Even from a young age, I loved and I think many of us love, being with other people and being in community. As an adult I sought out living at meditation centers. So it’s not that we’re stuck in a particular style of culture. We can migrate towards and naturally manifest the different ways we want to live, that is a beautiful thing.
It’s our conditioning here and that is so interesting. From the time we’re in the womb to about 8 years of age, according to modern western research, our core personality traits are being established. I think in the beginning of western psychology with people like Freud who might have been very bright but a bit wacky and came up with some weird theories, some of them illuminated important things and others were just way off, and it wasn’t peer reviewed science, it was just more theory, so for a while psychology was looked down upon by more objective material scientists.
In the last 50 years that has changed a lot. We have a lot of peer reviewed studies that tell us not only about the psychology, but the physiology, the traits, the intergenerational trauma. The understanding of trauma itself is huge, that we can have traumatic events in our lives and the way our nervous system responds to that and internalizes that. Then it can get triggered and come up in different moments and environments. Someone outside of us might not understand it at all, but we feel it very strongly. I personally have experience with this and I think we probably all have some degree of that in our lives.
So from that early age, 0 to 8, all of these traits or basic personality types and structure of the way our consciousness arises is set. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t grow. That is not what I’m proposing. It’s just that at some point we don’t really get to rewrite the script about our conditioning. We get to work with it, ideally with artfulness and skill. It’s not what comes up, it’s how we work with it. That is the art of dharma and meditation and practice. It’s so important to remember.
It’s not that if we like chocolate suddenly we should like vanilla. It’s not to say that we don’t at times change our preferences but we don’t necessarily change our core conditioning, we just evolve in the way we work with that. So whether it is from trauma we’ve had at a younger age or cultural conditioning we received in the larger society, there is an aspect of us, of our personality, that is far out of our control to change.
That is kind of a scary thing to say, especially when we’re in the self realization or self actualization movement that we all are interested in through being meditators. The way I want to point this out is that this is not news to any of you, I’m guessing. More and more of us are meditating. When I was beginning to teach meditation 16-17 years ago, I was meeting a lot of people who had never practiced before. Now, it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t meditated. “Oh yes, Headspace, and I’ve actually got a couple of apps…”
So it’s not that we don’t have access to meditation, actually it is much more widespread, and I think that is a good thing, but like anything worthwhile in this life, we have to put in effort and heart to reap the rewards of something.
This blog post is part of an ongoing series. Stay tuned for Part 3!