having an armored shell or peaceful core

we all come into our practice with a defensive shell we've built to protect us, and the story of our practice becomes one of dropping this armor in favor of developing a center that's stable enough to sustain us and offer us ground.

the in grained tendency of the mind is to develop armoring against experiencing more suffering:

we may have felt abandoned in life. so, not wanting to experience abandonment, we prioritize jumping out of relationships

we may feel harshly criticized by others, so we become defensive and cannot open to hear input on our actions from well meaning observers, we attack whenever we're criticized

we may have too many fantasies of pinned on a thought world about success, and, not want to experience rejection, so we might avoid submitting our work or finishing it

we've developed an inner judge, perhaps in the false belief that it maintains standards, that constantly evaluates others harshly and also turns against us, preventing us from taking risks

—we may have grown up in environments where we felt little attention or acceptance, and, not want to feel ignored, sought attention through unskillful displays

—perhaps we don't allow ourselves to share our feelings with others

the result of firming up externally is self-sabotaging:

—it takes a lot of energy in the form of external vigilance to maintain an armored shell

—we're much more defensive and reactive as we're externally overbalanced, this keeps us unaware of what's going on within, what needs to be acknowledged

—we're often trapped in trying to read other people's minds, trying to figure out what they're thinking about us, which is stressful and wasted thought

—we have a predilection to develop stories of victimization, as we hyper-fixated on what others are saying and doing

this armored shell can attach itself to

1) our survival sense, the belief that we'd be harmed without it

2) our story of "who am I" the belief that its core to our identity and thus cannot be changed

the underlying survival instinct can make every event seem of greater importance than it really is:

—events at work can seem catastrophic

so its skillful to reflect on

—times we've survived when not defensive

—how other people can survive while being open

we start by

1) feeling good about each time we take risks by being open with our feelings, or by taking criticism without lashing back

2) practicing talking honestly with wise friends in safe environments, being open about behaviors we're unhappy with

3) developing samadhi in our meditations, developing a peaceful core no matter what else is arising in the body or mind

4) rather than reacting to situations, noticing how they manifest as energy in the body, rather than focusing on the stories of mistreatment and victimization

developing a peaceful core through practice is the ground we stand on that lets us be with the inevitable frustrations, rejections, losses that are the first noble truth

—the more comfortable the mind, the more it can stand aside and witness what normally would be too painful to bear

—peace is being with change while resisting feeding on the lure of external baits—relationships, careers, families, duties—each announcing they're more important than finding serenity within

when we can detach from the survival instinct that attaches to it, suddenly our life is less dramatic, less of a struggle, the mind feels lighter and liberated

monks have taught that the greatest liberation comes from letting go of one's external armoring, attaining the greatest elation being open to all of life's experiences, knowing, at the end, everything is simply energy arising and passing

when we can let go our defensive shell life becomes much easier