[Thomas McConkie, Mindfulness Teacher]
A really practical way I've found to investigate our sinful nature from a Christian perspective using meditative awareness is to kind of examine what have been called the energy centers or our core vulnerabilities that we're born with as human beings. These core vulnerabilities, according to different maps and formulations, include the need for safety and security, the need for pleasure and esteem, as well as the need for power. So what I wanna do here is just invite you into an exercise, a practice where you can notice when life gets really challenging, we could say from a Buddhist perspective, when you notice that you're suffering a lot, which among these vulnerabilities tends to be the most painful for you or intolerable? Once we get more clarity around our own vulnerabilities at the level of the body and the mind, we can train ourselves to look to something more stable, more supportive in the moments where we feel very compromised. For this practice, you can take an easy posture. Sit comfortably. Allow yourself to be alert. You can do this eyes open or closed. I want you to really feel into the body and mind for a moment. And notice when I say these words, what sensations arise? What comes up? Where in the body or mind perhaps do you notice safety, security? How do you know? Where do you know in the body when you're safe and secure? What about pleasure? The need for pleasure, the drive for pleasure, the avoidance of pain, where do you feel this in the body and mind? How about the need for esteem and affection, to be regarded by and respected by others, included, to belong? Just feel the body resonating for now, the body on mind. What about a sense of control? How do you know on the bodymind when you have the right amount of control in the moment in life? Now notice the opposite. What does it feel like in the bodymind when you lack safety and security? Where do you feel that first? Where does it come up? Is it a sensation? Is it a thought? No safety, no security. What about too much pain present, not enough pleasure? What aspect of your embodiment activates when the balance of pain and pleasure is off? What about the lack of esteem, the lack of affection? When you feel your reputation is soiled or abandoned, betrayed by friends, where does it come up in the bodymind? Disrespected. Disregarded. And what about a lack of control? What challenging sensations or thoughts come up in the bodymind when you feel like you're out of control? This is just a warm up here to familiarize ourselves with these basic experiences. When our basic needs are met, everything's good. I can relax. I can be nice to everyone else. Then the experience when my basic needs, my core vulnerabilities are threatened. And when I feel deeply threatened, I tend to act out. I'll say things, I'll do things to escape this pain, to escape this intensity in the bodymind. I want you to get more specific now. Think back or think currently on a challenge in life: something that causes suffering, something that causes unease. First thought, best thought, any difficult situation you feel really challenged by. And whatever situation comes to mind, I want you to notice if this challenging situation corresponds to any of these core needs: the need for safety and security, the need for pleasure, the need for esteem and affection, the need for control. Get curious about this. Notice where this challenging situation impinges on you at the level of bodymind. Does it cause you to lose a sense of safety, sense of pleasure, sense of esteem, a sense of control? Investigate this closely. Be as clear as you can about it. Experience the disturbance as vividly as you can in the body and the mind. When you've located it in the bodymind, when you can really feel it, really participate in it. I want you to just bring a quality of openness, equanimity, a non-possessive attitude just by welcoming it, just deeply welcoming the sensation that at a certain level can feel so threatening. Remember, we're not welcoming the objective situation. The objective situation might be dangerous, harmful, something we need to handle appropriately. But this first step is to acknowledge the disturbance in the bodymind, open up to it, be fully informed by it so that we can act with intelligent love. Whatever the disturbance, you welcome the disturbance. Welcome fear of not belonging. Welcome hurt feelings. Welcome anxiety. Welcome anxiety. You're simply acknowledging what's already here, what's already been with you, perhaps for some time, perhaps for a long time. And you're just saying yes to the experience of it, the truth that in this moment, this is what's coming up, this is what I feel. Rather than bracing around it, rather than thrashing around, doing everything we can to escape it, we let it in even deeper. And as we do this, we start to gain confidence; confidence that no matter what the experience I'm experiencing, at the level of the bodymind, I don't have to abandon myself. I don't have to scramble to escape myself and stop feeling what I'm already feeling. I can feel it fully. I can welcome it. And then from a higher wisdom, I can act fully informed, act with intelligent love. If we do not make peace with our own bodymind, if we do not make peace with our own direct experience, when these core vulnerabilities are triggered or seen, we resort to what the Christians call sinful behavior; anything we can do to escape it. But as we open up deeper and deeper to exactly what we're experiencing, we realize there's a part of us that is utterly resilient, stable, powerful, open, and can use even this challenging experience for our good. Suffering becomes the door to awakening. Sin becomes the door to salvation.