incongruence

Another post hot off the neuronal wires.  I either have a lot of time to spare or I’m mis-managing my time so badly, I’m blind to what isn’t getting done.  Delusions are like that.  One never knows.  Nor can one know.  So let’s just adopt the hypothesis that I’m actually not blind to the critical things needing attention right now and see where that takes us.

Well, after an 8-hour mental lock-down on my Excel Statistics program last night, I suddenly had this awful realization that the procedural approach I was taking to our data from the clinic may be all wrong.  Not a nice thing to feel at 2200 with an early day on the other side of sunrise.  As I fell down the rabbit hole of computerized statistics I found myself in that space of Great Doubt: “But how do I really know that the computer’s FTEST (and yes, I have invented a few nice acronyms that describe that test) knows what it’s doing!?”

Short version: by midnight, I had figured out that I don’t and then found the table I had painstakingly formatted had all the wrong values in it.  That’s not the worst of it.  I had already sent the table off to my colleague in Australia – who was likely sitting at his desk, on a Tuesday morning, wondering why in hell he got involved in this idiot’s project in the first place.  What astounded me was that I was so proud of the formatting of the table I had failed to see the values of the correlations could not possibly be what I had typed in… correlations range from -1 to +1…  The table was populated with 4’s and 5′ and -3’s… well, you get the picture.

I’m chagrined and embarrassed beyond description.

But there it is.  That delusional process which latches onto the form and style of practice without checking into the actual contents or substance.  To say that I’m easily seduced by bright, flashy things would be true.  I had thought practice made me more likely to take the flash-blindness as a mindful bell to close my eyes and proceed faithfully through the darkness.

Apparently not.

What I often forget is to check and double check.  And check yet again.  What is it now?  And now?  And yet again now!

So as I go back and check on my data, let me leave you with this little nugget of our findings:

Self-kindness and emotional exhaustion have an inverse relationship.  The less kind you are to yourself, the more fatigued you can become (leading to burn out).  Harsh self-judgment has the same relationship.

Lower levels of self-kindness are associated with greater personal spiritual incongruence.  The less supportive you are of yourself, the greater the divide you feel between your ideal and actual experience of spirituality.

In fact, personal spiritual incongruence was related to all aspects of low self-compassion and high burn out.

Time to go light some incense! 

congruence

It’s not a great picture but it does capture my feelings lately.  There’s a sense of something being just on the other side.  Or maybe it’s more a sense of something being right here in my face and it’s keeping me from getting to the other side.

What’s fascinating about this construction of self and shore is that I would even feel a striving to get through, beyond, onwards.  It’s not like I wake up and say to myself, “Yup, today would be a good day to get across this river of suffering.”  Or, “Time to slice through this mesh that keeps tearing up my pretty wings.”  Perhaps all good practitioners do that.  Commit each morning, dedicate the day to transformation and traversing the waters of dukkha.  Even in the times I have done so, all intention is lost by the time I get out of the bath and realize the weekend’s clean laundry is still sitting in the baskets collecting creases.  

Still, there seems to be within each of us a seed that can grow to a realization.  We have a sense that there is an incongruence between the things that make up the ideal spiritual life (or life, period) we strive for and the one we experience day by day, moment by moment.  When that divide is small, we feel contentment.  When that divide is large, we feel dis-ease.  And we know this without needing to be told.  Unfortunately what happens next diverts us from the skillful action necessary to restore balance, close the gap.  We panic.  We respond to the felt sense of being separated from the vast spaciousness that we identify as liberation.  It’s a mesh, a roaring river – a barrier to our belief that liberation lies on the other side.  

When I can see that this is simply a belief, an assumption, a trigger-finger reaction to what is happening in this moment, I have a chance.  Practice has taught me that I can rest in this moment, right here, on this mesh, on the edge of this river.  And in that resting, a sliver of clarity can arise.  I begin to see, truly see, my environment.  I begin to connect with it, to experience harmony and amazement at the intricacies of all the relationships it contains.  

Even in difficult circumstances, stopping and resting in an observer’s stance can reveal astonishing details about the interweaving of personalities, desires, and desperations.  This is the core of practice for me: to see that congruence can arise even in unwanted experiences and that such experiences must be included as part of my definition of what makes up an ideal spiritual life (well-being, path).  Unfortunately, we don’t tend to include the difficult and unwanted experiences as part of our checklist of what comprises the ideal spiritual life.  Time to do so: the mesh, the roaring river, the difficult relationship, the worry and fear, restlessness and remorse, seductions and sorrows – list them all.

If not, my actual experience is skewed terribly and always found lacking against a set of constructs that are inherently unrepresentative of life as it is.