by Patrick Kobernus
Eight years ago I set out to attain "enlightenment" through working with the teacher and students at Tayu Meditation Center. I did not know then what I was getting into. From what I had read in books, enlightenment was something real, and my life was sufficiently unsatisfying at that time that enlightenment seemed like a worthwhile pursuit.
I've certainly had a charmed life compared to many. I've been blessed with a healthy mind and body, and I was brought up in a loving family. Yet with all of this I was disappointed with my life. I was unhappy with who I was, and who I had become. There were moments when I enjoyed life, but overall there was something not right with it.
At times I felt depressed and I was apathetic toward life. I would relate to others in an unemotional way, hiding emotion when it arose, or I would feign emotion to hide my apathy. I felt like I was locked into a monotonic emotional state, a human trapped inside a robot and having to relate to the world through the robot. I was very much like Captain Picard locked inside the Borg. What had gone wrong?
Somewhere along the line I had interpreted life as requiring that to become a man, I must keep from making mistakes. An awkward word said, an awkward action - these brought attention from others that could be hurtful. Other kids (as well as immature adults) can be cruel. I feared being rejected or humiliated by others more than anything else.
At the age of 12, I made a kind of decision to automatically hold back the expression of myself. I had in effect decided that being the little angel/devil that I was - was bad. Bad for me and bad for others. I needed to adopt a safer way to deal with the world, and I did. Based on the communications and demonstrations of others, I created a behavioral mode of being for myself - what is called in Tayu an android - to use in the world when I needed it. This way I could avoid hurting others emotionally or being emotionally hurt by others. I felt safer relating through the android. I thought I was exercising a power over life, and I was. Unfortunately, over time, the android became my automatic way to deal with the world, and I had no real control over it any more. I could not tell where I began and the android left off.
So after eight years of spiritual practice, what have I learned?
For one thing, I have learned how to see myself. Through the practice of Self-Observation, (the primary meditation practice taught in Tayu), I have learned how to observe my thoughts and emotional states from a viewpoint of objectivity. In concert with this skill, I have learned to accept all parts of myself. From angel to devil, from android to essence, and all points in between. The combination of these two practices has given me the curious sensation of subtle enjoyment while riding the wave of a thought or an emotion, rather than being swept away or trying to flee from an uncomfortable thought or emotion.
When I was a 12 year old boy similar uncomfortable thoughts and emotions caused me to hide behind the apparent safety of a false behavior mode (the android). Now at 31, I have realized that these thoughts and emotions are basically normal, that is, everyone has them, and I can experience them without fearing the negative ones or being attached to the positive ones (or vice-versa). With this acceptance of myself, I now feel willing to be more authentic with others. I know that there still will be fear that I may hurt others or be hurt. I'll just allow myself to make mistakes and see what happens.