners of my heart, i fear and loath the day that people will compliment me openly. this disturbs me because of the powerful conditioning i received as i was growing up. it came from multiple arenas: a) school where i frequently succeeded at earning the highest grades and was generally among the top of my class, and b) at home where my parents taught me about the virtues of modesty and the ugliness of bragging. at school i was frequently ostracized for being an over-achiever. this conditioning trained me to act stupid in front of people so as to not alienate them or draw sharp and jealous words out of their mouths both of which caused me pain. and so, a couple of weeks ago, i was trying to help my friend get through a reasonably large obstacle on his spiritual path, which i believe i was satisfactorily successful in doing. and upon recieving his thanks to me and further his compliments, i almost broke down. i did not want to hear those things. i simply wanted to help him but i did not want to be praised. this praising is a soft spot for me, and the core of this is guilt.
so this morning, when confronted finally with a clear and vivid picture expressing the truth behind the obstacle, i loosened those shackles a substantial amount. i saw clearly that there was nothing to feel guilty about. there is just what we can see, what is in front of our eyes, and what is known, or can be known, to be true. so then, how does one resolve the conflict between honesty and modesty? on the one hand, one can just be truthful about everything and dismiss modesty as untruthful. on the other hand, one can see the virtues of modesty by realizing that this is not meant to be a tool for cultivating guilt; rather, this is simply a tool designed to curb the tyrannical influences of the self-worshiping ego. it’s purpose is the negation of bloated or exaggerated self-praising comments. however, in me it stretched into the opposite extreme and began to manifest as an exaggerated self-loathing force. and this is the precipice that one must with all the power one can muster, avoid falling and getting trapped within. these extremes can be found everywhere in the realm of human consciousness, and everywhere they lodge, problems arise. the solution is to stick to the middle path. never stray too far into extremes. never indulge too strongly in an ideal. and never, under any circumstances, allow any form of self-loathing, guilt, or regret lie unexamined or undiagnosed. for this in itself is the very cause of the suffering of mankind.
just like this colorful and polluted cloud we can see obscuring the sky in this picture does my guilt obscure clear vision and pollute my happiness.
“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.”