Gangaji's Blog
Are You Defending Yourself from Imagined Harm? Questioning our Strategic Assumptions
by Gangaji
June 4, 2021

“The reality of true surrender is an open expansion of consciousness, not needing to assert itself anywhere, not needing to defend itself, not needing to seduce another in order to be safe, but simply open to spaciousness.”

When we consider how we avoid true surrender, we expose how we resist it.  This in turn exposes the habitual movements of mind which we use to defend and armor ourselves against potential harm or danger.

We can begin by appreciating the inherent beauty of the mind and the ways that our particular minds and our collective minds move in strategies often necessary for our survival.

Initially, our minds move so that we can escape harm and then thrive. Whether it's a plant mind or a planet mind or your individual mind, escaping harm is the central operating principle of mind activity.

Moving away from harm can take the form of hiding, escaping, running, or becoming invisible. Psychologically, we can dissociate. We can attempt to be invisible like certain bugs do to keep from being eaten by birds. However, when we habitually try to escape harm, this attempt to escape becomes an attempt to escape pain of every kind. Since pain is an aspect of being a sensory human being, we begin to move away from ourselves. Clearly, this is an unnecessary movement of mind that leads to further suffering.

Anger is another strategy we use to avoid harm. With anger, we move against something to protect ourselves from harm. We fight. Ultimately, we make war.

Friendliness can also often be a strategy for diffusing threat or harm. In its pure form, it’s the natural, unthreatened openness we experience when innocently meeting someone. Nonetheless, through habit and misunderstanding or misreading situations, purity of movement can become polluted and corrupted.

The pollution of these movements, once pure in their origin, results in unnecessary suffering. When we are habitually moving in reaction to some perceived threat, the result is a psychic, emotional pollution. Then, even the potential of harm becomes the harm itself, as we spend all our energy running or hiding or fighting or seducing whenever we perceive a potential threat. This pollution contributes to our complex experience of reality.

Some aspects of this dance of emotions feel powerful, such as the arising of a natural, pure aggression of anger or will. Some aspects feel powerless, as when there is fear with cowering or running. Some aspects feel extremely pleasurable, as when the movements of our minds are used in the meeting of other minds, to connect and explore with wonder at the mystery of that and the enlargement of our reality through those connections. However, when any of these movements are used habitually, our life experiences are diminished.

When fear is habitual we shrink into the corners of existence because of what might happen to us if we venture into the unknown. If we are addicted to our anger and our ability to attack, yes that may feel powerful, it may feel better than cowering in a corner, but the addiction to anger is obviously just another form of suffering. We're polluted by it.

Perhaps the hardest strategy of mind to surrender is false friendliness because it feels so good and often gets such good results. Natural friendliness is beautiful in its purity. However, when it used as a ploy of seduction in some attempt to keep us safe, it becomes corrupted—an empty imitation of love. Ultimately, the attempt to maintain something that's not true, that's not real, always leads to more unnecessary suffering.

When there is an innocent willingness to see what has not been seen, that in itself is the beginning. I’m not talking about analyzing or processing yourself, assigning blame, or even fixing, but just the willingness to tell the simple truth. This is the necessary ground of inquiry. Your willingness is the great privilege of grace that has somehow arisen within you.

The reality of true surrender is an open expansion of consciousness, not needing to assert itself anywhere, not needing to defend itself, not needing to seduce another in order to be safe, but simply open to spaciousness.

There is an intelligence that is alive in each of us that already knows the difference between what is real and what is false. Your initial reaction to any situation may arise automatically and result in fear or anger or some attempt at seduction. If that reaction is just from habit, you have a fresh choice. You can stop the habit before it is followed to its logical result of suffering. You can tell the truth to yourself. You can tell the truth when you indulge your habitual contraction or attack or seduction; you can tell the truth when it is appropriate and when it is inappropriate.

When you smile at someone, you can tell the truth, is it natural or is it an attempt to be safe from some perceived threat? When you attack someone, either in your mind or with your voice or words or body language, is it really an attack against a true threat, or is it simply a perceived threat, a threat that is somehow associated in your mind with an earlier threat? Or if you find yourself cowering from the world, retreating and hiding, is following this habitual response truly necessary? Only you can answer these questions for yourself.

Always I want you to know that I am not saying there is anything wrong with cowering, or any other strategy of mind. It is not for anyone else to say that a response is impure and that you shouldn't be doing it. However, there is always a possibility that you can tell the deeper truth, and you can recognize that there is possibly something unseen that you can be willing to see.

In an instant of not following a familiar response to feeling threatened, you can ask yourself questions such as these: "Where is the threat? What is the threat? What is the story or the narrative that keeps the movement of mind in place?" These questions are useful because they illuminate choice. Inquiring always means questioning strategic assumptions. Questioning assumption is the basis of penetrating your habitual mind movement with an intelligence that is not separate from that mind movement, yet is deeper, clearer, and free of it.

What is the narrative that keeps the movement of mind in place? When this is seen, something is loosened, and a big plank is removed from the floor of our suffering. Where there has been habitual reaction and unnecessary suffering, there is space.

I invite you to make this recognition concrete and relevant to your life. You can open your attention to what is motivating the engine of suffering. Then you have the capacity to stop. Simple surrender reveals everything – this peace, this truth of oneself in its depth and its limitlessness.


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