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Imagine You're Enlightened

Transforming Negative Emotions and Identities

Now let’s consider a “negative emotion” such as pride and explore what embodying awake pride might mean. I remember a conversation I had with a teacher in Nepal, who after about an hour looked at me and said, “Ken, you have a problem. You are a little proud. You can either be completely proud or not proud at all. But to be a little proud is a problem.” To have a little pride, I came to understand, is to not be awake in pride.

With ordinary pride, you feel you are special and arrange your world to be ongoing proof of what you want to be true. You adopt set positions and rigid forms of behavior. You ignore doubts and threats to your self-image and avoid anything that reminds you of them. Such pride is obviously not about being fully awake and present.

How does the awake quality transform the expression of pride? Imagine you are awake and present, yet completely embodying pride. You experience a total and complete equanimity, regardless of what arises in experience. You are so special that you have no need to defend yourself in any situation or to lord your knowledge or abilities over anyone. You don’t need others to treat you with an assumed deference or the appearance of respect. You are truly “above it all,” expansive without being overbearing or overwhelming. You have no reason to be impatient or insensitive. Instead, you are completely respectful and kind in all situations, because from your broad, expansive point of view, they are all the same.

What about going beyond specific emotions to whole identities, such as being a loser? Ordinarily, this self-image leads you to shrink from the world. The world becomes a world of hopelessness, devoid of promise or fulfillment. Every defeat becomes a painful but reassuring confirmation of your identity and status. You fear challenges because you know you will fail and also because success would be as problematic as failure. You are full of grandiose schemes and you tell everyone what you are going to do. But you never start, because to do so would reveal who you really are. When you are forced to, you approach situations unwillingly or with such a defeatist attitude that you undermine any support you might have had. Things turn out badly, once again.

As the awake loser, however, you know you are going to lose. It’s a done deal! You have nothing to lose, nothing to risk. You accept losing as a given and engage your life, your practice, your interactions with absolutely no expectations of what you may get or how you may benefit. Victory and defeat or success and failure become meaningless considerations. You pour your energy into new situations because you are not concerned with status or outcomes. You engage whatever you are doing without personal expectations or projections. Instead of talking about grandiose schemes, you end up doing just what needs to be done.

Adopting the awake manifestation of an identity in this way connects you with expressions of power, opening, understanding, and compassion that are not based on a sense of self.

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