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…AGAIN? Do I owe an apology for that!? “Excuse me, I’m going to go over here alone and just set myself on FIRE! Hey, each one of those events happened this past year – 2016. 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…the results were always the same…they still took my money.
Now, I’m a great deal better. I usually find success when I’m speaking with the billing department. I like to think that I’m a magician, but it’s likely the result of 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 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 with time.