If You Want to Develop Something New, You Have to Let Go of Something Old
The old skin has to be shed for the new one to come. Joseph Campbell
Last night we had a gathering in our place which we have each month to explore various topics. We always have a dinner because the Baha’i Writings state that the spiritual and material worlds should be like a mirror to each other, a feast for the body and a feast for the spirit. The topic was about letting go of the old patterns so that the new ones could come in.
It never makes very much sense to discard something old if it is still serving as a way of coping or maintaining the present unless you have something better to replace it with. Most of us know the kind of energy we need. When we are presented with a list of spiritual attributes such as honesty, courage, patience, love, or peacefulness, our spirits do the choosing for us because it knows what we need. When you have a list like in the Virtues Project, then you can just choose the new energy that will really make your life work well. Then you can begin thinking about all of the ways you will be better off for it.
But it is not just so simple to begin thinking about a new process and suddenly have it appear. You have to give up an old pattern, let it go. Human beings have two natures in that we have a material side which is our heritage from animals, and then we also have a spiritual nature where all of our positive qualities lie. Whenever you contemplate a new virtue and take steps to release it within you, the material side of you acts as a resistance letting you know that you have some work to do. It is attached to maintaining itself with its coping ways.
So for instance, we had an example in the meeting where someone chose the quality of balance and was also thinking of moderation. Balance is the quality that keeps you going in a steady forward motion without burning out. The problem that the participant had was that of having a huge vision to achieve in a very short amount of time. It caused a great deal of always looking around for more time and then eventually just burning out. The attachment of the ego was to the vision. The vision was too grand for such a limited amount of time. When you let go of the ego in a case like this, you let go of the attachment to achieving so much in short period of time. Instead you try to reach an equilibrium that allows you very steady growth on a daily basis over a long period of time. (I think this is why the economy is such a mess usually. You have people trying to do too much too fast.)
Another person had the virtue of flexibility in mind in order to begin a new NGO in a different country, but the ego kept getting in the way by determining what the vision was for the people in the project and then staying rigid with the expectations that they would accept whatever she had in mind for them. When you loosen the ego’s attachment, you begin to realize that flexibility allows the other participants more choice in their own vision. It requires giving up believing that you know best.
Another person with an ego attachment dealt with developing the quality of peacefulness. Peacefulness is the virtue that allows you to remain calm inside while other negative things that are stormy are going on around you. What was keeping the peacefulness from being unleashed inside was a mind that loves to whir that is coupled with anxiety. And these two were sustained by the attachment of having things go exactly the way the mind had envisioned it.
One of the great teachings learned from the meeting was that we discovered when a vision is incorrect. It is incorrect when you keep ending up in a bunch of negative patterns while trying to achieve the vision. In the case of peacefulness the goal is to be calm inside and that is all. When you are peaceful, the outer storm has time to wear itself out, then the positive vision appears.
Of course there are certain virtues that when they want to come out have a great deal of memories of trauma connected to them from past experience. For instance, most children are supposed to develop curiosity and playfulness, but when you are from a alcoholic family where there was instability, you may have been thrown around the house or beaten severely. Coping is about being hyper vigilant and hiding out. So when you recognize that you need more playfulness, your attachment may be to protecting yourself against negative behavior. It is not easy to let go of the attachment even though that is what is needed because the memory structure of being thrown around is so strong. Sometimes the mind is just completely irrational because you can be in an extremely safe environment, but be unable to be playful because the attachment to protection is just too strong. Trying to be playful when the protection is still there is like trying to run a marathon carrying a 50 kilos of weights on your feet. As long as you have the protection you are going nowhere, but when your mind is convinced that you are safe, then you can be extremely playful.
Most people need help when overcoming traumatic protective memories so if you are attracted to a virtue and want more of it, but are getting nowhere, your mind is probably got some elaborate scheme to say no. Getting to yes is the goal. Don’t go to a personal trainer right away when you have gain 30 kilos of protection. Deal with the protection first and then hire as many personal trainers as you would like.