In this article, I’ll describe in detail how I destroyed a vasana which had tormented me for decades.
Vasanas must be destroyed in order to realize the Self.
This particular vasana was painful because it made me hate myself. Painful, self-hating vasanas are especially insidious.
First I’ll tell you how the vasana got created.
When I was nine years old, while playing with other boys at an abandoned construction site, an accident occurred and one of the boys’ legs was nearly severed. Suddenly he was flat on the ground and the long muscles of his thigh lay spilled on the snow like spaghetti in tomato sauce. For a few seconds the other boys and I stood motionless staring at the insides of his body. Then I shouted “I’ll get an ambulance! Somebody go tell his mother!”
I began to run. In those days, long before the invention of mobile phones, police call boxes were installed on poles on sidewalks. These small metal boxes contained telephones that were connected permanently to police headquarters. I had often seen cops use them to communicate with their dispatchers, and I knew — or at least I assumed — that I could use one of these phones to call an ambulance.
But I was afraid an adult might reprimand me or disapprove of me or get angry at me if I used these phones so I ran past about ten of them. I was scared of adults, especially cops.
My fear of adults was stronger than my concern that my friend might be bleeding to death.
I ran until I reached the main part of town where stores were located. I could have gone into any store and asked an adult to call an ambulance, but I was afraid of adults so I didn’t.
I just kept running and running and running past dozens of stores and dozens of adults until I couldn’t run any further. I never called an ambulance. Eventually I went back to the accident site. I thought I might find my friend dead from blood loss but luckily somebody else had called an ambulance and he had been taken to a hospital.
I was so ashamed of myself that a month later I tried to commit suicide by skating off the edge of ice on a pond and drowning. A very brave teenager, 16 or 17 years old, a genuine hero, dashed up to the edge of the ice and pulled me out. Now, nearly 60 years later, I can still see the blades of his hockey skates skidding sideways to a stop inches from my face as I bobbed up and down in the black water.
The contrast between that heroic teenager and me could not have been greater. He risked his life to save mine, but I was so afraid of making an adult angry that I was willing to let my friend bleed to death.
The injured boy and I remained friends. During the following year, while he lay in bed recuperating from numerous surgeries, I visited him often. He had heard me yell, “I’ll get an ambulance”, had assumed I had done so, and had told this to his mother. Every time I went to his house she would hug me and thank me for saving her son’s life. My shame and guilt were off the charts. I despised myself. I never told her the truth. I never told anybody the truth until many years later.
Like I said, those events occurred when I was nine years old. For the next 54 years not a day went by when I didn’t recall those shameful memories and hate myself for what I did. The memory haunted me. Every time the memory rose it brought thoughts like these:
I am a coward.
I almost let somebody die.
I am despicable.
I hate myself.
Over and over and over. I probably thought those thoughts more than a million times during the course of my life. I was usually lost in thought when they occurred and only dimly aware that I was thinking them, but nonetheless they affected my mood. They became a permanent part of my personality and inner world. As the years passed I became an adult and eventually turned into an old man but these thoughts and feelings never weakened and never went away.
How did I deal with those thoughts? In two main ways:
1. I ignored them. In other words, I paid as little attention to them as possible while I was thinking them. This was easy to do since like most people I was usually lost in thought and in that state, I barely knew what I was thinking.
2. I tried to take the sting out of these thoughts by telling myself things like, “For God’s sake, you were only nine years old. You were a little kid. Stop being so hard on yourself.”
Neither of those two strategies made the thoughts go away.
Please note — this is one of the main points of this article — those two strategies don’t work.
Those two strategies are examples of resistance. I tried to resist the thoughts. The opposite of resistance is acceptance. As I will describe below, the vasana finally got destroyed through acceptance of the thoughts.
The main purpose of this article is to tell you how I finally destroyed this vasana. When I say “destroy” I mean that the feelings and self-hating thoughts are gone. They aren’t repressed. They are completely, totally gone. I still have memories of the events of that day but they no longer rise up compulsively and they no longer bother me. I haven’t thought about this event in months and right now, as I think about it in order to write this article, I feel nothing about it.
I’m going to digress a little to explain what brought me to the point of destroying the vasana because some people will find it interesting. The short explanation is that something happened that made me wonder whether I had a karmic scar in my heart chakra. But it doesn’t matter what brought me to that point. It could have been anything and the technique that destroyed the vasana would have been the same. Please feel free to skip the next three paragraphs if you want to focus on the main thread of this article.
For several years before the day on which I destroyed the vasana, I had felt a chronic energetic (i.e. quasi-physical) turbulence in my chest, a sort of bubbling or turmoil. It wasn’t painful or uncomfortable but it seemed undesirable and I wondered what it meant. I also had various chronic health problems including migraines. Shortly before I destroyed the vasana, I happened to see a Batgap interview with an intuitive healer named Eric Isen and the thought popped into my head, “Maybe this man can help me,” so I arranged a one-hour Skype session with him.
Eric told me something like, “You’ve got a huge karmic scar in your heart chakra. I’ve rarely seen anything this extreme. You must have died in a previous life at Nagasaki or something like that to get such a severe scar. Hot energy is pouring out of it and rising to your head, causing the migraines.”
I didn’t know whether Eric was right, and I have never had any conscious memories of a past life, but because of what he said, for the next few weeks I kept trying to find a memory that I could connect to a huge karmic scar in my heart chakra. If such a scar really existed, I assumed it had been caused by something that I didn’t know consciously. Something hidden and unknown that needed to be revealed.
That’s the end of the digression. We’ve now reached the main point of this article and I’ll describe how the vasana got destroyed.
One night I asked the Goddess to show me the event that caused this karmic scar, if in fact the scar was really there. A vivid clear image of two faces appeared in my mind. I didn’t recognize them but they didn’t look like people today from any part of the world, so I thought they may have lived thousands of years ago. I didn’t know who those people were or what they represented.
Then I thought of the day I ran past the police call boxes and I realized, “That was the cause of the karmic scar.”
I said to myself, “Could this familiar, well-known memory of the day I ran past police call boxes really be the cause of a severe karmic scar?”
I answered myself, “Well, I suppose it’s possible because that was probably the most shameful thing I ever did in my 63 years.”
This surprised me a little because it had never occurred to me before that this was the most shameful thing I had ever done in my entire life, including my adult life.
The reason this hadn’t occurred to me was because I hadn’t really thought about the incident since I was nine. Oh sure, thoughts about it had kept rising in my mind for the whole rest of my life, but they were the same thoughts that had first occurred to me at age nine.
Do you see what I mean? For more than 50 years I had kept remembering the thoughts that first occurred to me at age nine, and I had kept trying to ignore them or push them away, but that’s not the same thing as thinking a new thought with my adult mind.
Replaying old thoughts is a very limited form of thinking.
Replaying old thoughts is almost the definition of vasana. Vasana means your brain keeps falling into the same rut over and over.
Spontaneously I wondered — it’s hard to put this in words but it was a natural ordinary thought — “What really should I think about what happened that day? What’s the truth of it?”
In a perfectly natural way, I turned my adult intelligence toward that day and considered what I thought about it now. Not what I had thought at age nine, but what I thought now at age 63.
I did this without flinching. I did this without cringing. I did this without trying to avoid seeing anything.
I did this in a very relaxed way, the way you’d look at something about which you have no strong feelings.
I didn’t do anything fancy. I didn’t do anything that requires yoga or meditation. I just used my ordinary adult mind, my ordinary adult intelligence, my ordinary adult knowledge, to see what I really should think about the events of that day.
The only way anything yogic or spiritual came into this is that my experiences with those sorts of things probably helped me use my adult intelligence in this way without flinching or cringing, because my spiritual experiences had given me a conviction that I am always safe, I am always protected, nothing can hurt me.
Within a few seconds, here’s what I realized:
1. I really was a coward that day, and I really did a very bad thing. I was old enough to know better. The friend really might have died.
2. Nine-year-old Freddie believed those things, and he was right.
3. The reason why the events of that day have always bothered me so much is that in actual fact, I have always been a coward, and that day revealed how extraordinarily cowardly I am.
4. My cowardice has been a life-long trait. It didn’t disappear as I got older.
5. I have always hated the fact that I am a coward.
I realized, “That’s the bottom line. I’m a coward and have always been a coward and I hate that fact. I hate it.”
I looked at that fact: I’m a coward and I hate it.
I thought, “That’s really true. It’s a fact.”
And then I thought, “So what?”
And I realized, “So nothing. I hate something about myself, but nothing has to follow from that. I don’t have to do anything about it. It’s just how things are. It’s just one of the many aspects of the world that I don’t like.”
The world is full of things that I dislike, and the fact that I’m a coward is one of them, and that’s just how it is. So what? I can live with that.
That’s what destroyed the vasana. That thought, that acceptance, that understanding, that realization, destroyed the vasana.
I didn’t cringe or flinch or look away, and I didn’t minimize what I disliked. I fully admitted the truth of what bothered me.
Instantly the vasana got destroyed. I knew it. I felt it happen. Amazingly, there was something like a physical sensation in my brain, a tiny ping! as if a small piece of my brain got cauterized. I could almost see a puff of smoke.
The whole process took only a minute, maybe two minutes at most.
In the weeks and months and years that followed, it turned out that the vasana was really gone. It has never risen up again in the form of bothersome thoughts. I no longer feel anything about the events of that day.
In the thirty-three years since I became a spiritual seeker I’ve had a number of astonishing experiences, but I think this was probably the most astonishing. Thoughts and emotions about this event had tormented me for more than 50 years, and then suddenly, in just a minute or two, in a simple natural way, all these thoughts and emotions got completely destroyed and never bothered me again. And I was perfectly conscious of the process and I watched it happen and I understood completely how it occurred.
If I had to pick one word to summarize what happened, I would say acceptance.
I accepted a very particular thing: my negative judgments about myself: I am a coward, etc.
I accepted them in a very particular way: by acknowledging that they were true. (If I had decided they were false there would have been no problem. They hurt me only because I honestly believed that they were true.)
Since then I’ve seen other vasanas get destroyed both in myself and other people, and I’m going to describe some of those other experiences in future articles.
You may be thinking, what about your fear of adults? Wasn’t that the real vasana, the cause of everything you describe here? Yes, but that vasana is another story.
In case you read the digression above and are wondering whether the energetic turbulence in my chest ended when the vasana died, yes it did but the migraines continued. After I wrote this article last week I talked to Eric Isen again, the spiritual healer, and asked him if he still saw a karmic scar in my heart chakra. He said there was only a trace of it left.
Other posts in this series
From Carl Jung’s autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections:
My grief and rage threatened to get out of control. And then something happened that I had already observed in myself several times before: there was a sudden inner silence, as though a soundproof door had been closed on a noisy room. It was as if a mood of cool curiosity came over me, and I asked myself, “What is really going on here? All right, you are excited. Of course the teacher is an idiot who doesn’t understand your nature—that is, doesn’t understand it any more than you do. Therefore he is as mistrustful as you are. You distrust yourself and others, and that is why you side with those who are naïve, simple, and easily seen through. One gets excited when one doesn’t understand things.”