Chaplaincy Core Training is over but I’m still here at Upaya finishing the second part of training in Trauma Resilience. It’s been ten days of generous teachings that began with a taste of the Five Buddha Families, Unconscious Bias, and a whole lot of inner dharma woven through. On the second day, my body reacted to an accumulation of dust, pollen, travel, and having spent the previous week housed above a helicopter hangar dodging leaking fumes of diesel oil. My throat closed, my chest contracted, and breath came in wheezy gasps.

It’s what happens when we are challenged to take on certain things; things that signify a threat to our system. The body in its wisdom shuts down the doors to vital organs like the lungs and does its best to expel whatever intruders flew in under the radar. An initial encounter with deep dharma can be like that. I contract, protecting treasured views and assumptions. My fear-based reactions are to render myself cold and still; distant and impenetrable.

If the Five Buddha Families are a typology of my form and shadow, apparently I play in the Vajra dimension where things reflect clear, sharp, and precise. The shadow is the manifestation of a character that is opinionated, authoritarian, and demanding of perfection. Thankfully, the aspects of other parts of the mandala soften the edges. But perhaps I could work a bit more on skillfully being opinionated, authoritarian and demanding of perfection.

As part of one exercise we were asked to find our “neurotic” side on the mandala. In other words, how do our everyday anxiety-based reactivities manifest? Initially, I thought it was the Padma family which represents a passionate need to magnetize others into connection. Being a foodie, fit with Padma because it’s such a soothing process when I’m distressed. And certainly, my somewhat incessant need to make sure everyone has a link to community that can embrace them could be called a neurotic need to prevent harm from befalling the lone traveller.

As I looked deeply and contemplated on the motives and intentions of the behaviours which – when unfulfilled – cause me suffering, it was a surprise to see that the need to link people together is just a subset of a need to be sure everyone has what they ask for. It’s a form of generosity gone manic, a contraction, an allergic reaction against the truth of suffering. No wonder when people ask me for a little support and I hose them down with care, they step away – some as far away as the next continent! It’s interesting to tease this out, because another aspect of this neurotic need is to hold onto resources just in case someone needs them. Good thing, before I left, I cleared out my family room and bookshelves of thirty-years worth of accretions, including all the recipe clippings I have never and will never use. This is the shadow side of the Ratna Family.

So, questions for you:

What are you giving away relentlessly in the deluded hope it will be helpful?

What are you holding onto in the deluded hopes it will be useful only because it was once?