Absorption and Obsession
“The misuse of absorption can lead to denial.” Jack Kornfield, “Bringing the Dharma Home”, page 19
I’m not sure if there is a difference between absorption and concentration, but everyone I have ever known, including myself, has misused concentration/absorption for the purposes of maintaining denial.
How can you not? Sometimes, reality sucks and there isn’t much that a person can do about it. Focusing on the problem does not necessarily empower a person to implement a solution, particularly if the problem belongs to someone else. Compassion makes a person care about others, but it doesn’t always enable the carer to fix the concern.
I have obsession issues, not that anyone could tell. (Ha ha.) Once my brain figures something out, then I want to understand how that thing impacts every other area of my life and the lives of others I care about. In other words, once I find a new dot, I want to see how it connects to all the others. And then I’m off….I’m living in my head. And sometimes, particularly when my reality is unpalatable, living in my head is a relief.
But that’s the problem. I’m living in my head, not dealing with my current situation (by distracting myself with some issue of irrelevance to my daily life), and time is going by. My life is slipping through my fingers because I’d rather focus on anything else rather than dealing with the current reality.
Reading female self-help authors is revelatory. A woman will write a book about empowering other women and realize that they are not practicing what they preach. The next thing you know, they are divorced. I am thinking specifically about Melody Beattie and Sarah Ban Breathnach (sorry if I mangled the spellings, it’s been a while). They feel time passing and are not willing to let their life slip by being unhappily married or in a relationship with a practicing addict or whatever. Divorce isn’t a guarantee of happiness, but if you’re already unhappy, there may not be a lot to lose through divorce. At some point, it becomes time to take your own advice. Integrity demands it.
Sometimes I wonder if OCD is the ultimate absorption/distraction. People think they want to let go of their obsessions, but their obsessions serve a purpose—distracting them from their current misery.
I saw it as a Christian. I saw churches obsessed with politics and abortion while their young people fled the icky, manipulative political sermons of the pastor. I saw one woman go to Joyce Meyer events, ignoring the fact that her son was flamingly gay. I have a sister-in-law that will tell you all about the evils of diet pop, while her husband (my brother) kills himself one beer at a time.
I don’t want to fall into the same ditch as a Buddhist. I don’t want to use any religion as an escape from reality. Mindfulness has been my savior at times. Feeling my breath. Listening to what people are saying and comparing/contrasting that with their actual behavior. Feeling the sun on my skin. Taking my husband’s no’s seriously. I want to deal with reality, not develop supernatural concentrative powers. Escape is easy and time (life) slips away minute by minute.
Maybe when your options are gone and you can’t do anything anymore, concentration can be handy. Distraction may not be such a bad thing when someone else is changing your diapers. I don’t know. I just know that I don’t want to live like that now.