|Photo from Synergy by Jasmine|
Was Focused on Moderating Greed, Until I Discovered Aversion
Focused on curtailing ‘greed’
No wonder then, as I consciously decided, a few years ago, to embark on a journey of personal and spiritual growth, the idea of moderating my greed must have come naturally to me. I subconsciously switched from living with multiple and sometimes never ending ‘wants’ to being more centered around fulfilling important ‘needs’. The idea of constantly upgrading to a bigger house or a bigger car, that I was beginning to get accustomed to, didn’t seem to motivate me any more.
I left a lucrative corporate career, chose to pursue a simpler life and to find greater meaning and make a difference to others started a practice of life coaching. In the process, I turned somewhat idealistic in many of my thoughts and actions and it showed up in small but multiple ways – I moderated my ambitions, cut down on my travels, committed to daily meditation and gave up meat and alcohol.
With disciplined practice of meditation, I became calmer, less competitive, discovered new inner strength and found greater peace. I felt less attached to ambition and success and more grounded in a purposeful journey. I was happier.
While life looked great for the most part, I found myself occasionally experiencing sharp anxiety over things that seemed relatively insignificant to others around me. I related to these moments as personal setbacks in my otherwise happy journey of spiritual growth. Of course, being that harsh on myself made it worse.
All the same, with continued reflections, I could begin to see a pattern. I had a strong, an almost innate, sense of aversion – an aversion to pain, loss and to any kind of suffering.
I subconsciously detested multiple things, big and small, including the idea of falling sick, getting into an argumentative discussion, excessive socializing, meeting aggressive people or missing my daily dose of meditation or exercise. I was also averse to making blunders (perhaps minor mistakes that appeared major only to me) and harbored a subliminal fear of potential loss – of losing a loved one, my reputation or my newfound sense of peace.
Learning to cope with it
Merely becoming aware of this aspect of my personality was instructive. I could then catch myself getting drawn into these thought-patterns more vividly. These reflective moments reinforced the truism that we cannot control what happens to us but we can surely make choices in how we respond to them. Rather than be anxious about what may transpire in our life, it is more relevant to focus on developing equanimity to deal with any situation more calmly.
I also figured that if wanting to succeed at all times was my previously held limiting belief, so is trying hard to avoid having to face failure the current one. Moderating excessive ambition and cultivating openness to falter are two ends of the same stick. It dawned on me that what was needed on my part was a greater willingness to be vulnerable – developing comfort with making more mistakes and learning to take myself less seriously.
I have been learning to relate to the humanness in everyone’s, and my own, fragilities; trying to see the positive in people and situations. All this has required not avoiding but engaging with the uncomfortable; appreciating that all experiences, happy or otherwise, are integral part of our life and that in fact, usually we learn and grow more from the painful ones.
Three key insights
I also learnt a lot more while trying to work with ‘greed’ and ‘aversion’. I have tried to summarize the same in three key insights, as follows:
1. Building self-awareness
‘Greed’ and ‘Aversion’ are two of the most significant challenges of human existence. We spend an inordinate amount of time, energy and thought towards getting or hoping to get what we don’t have. Equally, we are consumed by fear of losing what we do have. Either way, we stay anxious and dissatisfied in our current state.
We need to slow down, take a pause and examine what are our recurring sources of anxiety and what are our conditioned impulses towards ‘greed’ and ‘aversion’. If you are keen to alter your current state in any way and experience greater happiness, developing this awareness is pivotal.
2. Letting go of our judgmental self
We routinely fall prey to judging situations, people and even ourselves. We judge every situation and quickly label it as ‘favorable’ or ‘unfavorable’. Our habituated minds make us crave more of the favorable experiences and avoid the unfavorable ones – in some way, operating from the belief that not only is one state preferable but also that perhaps it is somehow possible for us to create that state on a sustained basis.
We need to recognize that such judgmental interpretations are hardly the reality; they are mere labels assigned by our conditioned minds. We need to let go of these labels and be open to all experiences with a similar sense of acceptance. When we stop judging situations and other people, we stop fearing the risk of being judged by others as well.
3. Cultivating equanimity
Learning to be a detached observer of our habituated thoughts and responses, without getting consumed by them, can be a meaningful way towards liberating ourselves of many of our inner struggles. Such witnessing helps us cultivate greater equanimity – that assists us in reducing our continuous thoughts of clinging and avoidance, and of judging everything as good or bad.
Such equanimity helps us better normalize what the Buddhist teachings identify as the eight variations of our tendency to continually hope and fear – pleasure and pain, praise and blame, gain and loss, fame and disgrace. Being a true and dispassionate observer can open us up to all types of experiences, pleasant or otherwise, with equal acceptance.
How about you?
All of us have pronounced tendencies towards ‘greed’ and ‘aversion’ which are a recurring cause of dissatisfaction, anxiety and unhappiness in our life.
What have you observed about yourself? What have been your sources of anxiety? Are you driven more by greed or aversion? What approaches have you adopted to deal with these and find greater peace?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences. Do leave your comments.
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