Aversion Therapy


“When we’re deluded there’s a world to escape.
When we’re aware, there’s nothing to escape.”

~Bodhidharma, Wake up Sermon

One common aspect of the religions of this realm — both western and eastern – is that they all seem to arise based on a dissatisfaction with things as they are, with life as it is, and consequently generate a substantial arsenal of schemes, methods, and strategies in an often desperate effort to escape from this “vale of tears”, as one faith characterizes life on earth. Prayers, meditations, competing therapy programs, and complex rituals of every sort are recommended by the various priests and gurus as remedies to the perceived horror of just appearing here in the first place, and so a pronounced aversion more often than not seems to be the chief form of reactivity to the very fact of human birth.

Ironically, the hard lesson most of us must eventually learn is that running away from the world is a sure way to reinforce the oppressive sense that we are trapped by it, and thus in our failure of balanced appreciation and accurate discernment we prolong an illusory dilemma that, although fueled by the propaganda of religious conditioning, nevertheless has originated and been kept alive in our own mind.

From the moment we entered this arena, we have been taught that we are sinful, diseased, deluded, separated from home, and in need of a lot of salvific help, simply by virtue of acquiring a human body. In fact, it’s typically been suggested that the wisest thing we could do is to get saved, redeemed, enlightened, and basically just get the heck out of Dodge as fast as possible. To that end, our various religious teachers have assumed the role of parent/doctors, diagnosing our presumed illness, and prescribing a life-long treatment regimen consisting of regular doses of their particular holy oil, the secret recipes for which have been handed down from one venerable salesman to the next in what they call the “transmission of their lineage”.

So convincing is the traditional consensus spin about life on earth that very few of us ever stop to question, “Is it true, are we so utterly screwed up that only the most heroic efforts can hope to save us from the great misfortune of mere existence? Are we really patients in need of a cure, prisoners in a jail, sinners in need of a savior, hapless victims of bad karma?”

If we inquire deeply, one thing we can notice is that, to the extent that we buy into the “official story”, the longer we will be destined to wander in a desert wilderness of our own confused design, fearful, self-conscious, and distrustful of life itself. Suspecting that we are inherently unworthy of present happiness, based on hearsay and religious cautionary tales, we find ourselves condemned to endlessly searching outside ourselves to attain or reclaim it.

In the process, we invariably consign ourselves to the dead ends of perpetual doubt, despair, and stress, convinced that freedom is somewhere else, in the hazy distant future perhaps (if we scrupulously adhere to the prescribed redemptive regimen of choice), or maybe up in distant heaven, but never here, never now, never already and always the case.

How strange then, to encounter teachings which claim that everything is perfect, just as it is. Really? How can that be, one might ask — just look at all the suffering, pain, and evil in the world. How can one accept life as it is, surrender and even enjoy it, with so much trouble and sorrow reflected in the daily news, so much cruelty and disappointment? Honestly examining our own lives, we can easily find plenty of causes for dismay.

Conditions here are far from satisfactory, and in fact humanity itself may even be on the verge of self-extinction at the pace we are going, with environmental destruction, an endless parade of regional wars, and the ominous threat of thermonuclear or biological destruction always on the horizon. It would seem that only a blind fool would claim that everything is perfect just as it is, and that we are already happy and rich beyond the grandest imagining. Such outrageous propositions could only come from someone in a state of deep denial, according to the conventional wisdom.

As it so happens, what’s missing from the conventional wisdom is wisdom itself. Instead, the usual view relies on the assumption that we are the body-mind self, and thus subject to its destiny. If that were actually the case, then we would all be facing dreary prospects indeed, for whatever is born must die – that is the law of impermanence – and so even the most valiant efforts to insulate ourselves from that reality are bound to fail, sooner or later. All the treasure we could accumulate, all the pleasurable relations we could establish, all the good stuff we struggle to gain and maintain will ultimately turn to dust, and even the memory of our appearance will fade and eventually dissolve into nothingness. Who then could really enjoy a magnificent sunset, a lover’s embrace, the laughter of children, the lingering finish of a great wine, realizing that it is all so pointless, so fleeting and empty of any inherent substance?

It’s no wonder that religious belief systems would come along and preach an aversion to this life, suggesting instead countless avenues of escape and salvation from the implications of our fateful arrival on this challenging stage, with all its intimidating props and pratfalls. Breeding on humanity’s addiction to hope and fear, each sect claims that they possess just the right ticket, recipe, or magic that can liberate us from the frightful burden of just being human.

On the other hand, if we are not really the body-mind self, but merely occupying a dreamed creation in order to enjoy and learn from the amazing varieties of human experiences (in much the same way that we might temporarily identify with a fictional character in a virtual reality video game), then any effort to escape from the game would be rather contradictory and counter-productive, if not downright absurd.

Essentially, the rather prevalent theme among religionists that the human realm is a place from which we need to escape is a negative projection of mind based on concepts fabricated by the limited and ambivalent human persona. With the benefit of expanded consciousness, however, we begin to realize that there is actually nothing in need of fleeing, but only of being recognized and appreciated for the opportunities the physical dimension provides for our Spirit’s infinite expansion in Self-Realization.

After all, we came to play the game, why then turn and run away from it? It is only through the gift of our momentary amnesia that we tend to take it all so seriously. I say “gift” (although there are many who would call it an impediment) because without the amnesia, the game would have a lot less impact, and so wouldn’t yield the same vivid results of increased levels of awareness about what we are really made of — recognition that can only come from full immersion in the incarnational adventure.

In other words, we don’t require being saved from the game via some human-based religious solution, but simply need to learn how to play the game properly, and that knowledge begins to arise in us when we stop trying to change the game, and instead let the game change us. That’s what it is for, after all – to draw us out of our self-conscious absorption and contraction at the heart, and reveal to us the unconditional love that is at the very core of our true nature and condition.

In the light of that recognition, aversion towards the world is merely another failed strategy that can be released, just like all the accompanying armor with which we have clothed ourselves in our presumption of independence. Indeed, we have never been nor could we ever be separate from our Source (of which we are beloved expressions), except in the trick of imagination which would have us believe that we are some lost and lonesome body-mind self, adrift in a hostile landscape, in need of holy redemption.

With the benefit of clear seeing, how can we not love the world, with all its tender frailty and delicate beauty? We may even come to the recognition that the world of which we are aware actually arises within us, as our own projection. In reality the world is always being recreated within mind and by mind. The great Persian poet Rumi wrote that we are robbing ourselves of our true being, as long as we are attempting to be nothing before we know who we really are. In the same sense, so too must we come to respect and appreciate the world for what it actually is, rather than hatching futile schemes to escape it. In reality, the world and ourselves are not two, and we cannot escape ourselves.

Still, if we allow such understanding to go to our head, fixating on it there as if it were some final revelation, rather than letting it penetrate our heart, then we have merely added another story to the useless collection of shiny, empty bottles on the crowded shelf of ersatz enlightenment. In this game, everything must be surrendered, especially our presumptions of wisdom. Indeed, as a sage once noted, one could possess a whole library of spiritual knowledge, and still not have the faintest clue as to who and what they really are.

True liberation from ignorance is not a static accomplishment, nor a goal to be attained by some ego-mind after a long march up the mountain. It is already true of us from the very no-beginning — our primordial nature and condition. Moreover, it is an activity first and foremost — the functioning of an inconceivable love that will never abandon the world, regardless of its apparent problems and challenges, because the world has never been other than ourselves.

Even though it is ultimately a realm of imaginary playmates, we are drawn by the wisdom of the heart’s call to submit ever more deeply to an unconditional loving of this dew drop world, until all sense of apparent separation is seen through and released, and we recognize in full that we are That.

Moreover, we cannot even stop there, nor linger anywhere along the way – an ever-expanding journey which runs on to an immense infinity beyond our comprehension, dropping blossoms with every step, and blessing all without hesitation or regret.


“Truly there is no cause for you to be miserable and unhappy. You yourself impose limitations on your true nature of infinite Being and then weep that you are but a finite creature. Then you take up this or that sadhana (practice) to transcend the nonexistent limitations. But if your sadhana (practice) itself assumes the existence of the limitations, how can it help you to transcend them? Hence I say know that you are really the infinite, pure Being, the Self Absolute. You are always that Self and nothing but that Self. Therefore, you can never be really ignorant of the Self; your ignorance is merely a formal ignorance. Know then that true Knowledge does not create a new Being for you; it only removes your “ignorant ignorance.” Bliss is not added to your nature; it is merely revealed as your true and natural state, eternal and imperishable. The only way to be rid of your grief is to know and be the Self”.

~ Ramana Maharshi


See also: https://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/the-paradox-of-inherent-perfection/

About Bob OHearn

My name is Bob O'Hearn, and I live with my Beloved Mate, Mazie, in the foothills of the Northern California Sierra Nevada Mountains. I have a number of blog sites you may enjoy: Photo Gallery: http://www.pbase.com/1heart Essays on the Conscious Process: https://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/ Compiled Poetry and Prosetry: http://feelingtoinfinity.wordpress.com/ Verses and ramblings on life as it is: https://writingonwater934500566.wordpress.com/ Verses and Variations on the Investigation of Mind Nature: https://themindthatneverwas.wordpress.com/ Verses on the Play of Consciousness: https://onlydreaming187718380.wordpress.com/ Poetic Fiction, Fable, Fantabulation: https://themysteriousexpanse.wordpress.com/ Poems of the Mountain Hermit: https://snowypathtonowhere.wordpress.com/ Love Poems from The Book of Yes: https://lovesight.wordpress.com/ Autobiographical Fragments, Memories, Stories, and Tall Tales: https://travelsindreamland.wordpress.com/ Ancient and modern spiritual texts, creatively refreshed: https://freetransliterations.wordpress.com/ Writings from selected Western Mystics, Classic and Modern: https://westernmystics.wordpress.com/ Wisdom of a Spirit Guide: https://spiritguidesparrow.wordpress.com/ Thank You!
This entry was posted in Consciousness, Nonduality, Spiritual Practice and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Aversion Therapy

  1. Bob OHearn says:

    Here’s an excellent video that complements the above essay, called Love the World Madly, by Anam Thubten: http://www.dharmata.org/teachings/

  2. Alisha says:

    Mind blowing article Bob. While going through every word I feel you have poured my feelings. It is true all treasure, which we possess, is going to fade away eventually but people do not understand this. They chase it lifelong. They are not aware of law of impermanence. Thank you so much for such inspiring article.

  3. amchan@hotmail.co.uk says:

    Beautiful. Thank you.


  4. Candace says:

    This is simply wonderful! I am in the process of unlearning what I learned during my training about needing to “fix” and “heal” others. Thank you, Bob!

    • Bob OHearn says:

      You are most welcome, Sister!

      Indeed, a good part of our waking up involves letting go of all the concepts and conditioning that we previously learned. It’s like the famous story of Nan-in, a Japanese master from a century or so ago, who received a university professor who had come to inquire about Zen.
      Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
      “Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”


  5. Thai Village says:

    Such an inspriring article. Wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing

  6. Bob OHearn says:

    When you don’t have obsession,
    When you don’t have hang-ups,
    when you don’t have inhibition,
    When you are not afraid,
    You will be breaking certain rules.
    When you are not afraid
    You will not fulfill somebody’s expectations.
    What more enlightenment do you want.

    That’s it.

    – Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

  7. Bob OHearn says:


    “The purpose is to experience life. It’s to experience being in the physical. Because in the other realm we don’t have a physical body and we can’t know who we are. The other realm is a realm of non-duality. Here, we are in a state of duality. Only in this state of duality can we know who we are. Because, it’s only by comparison with others, by knowing who we are not, by knowing opposites—that you can’t have good without bad, negative without positive—do we know who we are. All that is only possible here. Only here can we feel our emotions, fall in love, get hurt and really experience life to know who we are. None of this happens in the other realm. You can say that this is reason we take form, we take birth here.
    The most important thing, says Anita, is to enjoy yourself and not take yourself or your life seriously. So, you don’t want to fall into the trap of escaping life by thinking you’re being spiritual by just becoming a hermit on a mountain top and meditating. On the other hand, you don’t want to part of the treadmill that I’m talking about that just goes to work everyday and doesn’t enjoy life.”

    ~Anita Moorjani

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