Awareness is a process of deepening self-acceptance. It is neither a cold, surgical examination of life nor a means of becoming perfect. Whatever it observes, it embraces. There is nothing unworthy of acceptance. The light of awareness will doubtless illuminate things we would prefer not to see. And this may entail a descent into what is forbidden, repressed, denied. We might uncover disquieting memories, irrational childhood terrors. We might have to accept not only a potential sage hidden within but also a potential murderer, rapist or thief.

Despite the sense I might have of myself as a caring person, I observe that I want to punch S in the face. What usually happens to this hatred? I restrain myself from expressing it, not out of any great love for S but because of how it would affect other people’s view of me. The attachment to self-image likewise inclines me to shy away from and forget this viciousness. In one way or another I deny it. I do not allow it into the field of awareness. I do not embrace it.

But to embrace hatred does not mean to indulge it. To embrace hatred is to accept it for what it is: a disruptive but transient state of mind. Awareness observes it jolt into being, coloring consciousness and gripping the body. The heart accelerates, the breath becomes shallow and jagged, and an almost physical urge to react dominates the mind. At the same time, this frenzy is set against a dark, quiet gulf of hurt, humiliation, and shame. Awareness notices all this without condoning or condemning, repressing or expressing. It recognizes that just as hatred arises, so will it pass away.

Stephen Batchelor Buddhism Without Beliefs October 1, 2008
Posted on October 1, 2008