a solution for “but”

this morning i posted this on twitter:

question to my buddhist friends: fear of connecting deeply with dharma/the divine = fear of ego death?

william replied in a blog post, ego and the self.

he has some interesting thoughts there that i encourage you to explore, and finishes thusly:

the more we meditate and practice various forms of mindfulness, the less it — the ego — feels a need to hold on, knowing that we always come back to the body and its collection of smaller selves we call “me.”

my immediate reaction was, but meditation is exactly one of those things that my ego resists like crazy!

my second reaction was: i just returned from a few hours of solution focused counselling training and would like to see if i can apply some of the things presented there (by richard hyams, by the way).

you see, one of the things we talked about was BUT.

as in,

  • i’d like to apply for this job but i’m too old
  • i think going to school would be a good idea but i have to wait until my law suit is over
  • it’s really time for me to go on a vacation but with this bad economy …
  • i guess this would be a good idea but my friend joe tried it and it didn’t work

you get the drift.

here’s a little dialogue i wrote out in response to my objection:

question: on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being next to nothing and 10 being superhuman force, how strong would you say the resistance is?

answer: different on different days.

q: that’s interesting! what’s the range? maybe 3 on one day and 9 on a really tough day?

a: hm. i’d say somewhere between 4 and 10.

q: superhuman force? you’re pretty strong!

a: well, maybe not superhuman force. enough to keep me from doing it; but i WOULD meditate if i had to or if others were doing it, too.

q: that’s a … what on the scale?

a: 6.5, maybe. actually, a 5.5 because it’s not that i don’t want to. i just don’t do it.

q: interesting. and what would life be like without that resistance?

a: aaaaah. very free.

q: what does that freedom feel like?

a: free. joyful.

q: free and joyful.

a: yes. real good.

q: hm. so. so i take it you’d really like to have that freedom?

a: absolutely! but …

q: but …?

a: but i’m afraid it wouldn’t last.

q: you’re afraid this freedom wouldn’t last?

a: yup.

q: do you think it’s possible to NOT have that fear?

a: oh, yeah, definitely.

q: you sound quite convinced.

a: oh yeah.

q: so you’re convinced that … never mind, why don’t you tell me in your own words. you’re convinced that … ?

a: i’m convinced that it’s possible not to be afraid of losing my freedom. the freedom i’ve gained from losing the resistance to meditate.

q: i wonder what that would sound like if we made it shorter; it’s hard to say it with all the “not’s” in there. what would it sound like?

a: let’s see. okay, here: “i’m convinced it’s possible to … live in the freedom … the freedom that comes from wanting to meditate, and meditating every day.”

q: mmmmh. what’s that like, saying that?

a: it feels like there’s already some freedom. it feels like there’s some space that opened up in my head.

q: in your head?

a: yeah, in my head, because that’s where that fear and reluctance sit.

q: and now there’s more space?

a: yeah. and … i have a question.

q: what’s that?

a: how can i hold on to this, and act on it?

q: let me ask YOU a question: how would you know that you ARE holding on to it, and acting on it?

a: that’s pretty obvious. i’d be meditating every day.

q: and you’re wanting to do it, and it feels very free,

a: yes. i’m wanting it, and it feels free.


a: you know what? how much time do we have left?

q: about 15 minutes.

a: could we meditate together, right here and now? would that be alright?

q: of course! about 10 minutes?

a: perfect!

… and 10 minutes of meditation ensued. thank you, richard!

now what, you wonder, has that to do with NaNoWriMo? you may recall that i pledged to connect every post in november to NaNoWriMo.

it’s actually quite simple. certain of my creative endeavours have a strongly spiritual element. my novel is one. somehow it connects me to the divine. in fact, when i first posted the tweet that i mentioned in the beginning of the post, i was thinking of the slight reluctance to work on the novel.

nuff said. i will now continue with my good novel.


  1. Hmm.

    It’s a nice piece of work.

    I want to hear more from the fear I think. (How unusual for me to be contrarian – not!).

    I hope you understand what I mean.

    Evan’s last blog post..Cancer Roundup

  2. thanks for the comments, everyone!

    evan, in solution focused practice, the fear would probably only be addressed if the client made it clear that she/he needed for it to happen. otherwise, the idea is to focus on the direction in which the client wants to move forward. the client’s goal does not seem to be “i want to get rid of my fear” but to connect deeply with the divine. solution focused practice is very action oriented.

    are you perhaps saying that the fear needs to be looked at because it appears to be a root cause, and if the root cause is not dealt with, not much will come of counselling?

  3. Hi Isabella,

    I agree with what you say about root causes.

    My concern is with wholism. I suppose in philosophical terms I prefer eudaemonism to hedonism. A lot of therapy seems to value hedonism (from Freud’s pleasure principle on).

    If pleasure is the goal: it’s easy – take drugs. Much of (the pharmaceutical variety of) psychiatry seems to operate on this principle.

    Would you be willing to explore your longing for permanence? Do you really wish to dismiss the ego? (I realise you may wish to – it gets a bad press in some kinds of Buddhism which you may endorse).

    I’m with the solution focus – I think it’s great. I guess I’m questioning the relation of the spirituality and fear from this point of view. I think a Buddha is allowed to run away from trucks heading for them (though some would reply they are not fear driven, it’s a choice and so forth).

    I think there is a lot in here to tease out. I hope I am making some kind of sense, I’m feeling my way with this one.

    Evan’s last blog post..Cancer Roundup

  4. hey evan – love these exchanges with you!

    btw what i said about root causes – that was just a question; i’m not sure that as a blank statement, that would be true for everyone.

    is pleasure the goal? ah, that’s an interesting question. for all intents and purposes, in most cases it probably is. however, i would say that the goal is movement, the opposite of stagnation.

    which longing for permanence are you talking about? the one implied in the fear of ego death? no matter – a longing for permanence is always worth exploring, otherwise my buddhist leanings wouldn’t make much sense, would they?

    yeah, lots to explore here. maybe worth another blog post, to add to the dozen or so i have standing in line 🙂

  5. I guess I think dealing with the root cause is important. Although in any particular for session and for any particular person there are lots of considerations. Is the support available? Do they trust the therapist yet? and so on. But I do think the eventual goal is to deal with the root cause.

    “The longing for permanence” I meant was the fear of the freedom not lasting.

    Talking about the goal and pleasure leads us into all manner of interesting discussions about values I think. Is an addict with enough money a model of psychological health? What is the criterion of value? (For me life is a value laden process – though there are dangers of the Nietzschean superman and social darwinism I know.)

    Evan’s last blog post..Cancer Roundup

  6. Ah the dreaded ‘but’, we have recently touched on this on my diploma course and I found it fascinating.

    I need to read your blog more, I forget how much I enjoy and learn from it 🙂

    Claire’s last blog post..I am the Onion

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