1. Religion & Spirituality
Barbara O'Brien

Recognizing Near Enemies

By August 22, 2012

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There are good posts about "near enemies" at Dangerous Harvests and Recovering Yogi. What are near enemies?

Jack Kornfield wrote, "The near enemies are qualities that arise in the mind and masquerade as genuine spiritual realization, when in fact they are only an imitation, serving to separate us from true feeling rather than connecting us to it." So, for example, pity is the near enemy of compassion; indifference is the near enemy of equanimity. I think intellectualism is the near enemy of wisdom.

It is really hard sometimes to judge for ourselves whether we're really maturing spiritually or just kidding ourselves. This is one reason that it's good to check in with a teacher at least now and then, because a skillful teacher will point out your self-deceptions. Otherwise ego is our "teacher," and ego makes a terrible teacher.

Practice is a process of clarification, and mostly we are clarifying ourselves. As we clarify, we are closer to true feeling. We learn to stop trying to be the star of our own inner play. We also learn to be patient and compassionate with ourselves.

Sometimes we may feel we're "done." We recognize our past self-deceptions, but we think we've got most of them rooted out. That's another self-deception. The clarification process never ends.

Teachers tell us that realization doesn't mean our illusions disappear. Instead, realization is recognizing our illusions as illusions. This begins by letting practice bring us home to ourselves. Along the way we all get fooled by near enemies sometimes. And then we recognize the fooling, and let it go, and go on. That's our practice.

Near enemies are not necessarily "bad," as long as we don't cling to them for very long. They can teach us a lot about ourselves. However, sometimes people fall in love with a near enemy and can't let it go, and that's a massive hindrance. So watch out for that.

August 24, 2012 at 11:10 am
(1) Xavier Paolo Josh Ledesma Mandreza says:

Thank you, M’am Barbara, for reminding someone like me about this. In the Romantic Overview, I guess it’s quite challenging to accept this especially when I’m so FIXATED with that someone who I think is the right one for me, even though we are miles apart and he probobly does not know me that well.

The only Challenge I face though, is that how do I get over it without falling back to what I might have been before – Cold and Indifferent….Falling OUT of Love, as they say. It SCARES me, really. I don’t know if I could find that Someone like HIM – his Values and all, not just his Achievements and his Looks. I’m already beginning to understand how Powerful and Dangerous CLINGING can be. M’am Barbara…I’M SCARED. Really Scared. I’m not sure if this Practice can be the Right One for me. You mentioned before that most of us fall short in our Practice, and…I just don’t know…Maybe I…?

August 24, 2012 at 12:30 pm
(2) Barbara O'Brien says:

Xavier — First,, please don’t feel inadequate. I say if the practice doesn’t scare you at least some of the time, you aren’t doing it right. And my own practice is a sloppy mess sometimes.

Some teachers say that as our “way seeking mind” begins to click on, a lot of our old karma can ripen all at once and put us through a wringer. Awhile back Dosho Port wrote,

A related point comes to mind from the Diamond Sutra. It says that when we arouse way seeking mind we can expect to be blessed with a great deal of difficulty in a short period of time. Blessed? Wouldn’t true practice ameliorate our suffering? The Diamond Sutra says, no.

Instead, rather than our unwholesome karma coming to fruition over a long period of time, what we might get when we really arouse a clear and bright way seeking mind is a lot of bad karma arriving and maturing in a short period of time. And that’s a good thing. We’d be blessed with not suffering mildly for a long period of time but intensely for a short period of time. That intense suffering might be just what we need to burn our bullshit.

This may be something like what is happening in your life, so I encourage you to keep practicing! It’s not a sign you are failing, but a sign you are succeeding. :-) Sort of.

August 25, 2012 at 9:51 am
(3) Chelsea says:

Xavier, I can only speek from my own experience, and what I have found is that romantic desire is a near enemy of love! Desire (as in over the top longing) for a person, is like a thorn in the heart. Also, it clouds good judgement. I have started to make peace with the idea that I don’t need a lover…. And if I do, I’m being needy! My life is a LOT more peaceful since I just stopped looking for that. If a loving partner comes along and I’m ready to take on a commitment, then so be it if it doesn’t happen, I will still have a life that I can enjoy just as much. At the end of the day, even our lovers die.

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