They’re like old friends or ghosts from the past. Why are they so familiar? Is it this season again? Already? I’m always hit with this conflict between wonder and bewilderment when I encounter one of my old patterns of behavior – the familiar cycles of struggle and conflict. Often I don’t even see them coming. Out of the blue, there goes my back. I threw out my damn back again! Should this show up on my medical record as “chronic” now? Or less physical and more spiritual – Did I just do that, curse a driver, beat my cat, get that ticket, freak out on my sister, hit my father up for money? Do I owe an apology for that!? I’m going to set myself on FIRE! Hey, all that happened this past year. It used to be much worse for me…but I’ve grown… Isn’t that nice?
Where I notice the familiar cycles the most are in, what I like to call, my character defects. Those areas of my life which I am deeply unskillful at surrendering. Finances. I’m like a baby. I remember when I would get on the phone with phone companies and just spew anger – projections, transference, whatever you want to call it. I was sick, and I loved to make other people wrong when it came down to my irresponsibility. “Oh, I get what the contract said, BUT… whatever! I’m right…” And…they’re still taking my money.
Now I’m a great deal better. I’m more a magician on the phone or is it just kindness? But still, those old cycles of familiar struggle come up. It was an insurance company last month. I didn’t cancel my insurance on time and they charged me for half a month, despite receiving a verbal commitment that they would ensure a full refund. The charge came right as my account reached zero. I was hit with an overdraft fee and a familiar set of emotional reactions that reminded me of someone I spent a great deal of time with in my 20s.
It hits you hard when you encounter one of these ghosts. I have worked hard and I continue to work hard to become someone whose relationship to money is one of attraction, empowerment, and abundance. The difference today is that I get my refunds back…eventually. Five years ago nothing ever came back.
I’m talking about all this because I’ve been working as a recovery grief specialist over the past year, and frequently I find my clients suffering from familiar cycles of struggle. It takes an encounter with grief to see it for what it is, to remember it. They seem – we seem – to attract that which we are, what we struggle with, our unique ghosts. I know it’s not a strange concept, but why do we forget so often? I should know myself by now! Right…?
The path of awakening is much more like a set of daily practices than any one-time revelation. We call that spiritual development of the educational variety. The more I practice the more encounters with my own b.s. I’ll find and therefore the more opportunities for growth will be present themselves. It’s strangely paradoxical that I must encounter the cycles of pain and frustration brought on by life in order to know them, and therefore overcome them with new practices. Without them – these familiar cycles – we are doomed to repeat our mistakes in unconscious darkness.
Grief, depression, addiction, anxiety, physical pain, financial or social struggles – none of it is cured with time. You do not recover by waiting long enough. One must practice a state of recovery-in-time – making more skillful decisions coupled with time.