For more than 100 years, Eastern insights about the quest for peace possible in the present moment have filtered into the West. Just so, Moss chooses the perfect visual map for this important book about self-awareness: a mandala. A mandala is a geometric, usually circular figure in Hindu and Buddhist thought that represents the universe. In the psychoanalytic realm, this figure represents the quest for self-unity and completeness. Using the mandala, Moss elegantly and with great elucidation and precision offers a place for modern seekers to stand centered in the now amid the four directions of past and future, you and me. His volume presents much clear thought about a potentially complicated topic. Readers who enjoyed Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Nowand are ready to take the next step should gravitate easily to Moss's probing marriage of psychology, the transcendent nature of self, fear, faith and love. The fruits of Moss's many workshop experiences and exercises are cited throughout so as to make this potentially dense subject surprisingly accessible. A charity of spirit and extension to all religious traditions percolates through this volume. Concluding thoughts on the present climate of politically and culturally generated terror make this an especially potent offering. (Mar.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The Mandala of Being: Discovering the Power of Awarenessby Richard Moss
In these pages, Richard Moss gives us an effective practice that is readily incorporated into day-to-day life. It illustrates that there are in fact only four places our minds ever go when we leave the Now — the past, the future, judgments of ourselves, and judgments of others.See more details below
In these pages, Richard Moss gives us an effective practice that is readily incorporated into day-to-day life. It illustrates that there are in fact only four places our minds ever go when we leave the Now — the past, the future, judgments of ourselves, and judgments of others.
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The Mandala of Being
Discovering the Power of Awareness
By Richard Moss
New World LibraryCopyright © 2007 Richard Moss, MD
All rights reserved.
Our Earliest Relationship to Ourselves
In the broadest sense, everything in life is always in relationship: nothing exists that is not defined by, and that does not gain its meaning through, relationship to something else. Atoms, viruses, and galaxies all dance in highly complex and miraculous relationships.
This is no less true of human beings. Nobody exists in isolation. Right from infancy, and indeed from earliest conception, who we are, how we are, and, to a significant degree, who we will become all depend a great deal on how we are nurtured and the environment in which we develop. Everyone and every situation help create who we are, molding us and inevitably bringing out some unique nuance of our beings. Unfortunately, our relationships and circumstances can also inhibit or even totally suppress other qualities of our inborn essential natures. This is why our relationships are the primary means throughout our lives by which we develop our understanding of ourselves.
None of us, though, have the power or authority to control what others may bring to us by means of their attitudes, words, or actions. Our only real power lies in what we bring to our relationships with others, and what we bring depends entirely on where we start from. For example, if we start from a sense of insecurity, we are likely to be distrusting and needy. If we start from a sense of fullness, we are likely to be generous and forgiving. This is obvious and so may seem simplistic, but the emotional tone of all relationships we have in life are invariably determined by the quality of the relationship we have with ourselves in that moment.
We human beings have always strived to find a guiding principle by which to conduct ourselves in relationships. Perhaps nothing sums up this effort better than the Golden Rule, which asks us to treat others as we would have them treat us. The problem is that too often we treat ourselves terribly: We have impossible expectations for ourselves; we look in the mirror every day and tell ourselves we are too fat or otherwise not attractive enough. We work far past the point of exhaustion, pushing ourselves when our bodies are crying for rest. We chastise ourselves for every missed opportunity, oversight, or mistake. How then are we likely to behave toward others, and how can we expect them to behave toward us? Some people have been raised in environments so full of conflict, violence, and cruelty that they later look for love, or some semblance of it, in relationships in which they unconsciously expect, and perhaps even want, to be treated the same way. It is a fact of our psychology that we continue to seek out relationships that mimic the emotional environment of our early lives. Even when we are raised in a much happier environment, we develop our earliest sense of self unconsciously and inevitably in response not only to the positive reinforcement of our parents but also to their often confused needs and fears. We can do unto others as we would have them do unto us, but who we really are and what we really need may be unclear to us, so that, while we are attempting to create love, we often end up creating suffering in our relationships with others.
It is often a truth of human relationships that our early psychology betrays us: we engage in relationships in ways that only partially express our true selves. As a result, the relationships we create tend to be manifestations of where we have lost contact with ourselves. A relationship is an energetic alchemy that two or more people create together which has the potential to accentuate the closeness or distance of each from his or her true self. How close to, or how far from, our true selves we live determines the quality of the relationships we create.
Each of us can start from an inner sense of security or insecurity, trust or distrust, enthusiasm or cynicism. Usually we don't really know where we are starting from until, eventually, what is created in the relationship itself shows us. For example, an insecure man who, like most of us, does not admit to himself that he is insecure may approach a woman while subconsciously believing that she will eventually reject him. But before he understands this, he is likely to idealize her, to make her his Beatrice, his soul mate — someone too perfect to ever reject him. Initially what he brings to her is so flattering and so healing to her insecurities that she may reciprocate with equal admiration, and the relationship may flourish. They will believe they are deeply in love. In this situation of reciprocal narcissism, the best way to feel safe and not be rejected is to be mutually adoring. However, the underlying psychology of insecurity has been only temporarily circumvented.
Over time, as this man's insecurity inevitably asserts itself, he may start to become possessive and controlling or cold and withdrawn. He may create conflicts, unconsciously testing to see if she admires him the way he wants to be admired and whether she is truly loyal. If she cannot understand that this is coming from his insecurity and cannot accept this part of him, she may become critical, reactive, and angry. As a result, both remain in a fearful place and the relationship deteriorates into accusations, judgments, blame, anger, and hurt that impoverishes both of them far more than their own personal psychology would cause them to experience outside the relationship. They may choose to separate, as many couples do, or decide to work on their relationship and perhaps learn to help heal these unconscious wounds in each other.
We each see through the lens of our sense of self, and the degree of our Self-realization determines what we bring to others, how we perceive them, and how we interpret their words and actions. So, the Golden Rule must be accompanied by the ancient wisdom "Know thyself."
When we bring to another person something innately authentic and whole within us — no matter how vulnerable we may feel — we create a space of relationship that is more than simply being "in love." This relationship becomes transformational and even sacred. It enhances our knowledge of ourselves in ways that help us to heal our old wounds because it also blesses us with greater recognition of who we really are.
If as children we are nurtured sufficiently to make us feel safe, approved of, and understood, and we are allowed to express our authentic feelings and inclinations, the person each of us becomes can manifest more of our true selves. In the mirror of an environment that consciously supports and respects our uniqueness, we learn to trust ourselves and unfold into life while essentially feeling good about ourselves.
If, on the other hand, we grow up with parents and educators who have their own agendas for us, their own ideas about who we should be and how we can best achieve success or simply survive, the mirror they hold up to us is so biased and distorted we do not learn to trust our true selves. We begin to develop a false self that is thereafter vigilant for impending criticism, a self whose core feeling is that we are not sufficient as we are.
This sense of insufficiency, this vague feeling that something is not quite right about us, becomes the ground state for our identities that then impairs the ability to relate clearly to our own sensations, feelings, and thoughts that constantly arise. Simultaneously this sense of insufficiency distorts how we perceive the external environment, so we distrust the world as well.
To understand how this happens, imagine that consciousness is like a sphere of fine clear crystal. When we stand at the center of the sphere — which is analogous to our true selves — in every direction we look the light (our consciousness) is bent in precisely the same way (or really not bent at all) so that nothing is distorted. We see clearly in all directions from a single, consistent point of view. We are living in our own spontaneous and authentic essence and appreciating reality as it is.
If we begin to move away from the center toward the perimeter, however, what we perceive from this off-center position becomes refracted and distorted by the differing thicknesses of our crystal in every direction around us. It is like being in a house of mirrors where each mirror is bent differently: in one we appear tall and thin, in another squat and wide, and so on. But we cannot know that we are off-center in ourselves and that our view of ourselves and of life in general is distorted. This feeling about ourselves, and attitude toward life, becomes who we are. And until we return to our true centers, we can never gain true perceptions.
As children we begin our lives right in the center of our sphere of being, spontaneously expressing our authentic nature; we know nothing else. However, it is not long before this begins to change, as we are partially or wrongly reflected back to ourselves by the relationships that surround us. Eventually, to a greater or lesser degree, each of us loses contact with our spontaneous essence and begins to live more or less off-center. This is a period in life — for all of us — in which soul awareness is dormant and we become identified with a false sense of self.
HOW WE BECOME WHO WE ARE NOT
We are not born, in essence, American, French, Japanese, Christian, Muslim, or Jew. These labels are attached to us according to where on the planet our births happen to take place, or these labels are imposed upon us because they indicate our families' belief systems.
We are not born with an innate sense of distrust of others. We do not enter life with the belief that God is external to us, watching us, judging us, loving us, or simply being indifferent to our plight. We do not suckle at the breast with shame about our bodies or with racial prejudice already brewing in our hearts. We do not emerge from our mothers' wombs believing that competition and domination are essential to survival. Nor are we born believing that somehow we must validate whatever our parents consider to be right and true.
How do children come to believe that they are indispensable to their parents' well-being, and that they therefore must become the champions of their parents' unfulfilled dreams, fulfilling them by becoming the good daughter or the responsible son? How many people revolt against their parents' relationships by condemning themselves to lives of cynicism about the possibility for real love? In how many ways will members of one generation after another efface their own true natures in order to be loved, successful, approved of, powerful, and safe, not because of who they are in essence, but because they have adapted themselves to others? And how many will become part of the detritus of the cultural norm, living in poverty, disenfranchisement, or alienation?
We are not born anxious for our survival. How is it, then, that pure ambition and the accumulation of wealth and power are ideals in our culture, when to live for them is all too often a soulless pursuit that condemns one to a path of unending stress, which fails to address or heal the core, unconscious feeling of insufficiency?
All such internalized attitudes and belief systems have been cultivated in us. Others have modeled them for us and trained us in them. This indoctrination takes place both directly and indirectly. In our homes, schools, and religious institutions, we are explicitly told who we are, what life is about, and how we should perform. Indirect indoctrination occurs as we absorb subconsciously whatever is consistently emphasized or demonstrated by our parents and other caregivers when we are very young.
As children we are like fine crystal glasses that vibrate to a singer's voice. We resonate with the emotional energy that surrounds us, unable to be sure what part is us — our own true feelings and likes or dislikes — and what part is others. We are keen observers of our parents' and other adults' behavior toward us and toward each other. We experience how they communicate through their facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, actions, and so on, and we can recognize — though not consciously when we are young — when their expressions and their feelings are congruent or not. We are immediate barometers for emotional hypocrisy. When our parents are saying or doing one thing, but we perceive that they mean something else, it confuses and distresses us. Over time these emotional "disconnects" continue to threaten our developing sense of self, and we begin to devise our own strategies for psychological security in attempts to protect ourselves.
None of this is accompanied by our conscious understanding of what we are doing, but we quickly deduce what our parents value and what evokes their approval or disapproval. We readily learn which of our own behaviors they respond to in ways that make us feel loved or unloved, worthy or unworthy. We begin to adapt ourselves by acquiescence, rebellion, or withdrawal.
As children we do not initially approach our worlds with our parents' biases and prejudices about what is good or bad. We express our true selves spontaneously and naturally. But early on, this expression begins to collide with what our parents encourage or discourage in our self-expression. All of us become conscious of our earliest sense of self in the context of their fears, hopes, wounds, beliefs, resentments, and control issues and of their ways of nurturing, whether loving, suffocating, or neglecting. This mostly unconscious socializing process is as old as human history. When we are children and out parents view us through the lens of their own adaptations to life, we as unique individuals remain more or less invisible to them. We learn to become whatever helps make us visible to them, to be whatever brings us the most comfort and least discomfort. We adapt and survive as best we can in this emotional climate.
Our strategic response results in the formation of a survival personality that does not express much of our individual essence. We falsify who we are in order to maintain some level of connection to those whom we require in order to meet our needs for attention, nurturance, approval, and security.
Children are marvels of adaptation. They quickly learn that, if acquiescence produces the best response, then being supportive and agreeable provides the best chance for emotional survival. They grow up to be pleasers, excellent providers for the needs of others, and they see their loyalty as a virtue more important than their own needs. If rebellion seems to be the best path to diminishing discomfort while also gaining attention, then they become combative and build their identities by pushing their parents away. Their fight for autonomy may later make them nonconformists unable to accept the authority of others, or they may require conflict in order to feel alive. If withdrawal works best, then children become more introverted and escape into imaginary worlds. Later in life, this survival adaptation may cause them to live so deeply in their own beliefs that they are unable to make space for others to know them or to emotionally touch them.
Because survival is at the root of the false self, fear is its true god. And because in the Now we cannot be in control of our situations, only in relationship with it, the survival personality is poorly suited to the Now. It tries to create the life it believes it should be living and, in so doing, does not fully experience the life it is living. Our survival personalities have identities to maintain that are rooted in the early childhood escape from threat. This threat comes from the disjunction between how we experience ourselves as children and what we learn to be, in response to our parents' mirroring and expectations.
Infancy and early childhood are governed by two primary drives: The first is the necessity to bond with our mothers or other important caregivers. The second is the drive to explore, to learn about and discover our worlds.
The physical and emotional bond between mother and baby is necessary not only for the child's survival but also because the mother is the first cultivator of the baby's sense of self. She cultivates it by how she holds and caresses her baby; by her tone of voice, her gaze, and her anxiety or calmness; and by how she reinforces or squelches her child's spontaneity. When the overall quality of her attention is loving, calm, supportive, and respectful, the baby knows that it is safe and all right in itself. As the child gets older, more of his or her true self emerges as the mother continues to express approval and set necessary boundaries without shaming or threatening the child. In this way her positive mirroring cultivates the child's essence and helps her child to trust itself.
In contrast, when a mother is frequently impatient, hurried, distracted, or even resentful of her child, the bonding process is more tentative and the child feels unsafe. When a mother's tone of voice is cold or harsh, her touch brusque, insensitive, or uncertain; when she is unresponsive to her child's needs or cries or cannot set aside her own psychology to make enough space for the child's unique personality, this is interpreted by the child as meaning that something must be wrong with him or her. Even when neglect is unintentional, as when a mother's own exhaustion prevents her from nurturing as well as she would like to, this unfortunate situation can still cause a child to feel unloved. As a result of any of these actions, children can begin to internalize a sense of their own insufficiency.
Excerpted from The Mandala of Being by Richard Moss. Copyright © 2007 Richard Moss, MD. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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