The nature of a defense mechanism is that most of it is underground and you’re not even conscious of it. It’s just acting on you, from a deep fear. To me, it’s a little bit like skimming soup; when you meditate and get really quiet, and then in the quietness, stuff starts to come up. If you’re quiet enough, you sort of skim it off the top as it comes up.
You notice the way in which you’re offended, or where you’re holding prejudices, you notice whatever the mind is doing. This is getting into the subtle stuff of meditating as there are different levels of meditating.
In the deeper levels of meditation, not the deepest, but the deeper, you don’t deal with the content of thought at all; you just deal with the mechanics of thought. At the next level up, you deal with the content of thoughts, a defense against suffering has content in it. At the deeper level, it’s just another thought you’re clinging to; it doesn’t matter which one it is; it can be a good thought or a bad thought, anything, it’s just a thought.
The game is in pulling your awareness back from identifying with thought. With any thought that comes up, you notice them, and then go back to your breath. You notice and then go back to your breath, and back to your breath, and back to your breath. You keep doing that for years, months, lifetimes, and then pretty soon your mind starts to stay at your breath.
Thoughts don’t go away all of the time and other stuff may come up, and you’ll start to go to a whole new set of stuff but if you keep having that centering device of meditation, you’ll keep cleaning out the Augean stables of all that stuff in your mind. The stuff, in terms of your thought reactivity to ‘this’ and ‘that’ which are just old habits and deeply patterned thought forms.
Now there are some times in practice where you start to get clear, and then you see that some stuff comes up which really catches you within the content of the thought forms. You’ll see that you’re not really effective in having any denial towards it, because you see that to really let something go, you have to acknowledge it. When it comes up, you can’t say, “I don’t want to look at that. Go away!” You gotta say, “Yeah sure, of course,” and then you can go back to your primary object of meditation.
Sometimes the stuff comes up and you can’t acknowledge it; it’s just too much; and then I find outside help useful. I’ve gone into therapy for a while at times to have somebody who will mirror for me because I can’t do it for myself and I try to find, as mature a being as I can for that. A couple of months of this is useful, and then I go back to my meditation practice; so it doesn’t all go away at once.
And as far as the suffering is concerned, if you’re afraid of your heart breaking, “I can’t take anymore; my heart will break” so let it break, so here we are. It’s an eternally broken heart and within that, here we are.