Brushing Off the Residue
Have you ever had the experience of getting home from a social gathering or other event and want to heave a heavy sigh of relief? Kick off your shoes, plop down on the bed, blast some of your favorite music? Suddenly this return home has made you feel so comfortable. Whereas, when you were at that event, you felt as though you were playing some kind of a role?
Once in the comfort of home, it’s as if we let go of that social identity or the attachment to who we think we are and settle gently back into the openness, warmth and fluidity of our true selves. Many spiritual teachers would refer to that “true self” as our essence identity.
Buddha suggested that we learn how to rest in the openness of our essence identity even when we are playing other roles throughout our days and lives, i.e. the role of a father, sister, employee, cook, etc. And, even learning how to maintain that “essence identity” in the face of someone disagreeing with us or challenging us in some way. You might ask, How in the world do I do that?
For myself, I must admit, this is not an easy task especially in these uncertain and rocky times.
One of the most renowned teachers of Tibetan Buddhism, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, equates our capacity to do this as something like brushing our teeth. We know that when we eat and drink, our teeth become coated with the residual of that food or drink which causes a build up. If we didn’t brush our teeth, they might rot. But we can no more stop eating to avoid this residue than we can get rid of the roles we play.
Part of the beauty of any meditation or other spiritual practices is the newly formed awareness that allows space for us to contemplate all of the various factors that came into play to create our specific sense of self. Consider some of your habitual patterns of thinking or behavior. Perhaps take the time to investigate where that came from, how you may have formed your opinions and thinking. Was it cultural? Ancestrally inherited from other family members, something you learned along the way, or perhaps a result of trauma or abuse.
When we can acknowledge these factors more as “residue,” it gives us an awareness that we are able to change them if we choose.
First, we have to acknowledge them as residue that can be “brushed off” before they can begin to loosen and ultimately dissolve. This then makes it easier for us to find the willingness to let go of the desire to control our thoughts, emotions, sensations, images. And, when we do that, we begin to reconnect with the basic spark of our being. Our essence identity shines brightly, our hearts open up, we become better listeners. Maybe we are even more fully aware of what is going on around us and can find ourselves becoming more responsive and less reactive.
Recently, I found myself extremely triggered by something that was said to me by one of my family members. (I speak about this in greater detail in this week’s Mindful Moment’s video below.)
Only in hindsight was I able to notice how much residue was still all over my teeth!
In the moment of what was said, I wasn’t able to see past the residue and return to my essence identity. I failed to notice that I was getting catapulted right back to the days when I doubted myself, my life, my future. Without that split second of pure awareness, I instantly returned to the younger version of myself and was horribly triggered.
I didn’t see this to be the case in the moment where it really would have made the difference both in my reaction as well as in the relationship itself. But I’m always going to be on this spiritual path. There is no place to get to, no place to “arrive.” It’s non-linear, disjointed, sometimes confusing and challenging. And, boy oh boy, does it take courage and a bit of good, old-fashioned humility! But isn’t that the journey?
Keep in mind, it takes practice to learn how to distinguish between what is residue and what is the core (or the teeth) of our being. It takes practice for us to open ourselves up to living vulnerably and face all of the challenges that come along with doing so.
For me, what I also noticed was that it takes a tremendous amount of courage to show up AS my essence/true identity in front of people who have known me to be a certain way from years past.
Also important to keep in mind, it takes practice and courage to be with other beings who might not have the knowledge or the chance to reconnect with their own basic self or spark or even know that it resides within them (and each one of us) as well.
Remind yourself to be patient with yourself as you traverse along the journey. Be gentle and kind with yourself and with others around you. Remember that meditation and other spiritual practices have been developed and refined over many centuries by masters who spent many years bringing them to fruition.
Everyone is doing the very best they can, based on their own spiritual condition at this moment. Allow room for compassion to emerge for yourself as well as all of those around you as you make your way down the path.
If you are just beginning along the path, are wanting to deepen your spiritual practice, or are seeking a spiritual guide, mentor, and coach to help you navigate your spiritual path, I’d love to support you on your journey. I offer a Complimentary 30-Minute Zoom Coaching Session to help you get started. Click HERE to schedule a session.