Destructive patterns will repeat themselves over and over again until we resolve to look inward with keen and curious self-awareness and courageous honesty. For me, it was during medical school after the second of two serious car accidents, lying exhausted and injured in a hospital bed, that I made the commitment to myself to tackle my inner demons head-on.
No matter how painful it would be, I vowed to work psychologically and spiritually until my last wound was healed, until my soul was free, and until I fulfilled my work of helping others in their work of healing. This act of commitment was a turning point for me. Slowly but surely I would turn my ship around through therapy, mindfulness meditation, compassion practice, and service—and with the guidance and support of skilled and caring mentors.
After that second car accident, I took a break from medical school to travel and re-center myself. On my journey, I experienced my first spiritual epiphany when I incidentally met the wise Buddhist sage Dhammaloka in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. Sitting with him, completely unexpectedly, gave me surprising moments of spaciousness and freedom, unblemished by the turmoil I had previously felt. Meeting Dhammaloka I felt completely seen and accepted while being shown a much larger view of what reality can be.
This momentous meeting set me on my way to Rockhill Hermitage, a Buddhist retreat center. I remember sitting cross-legged in the humid jungle, finally facing my agitated, agonized mind, and discovering incredible moments of peace and balance. I am aware that not many people have the luxury to travel to faraway countries and attend meditation retreats. My long and dedicated journey led me to become a meditation teacher. However, even a committed practice at home— maybe with the help of a local meditation center or an online program—can allow you to turn your life for the better.
A few years after my trip to Sri Lanka, I moved to a new country, America. Walking along the sandy beaches and rocky coast of California, I embraced what felt like a new opportunity to be recognized and valued as a unique person.
But in the years that followed, I continued to fall into old traps and painful patterns in my relationships, typically ignited when experiencing rejection and loss.
With each triggering challenge, as I came to understand during my therapy work, it felt like my old wounds, LRPPs (Longstanding, Recurrent, Painful Patterns), constellated around the trauma of rejection from my birth family—were ripped open once again. At the heart of my LRPP was suffering over being dismissed and pushed aside, for not being acknowledged as a worthwhile member of the tribe. My craving to be included by others and to be recognized for who I am reappeared many times, especially during my painful divorce and when conflicts with colleagues arose.
The support of mentors, therapists, and spiritual friends was crucial in helping me navigate through challenges like these. We all need guidance and encouragement to treat ourselves with love and radical self-acceptance, especially when old wounds tear open. We need the reassurance from others that our journey has been worthwhile.
The psychologist and Vipassana teacher Jack Kornfield taught me that love is what counts and that we must embrace old wounds with understanding and compassion. The Buddhist teacher and social activist Joanna Macy showed me that our grief for the world is the foundation for experiencing our interdependence and for our love and caring for all that is. His Holiness the Dalai Lama conveyed to me a deep understanding of how our radical interdependence leads to boundless compassion and love. The scholar Alan Wallace introduced me to the Tibetan universe of Buddhist meditation. The psychologist and Dzogchen meditation teacher Daniel Brown pointed me to his accessible and effective way to experience the field aspect of awareness and taught me how it can strengthen and sustain our ability to serve those who are suffering in this world.
I was lucky enough to receive these teachings directly. However, we can learn much through books or over the Internet. Since I started my journey forty years ago in Germany, the possibilities for accessing these magnificent teachings have multiplied. Now it is easy to find wonderful teachings readily available. As I began to experience myself as an expression of the interconnected web of life, I saw my painful patterns held within a much larger container, and they seemed to shrink in their relative size. Being able to touch and be touched by field awareness—a space that is vast, mysterious, and free from the tethers of my particular human incarnation—was a game changer for me. Through these early meditation experiences I learned how to be more present with myself and others.
Excerpted from Heart Medicine: How to Stop Painful Patterns and Find Peace and Freedom—at Last by Radhule Weininger © 2021 by Radhule Weininger. Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.shambhala.com
Radhule Weininger, MD, PHD is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, and meditation teacher. She leads meditation groups in Santa Barbara and retreats globally, at La Casa de Maria Retreat Center, Spirit Rock, Insight LA, the Esalen Institute, and the Garrison Institute. She is the author of Heart Medicine: How to Stop Painful Patterns and Find Peace and Freedom—at Last and Heartwork: The Path of Self-Compassion.