The quality of trance, of being hypnotized, is the hallmark of our egoic state of consciousness. Over millennia, the great spiritual masters of all traditions have realized this and given us many profound teachings about this condition. In one way or another, they all refer to this egoic state of consciousness as a dream, as something that doesn’t really exist, but is only imagined to exist.

The Buddha called it “the wheel of Samsara”. He likened it to a spinning wheel of the mind, and as soon as we identify with any thought on that wheel — any image, any idea — the identification pulls us right into this cyclic pattern of suffering, confusion, and contraction.

I like to use a different word for what the Buddha called “the wheel of suffering,” To me, it is like a vortex, an energy pattern that, as soon as we get too close to it, as soon as we buy into it, we get caught. This vortex has its own gravitational force that always exists as a potential. The power of that force is not always manifest — we’re not always stuck in sorrow, pain, or anger — but the potential for the vortex to arise and for us to get caught in it is very strong.

The most common way that this vortex sucks us in is through emotionally based reactions like anger, greed, pride, hate, defensiveness, and the desire for control. These qualities are aspects of our emotional life that pull us right into this vortex of suffering.

The clearest expression of how this vortex works is in the realm of our relationships. We exist in a world of continuous relationships; everywhere you look, everywhere we go, we are in relationship. Every feeling you have is actually one that involves relationship: your body with its environment; your mind with your consciousness; the world outside and the world inside; the relationship of your heart beating at this very moment and your lungs breathing in and out. This is the world of relationship.

Of course we have relationships with other human beings, too, and this is where we easily get pulled into this vortex of sorrow and suffering, because as soon as we start to believe thoughts that cause us to feel angry or greedy or frustrated or out of control, we get pulled into the hypnotizing vortex of sorrow and suffering.

When we’re in relationship and two people get pulled into this vortex, the cycle of conflict and misunderstanding really strengthens, as well as the perceived need to defend, control, and blame the other. It is a very difficult cycle to break free from. The key is to begin by looking closely at your own experience and identifying which thoughts pull you into suffering and which beliefs tend to bring you into conflict.

There are a few important things to understand about this vortex of suffering. Again, I use the word “vortex” because the trance of our minds is very much like a swirling locus of energy. Like an energetic vacuum cleaner, it can suck your consciousness right into it, very quickly. In every moment, the vortex has the potential to arise very suddenly and pull you in.

What feeds the vortex are emotionally laden reactions like anger, pride, and fear, as well as the ego’s desire to control, to exercise power, and to make demands. All of these are energies that exist in potential within our egoic structure, and as soon as we believe in them, or buy into their seductive qualities, we instantly find ourselves having been sucked into the vortex.

The egoic state of consciousness is comprised almost entirely of this vortex and, as such, you can see it’s manifestations all around you. If you listen to people interact, at the very instant they get sucked into the vortex, you’ll hear them start to blame, condemn, or try to control each other. Or it might be something a bit more subtle, where they’ll be very quietly trying to convince each other of their point of view.

Brought into the vortex, one might then move into a place of withdrawal or victimhood or neediness. It’s important to see, from an egoic state of consciousness, that many of the qualities that pull us into the vortex are qualities of mind and emotion that our egos find very valuable. Most egos think it’s important to have control over others, over the environment, and of course over our lives.

It seems so obvious that one would want to have some amount of control over their experience. Yet, the irony is, the more you try to control life and others, the more out of control you feel. This feeling of being out of control is in fact the swirling energy of this vortex of suffering itself. You’re caught in it, and once you’re caught in it you’ll tend to try to grasp for more control as a means of getting out, and you’ll only dig yourself in deeper and deeper.

Remember, you can get trapped within this vortex when you’re by yourself, in your own thoughts, and you can also get entangled in relationship. Much of what we learn, much of what’s been modeled to us about how to be in relationship, are the very qualities of mind and emotion that pull us into the vortex.

We spend lifetimes listening to people trying to convince each other that they’re right. We see people using anger, power, and control to manipulate others, and we see that sometimes, on the surface of things, this kind of manipulation seems to work out for the person using it. Of course, in the end, whatever we atain through power, manipulation, and conrol is something that ultimately makes us internally suffer and feel powerless, craving for more and more control.

The more you can stay present for what’s arising, without getting lost in or pushing away the emotionality of it, the more it releases. It doesn’t need your help in releasing. It needs you to be that intimate, warm space in which everything is allowed to arise.

~ From: Falling Into Grace, by Adyashanti.

The Vortex of Suffering

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