We Identify with Our Complexes Rather than Our Spirit
Though our reactive patterns served a particular function while we were growing up, our problem is that we identify with them as who we are and we allow them to rule us. We become stuck experiencing the world through the same pair of childhood glasses, not realizing that our vision is clouded by these experiences. We limit ourselves with an identity, no matter how functional it may be, of “I am a mother; or wife, or teacher, or human, or middle aged, or black, or doctor, or French, or Japanese etc.” When we say in a twelve step meeting, “My name is Jane and I am an alcoholic”, we are identifying with the complex of the alcoholic. A more truthful way of articulating this might be, “My name is Jane and I am a spiritual being who in the past used alcohol as a replacement for experiencing and honouring my true identity.” Every identity we can think of contributes to the complex of a finite self. These fixed identifications become the cubicle we carry around that can keep us addicted to the past and a false sense of self, and separate us from our true self, present moment awareness, and flow.
Yogi Bhajan says: The cause of all tragedies, the cause of all pain, the cause for all our degradation, inferiority, depression, unfulfillment, unhappiness – whatever negativity is there, this is the cause of everything. It is called a complex. We are all byproducts of complexes. The child in us never grows and the child in us has a very strong reactive complex. That is why when we are sure we are not sure and when we are right we are not right. “I am a person” is a complex, “I am a human” is a complex, “I am a doctor” is a complex. Those who do not have complexes live by the virtue of their soul all of the time. It is a mental process, with no diversion. If we believe “I am a spirit, I am among the great spirits, I have to merge in that spirit”, all problems should be solved. The tragedy is that you live by complexes and you don’t recognize them. You are just a spirit, always was, is and shall be. When you die the spirit leaves, everything is intact. What dies with you is your complexes. Why can’t you just be fine, with a fun, living, smiling spirit. A man without complexes is nothing but a living victory… Don’t you know you are pure, you are positive, you are the spirit, and you have to do nothing but to be. To be, to be. Share the light of your spirit, glow and glare and have fun. When humans act under impulse, human is a mammal, animal. You have to act from intuition, not impulse. If intuition is not developed, you have to act from your spirit. Just be because you have been gifted to be… You are known by your spirit. You shall project out by your radiance. You shall be loved and honoured by your excellence. There is no identity of you, except your spiritual identity. There is no grace in you but to learn. And there is no achievement other than to become learned. There is no power but to share what you have learned with all and everyone. And share with compassion – you will be compensated, and you shall have no complex. Then all that is there shall come to you and you don’t have to go to anybody. It is so simple… Why do you have a complex? Because you never know who you are. How do you get rid of a complex? Make one complex. I am the grace of God. I am the will of God. I am God. If you are going to make a complex, make it a big one, so all can come in. We all have to learn to be real. Our reality is that we are the spirit. We are born by spirit, we live by spirit, we die when spirit leaves. Our identity is nothing but our own spirit. Our lives should be nothing but our spirituality. Everything else is a complicated affair in which we put ourselves in prejudice and jeopardy.
What are Your Complexes?
Now that we have explored the broad topic of complexes, we can take stock of the false identities we commonly align with. What are the complexes in you that you are most attached to? Is it that you are blonde, you are fit, you are fat, you are wealthy, you are smart, you are Jewish, you are a yogi, you are bad, you are tough, you are a victim, you are great, you are a survivor, or a provider? These complexes are formed by our personal history, shaped by the family we were born into, the environments and society we grew up in, the experiences we lived through and our reactions to those experiences. They are constructs our minds have become accustomed to, and we cling to them as our identity. Though they may serve a useful purpose in being in the world, these complexes also limit us.
Identify the “complexes” that drive your addiction, unhappiness or suffering. ie “I don’t matter”, “I need to justify my existence because I don’t deserve to be here”, “If I open up, I’ll get hurt”, “I feel unsupported”, “I need attention”. Then create a statement that is the opposite of the “driving” statement. ie “I matter”, “I deserve to be here simply because I Am – God creates me.” “I give myself permission to open up”, “I am supported and loved”, “I love, honour and attend to myself”. Practice that as an affirmation, writing it down 11 times a day. Practice repeating the ultimate complex – “I am the grace of God; I am the will of God; I am God.” Write it down 11x daily.
How to Get Out of Our Complexes
When we are not focused on a particular task, the brain has a default mechanism that engages in relating to the existing complexes as we interact with the environment. Whether we are walking down the street, driving a car, speaking to a friend or eating a meal, our minds are usually busy comparing, judging, remembering, planning, reacting, creating stories or fantasizing while engaged in these activities. Our history, and the story about ourselves that our minds have created, influence the way we interact with others and the environment, causing us to perceive the world in a certain way and to make specific choices based on that perception. If we almost drowned as a child, we will be afraid to swim; if our parents fought and argued, we will have trouble dealing with conflict; if once we were bitten by a dog, we will be afraid of dogs. Our current choices become dependent on our past, which limits us. There is a way to step out of our complexes, and that is through consistent focused attention, awareness, mindfulness, or being fully engaged in the activity of the present moment. When attentional awareness is fully turned on, moment by moment, the background chatter and self-referencing of the brain becomes quiet. The complexes lose their potency. Most of the time we are not fully present in the activity that we do, so our complexes, which form the human or finite self, rule us. If we can develop our concentration to focus on what we are experiencing right now, we become less addicted to the ultimate addiction – our complexes and finite identity. Yoga and meditation offer us multiple ways to develop concentration and “get out of our mind” or sidestep the self-referencing default system of the brain. This side-stepping of the thinking mind then allows another aspect – the intuitive mind, to come to the forefront. The intuitive mind connects us to our soul, essence, or spiritual identity.
The Two Default Mechanisms of the Brain
Over the last ten years, neuroscientists have determined that there are indeed two primary default mechanisms of the brain. The first, very common mechanism can be described as the “conceptual self”, full of descriptions of events, memories, attitudes and evaluations of people and things, which perpetuate our story. The conceptual self enlists the activity of several brain centres including the: 1) inferior parietal lobe, which integrates sensory information from various parts of the body, and transforms this into movement 2) ventral and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, which are associated with learning and predicting the outcomes of actions, whether good or bad. It helps us to imagine the future and see the potential effects of present actions. This area can be less responsive in people who have experienced trauma
3) language centres in the left frontal lobe, that are involved so we can tell ourselves stories about the way things are, or the way things should or could be 4) hippocampus, which is involved in thinking of the past, and memory in general. This area is impaired in people with post traumatic stress disorder
5) amygdala, which assesses threat, programs a fear response, processes emotional reactions to events, processes pleasure or aversion, is linked with emotional arousal, can activate the hypothalamus and sympathetic nervous system when triggered, or activate dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine. It processes smells. The amygdala is larger in people with more social connections and greater emotional intelligence. The amygdala can be damaged by binge drinking and is overresponsive in people with PTSD, making them hyper vigilant, and more easily fearful.
The second default mechanism can be called the “experiential self”. This mechanism is active in experienced mindfulness meditators, but otherwise is usually unactive. This second brain mode enhances our sense of awareness of the constantly changing feelings, thoughts and things going on in our environment, not based on the stories we have about ourselves. Among experienced meditators, the areas that deal with our story or internal commentary are deactivated. Areas that become activated have to do with present moment embodied experience, including the:
1) insula, which attends to sensations in the body, and embodied aspects of emotions or feelings 2) somatosensory cortex, which helps you process somatic information, and give you a full sense of what is happening in your body and in the environment in the present moment 3) lateral prefrontal cortex, which is involved with paying attention to what is happening in your body and in the environment, while turning down the commentary of the “conceptual self”
The mindful practice of yoga and meditation can facilitate an uncoupling or disentanglement between what is happening in the environment and the internal commentary from the conceptual self. With practice, we can activate the experiential self without automatically bringing on board the judging, story-making capacity of the conceptual self. Mindfulness practice trains us to be aware of what is happening experientially without seeing it through the lens of our conditioning. With consistent practice, the regions of the brain that are aware of present moment experience become thicker and more dense, so that our brain relies more on experience and less on inner dialogue We become free of our “story” and complexes.
How to Disentangle to Become Free
We can become less identified with our complexes and “story” by paying attention, and simply noticing and separating out feelings, images and verbal dialogue, both internal and external, going on moment by moment, without reacting to any of them. Our conceptual self is built from persistent feelings, images and dialogue, real, remembered and projected. Our mind-body constantly receives and generates sensory information that it then reacts to in a habitual way depending on past conditioning. We can break that conditioning by becoming more aware and accepting of feelings, images and words as they arise, and by labeling these as feelings, images or words, rather than identifying with them. “Feelings” include emotional body sensations (sadness, joy, fear, anger, pleasure) or a wide variety of physical sensations (constriction, burning, pain, pressure, touch etc.). “Images” include the pictures we see in our minds eye, which may be recalled from the past, projected into the future, or seen as present external reality. “Verbal dialogue” includes the words we say to ourselves in our head, the talking we do with others, or the words and sounds we read or listen to externally. When we bring attentional awareness and concentration to the process of noting feelings, images and dialogue as it arises, over time we deconstruct the “conceptual self”, and become less fixated in our reactive patterns. In doing so, we become more open to present moment experience and have more choice in how we relate to it.
The Beauty of Sat Nam
Another way to become free of the conceptual self is through repetition of mantra, or sacred sounds. “Sat Naam” is the most widely used mantra in the practice of Kundalini Yoga. “Sat” means truth, being or existence – the reality of one’s existence, without identification with one’s complexes. “Naam” means the identity. When we say it we are affirming pure being as our identity, rather than the personal human self with a history. Constant repetition of this or any mantra serves to replace the internal dialogue that shapes our conceptual self. Sat Nam is a bij (or seed) mantra. Within the seed is contained all the knowledge of the fully grown tree. The essence or seed is the identity of truth embodied in condensed form. Chanting this mantra awakens the soul and links us to our destiny. By bringing repetitive awareness to this (or any) mantra in our mind, we replace the story line that’s usually running the show.
Sat Nam is the Truth. Sat is the Existence, the Truth. Nam is the identity of that existence in Truth. It is not personal. It is not that you can figure Sat Nam. Sat Nam is everything. Redwood is Sat Nam. This light is Sat Nam. This finger is Sat Nam. Everything is Sat Nam. Sat Nam is realization of the existence in Truth..