Our samskaras, or the accumulation of habits formed from past action and thought, are deep impressions that have dug themselves into our mind-body system. These samskaras manifest in the form of bracing. We tighten in our mind-body in order to push away unpleasantness or to grab at the desirable. It is this contraction that creates the illusion of separation. By bringing our awareness to these deep holdings, they begin to loosen on their own, returning to their natural state. We stop bracing against the world.
We often think of this in terms of our personal life. We brace against our relationships to other people, to work, and to ourselves. But, there is another set of deep contractions that we rarely, if ever, talk about.
We constantly brace against the immense suffering that surrounds us and the inevitable guilt we feel as an accomplice to this system of exploitation. Every time we buy something… anything, drive a car, turn on the electricity in our homes, or even travel to a dharma retreat, our mind-body braces against the horror of our involvement in this system of violence, and we brace again to stave off the helplessness of having no escape in sight. It is this bracing that allows us to continue without fully acknowledging our role as accomplice, or if we do it stays hidden from sight or subdued as a subtle whisper.
We brace out of the mistaken fear that we will drown in the world’s pain, but what we seek to protect is merely the outer shell of our Being. By protecting it, we not only create a dam from the world, but also from ourselves. The world’s suffering is our suffering. We spend precious energy maintaining this illusion of separation.
When we lower the floodgates, this outer shell begins to crumble against life’s oncoming river. What remains is something remarkable- the fierce courage of an open heart. This heart carries the tides of grief and beauty on its inhale and exhale like a bellowing sea, informing the way we inhabit the world and animating each step. This heart sings the song of the world.
For most of us, this is not a one-time event, but a continual and gradual letting go. I have found that each time I allow myself to feel, I discover a new part of me that is still holding on, not yet ready to let go, still believing in a someone to protect from a world out there.
But this also leaves me with a strengthened faith in the process, for an open heart is inherently satisfying. It teaches that the world’s pain contains seeds of its power. And, if we are ever going to change the oppressive power structures at play, we will need that power to do so.
Problems cannot be solved without being acknowledged, and all of us, I don’t care if you have spent years in spiritual retreat or years protesting on the streets, can go a little deeper.