Saturday, May 24, 2008
~ Mark Twain
The word insane does not mean we need to be institutionalized; it means that we are not ‘sound’ or whole. The root idea of the word insane refers to being ‘out of order’ or ‘displaced’. It was originally used of physical ailments, especially broken bones and dislocated joints. This notion of displacement is similar to the first noble truth on the Buddhist path to serenity and bliss, dukkha, which suggests that each human being, especially in adolescence, experiences a sense of alienation. An ancient Gnostic teaching suggested that Ultimate Reality broke into a billion pieces, and each human is one of those fragments. The aim of life is for Ultimate Reality to be put back together again one piece or life at a time. That means each of us must do his or her part to reassemble Reality. Each of the various religious systems and modern psychological models is motivated by this ubiquitous desire to ‘come together right now’ as John Lennon sang. Even though it feels quite wrong, there is nothing cosmically Wrong. In other words, imperfection is perfect. Taoism speaks of this:
If you want to become whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight,
let yourself be crooked.
Tao Te Ching, 22
This does not negate the wholeness message of New Thought, but rather explains the appeal of it. The aim of life is to be expelled from and return to wholeness in Eden, to be cut up and reassembled like the fragmented corpse of Osiris, to reunite the divided yin and the yang, to create a new heavens and earth, to integrate the fractured body, soul and spirit, etc.
We are here to become sane. Humans in general have a sense of separation or insanity – that is normal. As Mark Twain recognized, “When we remember we are all insane, the mystery disappears and life stands explained.” We actually become more sane when we recognize and admit how insane we really are.
Archetypal Depth Psychology suggests that the reason for this experience of separation or dislocation is to make a Living Soul which has never existed before. The English poet John Keats suggested this just before his death when he wrote that we are on this earth to go through experiences in order to 'make an intelligence into a Soul.' In other words, we are on this planet as a fetus in a womb being formed through the fractured events of this life. This gives the notion of Mother Earth an even deeper significance.
Scott Peck began his best selling book The Road Less Travelled with this line, “Life is difficult.” Peck went on to say that the moment one realizes this fact of existence, life becomes less difficult. If you want to become whole, let yourself be partial; if you want to become sane, let yourself be insane.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
I woke up this morning feeling rested, peaceful and free - until I was awake enough for my conscious mind to kick in; then problems of money, relationships, health, work and the like took over, clamoring for attention. Within seconds I was engaged in the troubles of my life. I am not talking about planning a day of meeting my basic survival needs or engaging in healthy, purposeful activities which can take some effort, but of planning how to satisfy what I thought I was lacking compared to others around me - usually pleasure, power or prestige.
Many humans feel they never have enough pleasure, power or prestige - so we find ways to manipulate life to get them. And when we don't get them, we become frustrated, resentful and irritated. Sometimes we are blatantly selfish in our manipulations, but usually we disguise our tactics with good motives and kindness.
Recently I have become aware of how often I am dissatisfied and discontent over many small things. I felt some frustration today as I compared my place on the road with the person who pulled in front of me, the number of nice deeds I did for someone at work compared to their's for me, the slowness of the checker in the market compared to my expectation of promptness, my guests idea of a clean room compared to mine, etc. These little frustrations, based on my self-referencing comparisons, build up in the course of a normal day and I may not realize why I feel so agitated and raw by the days end. I have generally been polite, considerate and civil - but inwardly I felt lack all day long.
CHRONIC SELF OBSESSION
This is the point of the Eden story and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This Hebrew parable teaches that the source of human suffering arises from 'knowing opposites' and feeling lack as a result. Good and evil represent all opposites. The moment the human mind begins to compare one thing to the other, it discovers where it is deficient. Then it wants more. I want more control over traffic, supermarket lines and countless people and situations during the day.
The Buddhists call this state of mind ‘the hungry ghost,’ the vacuous specter that ceaselessly drops goodies into the psychic hole with no bottom. The result is a paradoxical situation where I always want more, yet there is never enough, and I am always in mental and emotional pain from comparing what I receive with what I expect.
God did not kick Adam and Eve out of the garden, they kicked themselves out by entering a state of chronic self obsession and deficiency through comparison of opposites – seeing their nakedness, shame and finally resorting to blaming others for their lack. A friend recently said to me that he no longer watches television commercials because he sees a bunch of people telling him he needs things he doesn’t want to impress people he doesn’t like. He has stepped away from the Tree of Comparison and diminished his pain.
Mercifully, God took away access to the Tree of Life in the Eden parable. Imagine living forever in that state of chronic discontent, perpetual self reference and the incessant impossibility of getting your needs met! Adam and Eve were escorted into a world of problems in order to find that self centered desire through chronic comparsion and manipulation doesn’t work. The way back to Eden is almost always through perspiration and pain, through plowing fields that never yield the crop we want, and birthing children who never fill our needs. The way back to Eden is to release self will by rediscovering the original satisifed God or Christ Self which is still in each of us. Each of us is capable of returning to Eden through releasing our thoughts of comparison, and by the acceptance of what is in each moment. It is not easy. Pain and failure are the gracious teachers.
THINE, NOT MINE, IS THE KINGDOM, POWER AND GLORY
How I respond within the first few moments of awakening each morning will typically set the tone for the rest of the day. If I develop a habit whereby I pray or do something to turn the people and circumstances of the day over to a Higher Power, I can often have a peaceful experience no matter what happens. It is also a good way to end the day before bed.
This is what Jesus taught his disciples in the so called Lord’s Prayer, a spiritual practice to derail self obsession which causes emotional pain (being led into evil). The familiar version of the prayer ends with, “For Thine (God’s) is the kingdom, the power and the glory.”
Notice: Thine, not mine. Without that awareness, the only other alternative is to spend the day thinking that “mine is the kingdom, the power and the glory.” From that mindset, I will reap varying degrees of pain (be led into temptation) by building my kingdom at the expense of others, using my power to manipulate people and situations, and seeking my glory through maneuvering others with anger or kindness; and I seldom take into account that most of the rest of the world is doing the same thing I am trying to do. The result is that I am inevitably in conflict with other self obsessed humans, posturing to use various kinds of power to establish their own little kingdoms so they can be glorified. The end experience is most often hours of frustration, resentment and mental agony punctuated by brief moments of getting my way.
SUGGESTED PRAYER TO MEMORIZE AND USE
Here is a suggested prayer to begin and end your day: “God, I offer myself to You to build with me and do with me as You will. Relieve me of the bondage of self obsession that I may better do Your will. Deliver me from my difficulties and increase my serenity that I may reveal Your Love, Your Power and Your way of Life. Amen.” I have this memorized and try to use it throughout the day in those moments when I am in conflict with a person, idea or situation. The irony is that the more I move away from self, the more I get what I want! But that can never be the motive. Tricky, isn’t it? God’s best for you.
For more articles: www.michaelbogar.com
Friday, May 2, 2008
By Tony Jones
Emergent is a loose collection of folks who feel that true, robust conversation about issues that matter has been chilled out of modern Christian institutions (seminaries, mega-churches, denominations, and para-church groups, to name a few). We're trying to make a place to bring conversation back.
Thus, we have friends among us who think that small government, free market economies are the solution to poverty, and others who favor federal programs and higher taxes—honestly, this is an ongoing conversation within the Emergent friendship. But we all agree that something must be done about extreme poverty, especially in Africa.
Within Emergent are Texas Baptists who don't allow women to preach and New England lesbian Episcopal priests. We have Southern California YWAMers and Midwest Lutherans. We have those who hold to biblical inerrancy, and others trying to demythologize the scripture. We have environmental, peacenik lefties, "crunchy cons," and right wing hawks.
I suppose it's easy for those who stand outside of Emergent Village looking in to credit the politics or theology of a few to the whole group, but that's inaccurate. And I can understand the frustration of those who want to criticize us and box us in when we say that we don't play by the old rules, that we can't be categorized as "left" or "right," "evangelical" or "mainline."
But, I think those same critics will only be more frustrated as the tide of those rebelling against a commodified and domesticated Jesus gain momentum. If the mainstream media is a harbinger, then I'd say that recent columns by Gary Wills and Andrew Sullivan show that a tipping point is just around the corner. Jesus really wasn't a Democrat or a Republican, and he won't be domesticated by political agendas. I do, however, believe that he will inhabit the robust and respectful dialogue about ideas that matter.
PRINCIPLES OF SUFFERING
I sometimes come across teachers who make it their goal to end suffering in the world. That is a wonderfully compassionate and noble aim. The irony for me is that those who dedicate their lives to this mission have typically been in the depths of hell like few other humans have. Most have spent years in the depths of despair, anxiety, fear and depression. Most of them have been suicidal, addicted to something or someone, in and out of institutions (hospitals, treatment centers, jails, courts, asylums) or had excruciating near death experiences. But once they came to their senses, or experienced some sort of an awakening, they sometimes think that they can spare others the same painful trip by giving them ten principles or five steps to stop suffering.
Here are my principles:
1. The Cosmos is constructed through and for meaningful suffering.
2. Suffering is necessary to make souls, sometimes called character.
3. No one else can ultimately suffer for another.
4. There are no principles to end suffering on this planet.
5. Personal suffering transforms selves into Soul.
BE WARY OF PROMISES
Yes, there are teachers who can provide teachings that guide us through suffering toward the making of our own Soul; but be wary of those who state directly, or imply that they can teach you to avoid suffering altogether. And I don’t care if they make the distinction between ‘pain’ and ‘suffering’.
You see, some might say, “Well, we can’t stop pain in this life, but we need not suffer.”
The principle is sound enough, but the practice doesn’t pan out in real life. This idea must be learned via a certain amount of suffering. I have seen this belief that suffering can be ended cause some people deep depression, and some eventually to chuck the whole spiritual enterprise. Some come to believe themselves to be failures or faithless because they can’t “apply” the principles to end suffering to their daily lives. Others will see the failures of their esteemed teachers, call them hypocrites and also forsake the so called spiritual life altogether. The fact is, soul-making requires a certain amount of suffering and you can’t avoid it!
THINKING MY WAY OUT OF NEGATIVITY AND PAIN
There will always be those optimists who will say they can mentally deny their way out of suffering by affirming calmness, turning away from negative darkness and toward the light of Spirit, reuniting with the Source of Love. They will tell you that you can short circuit suffering with positive thinking. Yes, I agree, we can…for a short time. But these folks, and I have been one of these too, will be right back in gossip, resentment, frustration, lust, greed, jealousy, anger, guilt and immeasurable suffering - sometimes within minutes of reuniting with the Source. Don’t get me wrong, I am for good tools and techniques to get one back to God, but they rarely last. They are great for a respite from mental and emotional turmoil, but they are not long term solutions. They may postpone the suffering, but they never end it. Suffering will return until it has done its work. As Sri Aurobindo says, "The discords of the world are God's discords and it is only by accepting and proceeding through them that we can arrive at the greater concords of his supreme harmony…"
THROUGH DEATH VALLEY
All of the great healers of pain have had to go through their suffering to get to the other side. Even the Hebrew Psalmist said, “Yes, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.” He didn’t say he would walk around or over the painful valley, or go through a different valley; he said he would go through it and not be afraid of the tribulation found in death valley.
Jesus said, “In the world you shall suffer tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome (gone through) the world.” One can take that saying in one of two ways:
1. Jesus suffered, and if we trust him, we won’t have to suffer.
2. Jesus suffered and made it to the other side, so can I.
Given the fact that Jesus constantly told his disciples to take up their crosses and be prepared to give their lives for their brothers, I suspect that number 2 is what he meant – Jesus himself made it through the necessary suffering, so can you.
THE NECESSITY OF SUFFERING IN THE GREAT TEACHERS
Think of all the great teachers who actually practice what they preach. I am not talking about some of those those you see on TV, or read about in books, or listen to on tapes, or see at a retreat, church or conference. I am talking about those who really have something to say about healing and suffering, those who exhibit a genuine calm in the midst of life’s tempests. Without exception, if you hear their whole story, they went to Hell and back, probably more than once. Or they are the very rare soul that enters this life with most of their work completed.
Look at the life of Siddhartha Gautama, The Buddha. Most see him as the compassionate, enlightened teacher who shows the way out of suffering – symbolized by chubby statues with a smiling or blissful countenance. Few people stop to look at the early years of his life. As a young man he spent many sleepless nights agonizing over poverty, old age, disease and death; he made a heart wrenching decision to leave his beautiful young wife and sweet child; he left his palatial life of wealth and ease and nearly starved to death mastering meditation techniques. Legend has it that he was nursed back to health by a young woman who fed him a single grain of rice at a time. Purportedly, in his own words, he said he could press his finger into his stomach and feel his backbone. The skeletal Buddha is a common work of art. After years of depression, anorexia, worry, stressful seeking, failure and near death - he came to an awakening. It was not in the palace, or a class on meditation, but through much personal suffering and seeking.
In Greek mythology, Psyche (soul) was one of a few mortals to be deified on Mount Olympus, but she had to go to Hades and back. Even Jesus is said to have spent three days in the underworld before his resurrection.
No one can suffer for you. One gets the impression from some westerners who think they are Buddhists that one can transcend suffering by reading a few books or by going to a Buddhist retreat, or by learning a few meditation techniques. Some teachers and gurus would have you believe that for only $199.99 you can buy their program or book and end your suffering.
Some Christians preach a gospel which says outright that God’s son suffered vicariously for their sins, putting an end to all suffering for those who trust Him. “By His stripes you are healed.” They say that if we accept Jesus and trust in him, we don’t need to suffer any longer. Unquestionably the Gospel of Christ provides an entrance into the life of Spirit, but neither Jesus nor any of the other New Testament authors taught that Christians would avoid suffering in this life.
I was once among those ranks, yet I could not figure out why it never really worked. I trusted Jesus’ death and resurrection for me. I shared the gospel with others. I prayed, read the Bible, wept for my sins and mustered up every ounce of faith I had – still I got angry, jealous, lustful and depressed. Every Christian I knew had no better luck than I did avoiding the usual litany of painful sins and failures. Those who were most vocal about the Savior and His Gospel were often the most cranky, vicious, back stabbing, gossiping and mean spirited of the bunch. They were in chronic pain and misery. But they excused it as 'suffering for Christ'.
SUFFERING IS NECESSARY
You cannot learn to stop suffering by another person's suffering. The theory is appealing and I wish it worked, but it’s about as logical as saying you can lose weight by reading about someone who has successfully lost weight. No one can do it for us.
Hear this well – suffering is necessary for soul-making. I am not suggesting that you go out and seek suffering or become one of those religious masochists who glorifies suffering and persecution. I am not advocating that you affirm, attract or intend suffering. We don’t need to seek it. The universe is so constructed that it will find us no matter where we hide or how often we medicate. It is part of the curriculum in the Cosmic University. Again I quote Sri Aurobindo:
"We have to look courageously in the face of the reality and see that it is God and none else who has made this world in His being and that so He has made it ... The discords of the world are God's discords and it is only by accepting and proceeding through them that we can arrive at the greater concords of his supreme harmony, the summits and thrilled vastnesses of his transcendent and his cosmic Ananda (Divine Joy).”
The Adventure of Consciousness, p. 163
SPIRITUALITY OF DENIAL
There are those who will call me a pessimist and traitor to New Thought principles. I disagree. Real positive thinking affirms that we get through our suffering into greater God consciousness. Most often those who practice a spirituality of denial have become almost blissfully unaware of their own chronic suffering. Some have learned the proper metaphysical terminology and techniques to avoid or ignore their suffering which pops up like a Jack-in-the-Box all week long. I have been one of these too. They drink, overeat, stay busy with religious tasks, spend money, stuff their chronic anxiety, study books on suffering, take prescription drugs, practice avoidance meditation, memorize sacred texts, and keep the spring tightly wound - sometimes for years. Some are really unaware of the disconnect between their pretend spirituality and the amount of pain they have stuffed under the religious lid. They so want to appear pain free, and have so perfected the act of public spiritual euphoria that they aren't even aware how unhappy they are. This is the spirituality of denial. It is a very lonely place to live. I recently heard such a woman tell me that her counselor told her she was done with therapy because she seemed so happy. This woman was shocked because she was depressed and miserable. She went home and looked in the mirror and she was smiling. She said she suddenly realized that she had learned to act happy externally, but internally was filled with doubt, loneliness and sadness.
I remember studying the life of one of my favorite metaphysical New Thought teachers, the brilliant Emma Curtis Hopkins. She worked with another famous spiritual teacher, Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy, who fired Emma out of jealousy. Emma left and became a very successful Christian Science teacher on her own, later calling her movement New Thought. She couldn't continue using the title 'Christian Science' because Mary Baker Eddy put a copyright claim on it. Emma eventually started a seminary in Chicago. The school was in a house with about 20 women living and studying together. After a very short time, Emma closed the seminary and moved to New York to live alone. When asked why, she confessed that she couldn’t stand being around the negativity and noise of all those students. I remember feeling disappointed that Emma couldn’t seem to apply her own teachings and deny away the negativity. I realized that suffering was not an intruder or obstacle to spirituality as she had taught, but a necessary aspect that she was trying to deny away or escape. Perhaps Emma had some lessons to learn, or a soul to make by facing her irritations in the socially upsetting situation.
KEATS ON SUFFERING AND SOUL MAKING
The English poet John Keats was dying of tuberculosis at the age of twenty five. He was a brilliant writer who knew that he would not live long enough to complete the body of poetic work he longed to create. Extremely ill, financially broke and recently abandoned by his fiancé, he struggled to make sense of this thing called life and dying. In a letter written to his brother in February 0f 1819 Keats was seeking to understand a world that seemed cruel and unfair. He couldn't accept the usual Christian view which he described:
"The common label of this world among the misguided and superstitious is "a vale of tears" from which we are to be redeemed by a certain arbitrary interposition of God and taken to Heaven…"
Keats suggested an alternative vale or valley:
"Call the world if you please, "The vale of Soul-making", then you will find out the use of the world."
He went on to explain soul-making as a process where the basic seed of divine intelligence which is in all humans goes through necessary experiences, especially suffering, in order to transform the intelligence into a unique Soul:
"I say "Soul making'', Soul as distinguished from an Intelligence - There may be intelligences or sparks of the divinity in millions--but they are not Souls till they acquire identities, till each one is personally itself. Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an Intelligence and make it a soul! A Place where the heart must feel and suffer in a thousand diverse ways! - As various as the Lives of Men are--so various become their souls, and thus does God make individual beings, Souls…"
Keats recognized that this world was a place of difficulty of necessity. I am not talking about difficulties we bring on ourselves by foolish choices or pessimistic thinking, but of life as it presents itself with a plethora of trials and obstacles we all have in common - stubbed toes, tragic accidents, inexplicable diseases, the aging process, economic twists and turns, wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters and eventually death.
Some have questioned why I am so passionate about this topic of soul-making as it relates to suffering. They wonder whether or not I am just trying to rain on the positive thinking parade. Some call me a pessimist and cynic. Actually, I am a committed believer in positive thinking and the work of intention. I do affirmative prayer and guided visualizations for health, wealth and peace. These practices are part of the vale of soul-making as well. It has gotten lots of attention from Oprah, Depak Choprah, Wayne Dyer, Robert Schuller, Joyce Meyer and Joel Olstein – but little has really been said about the positive role of suffering as Soul-making. Eastern religions sometimes seem to imply that suffering is an illusion to be transcended, and western religion wants to be delivered from it by Jesus' sacrifice or right thinking. Might there not be an additional paradigm – not negating the others at all – but expanding our view of suffering? I think this is the paradigm that Jesus, Buddha, Aurobindo and Keats talk about – suffering as a necessary element in the school of soul making.
I am motivated from a desire to see people find a framework for living life free from the escapist religious philosophies or spiritualities of denial. Our spiritual paradigms must make room for more than the successful, western middle class American who thinks his way to perfect health and financial freedom.
Most of the world lives in what we would call poverty. Are these people living unspiritual lives because they are not healhty and wealthy? Our paradigms must account for tsunamis and the end of solar systems, cancer and war, old age and poverty, depression and death. We must account for the countless young men who have died in battle, young women who have died in childbirth, and countless others who have died seemingly senseless deaths if we live in a world where suffering can be avoided. Many western religious systems view suffering as the result of original sin, or humanly caused annoyances - humanly instigated hindrances to spiritual wholeness. The emphasis is on healing or eliminating the suffering rather than befriending it. We can do both in my opinion.
Christians come right out and say that suffering is because of our sin and that we deserve it. This doesn't explain a Cosmos rife with chaos and entropy. New Age folks often attribute pain to a sick and negative human consciousness. These folks imply that if we could all just think good thoughts and change our consciousness, the suffering would go away. This sort of approach reminds me of the school boy that said school was fun except for the reading, writing, arithmetic and homework! School is more than eternal recess; life is more than chronic happiness.
I close where I started. Remember that every enlightened spiritual teacher, let me call them teachers who have grown large souls, has suffered greatly. He or she has been to hell and back. Using Keats words, they have had their small human intelligence turned into a Soul. Such teachers may currently exude a rare peace, tranquility and calm demeanor in the face of all adversity. But they earned it. There was a time when they walked, collapsed and crawled through the valley of the shadow of death, or the vale of soul making, or the world of tribulation. It can be done. It takes work. It takes humility, patience, self reflection and surrender to a Higher Power.
You will not memorize their answers or gather the answers through osmosis. There is no technique to end suffering. You will not make soul just by reading their books or listening to their tapes. You will not arrive by the same route they did, or find a shortcut. You will be tempted to mimic them, to deify them, to vacillate between admiration and disappointment. These teachers often cause us as much pain as they give provide solutions. They disappoint us and leave us disillusioned…good for them. They are part of the vale of soul-making – proof that we have to go through it, not around it...even through our teachers.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Some would have us believe that Positive Thinking is eliminating any discussion of or reference to pain and suffering. This is not positive thinking, but potentially harmful negative thinking. Positive Thinking includes the realization and affirmation that all pain and suffering contain a kernel of awareness and new life. Like the seed pod containing the flower, bursting apart in the dark, dank soil, so too the soul expands by dying to the former self, often in darkness which we call depression. From the disintegration springs a completely new self, a unique re-integration of the fragments of the former identity.
In this view, our experiences of loneliness, fear, loss, confusion, sadness, depression and the like are spiritual realms that exist to reveal the failure of former patterns of thinking and behavior. These emotions comprise the soil for making soul, those experiences that take us down into the dark underworld. Then, like the seed pod, we crack apart and begin to extend roots in the dark soil, releasing the stem of the new self that gradually rises into the light. I say ‘gradually’ because it often occurs very slowly; sometimes over years, decades, maybe lifetimes.
We must remember that the potential new self always resides in the former ego-pod, or our old limited self centered ideas. This truth of gradual emergence is seen in the image of the Eastern lotus which begins its journey toward unfolding in the dark sediment of a murky pond. That is why the Buddha, from which we get our term ‘bud,’ begins his teaching system with the first noble truth: Life is suffering or dislocation. Only then does the lotus rise into the light, form buds and blossom.
I MOVE THROUGH LIFE WITH EASE
I hear some Positive Thinkers affirm that we ‘move through life with ease’. I think this is a good affirmation, but if ‘life is suffering’ as the Buddha taught, then we are actually affirming that we ‘move through our suffering with ease.’ This statement need not affirm or attract suffering! Of course there are martyrs and victims who create much unnecessary pain and agony, but that is not the intention of such an affirmation. To affirm that I ‘move through my suffering with ease’ is a positive approach to the human condition that brings its measure of grief, disappointment, frustration, anger, resentment, loneliness and fear to each of us.
The spiritual teacher Osho writes: “This pain is not to make you sad, remember. That's where people go on missing.... This pain is just to make you more alert--because people become alert only when the arrow goes deep into their heart and wounds them. Otherwise they don't become alert. When life is easy, comfortable, convenient, who cares? Who bothers to become alert? When a friend dies, there is a possibility. When your woman leaves you alone--those dark nights, you are lonely. You have loved that woman so much and you have staked all, and then suddenly one day she is gone. Crying in your loneliness, those are the occasions when, if you use them, you can become aware. The arrow is hurting: it can be used. The pain is not to make you miserable, the pain is to make you more aware! And when you are aware, misery disappears.”
This also means that feelings of suicide need to be honored and listened to. The disintegrating old life is accurately telling me that something must die – yet not the physical body as suicide victims mistakenly assume, but rather the death of the old way of life. All suicidal people are filled with agonizing remorse. This too is necessary. The word remorse is related to the words mortal, mortem, murder and mortician – words referring to death. Remorse is the act of mentally returning over and over to an actual or potential loss of something or someone valuable--usually a way of living to which we have become accustomed. The feelings of being fixated on loss is often so overwhelming that a person might feel the only way out is to kill the body and brain that contains the mind which chronically revisits the old painful loss, or potential future loss. If a person can realize that the primary purpose of life is to experience and emerge from such losses, s/he can wait for the cracking open to pass, the roots to be established, and the new life to flower. Carl Jung observed that we develop egos in order to shed them, like snakes sluffing off old skin. Some call this molting process soul-making.
The Chinese Tao Te Ching says it like this:
If you want to shrink something,
you must first allow it to expand.
If you want to get rid of something,
you must first allow it to flourish.
If you want to take something,
you must first allow it to be given.
This is called the subtle perception
of the way things are.
Poem 36, Mitchell translation
THE WAY THINGS ARE
This is the nature of soul-making life. We spend years developing an ego or self identify, and then it must dissolve. Dissolution is almost always difficult. This does not mean that the old ego self is bad, but that it is just too small to contain infinite joy, patience and love that we may become. My old life, like the seed that contains the flower, must break apart in the soil of suffering and grow into the light of an expanded soul. This is the way for humans on a planet of soul-making. This point of view is true positive thinking when it comes to pain. We do not deny pain, but we affirm it is a means to an end. Times of great sorrow contain the potential to be times of great transformation. But in order for transformation to happen we must go deep, to the very roots of our pain, and experience it as it is, without blame or self-pity. To know this makes the process easier than to resist it, or to think it ought be different. M. Scott Peck began his book, The Road Less Traveled, by observing that "Life is difficult," and then paradoxically adds that, "once we realize that life is difficult, it becomes less difficult."
Growing Down To Grow Up
Each person, a seed of infinite potential,
Skin encircling soul, containing all essential
Gifts and possibilities, undeveloped rose,
A bundle of curious petals anxious to unfold.
Unique and wondrous flower, embryonic pod,
Drawn out by Gaia's power, fertile womb of God.
Neath the crushing earth we wait then break apart,
Alone in perfect silence, peculiar way to start.
Each seed must burst asunder, shed its fragile skin,
Lose its perfect circle then begin again.
A skein of tangled roots emerging into birth,
Threads alive in darkness on a tapestry of earth.
Embroidered by an Angel, within and out of sight,
Silence wrapped in darkness, moving into light,
Pushing through the soil, the Gardener stands above,
Sending rain and weeding, each an act of love.
Delicate nascent bud pierces the emerald lawn,
Finally rising upward, after wending down.
A shoot, a stalk, a blossom…then the full bloom,
Symphony of brilliance, supple bursting plume.