I’m reading Amoda Maa’s book, Embodied Enlightenment, which is full of great advice for those who consider themselves to be on a spiritual path, and thought I’d share from one part I’ve found really helpful. It’s about viewing those moments when you are triggered – by your partner or child or family member, by a news item, by a stranger – as “a sign of love’s intelligence calling everything back home to itself”, rather than ‘that thing that irks me’ and ‘what is outside needs to change.’
“Love, disguised as a trigger, is an unrelenting invitation for you to open now. Whatever happened in the past, it does not matter now. Whatever your story of victimhood or wounding, it does not matter now. What matters now is your willingness to open to the raw energy that is here, to be vulnerable to the unfolding of this unfiltered moment and all that is offers… all of it, not just the bits you like. The invitation is to stop filtering your reality through your ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’, to stop following the horizontal movement of the egoic mind as it take a snapshot of now and compares it with the past, and to radically and irrevocably stop labeling this moment as ‘unbearable’, or ‘the worst thing that ever happened to me’. Just stop right here and be fully, wholeheartedly, and lovingly with what is.”
I’ve noticed that there are many ‘triggers’ for me, and they all follow a certain pattern:
-I am triggered/something happens.
-I feel discomfort.
-Instead of feeling the feeling, I blame the person that set off the trigger so I don’t have to feel it.
-I feel justified in my anger.
-I may express that anger, or I may try and rationalize it away in my head judging the anger as ‘unenlightened’ or attempt to ‘forgive myself and the other’.
In this scenario, I am never really getting to the bottom of what is triggering me and why, and I’m also reinforcing the idea that what is is not okay. And, therefore I have no way of ever getting to a point where that trigger just doesn’t bother me anymore.
An example of one trigger that takes on many different forms for me is hearing of women being verbally or sexually abused – which seem to be coming at us thick and fast these days. Within a second of hearing a story, I am filled with anger and am blaming a whole cast of characters -the perpetrator, society, the government, men as an entire population, women who don’t support other women, my family and partner (just because!) etc etc. it is a classic projection, in that, unable to look at what is really going on here, I instead find relief by using blame.
In light of the recent Kavanaugh hearings I had ample opportunity to be triggered, and so I sat down with this to inquire – what feeling am I covering up here in my righteous indignation? Why is this a huge trigger for me really?
NB. I can only ask these questions because I am 100% clear that I could be at peace hearing these stories while having compassion for those involved and not condoning the action, and, that that state of mind would actually be a more helpful place to come from.
When I journaled on it, the answer I received was :
I feel unsafe when I hear these stories. I am frightened, terrified. I am reminded of past fears and times I have felt threatened. I feel hopeless and disheartened. I feel like nothing will change. I feel like there are winners and losers and I will always be the loser. I feel the world is unfair and unkind. Life is hard. I have to effort to protect myself.
And the above is what I can open to – just sitting with the feelings of being unsafe. I don’t need to rationalize them away with the mind telling me it’s not true (although that can be helpful to see that in this moment I am not unsafe – that the feeling is born of the mind from past events and conditionings).
Essentially, what the anger and blame covers up in this instance for me is a fear of feeling the fear. Yet only when I feel that fear and recognize I am still here, – that it was just a feeling I wasn’t wanting to experience – can I actually begin to break the trigger cycle.
Maa goes on to say:
“Your unconditional acceptance of what is here is the resolution of all that is fragmented in you. It’s the remedy to all that is sick in the world. The root of judgment and the resulting resentment, rejection, hostility and hatred lies in your lack of acceptance of that which you believe to be bad or wrong in you. [….] The one you hate the most [or thing] is your greatest spiritual teacher, because right here, is the radical opportunity for you to stop doing what you’ve automatically done for a lifetime or more, and instead choose to open to what is beneath your reactivity. This opening allows the rawness of terror and horror to melt into the tenderness of vulnerability and grief. It’s a breaking open of the heart to welcome everything back home to rest in love.”
Write a list of your triggers.
In a calm and safe setting, close your eyes and go through them in your own time asking – why does this trigger me? What is the feeling that it brings up? Does anything lie beneath that feeling?
You’re aiming to get to a feeling that you have – not a thought about what is right and wrong.
If you are struggling to get under the hood of your triggers, one of my teachers, Regina Dawn Akers, offers a great exercise called Root Cause Inquiry. There is an audio and worksheet here.