When the mind feels its existence is threatened, it uses its self-defense mechanisms to protect itself from the threats. We want to go even further, we try to prepare ourselves for the future threats, hurts and so on. We do our “best” to try to survive, no matter what is the cost: our relationships with other beings (human or non-human), our feelings or even clarity of thought.
What are we really doing? What is the reason for all this and the result of all this? Is it even proper to react to images of the possibilities before they become actualities?
The mind’s self defense mechanisms can be in full swing before we know it, triggered by a sheer thought of danger. But what is the danger we want to avoid? Hearing of the unkind words of others, the sight of suffering or perceived injustices. These are just a few things we want to “protect” our selves from. But even if these things were real, the defense mechanisms of the mind are certainly not natural. They are merely pre-planned reactions based on our previous thoughts and ideas.
The way we want to protect ourselves from the “bad” things is to block them out, ignore them or desensitise ourselves. But we must be very careful as when we do this we loose our sensitivity, the ability to sense things. Desensitising means raising our threshold to feel anything and everything, not just blocking out the terrible images of suffering, pain and sorrow. It is like wearing a protective glove to guard ourselves from the thorns of a rose, while in the same time trying to feel the velvet-like petals of the same flower with our fingertips.
This is where we can easily learn from nature. As the river would never flinch before a pebble breaks its surface, we could learn to be alert all the time and only act when necessary. It is not reaction as there is no planning involved and there is no reliance on the past experiences. This alertness is not watchfulness, where our attention is always focused on possible threats, rather like being aware of different contexts and connections. It is creativity, where we can discover new ways of living.
It is how we can penetrate deeper than a casual observer would. Seeing that while anger manifests on the surface impatience, self-doubt or even self-hate can lurk in the depths of us. This is how we can replace our self-centered focus with a global awareness, where there is no reason to protect ourself but to love.
Then regardless of the events in the world we can engage in meaningful relationship with others. Even if something upsets us we then will be able to regain our composure just like a rubber band would return to its normal shape after being stretched. This is spiritual elasticity.
How can we do this? We just have to keep reminding ourselves, keep bringing our attention back to where we are, in space and time, in heart and mind. I keep a rubber band on my desk. How do you remind yourself to return to your ideal self?