We are all touched by aversion--which includes: anger, ill-will and fear. Aversion is wanting a situation or feeling to be different than it is and expending energy to push away.
How does aversion interfere with practice?
Aversion creates energy that fuels itself. We shift into habitual patterns and act without mindfulness, which often creates more aversion. When acting out of habit energy, it becomes very difficult to sit and meditate. Should aversion arise while meditating, it can be difficult to keep the mind and body from responding and becoming hooked by whatever form of aversion may be arising. When we look carefully into the states that pull us away from presence we will find fear.
Fear comes from a limbic response to losing life, however, when we are caught up in fear, we lose life. Our body contracts, mind contracts, heart contracts. We take on a body of fear. Our world shrinks. We lose our sense of belonging: belonging to the moment, to each other, to the earth, to awareness.
If we are able to pause, we can shift from the limbic fight/flight/freeze response to the attend/befriend prefrontal cortex response. This shift from primitive to higher brain function is the very action of the evolution of consciousness. We cannot prevent something from going wrong by worrying or ruminating on it. Instead, if we shift to what is here, right now: the smells, the sights the sensations, etc., we become aware of what is happening and we can effect change.
When we open up we don’t suffer because we are activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
We suffer when we are locked in the sympathetic nervous system fight/flight/freeze reactive state.
So why is Aversion so strong?
Rather than react to aversion, we need to learn how to respond to it and free ourselves from the habitat response.
How do we stop aversion from taking us over and keeping us from practicing?
We come back to our breath! By re-connecting to the breath, we have the opportunity to step out of the habit energy pattern and stay present. In presence, we have access to wisdom and are able to actually know what is happening right that moment. This allows us to make better choices and cut the self-perpetuating cycle of aversion.
Learn how to attend and befriend:
One way to address aversion is to practice the STOP Technique. A useful and effective way to bring you back to your breath and into presence. It can be utilized anywhere and only takes a minute or two to practice. You can read about how to put this into practice to help with aversion by reading the blog post: STOP Technique.
I am Do'an Prajna, a bhikṣu (fully ordained Zen Buddhist monk) and zen teacher. Here I share my thoughts and observations about living a life of compassion, attention and gratitude.