Contact Living Tantra Living Tantra Consultations Living Tantra Store Living Tantra Resources Ayurveda Essential Practices About Living Tantra Living Tantra Home Living Tantra

Approval or Bust

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Much human behavior is approval-seeking.

We want validation. We want someone to tell us we are good, ok, smart, cool, the best at X, Y or Z, indispensable, important, and on and on.

We use others as mirrors, but in those mirrors we want to see our own egos, our bodies and our accomplishments all shiny and impervious to attack.

We are afraid of our freedom. We are afraid of the infinity of open, uncontrived life. We are afraid of loss and death.

In the mirrors of our companions, we just want to see our usual world made more nice and safe for us.

We expend incredible amounts of energy seeking this feeling of imperviousness.

We erect monumental defenses and offenses. We work really, really hard at trying to repair the “problem” of our real nature–open, infinite potential.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche wrote a funny poem about how students will offer to singlehandedly build a “Buddhist Disneyland” in order to avoid sitting still and meditating for 45 minutes a day.

We are so habituated to effort and exhaustion, resting seems like an impossible task.

A lot of my job consists of telling students obvious stuff such as “rest when you are tired.” We really have lost this capacity for naturalness.

When a person finds a real teacher, she recognizes the possibility of natural freedom from contrivance, of freedom from all of this exhausting effort, aka: our so-called normal, approval-seeking life.

This is why people feel a shock upon meeting a teacher. The wave of recognition followed by relief can be intense. The open state of the teacher swallows up all of our defenses, and for a moment, we experience spaciousness, possibility, compassion, and the luminous sky of awareness. We experience our own nature, free from tension.

Then the effort starts up again. Students try to sneak their defenses and contrivances past the teacher, hoping to bring some of these familiar companions along, all the way to Self-realization. This is called “attachment.”

Luckily, Self-realization always wins. It’s just a matter of how long you want to prolong your suffering.

Students of higher capacity are not necessarily students with fewer hangups. But they are people who are ready to work directly with these. They are honestly sick of their defensiveness and are ready to take responsibility for their own realization.

I like to use the image of a tree to talk about the empty effort we make in seeking validation and approval.

If you are looking at a tree in a forest, you do not think, “I approve of this tree,” or “I disapprove of this tree.” These kinds of statements are nonsense. Likewise, even if a tree is ill or falling down, or even if a tree is aggressively taking over the space of another tree, you still do not think “this is a bad tree.” You do not want to punish a tree.

Every tree is as good at being a tree as every other tree. Trees are all trees. Nothing more or less. Trees have different situations and different characteristics, but they are all fine at being trees.

It is exactly the same with human beings. It is nonsense to approve or disapprove of another person, or yourself. It is nonsense to seek approval, or to try to prove that you are a “good person” or “worthy.”

Every person is good at expressing “person.” We just have different situations and characteristics.

At another level, this shouldn’t be too comforting. “Person” is just a fleeting mode of expression. There is nothing to defend.

The only refuge is in relaxing and discovering naturalness. Our defenses cannot win the game for us. Getting the approval and validation we seek will always be unsatisfying in the end.

There is an experience of birth, an experience of individual life, an experience of death. These experiences arise and subside, like waves in an ocean. Waves have only semi-distinct existence. We have only a semi-distinct existence. We are always just aspects of one continuous, ever-living ocean. Life is continuous. Paradoxically, we can only realize immortality when we realize that we have never been born.

Our defenses against oceanic life are an expression of our desire for refuge. But it is only the whole of life–shifting and luminous–that can give us what we desire.

In Ma’s love,

Related Posts