If you have been struggling with trying to fix yourself, healing the past and feeling as if you will never feel enough or well again, this topic should help set your mind free. In this final episode of the series on the Wisdom of Eastern Spirituality, we explore the concept of “Can Your Soul Be Wounded?”
- What does The Gita say about the True Self?
- Why pure awareness in us cannot be damaged?
- How to escape the cycle of healing/fixing and step into your true potential
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Welcome to Soul Sessions with CreativeMind with Debra Berndt Maldonado and Dr. Rob Maldonado of CreativeMind. Join us each week for inspiring conversation about personal development based on Jungian philosophy, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience. Spend each week with us to explore deep topics in a practical way. Let’s begin.
Debra Maldonado 00:30
Hello, welcome to another fabulous episode of Soul Sessions. I’m Debra Maldonado, here with Dr. Rob Maldonado, with CreativeMind. Before we begin today, continuing our series on Eastern Spiritual Wisdom, I wanted to remind you all to subscribe. If you’re listening to us on Spotify, or iTunes, or any podcast service, please make sure you subscribe to Soul Sessions. If you’re watching us on YouTube, there’s a button in the corner here, if you’re watching the video, you can click on to subscribe to our channel, and make sure you do not miss any episode of the wisdom we’re sharing. Today the topic is: can the soul be wounded? Very deep, profound topic. Why are we talking about this topic today, Rob?
Robert Maldonado 01:17
Often we say you cannot be broken. We try to repeat that as much as possible in our work, because it’s such an important point. But what do we mean by that? This is an opportunity for us to explain ourselves, to go a little bit deeper into where this idea comes from and why it is so important for us.
Debra Maldonado 01:40
Over the years, as we’re working together, working with thousands of people, we see a lot of people come to us. They’re exhausted from personal growth, they’ve been working on themselves for so long, they keep having these cathartic experiences at workshops, processing their emotions, have this deep feeling that if I have an enormous emotional, cathartic experience, that’s a shift. After a while, it’s almost like you’re picking out the old stuff, you’re feeling this sense of “I’m never really getting any traction, I keep identifying as this person, as this terrible thing happened to me or I had these limitations in life.” You’re identifying with that, you’re trying to fix the past, not fully stepping into the future. When we say you’re not broken, some people are relieved. Some other people are resistant to the idea because they are maybe attached to that experience that happen. They don’t want to let it go. They don’t know how to let it go. Because they’ve been spending their life trying to overcome that experience. If I let that go, then the perpetrator or the experience has no value, I had suffered for nothing. There’s a lot of psychological reasons why we hang on to these things. What’s the truth in the Gita?
Robert Maldonado 03:18
We get this from the Gita, but the Gita, you have to remember, is the distillation of the wisdom of the Upanishads. That’s why it’s so powerful. It distills all the wisdom of the ancient seers that were very good and very sophisticated in their understanding of consciousness, the human mind, the way we perceive reality. It says in chapter two, the self, meaning the true self, cannot be cut, cannot be burnt, cannot be wetted or dried up. It is eternal, all pervading, stable, ancient, and immovable. What they’re saying here is that this pure awareness and the true self is described in other parts as pure awareness, as pure consciousness. What they mean by pure is that it’s not necessarily the thinking, the images, or the thoughts, the emotions that we’re experiencing, it is the substance or the non-substance that allows us to think and feel and experience. If you look around the room you’re in right now, we often focus on the objects of the room, the walls, the furniture, the objects we perceive and use in the room, but we forget about the space. Conscious is like the space in which the house is built and exists. If you burn down the house, the space is not hurt, it’s not damaged by that burning, very similar to what they mean by true self, pure awareness that is in us and cannot be damaged by human experience.
Debra Maldonado 05:25
When we look at ourselves from the human perspective, from the ego perspective, which is that duality of good and bad, right and wrong, the personality, the experience of this life, this body, it’s easy to look at your life and say “That hurt me, this experience was negative, this emotion feels negative and unpleasant.” We can’t deny that experience. But if we only focus on that part of human life, that we’re just an experiencer versus the witness, then we are going to feel that life is suffering. If you say “I’m broken”, then you’re treating the brokenness, you’re not escaping the brokenness, you’re just being less broken, or healed from the brokenness, but you’re still identifying with the duality of healed and broken, you can’t have one without the other. When the ego does that, it splits us and makes us feel like chasing something. It’s like rearranging the furniture, you’re making a better version of your persona. But it doesn’t feel free, you’re still feeling as though you’re bound to that old experience. There’s a great story, many of you may have heard this, I love this story of two monks. They’re walking out in the fields, through the countryside, and they come across a stream. A young woman is standing by the stream, she can’t cross because of the water. One of the monks picks her up and carries her across the stream, puts her down, then the two monks go on their way. For about an hour they’re in silence, they’re not talking. Finally, the other monk who didn’t pick up the woman, said “I can’t believe you did that. You broke your vows. You’re not supposed to touch a woman, I can’t believe it. Why would you do that to ruin your life and all the karma?” The other monk looked at him and goes “I put her down an hour ago, why are you still carrying her?” That was so brilliant about our life, we keep carrying all the past with us, like a backpack, making it define who we are. I’m defined by all my past experience, and not only the pain, but we also get attached to being defined by what we accomplish in our life. I had this degree, I made this much money. That also keeps people stuck. When I was in the corporate world, afraid to leave that title and that steady income, the goodness of life and identifying as I’m this person that has this money, it limits you as well. Not only the things that are unpleasant in your life, but the pleasant, we build our identity around that. That’s the illusion, we think that’s who we are, or it’s part of our soul.
Robert Maldonado 08:21
We’re definitely not saying human experience is not difficult and it doesn’t cause suffering. We know it causes very entrenched suffering for human beings. We’ve all had difficult experiences. We know other people have it rougher, they go through traumatic experiences that imprint very strongly on their mind, they carry it forward into their lives. Often, they don’t know how to help themselves, and other people don’t know how to help them either because they’re misperceiving and misunderstanding the nature of that experience. Again, if you think you are the individual mind-body, it makes sense that experience somehow damaged you and left its imprint on you, scarred you and traumatize you in some way.
Debra Maldonado 09:29
We feel it in the body, we know the body holds some emotional patterns and has a template that’s conditioned. It’s not that we don’t have those things.
Robert Maldonado 09:39
The misunderstanding is that that’s not really who we are. The approach we need to take and say it’s a more enlightened approach that is in line with a true understanding of what is the nature of our self, the true self in us, is addressing the emotions and the past experience, no doubt. But let’s approach that experience from the right perspective, that it is a temporary experience your mind is holding on to. If your mind remembers it, you’re more likely to be prepared for it in the future. It’s a good learning strategy. But often, because it’s misperceived as a symptom of brokenness, of some damage that occurred in the psyche, it’s treated in that respect. The individual then starts to believe that that’s who they are, that they are this damaged person that was damaged by past experience.
Debra Maldonado 10:49
What you’re saying is that it is a sign of a healthy mind. The healthy mind is supposed to remember things, it’s supposed to go “I’m not going to cross the street without looking. I’m going to stay away from high things and step back a little more. When I hear loud noises, or someone being aggressive, it’s a sign that you maybe should be careful because this person could harm you.” It’s designed to preserve the body, it’s operating in a normal way. A lot of times it gets stuck in a pattern because it had an experience. We have this hyper defensiveness. But it still doesn’t mean you’re broken, it just means that your body has learned a way to cope with that experience. The way out is not through brokenness. The way out is that there’s something more to you than just that experience.
Robert Maldonado 11:46
Those labels and definitions of what your symptoms are, are very powerful because they’re coming from professionals, from authority figures. We’re used to taking authority figure’s word at face value. If a medical doctor, if a therapist, or a psychologist is telling me I’m broken somehow because of that past experience, I tend to take it to heart that maybe I am broken, there’s something wrong with me because of what I experienced in the past. But again, it’s a misunderstanding, a misapplication of what they’re seeing. If indeed, it is a defense mechanism and a learning process, then you become hyper-vigilant because you experienced a traumatic experience, meaning you’re more aware, you’re more sensitive to sound and to anything that reminds you. That’s a good defense mechanism. It’s helping you be prepared for those things. Defining it as a syndrome or disorder, that’s where the problem comes in. Because now it becomes a disorder for the individual.
Debra Maldonado 13:07
That’s how we approach it and approach ourselves as we’re broken. If we say “It’s natural for your mind to do this, it’s in a hyper-protective mode. Here’s a way for you to get out of it”, you can still treat it or help the person. It’s not there to just drop it, but help the person move through it by saying that you’re not broken. They’re more likely to have more success, transcending that pattern than if you tell them they’re broken and it’s like a deficit. They’re coming from “I’m down here. I have to get to normal. But what if this is normal? How do I now reach my potential, even though I had this terrible experience happen to me? Now I can persevere and I’m not limited by that.” It does a great service to people.
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Robert Maldonado 14:55
Reframing the experience in this creative positive way, but also helping the individual understand they are no longer in that situation, that the mind will tend to focus on things that remind them of that past experience as a defense mechanism, as a protective mechanism, but they are no longer in those situations, then they can work with the mind in a creative way.
Debra Maldonado 15:25
Why do you think people are so resistant to this idea? A lot of people have done a lot of work on themselves. It’s almost like it was a waste, or it means something. Why do you think people are resistant to dropping that idea?
Robert Maldonado 15:47
Of course, it is my opinion, or our opinions. But if you think about the way we identify as persona, as individuals, our personalities, we start to get very attached to the idea of this narrative, this history that happened to me. That’s who I am, I use that to define myself in a sense. Who are you? I am the kid that grew up in a certain neighborhood, went to a certain school, went to certain college, etc. That self-development, that self-identification, that persona, personality, ego is part of becoming a human being. What it helps us do, it helps us set boundaries and say “I am an individual capable of doing things. I have agency and I have self-competency. I’m able to do these incredible things, to go to school, to get a job, to get married.” Those things are important. But they’re tied into that individual narrative of us as separate individuals. Therefore, when we think about what happened to us, it’s very difficult for us to let go of those traumatic events when difficult things happen, as not being us, not defining us.
Debra Maldonado 17:37
There’s a great metaphor for this in Hollywood. The thing you don’t want to have as an actor is to be typecast. We basically typecast ourselves. I am the person that plays the victim role. I am the person that’s the bully, I am the person that’s the high achiever. We feel we can’t escape the casting we give ourselves. We’re the one writing our own script. We’re the one deciding what the narrative is in our dialogue. We’ve learned to identify with this character. We think that’s who we are, and that’s all we are. This character has limitations, this character has a past history, this character’s future is most likely a repeat of what the past was, maybe a little better. That’s what limits us.
Robert Maldonado 18:31
It’s very similar to how we think about sugar nowadays. There’s a natural impetus in us to want sugar, because in nature, it was rare for us to find it. When we found sweet berries and fruit, we ate them up. It was good, quick energy that didn’t harm you, or gave you energy to run after the gazelle, whatever you need to do. But now, because sugar is so available to us, and we still have natural biological inclination for it, it hurts us because we’re over consuming. It’s the same principle here, our nature to hold on to our self identity as this narrative is biologically interwoven into our being, the way we do our life. But now because a traumatic experience has happened to us, we can’t let go of it, we’re prone to identify with it. People are telling us that broke you somehow that damaged you. Often it’s not even explicitly stated that way. Most people say “I’m not telling you you’re broken or damaged.” But it’s implied because if you call something a symptom, you’re saying there’s a sickness, or you need a treatment.
Debra Maldonado 20:07
There are labels, there are people that get labeled with post-traumatic stress disorder. There are some people that do have it. But then there’s over-identification. We all want to look for what’s wrong. It’s very superficial. It’s on physical way of being. I want to also show another experience, not traumatic, but I remember when I first started as a hypnotherapist back in the early days, before Rob came into my life, I was starting a business, and I would be so hard on myself for thinking negative. I can’t be negative, I gotta be positive. When something didn’t work out, something’s broken in me because a good mind would think positive and attract these things into my life. Even when we go for our dreams and try to make our life better, we tend to pathologize our experiences. If a negative thing happened, there must be this hidden wound in me that is creating wrong way of thinking. It becomes almost like a gerbil wheel of never ending fixing. When I first started, I was so hard on myself, I hear this a lot from my clients too. “I’m not doing it right. If I did it right, which is be this perfect, ideal human being, and thought perfectly positive all the time, then I would have all the gifts and joys of the world.” That is such a misconception, almost missing the point of life. Do we want to build our way through life where everything is magical, like Neverland, this magical place where everything just works out for us, or do we want to be in this beautiful challenge of life, working with these forces and having more of a richer experience?
Robert Maldonado 22:21
How should we think about our past experiences? Obviously, we don’t want to reject them and deny them. We know we have a rich history, we’ve experienced both incredible things, beautiful things, and some very difficult things as well that have challenged us. We’ve failed a lot of things. As human beings, we often fail more than we succeed. But that’s not meaning anything bad about us. It’s not necessarily saying you’re broken, you’re bad, you’re not a spiritual person, you’re not intelligent.
Debra Maldonado 23:01
If you’re spiritual, you’d be manifesting everything so easily.
Robert Maldonado 23:05
That’s the attitude often in many communities. What that attitude and misperception gives most people is this sense of “I’m not good enough. I don’t deserve success. I don’t deserve love. I am less than most people, I’m just putting up this front.” They feel like impostors, even when they’re succeeding, because of that attitude, that misunderstanding that experience is simply our own interpretation.
Debra Maldonado 23:43
We train coaches, and a lot of them say “I have a lot of work to do before I can coach someone.” We’re never done. There’s no finish line to spiritual personal evolution. We’re always growing, we’re always evolving. Are you gonna wait till the end of your life and maybe then you’ll be okay to be a teacher? We have to give ourselves permission to share what we know and feel that where we are right now is so amazing. There’s more to go versus this “I’m digging myself out of a hole. One day I’ll get out of the steep well, then I’ll be on the ground with all the other normal people. I can climb out of this hole.” It is also important that a lot of people hold themselves back from sharing. They want to be coaches or do some other type of work helping others but they feel “I’m not good enough yet. I have to be the perfect person and have all the answers to be able to help others”, and that’s simply not true.
Robert Maldonado 24:45
Most people that succeed will tell you, it was being okay with failing, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s how we learn as human beings. That’s the approach we have to take, there’s nothing wrong with learning as you go long and work through it. This idea of what is the mind and what is the meaning of past experiences, as I went through difficult things, did they damage me somehow, did they leave a mark on me that now I have to carry around for the rest of my life, that’s a false interpretation of what the mind is. The true understanding, which comes from understanding the deeper nature of consciousness in the mind, is that we are completely free, we only feel limited. We experience that limitation when we over-identify with our personal narrative. We think “I am this ego persona that went through such and such experience.” From that perspective, all we can do is what that limited person is able to do. But we’re misinterpreting what the experience is. When we understand “I am the pure awareness that is observing that experience, the observer of my mind, of my body, of my behavior”, that’s the true understanding. A lot of spiritual traditions are trying to teach that you are the witness of your life, not the individual that is experiencing it.
Debra Maldonado 26:41
Do you think it’s because in the West, more people are conditioned to look externally for defining themselves, where in the East, a lot of cultures that have been brought up with the Eastern philosophy don’t have a concept of insecurity or low self-esteem because it’s less as this individualism in Eastern philosophy, but the West it is all about acquiring and consumerism?
Robert Maldonado 27:13
I don’t think so. I think they developed those ideas precisely because they saw it in their own culture. They saw people getting caught up in the objects of the world, the goals, it was important. We’re all very similar. We’re all human beings, we all experience the world through our senses. The tendency is always there, and has always been there.
Debra Maldonado 27:41
It’s like in The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy wanted to get home, and she had the shoes on the whole time. We’ve always had the power. That is more of an empowering way to think about your life. It does not mean you wipe out or block out those experiences, it’s not that you don’t remember them anymore. It’s not about canceling them out, that never happened to me. But you see that experience differently. You’re not discounting the experience. We know you had an experience that was tough. We know you had an experience of being insecure, we know you had an experience of failure. But the nature of that experience isn’t what we think it is. To examine that nature, that experience is that you’re not the ego, you are the pure awareness, this true self, the soul that’s undamaged. If you can see this human side of “I had that experience, but who I am has never been harmed by it”, what an amazing change. You’re not discounting it, we’re not saying to throw it away. We’re saying looking at it in a different perspective will help you move forward in life and move to experience more than spending your whole life trying to relitigate the past. This person did me wrong, you’re holding on to resentment, you hurt me, that’s terrible. Your whole life is about trying to get even with that person or getting them to apologize. It’s so heavy when it’s spinning in the past, when you could be creating something extraordinary in your life.
Robert Maldonado 29:23
The implications are immense. What it’s saying is that if you want to realize the true nature of your mind, which is pure awareness, it means you’re completely free from your past experiences. All that doubt, all that guilt, all that shame, whatever you’re carrying around with you, you’re completely free instantaneously. You’re not working through all these things systematically. You’re essentially just waking up to the fact of who you really are. That liberates you from all that past karma.
Debra Maldonado 29:59
You’re not doing anything different. They say, the enlightened man chops wood and carries water just like the unenlightened man. On the outside it may not look different, but the state of mind, your experience of challenges will dramatically change, if you change your perspective on who you really are. That’s what the Eastern philosophy, the goal of spiritual work is — to realize you are the Self, to realize you are this unlimited pure potential light that is divine. It makes life a little easier to deal with. Because life is not easy. It is not supposed to be easy. That’s a challenge. That’s why we’re here in the school of life to realize who we really are. This ends our series on Eastern philosophy. We’re going to be starting a new series next month, where we are going to talk about some implications of this type of philosophy on the mind, on the body, and health. Thank you, everyone, for joining us. Don’t forget to subscribe on our channels, and we’ll see you next time.
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