Someone emailed me the following:
Q: I've been at this for many years and it seems those core issues have not transformed. There is more awareness of them and space around them though. I think I'm starting to see that there is no ultimate destination or goal to reach. Awareness itself is already pure and perfect as it is, and that is what we are. So what am I doing? There is a compulsion that seems to stem from a sense of lack that compels me to feel a need to become better than I am, to grow, to evolve, to reach my highest potential. Sometimes it is veiled in spirituality, but I think it is a sense of lack, a sense of insufficiency and fear that this insufficiency will cause me to be abandoned or treated badly, or to suffer. So I'm constantly trying to avoid this being what I am for fear of paying for it in a bad way. Something tells me I have to be special to survive, or to have my needs met; something tells me I have to be better than I am and better than others. This prevents me from simply relaxing and being what I am, which is effortless. What we are is effortless being. I know this, but I'm still working my ass off to become something better!
Did you ever go through something similar? I feel a sense of hopelessness, but maybe this hopelessness is also a letting go. I realize that letting go is what is ultimately needed, but don't know how to surrender. I guess what I am is surrender itself when I am relaxed enough to see it. I'm lost. What are your impressions? How do I navigate these waters?
And here is my response:
A: Thanks for so clearly sharing your experience. I would suggest it is OK to be working your ass off trying to get better. There is no harm done and it is often when we have failed utterly at trying to be better, that something else moves within us. Surrender is not something you do. It is really something that happens to you.
In the meantime, you can be very curious about this whole experience of struggle and fear. The more present you are to it just the way it is, the more awareness itself can transform the experience. Again it is not something you do. Your only job is to be as present to it all as possible, and to just be with the feelings as much as you can. This does not make you better, but it does strengthen an inner muscle of awareness that can allow you to just be with the feelings as they arise without suppressing them or expressing them.
As I mentioned, the end result is a kind of failure. However, in working so hard at all of this, you also develop this inner capacity to be with experience. Then when Presence and surrender and your true nature reveal themselves, you are able to stay with that experience also. So all of the effort is not wasted, even if the results are not what you are trying to achieve.
I would add that the process itself gets easier as you go, although then life often brings an even more challenging experience. When I was a skier years ago, the better I got at skiing, the less effort it took to ski. But then I naturally started skiing on more and more difficult trails, until they became relatively effortless also. It appears all of this effort is meant to bring us to a place where we can move or just be with the least amount of effort needed. This is what frees more and more awareness within your experience, and it is awareness itself that transforms our experience. Even then, this is not necessarily a change of the content of experience, but more a change in where you experience something from. The best cure is to find out that there is no problem. If a snake bites you and you go to the doctor, the best cure is to find out the snake is not poisonous. That knowledge is the cure!
And so all of this inner suffering is only a problem when we think it is a problem. Once we no longer see suffering as problem, then it is no longer suffering. Suffering is like a mirage: when you get closer to it you see it does not exist. All of your struggle can not help but eventually bring you closer to the suffering itself, where you will start to see its nature. Then you will find yourself more and more able to rest within the difficult patterns and to see that they are just ideas, mirages in your own mind.