Peace Descends … Until the Next Time

I feel melancholic tonight and when I do so I cannot write – except about what’s actually there.

As may happen these days, I’ve parted ways with a friend. The circumstances aren’t important but the parting was saddening.

The sadness was bearable because it felt pure and related to current circumstances. But there was a second aspect of the incident that I knew was a vasana, a reaction pattern from the past and that’s what I want to report on here.

I go through my upsets publicly for the benefit I hope it may provide, especially since so many of us are clearing the residue of our lives and these unwanted residual feelings that surface can be troublesome.

In this case, the friend and I were unable to see our way through a difficulty and we let the relationship go. But, as so often happens, some of the words that were said sounded like words that have been said in other situations in my life that were life-altering and impactful. And it was these that triggered the memories that were bothering me.

Why some incidents in our lives bother us and shape us is that we refuse at the time they occurred to experience them through to completion and so they linger for years and years. And every time anything remotely similar triggers them, the pain arises again.

Unless we allow ourselves to completely experience them, we develop an avoidance pattern, a reaction pattern, some habit of mind that shapes our lives and can gradually spread and take over the place. I call these patterns vasanas, after Ramana Maharshi. (1)

How I “source” a vasana is that I allow the memories that have been triggered to gently arise, acknowledge them and permit them to play upon my consciousness until they release their grip of their own volition. And so here I went this time as well, asking my mind to throw up to my view scenes from other incidents that were at the source of this episode.

The first thing I saw was me talking to my Sociology Ph.D. adviser at the University of British Columbia in 1987, weeks after having had a vision that showed me that enlightenment was the purpose of life, (2)  and telling him that I was aware that he would not let me study enlightenment for my dissertation, but it meant more to me than getting a Ph.d. And so I was going to stick with my studies rather than my dissertation.

I had hoped he would say, “Well if it means that much to you that you would quit the program, Steve, then do your dissertation on enlightenment.” But instead he replied, “Well, then, goodbye, Steve.” And all the work of perhaps four or five years disappeared in smoke.

I remained with the feelings that arose and they subsided

And I asked my mind again, since I still felt pain, to take me back again to the ghost of upsets past and show me the next scene in which this kind of incident had occurred. And here I was now with my dissertation adviser at the University of Toronto History Department, many years earlier (1972?). I had just completed a dissertation that was radically new for History – at the time. I had taken dozens of novels and recreated the world that was to be found in them – patterns of romance, health, social activism, etc., characteristic of the Nineteenth Century. I called this a study in Cultural History.

My then dissertation adviser was in Intellectual History and tended to examine political ideologies. He had OKed every chapter of the dissertation but when he saw it as a whole he rejected it. And here we were discussing what had gone wrong and the last thing I asked him was what was I to do with this finished work. And he replied: “I don’t know. Throw it in the ocean?” And another career went up in smoke.

I was a brash young man. I’d been warned that a thesis should contain 90% of what your thesis adviser did and 10% of your own. And here mine contained 100% of my own. I was told to walk the elephant line until you graduate and then you can step out. But I didn’t listen.

The sinking feeling I felt on both occasions is the thread that tied these situations to the present. Now I sat with the feelings that arose in the earlier, similar incidents. I didn’t like these feelings of a failed enterprise. life-changing impacts, loss of a dream, and rejection.  But gradually they released their grip on me and subsided.

And peace returned.

It isn’t what happens today that reactivates us nine times out of ten. It’s what happened way back when. And so long as we treat a matter as if it is entirely anchored in the present moment, so long will we be unable to get to the bottom of it and complete it once and for all.

But this time of clearing before Ascension is seeing everything incomplete arise in us to be experienced through and finally let go of. There are many ways to complete our old issues and upsets and this one, which I call the “upset clearing process,” (3) is just one of them. Whatever process we use, we now need to complete our old issues and let go of the extraneous emotional baggage we drag around behind us so we are, as Archangel Michael put it, free to fly.

I am restored to Self again, having “sourced” that issue. I find myself again in my center, the upset having drained away, and a feeling of calmness and balance having replaced it. Love arises and peace descends. Until the next time.


(1)  See for instance “Sri Ramana Maharshi on the Problem of Our Habitual Tendencies,” at

(2)  See “Ch. 13. Epilogue,” at

(3) For more on the “upset clearing process” see “On Processing Vasanas” at I suppose I should not overlook saying that handling upsets this way avoids me getting into an argument with the other person. I look for the cause of the upset within myself and “source” it.  I use it to rid myself of a thread of uncompleted upsets and thereby reduce my stack of habit patterns or vasanas. I recommend this approach.

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