I need not feel good all the time.
Weather keeps changing.
I am storm and calm twilight,
Ice and balmy breeze.
Kaspa writes: I’m not good at wanting things. Which isn’t to say that I don’t want things, but that my desires are deeply buried under layers of protection.
I have some idea why this is. A couple of powerful rejections at a very young age and my mind began to build walls to protect itself. If I want something – I don’t get it (the deeply hidden story goes). This hidden story leads to self-sabotage and a failure to recognise that I like X over Y.
The reason I can write about this is because the story is unravelling. I am able to recognise that I do want to live in this house, that I wanted to install a wood-burning stove, and that I want to build six raised beds (I’m half way there).
I’m writing about this because I want to talk about how I got from repressing wants to feeling them and acting upon the good ones. But I can hear some of you asking, as a Buddhist, surely you should give up wanting things?
I believe as you progress along the path the experience of letting go of wanting specific things leads to eventually being able to enjoy many more things. It’s also true that not all desires are bad. The desire to help others, to write this email, and to weed the veg. patch are all things worth cultivating.
There’s a whole different essay in those few lines. Let me drag myself back to what I wanted to write about: the value of just getting on and doing things.
There are many different routes to change – you can work from the inside, examining the layers of your mind and trying to alter their weft and weave, or you can work from the outside and start to take different actions in your life. I want to write about the second of these.
Dr. Morita was a Japanese therapist working with agoraphobics in the early 20th Century. He believed that feelings were a side-effect of how we are in the world, and that although they affect us, they do not have to be our driving force. He was action oriented. Morita encouraged his patients to begin to take action in the world: an action that might be uncomfortable, but that was possible.
He would ask them to be aware of their feelings, but not to be swayed by them. Feelings are just like froth on an ocean wave – the wave breaks on the sand, comes into shore – the wave has direction, the bubbles come and go.
As we start to walk new paths, taking good actions in the world, as we take care of our lives step by step, our minds reconfigure. We feel powerful emotions as old patterns are disturbed, but if we keep acting, our minds catch-up and we stop being anxious about that thing that really worried us. Our comfort zone expands.
I became a home owner for the first time two months ago. This was a completely new action for me. Wanting something, arranging to receive it and owning something so big. All new stuff that disturbed those patterns of not wanting that I talked about at the start of this email.
I had powerful dreams before and after we moved house. I lost sleep and I noticed the tension in my shoulders. My concentration slipped at work. I was clearly affected.
Looking back now I understand all of that as my mind recreating itself to fit the new person I was defining by my actions in the world. We kept buying the house and, eventually, my mind got used to the idea.
I think Morita presented a great way of learning to be different in the world. It works well with creative projects that you are nervous about, or in experimenting with new ways of being.
Step into the world. Take action. Yes, you will feel things, but these are just side effects, the bubbles on the wave. Respect them, but don’t be controlled by them. Your mind will catch up, and your feelings will change, and you will have done something!
If you’d like to join me in trying this out, we’ll be practicing Morita therapy (as it’s known) in the second week of my Eastern Therapeutic Writing course, which begins next Friday. There are currently five spaces left. Click on the link to find out more and to register.
Photo by -wink-, with thanks.