A. We push these things away because we can’t/don’t want to face up to what they are and the fear and self-loathing that often results from these intense emotional experiences. To learn to open up to ourselves in a wholehearted and non-judgmental way is the key to change, but it takes a lot of practice – and the key to skilful practice is the understanding of the very important concept of familiarity.

Familiarity means getting to know, over a good period of time, our emotional reactions, and learning to resist the temptation of falling into old and unskilful reactive habits. Facing up to what we are is a very difficult matter, and, when the experience is a powerful one, almost certainly impossible to pull off. So how do we go about dealing with these deeply-ingrained attachments?

We start with the small attachments that we have, which are (emotionally) manageable, and learn to contain and take them into the Dharmic environment. Here we can learn to look into them and know and understand how all these things become the sticky messes that they are. With this knowledge in place, it will allow us to contain the volition driven by the emotions so that the habit/fear and notions of ‘me’ can return to their original state before this ‘pollution’ took place – that is, Buddha nature.

Learning to work with the small things gives us that vital familiarity with practice; our fears then begin to ebb, giving us the courage to stay with other more difficult and traumatic experiences. Eventually we begin to see that actually there are no ‘big’ attachments to deal with at all, only an endless collection of little ones. As the old maxim states: ‘Take care of the little things and the big things take care of themselves’. This familiarity and understanding gives us the courage to open up more and more and accept ourselves for what we are. Accepting ourselves without judgment leads us to loving ourselves, and in that spirit of love transformation of samsara takes place, allowing it to return to its original nature.