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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Entitlement

Before I looked into the Reflecting Pool on Sunday I have to confess I took a dive into the Sea of Unconsciousness and mud-wrestled with suffering. It was not a pretty sight: lots of venting, whining, arguing in my head about my current life circumstances – bemoaning that *I* didn’t sign up for *this.* “This” meaning the need to “take care of” my sister for the past 6 weeks (and probably 6 more) - which I have written about before, so I won't reiterate the story... :)

My husband patiently listened and allowed me to vent and whine, and then as usual offered up the wisdom that stopped me in my tracks – that stopped the mind from its self-centered indulgence of suffering. He said:

“What makes you think that you’re entitled to have life different than it is?”

Whoa horsey – now that’s the perspective that stopped the gravitational pull back into the subconscious *belief* in a life of being victimized by life’s circumstances – creating suffering and misery. Excuse me while I wipe the mud off my face, straighten my clothes and get back up from the mud hole. It does happen you know, when we least expect it – we are blindsided by our own emotional investment in suffering – as if we were entitled to it.

Ah s0 – yes, I ask – what *does* make me think that I’m entitled? What makes me *expect* that life will go as I had envisioned… And isn’t it this sense of entitlement that causes this mud wrestling – this suffering? Seems so looking back on it.

Hours later I got another view of this sense of entitlement when the phone rang and it was my husband’s sister who literally takes care of their mother who has Alzheimer’s. My sister-in-law is struggling with having to care for her mother, as well as her mother’s loss of cognizance and awareness, AND with her mother not being who *she* wants her to be. I could empathize to a certain degree, although not totally. She is obviously resistant, struggling and suffering. That I could relate to. So I offered my empathy and understanding – knowing how life can take us in unexpected directions. And then I offered my husband’s words of wisdom *thinking* it would help. They were met with indignation and a declaration of disagreement because her *belief* is that we are *entitled* to be happy, to have life the way we want it, as if it was an expectation that life should fulfill. Oops.

And that’s when I heard it again – the *root* of suffering: entitlement and expectation.

As we shared our mutual experiences my sister-in-law then said: “But you *chose* to take care of your sister” as if that somehow lessened what I was experiencing. That pushed a few buttons. :)

My experience is – the “choice” was made already by life circumstances. There was no one else to “take care of my sister.” It was actually not a “choice.” There was really no choice to be made. I just stepped up to the plate to do what needed to be done. No heroics. Life presented the circumstances and I showed up. Not willingly at first. How could I *not* show up!? How could I turn my back and *choose* not to do this? That would have been the choice it seems – to resist where life was going, how life was unfolding – to say no.

My real choice, as I see it now, is in not creating suffering and struggle around what I am being asked by life to do at the moment.

Admittedly that’s been challenging - accepting life as it is, without getting down in the mud and bemoaning my experience…

But even in the mud experience a jewel is offered– a discovery is made: I realized this week that when I am with my sister there is no *thinking* that life should be different, that *I* shouldn’t have to do this, that *this* should not be happening… etc. None of that happens. I am just there, doing what needs to be done – present… And I don’t mean to sound magnanimous here. It’s really not about me at all. It’s about the experience. It all unfolds the way it does, on its own. And I actually find myself *enjoying* being with my sister, *engaging* differently. Wonder of wonders…

The new “awareness moment” now is that when I say “yes” to life as it is, and meet people where they are, there *is* a sense of equanimity that arises internally – despite my moments of mud-wrestling. Eventually the need to oppose, wrestle, resist, and fight with life dissipates – as well as the sense of entitlement. A different rapport with life emerges, one that is more embracing and accepting. This feels much better than mud-wrestling… sigh…

The adventure continues! And more discoveries I’m sure…

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6 comments:

  1. "The new “awareness moment” now is that when I say “yes” to life as it is, and meet people where they are, there *is* a sense of equanimity that arises internally – despite my moments of mud-wrestling."

    :) beautiful!

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  2. Nothing like wallowing in the mud to reveal what needs to be seen... :)

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  3. Lots of dharma here! "when I say “yes” to life as it is, " That's it isn't it. It's the 2nd noble truth in Buddhism (not that that's important), the cause of suffering is desire, our wanting some things and not wanting others, the pulling and pushing. It can be subtle or not so subtle and just as you realized, I too have found I can go a long way down the rabbit hole before the light comes on.

    And you know, I think you did choose to look after your sister. It may not feel like it but I think you should see it as a positive, generous act. I have been learning that it is important (not in a proud, I'm so great kind of way) but as an instance of fact, to acknowledge the goodness in ourselves (very unwestern). I am coming to the conclusion that this builds spiritual self confidence.

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  4. Hi Zen! :)

    oooo - I like your take on the "choice" issue. And the way I read what you say is that saying "yes" to what life presents *is* the choice - I see that here in what you say. And I do see that saying "yes" to life is a "positive and generous act" - for both my sister and me. It feels like the "choice" is really in the *willingness* to show up, to say "yes" to what is needed. Yes? :) I think of your saying "yes" to the homeless woman who showed up on your doorstep...

    What I've noticed too is this interplay of acceptance and resistance, the push and pull of wanting and aversion, as you say. And it *is* very subtle at times, kind of passive-aggressive.

    Thank you for the insight! Another jewel in the muddiness revealed!

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  5. Entitlement is such an insidious blindspot for me! I learned a lovely word in the process of educating myself about my mum's dementia. Anosognosia. Ain't it lovely? It means an inability to know I have a deficit. It may apply to a stage of dementia but I think it's a crucial stage in our spiritual development - which would make the awareness of our unawareness a-anosognosia... stuttering towards enlightenment! ;-)

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  6. Hi Genju! Thank you for coming by for a visit and leaving your message! :)

    I agree - as you can see by reading this post - "entitlement" is incredibly insidious - I think esp. for those on a "spiritual path." There are so many blind spots that need to be revealed! Does this ever end!

    Interesting too, what you say about the big word An----, dimentia and spiritual development. I was fascinated by your blog posts on this issue - I think one was called "Loss of self" (?) I almost emailed you but couldn't find the words. Imagine that! :) I do see this in my mother-in-law, in her inability to *know*, to be *aware* there is a deficit. (She was kind of this way *before* Alzheimers :)

    I have experienced this "awareness of unawareness" as well... I call it being consciously unconscious, which I do well. :)

    You are a beautiful, articulate expression of Be-ing, and I enjoy reading your blog!

    Heart Smiles to you...

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