What makes vasanas (reaction patterns) so insidious and so hard to see sometimes is the belief that if I do something (or you or any of us), it must be right.
And if I do it, there must be a reason for it.
If we saw others behave the way we do when reactivated, we’d call them crazy, a jerk, and worse, but when we do it, we’re right and reasonable.
And then we go a step further and make our vasanas the foundation of our character and, in fact, build a constructed self out of them.
And with each step, I (or we) go more and more out of awareness of what we’re doing, what the damage is, what the cost is, and so on. After all, it’s just us. And if it’s just us, it must be … right and reasonable.
Maybe forty years ago, I wrote in my first book (still in a drawer somewhere) that I’m invisible only to myself. The face I built for myself is not invisible. But, unless I look in the mirror, I don’t see that face. Everyone else does and I’m not invisible to them.
Douglas Harding, he who had no head, (1) used to say that my face is your problem. Yes, I don’t see it at all. No problem for me.
A local journalist once said that by age 40 everyone is responsible for his or her own face. I get that.
Because of the events of my life, I built a very serious and even severe face. I capped that off with eight years on the refugee bench listening to many stories that were pure fabrications.
The prize of gaining citizenship was so high that even many authentic refugees fabricated and such was the justice of the law that we were not allowed to refuse entry if even a credible remainder of evidence stood up to questioning and grounded the claim.
I’m not saying I disagree with that aspect of the law. I applaud it. But it showed that simply lying in some instances was no reason unto itself to disqualify a person and that was a very new concept to me at the time.
But listening to so much fabrication was an invitation to create a very serious, even severe, definitely sober-sided face.
I often saw people react to me as if I was severe when I didn’t feel severe at all and then I remembered my face. That severe expression was plastered on me. I had created my own face and was now responsible for it.
So our vasanas become our character and our face becomes our calling card. And now here we are being asked to back out of it all. We’re being asked to know when we’re trapped in a vasana and to think about what the impact is of having the face we wear.
The rising energies are helping, no doubt. But it’s a daunting task to deconstruct a vasana-based character, a reactive constructed self. Nonetheless, that IS the assignment.
I actually feel humble when I think about all that has to be taken down and taken apart if I’m to recover my original innocence and enter the kingdom of heaven, so to speak.
Another day, another vasana. Another vasana sourced and one more plank taken off this glaring signboard I call a “face.” If we source our vasanas, instead of projecting them onto others, we take one more step out of the constructed self.
Small steps, Ellie. Small steps. Another step taken on the road back to my original face.
(1) Douglas Harding, On Having No Head — Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious. On just getting presence, without the mind.