9. Removing your inner thorn

The spiritual journey is one of constant transformation.
One of the most important areas requiring change is how we solve our personal problems. We normally attempt to solve our inner disturbances by protecting ourselves. Real transformation begins when you embrace your problems as agents for growth.

Imagine that you have a thorn in your arm that directly touches a nerve. When the thorn is touched, it’s very painful. Because it hurts so much, the thorn is a serious problem. This thorn is a constant source of disturbance.
The first choice is to look at your situation and decide that since it’s so disturbing when things touch the thorn, you need to make sure nothing touches it.
The second is to decide you need to take it out.
Believe it or not, the effects of the choice you make will determine the course of the rest of your life. This is one of the core-level, structural decisions that lay the foundation for your future.

If you decide you have to keep things from touching the thorn, then that becomes the work of a lifetime. If you want to go for a walk in the woods, you’ll have to thin out the branches to make sure you don’t brush against them. Since you often roll over and touch the thorn when you sleep, you’ll have to find a solution for that as well. Perhaps you could design an apparatus that acts as a protective device. If you really put a lot of energy into it and your solution seemed to work, you would think that you had solved your problem. You’d say, “I can sleep now. And guess what? I got to go on TV to give a testimonial. Anybody who has the thorn problem can get my protective device, and I even get paid royalties.”

So now you’ve got a whole life built around this thorn, and you’re proud of it.
But now you have a new problem—you fell in love. This is a problem because in your situation, it’s hard to even hug. Nobody can touch you because they might touch the thorn. So you design another kind of device that allows closeness amongst people without actually touching.
Of course, you had to change the doors in the house so that the protective apparatus could get through. But at least now you can live your life. You can go to work, go to sleep, and get close to people. So you announce to everyone, “I have solved my problem. I am a free being. I can go anywhere I want. I can do anything I want. This thorn used to run my life. Now it doesn’t run anything.”
The truth is, the thorn completely runs your entire life. It affects all your decisions, including where you go, whom you’re comfortable with, and who’s comfortable with you. It determines where you’re allowed to work, what house you can live in, and what kind of bed you can sleep on at night. When it’s all said and done, that thorn is running every aspect of your life.

If you don’t solve the root cause of the problem, but instead, attempt to protect yourself from the problem, it ends up running your life.
You end up so psychologically fixated on the problem that you can’t see the forest for the trees. You actually feel that because you’ve minimized the pain of the problem, you’ve solved the problem. But it is not solved. All you did was devote your life to avoiding it. It is now the center of your universe. It’s all there is.

You see, loneliness is just like the thorn. It causes pain and disturbance in all aspects of your life. But in the case of the human heart, we have more than one thorn. We have sensitivities about loneliness, about rejection, about our physical appearance, and about our mental prowess.
We are walking around with lots of thorns touching right against the most sensitive part of our hearts.
At any moment something can touch them and cause pain inside.

You have the same two choices with these inner thorns as you did with the thorn in your arm.
Once the thorn is removed, you are truly free of it. The same is true with your inner thorns; they can be removed. But if you choose to keep them without being disturbed by them, you must modify your life to avoid the situations that would stir them up.
If you’re lonely, you must avoid going to places where couples tend to be. If you’re afraid of rejection, you must avoid getting too close to people.

When you’re lonely, you find yourself pondering what to do about your loneliness. What is it that you can say or do in order to not feel so lonely?
Notice that you aren’t asking how to get rid of the problem; you’re asking how to protect yourself from feeling it.
You do this either by avoiding situations or by using people, places, and things as protective shields.
The loneliness will run your entire life. You’ll marry the person who makes you feel less lonely.
it’s exactly the same as the person who is avoiding the pain of the thorn instead of taking it out.
You have not removed the root of loneliness. You have only attempted to protect yourself from feeling it.
Should someone die or leave you, the loneliness would again disturb you. The problem will be back the moment the external situation fails to protect you from what’s inside.

It’s the never-ending thoughts of “Did I say the right thing? Does she really like me, or am I just kidding myself?” The root problem is now buried under all these shallower issues that are all about avoiding the deeper ones. It all gets very complicated. People end up using their relationships to hide their thorns.

This is what people do. They let the fear of their inner thorns affect their behavior. They end up limiting their lives just like someone living with an external thorn. Ultimately, if there is something disturbing inside of you, you have to make a choice. You can compensate for the disturbance by going outside in an attempt to avoid feeling it, or you can simply remove the thorn and not focus your life around it.

Do not doubt your ability to remove the root cause of the disturbance inside of you. It really can go away. You can look deep within yourself, to the core of your being, and decide that you don’t want the weakest part of you running your life. You want to be free of this. You want to talk to people because you find them interesting, not because you’re lonely. You want to have relationships with people because you genuinely like them, not because you need for them to like you. You want to love because you truly love, not because you need to avoid your inner problems.

In the deepest sense, you free yourself by finding yourself. You are not the pain you feel, nor are you the part that periodically stresses out. None of these disturbances have anything to do with you. You are the one who notices these things. Because your consciousness is separate and aware of these things, you can free yourself.
To free yourself of your inner thorns, you simply stop playing with them. The more you touch them, the more you irritate them. Because you’re always doing something to avoid feeling them, they are not given the chance to naturally work themselves out.
The problem is, you either completely avoid situations that would cause them to release, or you push them back down in the name of protecting yourself.

it is something you feel. But who feels it? Your way out is to just notice who’s noticing.
The one who notices is already free. If you want to be free of these energies, you must allow them to pass through you instead of hiding them inside of you.
they are not you; they are just something you’re feeling and experiencing. You are the indwelling being that is aware of all of this. If you maintain your center, you can learn to appreciate and respect even the difficult experiences.

some of the most beautiful poetry and music have come from people who were in turmoil. Great art comes from the depth of one’s being. You can experience these very human states without getting lost in them or resisting them. You can notice that you notice and just watch how experiencing loneliness affects you. Does your posture change? Do you breathe slower or faster? What goes on when loneliness is given the space it needs to pass through you? Be an explorer. Witness it, and then it will go.
When you are no longer absorbed in your melodrama but, instead, sit comfortably deep inside the seat of awareness, you will start to feel this flow of energy coming up from deep within.

This flow has been called Spirit. This is what you begin to experience if you hang out with the Self instead of hanging out with inner disturbances.
You don’t have to get rid of loneliness; you just cease to be involved with it. It’s just another thing in the universe, like cars, grass, and the stars.
Awareness does not fight; awareness releases. Awareness is simply aware while everything in the universe parades before it.

If you sit within the Self, you will experience the strength of your inner being even when your heart feels weak. This is the essence of the path.
Once you learn that it’s okay to feel inner disturbances, and that they can no longer disturb your seat of consciousness, you will be free.
When you have tasted the ecstasy of the inner flow, you can walk in this world and the world will never touch you.