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First Mickey talk at the Temple.

Michael A. Singer Talks

That first Sunday at the Temple of the Universe, listening to Mickey talk changed my whole life. I could see how in all aspects of life I had been hiding, protecting, and using all my energy to keep my weaknesses and defensiveness under wraps. I'm not sure I was aware of how much pain I felt daily from jest not liking myself and not working on myself.

Mickey has several metaphors for living in that state. He talks about having a sliver and your finger and how you spend your whole life protecting the hand with a sliver. You rap the sliver you stop using your hand you essentially build a cast over your whole arm just so the sliver never gets activated and you don't have to feel that pain, but you lose the use and the power and strength of your whole arm.

That resonated with me.

At the time I was working as a photojournalist at the Gainesville sun and every time I had a photograph from an assignment that had technical problems or didn't capture the essence of what was happening, I always had an excuse. There is always something in the external world that kept me from being able to fully connect with my subject and I was always ready to make it not about me.

The upshot was that I missed a lot of growth. And the habit of defensiveness and protection runs deep. It seems simple to tell yourself, I'm not going to be defensive anymore; I'm going to listen when my work is critiqued and try to get better instead of protecting myself. But the underlying tendencies of insecurity and sense of inadequacy run strong and the idea of just not being defensive only works in a limited way.

First, the act of exploring oneself or opening oneself to critique is by nature an opportunity to have one's buttons pushed. There's a sense of reactivity of fight or flight syndrome kicking in that was overpowering in that sense of calm detachment was wiped away by emotional panic and self-protection I started seeing that there was something deeper at work and I was not able to maintain that com open state for very long it was almost like I would enter into a conversation about one of my pictures or about some work I had done and I would wake up 20 minutes later being angry and frustrated and protective. What happened during those 20 minutes? How did I get here? I could soon see that the reactivity and the insecurity were going to need some special tools and special help. That the reactivity, the fight or flight syndrome, that inability to stay centered while my buttons were being pushed was one problem and the defensiveness was just a symptom of that problem.

One of the beauties of working with Mickey at the temple was the discovery that it wasn't necessary to let go of these internal flaws one at a time.

For example, if a parent or a sibling had said something to me when I was young that hurt my ego hurt my feelings and left me feeling that I had to defend myself I didn't have to go back and release that one incident from my memory. The techniques that Mickey taught we're about going deeper and letting go of whole tendencies, all at once. In other words, our flaws, our weaknesses, and our internal traumas collect over the years, but they form a sort of habit or pattern of behavior and that whole set of behaviors can be released at once. Or at least over some time but it just takes work and a willingness to experience some pain because as Mickey always says, what was stored with pain comes up with pain. But he also says that the pain of letting go is the pain that ends all pain.

My exploration into Buddhist teachings confirms this where the Buddha taught that there is a difference between pain and suffering. Pain by this definition is a singular moment of acknowledging and releasing an experience that was damaging.

Suffering is experiencing that moment without releasing it and therefore creates any conditions of having to experience that pain repeatedly instead of letting it go.

The first few times of experiencing pain as a spiritual indicator of a blockage that needed to be released were profound. Instead of feeling condemned to repeat a painful experience repeatedly I soon developed an understanding that I was working through long held flaws and that I wasn't condemned to be who I was forever. I could grow and I could improve deeply and permanently if I could develop enough clarity and commitment. Mickey's teachings are beautiful in that he always talks about that release cycle as a skill that needs to be developed and that it's hard and nearly impossible to let go of the big internal issues at the beginning, so he always recommends starting with the little things. The resistance to people driving slowly in front of you or getting upset because it's going to rain on your day off.

The knowledge that I could change positively was incredibly empowering. It's almost like you can reverse your aging you can go back in time to win hurtful and damaging things that happen to you and just let them go and reverse whatever hardship blockage and pain they created inside you in a sense of freedom, uplift of energy that you get after releasing those blockages is addicting. It's a positive addiction to spiritual progress and it's amazing.


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