Create the Life You Imagine ~ December 2019
The Three Triangle Model: On Earth As It Is In Heaven
“If you do not transform your pain, you will transmit it.”
~ Fr. Richard Rohr, OSF
The power of this model is its ability to help us remember who we are. If we let our small “Me” self convince us that we are only our personality living inside our physical body with its human emotions and thoughts, we are forever imprisoned inside the vulnerability of the human condition and trapped inside our history of struggle and trauma. It is not possible for the small self to experience life as anything but difficult, disappointing, and dangerous, because our physical bodies are subject to illness, aging and death, our emotional bodies are caught inside the endless cycles of pleasure and pain that are part of the ever-changing conditions of life, and our mental body is feverishly trying to control all of those conditions and to make sense of life in a world of perceived threat, scarcity and limitation.
When Buddha declared as one of his four noble truths that life is suffering, he was talking about life from the perspective of the small self. Inside the prison of our small self thinking, we are tied up and entangled inside the experiences of our history. Every struggle, injury, wound or trauma that we have experienced is recorded by our small self and our personality reacts to these experiences of suffering with frustration, fear, resentment, anger, shame, guilt and grief. These emotional responses create reactive life stories that get deeply planted inside our small self consciousness, and we replay those stories over and over again through our actions and choices. Consequently, at the level of our small self, our past and our pain become the drivers of our personality and the creator of our next life experience. As James Baldwin put it, “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.” For example, if through your life experiences you develop a life story that “life isn’t fair,” or “men are abusive,” or “women can’t be trusted” or “everyone I love leaves me,” or “my needs don’t matter,” or “there is never enough,” or worse still, “I am not enough,” then every day that story drives your perceptions and choices and provides you with the opportunity to develop further evidence of the story and to plant it even more deeply in your small self consciousness.
People who are suffering will act out their pain histories in ways that are harmful to themselves and to others. This is how we transmit our pain. At the level of our physical body, the imbalances created by our pain-filled life stories create a chemistry of toxic stress that over time may manifest as physical illness and disease. As our pain moves through our emotional body, our frustration, fear, resentment, anger, shame, guilt or grief create emotional imbalances that result in depression, anxiety and panic disorders. And at the level of our thinking, our pain produces toxic life stories about ourselves and others that drive our reactions to our daily experiences as we engage with others from the beliefs that are at the center of our suffering. For example, if my life experiences lead me to believe that “life isn’t fair,” then I may experience chronic physical stress as a consequence of this belief that over time impacts my digestive tract because “I can’t stomach” the uncertainty of living inside that belief. I might also react to others who seem to have better options than me with jealousy or resentment and those negative emotions manifest as drama and disruption in my relationships. Next, I may be suspicious about other people’s motivations or my own ability to handle life inside this story, so I may forego new opportunities for positive growth and development because I don’t trust the process of life. Finally, if I am a parent and I don't transform this story, I am likely to pass it forward to my children, transmitting it to the next generation.
As these disorders and imbalances manifest in our bodies, emotions, thoughts and actions, we are forced to attend to the symptoms of our small self thinking. But if we try to address the symptoms of our suffering from the level of our small self, we will only find temporary relief because we are not addressing the root cause of the imbalances. The imbalances are caused by the delusion that we are only this small, limited, fragile, “Me” self with its history of trial and trauma. The imbalances are caused because we forget that we are bigger than our bodies and our emotions and our thoughts. The imbalances are caused because when we get seduced by the delusion of our small self, we cut ourselves off from our real source of power, our “True Self,” our Soul.
The opportunity for healing from the wounds of the small self lies only in our ability to remember who we really are. This is where transformation happens. When we make that connection with our heart and soul we have the power to hold our wounded small self and the wounded selves of others with compassion and to connect with some bigger stories that flow from the level of our Soul. Our Soul will remind us that despite the impermanent nature of the physical world, we are all eternal beings flowing out of a stream of light and love from the Source of All That Is and we can never be separated from that reality. Our Soul will remind us that we flow into being from the field of unlimited possibilities and from that place there are no limits to what we can create. Our Soul will remind us that there is no death and that life is