Going Into The Dark

Darkness is defined as the absence of light, something that is difficult to understand, a state of ignorance, and something secret or sinister.  Truth is defined, by the dictionary, as factual, or clear and visible, as well as something individuals choose to believe. Faith communities often speak of the dark as something evil and light as the most desirable quality to cultivate and yet it’s only through a willingness to explore what is dark or hidden within ourselves that we are able to shine a light of truth on the state of our consciousness and attain some form of enlightenment

ignorance_quoteIt appears that no one ever believes they are choosing something out of ignorance or a misinterpretation of reality.  We don’t have to look far to discover humanities willingness to pronounce as undesirable, ignorant, and evil people who are perceived as a hindrance to comfort, security, and prosperity.   Currently, immigrants are being targeted as are Muslims, single mothers, and the poor or elderly.  When one is truly spiritual it is easy to see through all the rhetoric and ask, who will profit from this persecution?  Of course, darkness is always obvious when it belongs to someone else. Darkness is defined as the absence of light, something that is difficult to understand, a state of ignorance, and something secret or sinister.  Truth is defined, by the dictionary, as factual, or clear and visible, as well as something individuals choose to believe. Faith communities often speak of the dark as something evil and light as the most desirable quality to cultivate and yet it’s only through a willingness to explore what is dark or hidden within ourselves that we are able to shine a light of truth on the state of our consciousness and attain some form of enlightenment.

Spirit invites us to discover our ancient darkness or  ignorance that has continuously caused suffering for ourselves and those around us.  This exploration is impossible without a spiritual director or teacher.  If it were possible to enlighten our own ignorance we would all be ascended by now.  However, the gift of shining  light on delusions is about as popular as turning sticks into snakes.  Inevitably, the student thus enlightened becomes enraged and defensive often turning on the teacher with accusations and resentment.  My advice is- don’t ask if you don’t really want to know.

GalaticAlignEyeThere is a line in the vow of the bodhisattvas that states- delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them.  Delusions are caused by expectations of self and others.  I’m not suggesting that we have no expectations of self or other, only that we become aware they are a major tripping point on the road of spirit.  If someone says, I am enlightened- we can be sure that person is delusional.  Even the Buddha did not say he was enlightened he said he was awake, which meant he was practicing awareness of his attachments and expectations in order to free himself from them.  Only through constant vigilance can we disrupt our focus on what we expect, deserve, and demand from self and others.  Note the attitude and ask- is it fair of me to have this expectation of another?  And- how can I meet my own need without imposing it on others?

Not all expectations are bad or even undesirable.  This is why we learn table manners as a child, discover the magic of please and thank you, train our pets to deposit their bowel movements in an appropriate place, and end abusive relationships.  Here are some expectations that are guaranteed to cause suffering – wanting others to give us comfort, acceptance, and anything we else we want without our having to say anything.  And, if we do state our need there is an expectation that it is the other person’s responsibility to give it to us.  All of this is delusional thinking a result of ignorance and living in the dark.

Having a session with a spiritual director or teacher can be a challenging opportunity.  While part of us wants to be free from delusion, there is often a greater part that prefers to remain ignorant or to be reassured that we really don’t have much to work on so we don’t need to worry about it.  Amma Ilowan told us once that the mantra for the path of enlightenment is- Oh, Shit! Here is a poem/story gifted to Amma some years ago by a seeker.

A Day in the Dark

On a day such as this my life might be destroyed.
I am not worthy of being in the presence of a Master!
Bitterness courses through my every thought and burns my mind.
Time is passing-
But when will it open?
I am frightened!
I am petrified!
I am anxious- and I do fear what seed I have sown and their harvests to come!
This does not sound like discovery to me- but desolation!
Perhaps it is transformation?
Perhaps it is my evolution?
But to be immersed in such darkness and despair seems cruel and heartless.
True love is creation-
I have said so many discouraging times of late!
Thought creates- and I have thought so many unloving things of late!
Where has the holiness- that I so fervently aspire for gone?
Why do I find myself falling away from the ladder of prayer?
Where has my soul been slipping to?
Why does my love and light flicker- and in the most important of times?
Why does Spirit seem to fade away when I am most in need?
Why am I so afraid?
Why have I chosen to act in anger instead of from my sadness or my love?
The Sword of my Soul has almost become fully tempered
and shall soon undergo the refreshing submersion into the waters of Spirit-
Yet the fires still flame with such climactic degrees-
It seems impossible to focus on the process in its complete stage!
Is this not the dross that initiation burns from my soul?
Will I ever feel I’ve arrived at the warmth of spring again?

My own ancient darkness is fear.  Fear of being abandoned , fear of becoming homeless, fear of failing, fear of disapproval, and fear of trusting others too much and various terrors that come up at odd times.  And, while I’ve experienced some of these energies in my life…most are pure imaginings like a child panicking over shadows in the night.  I believe my ancient darkness arises from the expectation that these things could happen and I must do everything in my power to prevent them from manifesting.  If I have a plan for the worst case scenario I will be able to survive it.  That was my motto for years.

So, I have been advised to simply notice the fear, breathe, and stop making strategies to deal with imaginings.  Once, he told me that my people didn’t know that I loved them, which was devastating to hear since I thought I was serving to the very best of my ability.  After being angry for a few days, thinking people were complaining about me to the Masters, I decided to accept what he said and change my behavior so people would understand that I loved and cared about them.  First, I had to notice what behaviors gave a wrong impression so I watched sangha members who were considered loving and kind individuals.  What did they do?  What body language did they use?  What did they say?  Mostly, it turned out to be a matter of eye contact, fully facing the person I was talking to, and not multi-tasking while speaking to them.  Getting out of the dark into the light required acceptance and accountability and a willingness to be enlightened rather than defensive and resentful that everyone didn’t already think I was an amazing being.

to-make-the-darkness-consciousWilling to go into the dark is entering a time when we don’t know the result and sometimes when the result is known it is nothing we want or desire to experience- and yet, there it is.  To find the light of truth we must be willing to realize, even if it is on faith, that Divine Spirit is with us, as us, and will not abandon us in our grief, pain, or fear.  This doesn’t mean we will have that fear removed, the grief taken away, or the pain eased, it only means we trust we are not alone in those times.  We rely on the relationship we have created with the Dharma, the Sangha, and the Masters to find our courage, strength, and the fortitude to make it through the dark.  In challenging times we have the capability of ignoring or chasing Divine Spirit from our hearts, minds, and lives.  If we do this we sink even deeper into the dark night of our soul.  Ultimately, we cannot find the light without each other and though we may stumble and fall- surrendering to Divine Grace will see us through into the light of wisdom and love.

 

Unity

United in purpose, together we are one.

We cannot live for ourselves alone.  We are interconnected with all life.  Interconnectedness and interdependence are the threads that hold life together.  In modern times, it’s easy to imagine ourselves as independent.  We can choose to live alone, dine alone, entertain ourselves alone, and even pleasure ourselves alone.  It has become possible to survive without relying on anyone but ourselves. In our time, living within and being responsible to a community, which our ancestors did for thousands of years, has been hyped into a story of oppression, enslavement, and cultism. But is that belief true?

log cabinThere is no way to be totally independent unless you grow all your own food, mine your own metals, create your own tools, build your own house out of mud or wood from trees you milled the wood yourself, spin your own cloth, and create all your own furniture.  Even then, you are not the creator of those things, they come from the Earth who, as a generous mother, allows us to take what we need.  Most of us are willing to concede this point, but what about belonging, unity, and togetherness with other human beings?

When I was a child, I had an intact family with a mother, father, and a sister, much later a baby brother.  We had enforced togetherness.  Every Saturday we had chores to do.  My sister and I were sent to the movies in the afternoon so our parents could be alone and in the evenings, we were required to watch the Lawrence Welk Show before going to bed early.  On Sunday we went to Catholic mass, ate breakfast, and spent the afternoon playing cards, while my parents got drunk.  No friends were allowed to join us and we were not allowed to be anywhere except with the family.  The only fond memories of that enforced togetherness are the movies and as I grew older playing card games.  What I came to understand in later years is that my parents were attempting to recreate the true togetherness they had experienced in their families while growing up in small town America in the 1920’s.

Mom often spoke of how on Saturdays all her uncles, aunts, and cousins would meet at someone home, pop popcorn, tells stories, laugh, and play games.  Dad told of how all the German immigrants got together on Saturdays, made food, laughed, and told stories, while the kids played outside.  One day, I realized what was missing from their attempted recreation of their childhood…a community, an extended family, a tribe of individuals who knew each other and shared their lives in more ways then a weekly social gathering.

87604643_XSGradually, within the United State, the artificially created need to place each family in their own house, the marketing of automobiles, the hype of appliances that were supposed to make life easier and give everyone more free time, the promotion of store bought everything, created a desire to acquire more and more money to support those illusions.  Families became separated by distance, the threads of the past were broken.  However, nobody yet knew that all these modern conveniences spelled disaster for the human heart.

It’s my observation that modern people find it almost impossible to remain unified in heart, to remain dedicated to a common purpose.  The word togetherness has devolved into a fear of groupthink.  Currently, people are attempting to create unity and togetherness through Facebook, Twitter, music concerts, political rallies, parties, festivals, and anything else that seems to fill the empty gap left by the dissolution of meaningful community. While this might seem to be a cynical view one need only look at the existing political climate, right-wing racism, epidemic drug use, and the divorce rate to understand the truth of these statements.

ACcommunity2-copyThe spiritual call of uniting in purpose so that together we can be one is a reawakening of the ancient vision of what Native Americans invoke in the words– All my relations…and the African concept of Ubuntu translated as I am because you are, you are because I am.  This way of thinking changes how we interact with one another and all the creatures of the Earth. Oneness with All There Is has been the goal of the spiritual path since our primeval ancestors stood on two legs and gazed into the star-filled night feeling the call of the Creator to join in that wholeness, that holiness.

Right Action

karmaEverything we think, say, and do has consequences.  This is the law of karma.  If a person spends a great deal of time fantasizing about winning the lottery, partnering with an actor or music star they met at a fan party, or dreaming about what will happen when one gets a new job, loses twenty pounds, etc. the consequence is disappointment, possible depression, and definite suffering.  When a person focuses on being positive, enjoying the simple things in life, and verbally appreciates those around them the consequences are likely to be contentment, happiness, and friendship.  When we continuously hold a certain attitude, opinion, or belief about life it tends to manifest regardless rather the attitude is positive or negative.  Abraham Lincoln once said, “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”  And people are about as unhappy as they make up their minds to be.

In the Analects of Confucius it states something like this- first it is necessary for the ruler to have peace in his heart, then there will be peace in the home, if there is peace in the home there will be peace in the neighborhood, if there is peace in the neighborhood there will be peace in the city, if there is peace in the city there will be peace in the nation.

So, the ability to have our actions take place in rightness depends first on having right thoughts or a right mind.  One way the dictionary puts it is to be morally correct and while there is precious little agreement about what is morally correct it behooves us, once we have decided on a set of ethics, to remain true to those ethics.  Changing our mind from one set of principles to another, possibly even to an opposing idea, to justify getting what we want is breaking the Spirit of Honor.  It is important for a human being, a son or daughter of the Divine Spirit, to know what is right according to a chosen set of life ethics and then to do what is right rather than what might feel right at the time.

Over the years as a minister, I‘ve witnessed the misery created by individuals choosing what felt right at the time over what they had proclaimed was right prior to their time of temptation.  Mostly, these decisions took place because the individual “fell in love” and knew without doubt that this time they were experiencing Ama Marai– unconditional love.  It is easy to forget that unconditional love is something only Divine Spirit can give so we spend years looking for and hoping to be loved unconditionally by our family, friends, children, and partners.  True love, for a fallible human, is facing our capacity to hurt each other.  True love is the willingness to be accountable when we do hurt people, to make amends if we can, and to strive and devote ourselves to accepting, nurturing, and cherishing the love we give and the love we have received.

Being a divine avatar, a beloved son or daughter of Divine Spirit, implies that we must struggle to move from the absurd living of the world mind to the obedient listening of Tarai Spirit Mind.  Absurd comes from the word sardus which means deaf. The dark world of ordinary reality teaches a Machiavellian attitude of expediency and unprincipled, self-aggrandizement- the standard “me first” attitude which keeps people deaf to the cries of suffering arising all over the world.  When actions take place in rightness social justice and equality become the center post for decision making.  This is the principle of democracy- the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people

Actions arise from attitude, attitude arises from habituate thoughts.  Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is more than a cute saying; it actually works.  The two most important values for living fully are appreciation and forgiveness.  This works within our own psyche as well as within communities small and large.  We must forgive ourselves for not being perfect and forgive others that they cannot live up to our expectations of them.  Appreciating what we have, and what gifts others share with us, creates a willingness to wholeheartedly engage in relationship.

  EmployeeBadAttitudeDeveloping a useful attitude starts with understanding and working within the conditioning of our ancient darkness.  If we don’t bring to light the hidden motivations of our decisions they have a way of tripping us up.  In my twenties, I had a terrible fear of abandonment and worked hard to become indispensable to those around me; so they would keep me around.  And, while I did learn the basic principles of how to be a good servant this strategy was actually unsuccessful in keeping relationships.  Friends and people in various communities found my solicitous assistance annoying or in some cases arrogant and snubbed me or even cast me out because I was a pest. Fortunately, Amma Ilowan, pointed out to me that while serving was commendable, my motivation was joyless and detrimental to myself and others.  Ah, enlightenment! Oh, shit!

Actions arise from thoughts and attitudes.  Actions are the ground on which we stand.  Actions are the karmic seeds of destiny.

The Two Wolves
Cherokee

3b4ff0e7They sat together and watched the full moon move through the stars. The young Cherokee boy had been in a fight that day and his grandfather would speak with him.

“My son,” he began, ”there is a battle that goes on inside people. This battle is between two wolves that we carry within us. One wolf is evil. It holds the energy of anger, sorrow, jealousy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, inferiority, false pride and lies.

The other wolf is good. For it holds the energy of love, joy, peace, hope, humility, kindness, generosity, compassion, faith and truth.

These wolves are very powerful. And, they are often fighting like small boys,” he said glancing down at his grandson. His smile was hidden in the darkness.

The grandson thought about it for a while, and then asked, “Which wolf wins, grandfather?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Most of us what to know the rules, learn what is expected of a spiritual person and live accordingly.  However, while we can adopt a set of precepts it’s important to remember that those precepts, like the ones I included in this chapter are a call to be more than is even humanly possible.  The reason spiritual paths create impossible goals is to elevate us to a greater height than we would choose for ourselves.  It’s more likely that when we are goal setting we attempt to vision something that is actually possible of accomplishment.  Spiritual ethics and precepts are so lofty that it reminds me of the catchphrase – Aim for the sun because even if you miss you will fall among the stars.  Our actions will always take place in rightness if we are striving for the highest things we know.

The temptation is to say that loving-kindness, peace, acceptance, forgiveness, etc. is always the answer.  And that answer may cause us to make decisions that are detrimental to ourselves or others.  I love this story about employing loving-kindness in an unusual way.

Umbrella Love  
Buddhist

teacher-and-studentSangmu was developing the practice of loving-kindness. As a young disciple, she would sit in meditation each day filling her heart with loving-kindness for all beings, may they be free from suffering. However, each day she found her practice greatly tested when she went to the market for food. There was among the shopkeepers one merchant who persistently subjected Sangmu to unwanted advances. One day she could take no more of this. She turned to the merchant and raised her umbrella to strike him. It was at that moment that she saw her teacher standing some distance away watching this situation. Humiliated and chagrined she walked over to him ready to receive the admonishment that was surely hers.

Her teacher smiled down at her and said, “Sangmu, what you should do, my child, is fill your heart completely with loving-kindness before you hit this rude man over the head with your umbrella.”

Our actions are the ground on which we stand.  Our actions are our destiny.  Any relationship we enter into will be riddled with frustration and disappointment.  That’s the price of being human. It’s in those times when we feel the most disillusioned that Spirit is calling us to be true to our soul’s honor, true to our promises, true to the moral, and ethical values we believed in when we thought life was perfect and our relationships seemed perfect. Only when tested in the fires of the dark world where we must strive to find the courage to live as a Divine Avatar, or not, do we cast the pattern of our future.  Will we choose what is right?  Or will we choose what feels so right at the moment?

 

May Changes Bring Healing

Things are often changing in our personal world and in the larger world of societal and political arenas.  Changes occur in the natural earth environment on a regular basis, some are evolutionary and some, due to human ignorance, are regressive or destructive.  Humans live with constant change, while striving to create security and permanence. Hence, our relationship to everything over which we have no control determines how we live our lives.  Viewing difficulty and suffering as isolating, a sign of weakness and failure, or as an obstacle that has to be overcome results in one world view.  Viewing difficulty and suffering as an initiatory experience that calls one to be more present and open to transcendence results in a different world view.  Changes are going to happen.  We have little or no control over our outer circumstances.  So, how are changes going to bring healing to us personally, let alone to the greater world?

523406466Once again, we come to the truth that attitude is everything.  If we examine the attitude that suffering and difficulties are an indication there is something wrong with us, with our job, with our family, with our communities, with the government, and with Spirit itself, we may conclude that “God is dead!” and “I have to look out for number one.”  At worst, this attitude becomes a cause of war, violence, domination, and the greedy, relentless destruction of the earth in order to satisfy a need for safety and comfort.  If we examine the attitude that suffering and difficulties are a normal part of life and a call for us to be open, engaged, and cooperative in discovering how to move through the vicissitudes with compassion, kindness, and generosity to all involved we might find ourselves following in the footsteps of the Great Beings of Spirit.  This attitude of initiation or innovative beginnings can become the incentive to find a cure for life-threatening diseases, discover how to feed the hungry of the world, clean up the oceans, or negotiate a lasting peace for war torn countries.  In all challenges and changes the choice is clear- will it be Me or We

Before western civilization decided to regard happiness as an inalienable right and therefore deemed pain and sadness as a diagnosis that needed treatment- woundedness and aliveness were thought of as natural and dependent on each other in order to find something deeper than momentary satisfaction- Joy.  Think of a time when you were really ill for days or even weeks and then one day you awoke and knew you were on the mend.  That feeling was more than fleeting happiness it was a deep seated joy.  Or, consider a time of loss when a loved individual, human or animal, had left you brokenhearted.  For a time, everything reminded you of the pain until one day all those same things reminded you of the love.  This is the meaning of joy. Someday, when we are awake, at last, we still have to decide how to come to peace with the very real life experience of suffering.

ABFM-changes_old-new.jpg.daijpg.380Changes can bring healing into our lives and into the world.  However, change doesn’t always bring healing or evolution.  Sometimes, change is just a different form of injustice, suffering, and rhetoric. So, how can a person develop evolutionary change?  One way is called cognitive behavioral therapy.  This is a form of self-questioning that examines motivations and unconscious habit patterns to discover if there is a true willingness to change or only an imagined desire to change.  Some of these questions are: What change do I wish to make?  Why do I want to make this change?  What are the advantages of staying the same?  What are the perceived advantages of changing?  What changes have I succeeded in making in the past?  What qualities were required to make that change?

Transformation is a process and takes more than simply making up one’s mind in order to engage the desired evolution.  Just like in the political or societal world where the majority of people have to be convinced that the restructuring process is actually worthwhile, our internal committee voices have to be convinced to cooperative or failure is inevitable and permanent.  All evolution is an experiment to see what works and what doesn’t.  Amma Ilowan often says– failure is inevitable, success requires repeated effort.  One of my favorite sayings from t-shirt ads is- What would you create if you knew you could not fail?  It takes more courage to live in the world as it is, than going open-eyed toward certain death.

pranic-healing-and-reikiA spiritual life doesn’t necessarily lead to tranquility, peace, or a beautiful feeling about ourselves or how nice it is to be together with others.  An ordinary life, with or without spirit, doesn’t lead to these feelings either.  If we want our changes to heal our heart, and bring about the possibility of a better world we need courage, determination, a positive attitude, and the remembrance of who we truly are.  The negative voices in our heads and the negative voices surrounding us are so loud and persistent that it is easy to believe them.  It’s the trap of being a fugitive hiding from life in entertainment, drugs, alcohol, or sexual addiction.  The transformational journey of healing change requires constant remembrance that we are the avatars of Divine Spirit and Divine Spirit is within us, around us, and expressing as us.  We are not taking our life journey alone.  Divine Mother, Father, and Weaver are walking with us.  Our job is to accept Presence and listen to our authentic, true self.  In this way, changes shall bring healing for ourselves and maybe the whole world.

Common Sense

According to the dictionary common sense is practical wisdom.  Practical wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge to a situation in order to gain a favorable result.  Courtesy is a form of common sense, like saying please and thank you, eating with utensils instead of fingers (unless that is cultural), or acknowledging greetings from other.  Sometimes there isn’t a lot of agreement on what is common sense.  However, let’s explore some ideas about common sense in spirituality.

The-sacred-lifeThe dharma of Amaraji Maha Marai is based on the belief that each individual is a spark of divine light, that all beings arise from One Source, that humans have been gifted with the ability to imagine and analyze situations in order to respond to them.  Humans, therefore, are blessed with the inner need to express love, joy, peace, light, and life.  These are qualities not emotions.  The path of spirituality arises when an individual seeks to expand, understand, and share these divine qualities in whatever way is possible under current circumstances.  This drive to embrace our divine nature constitutes souls’ imperative to seek union with a Higher Power.

 Let’s look at some common sense objectives for a spiritual seeker. When we are attempting to find something it helps to have a general idea of where to look and where to not get bogged down.  That’s the idea on the spiritual path.  The first thing to do when taking a journey is to create an inventory of what you have and what will be needed then we acquire things along the road.

  1. We know our personal ethical code and adhere to it even when it’s inconvenient and we are tempted to do otherwise.
  2. Take inventory of one’s benefactor qualities and do an honest assessment of one’s harmful and detrimental behaviors. Then accept that both these things are true about the self and while modifications can occur we will never really be rid of either of these things.  In other words accept all of what we are as a human being.
  3. Accept that there is no utopia and never will be. Life is not fair.  There is no way to create a perfect life, a perfect relationship, work with the perfect teacher, or belong to a perfect community.  Instead, we grow, evolve, forgive, and try again many times.bigstock-Child-sitting-on-a-rooftop-and-12160391-300x209
  4. Find a reliable teacher to assist in expanding your promise, your gifts, as a soul. But don’t expect the teacher to be perfect…if you’re lucky the teacher will be a full human being who has learned from his/her mistakes and wants to help you learn from yours.
  5. Ash-E-Tah needs to be a daily practice. Ash-E-Tah means accepting what is and looking for the sweetness that is also available even in the midst of horrible events.  We all live life between one challenge and the next upsetting event…however, there is usually quite a lot of time (hours if not days/weeks/months) between difficulties.  Our life can be lived by focusing on the space between the tiger and the dragon.
  6. The human brain is hardwired to problem solve. When we perceive a challenge the brain kicks in to figure out how to survive, even if it isn’t our direct problem.  Over exposure to tragic, horrible, disastrous, emotionally draining events that we can do nothing about is detrimental to our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  Common sense dictates that we limit our exposure to bad news and focus on helping where we are actually able to make a difference. This keeps us strong in difficult and dangerous times instead of depressed and burned-out.
  7. It is common sense to accept that we are not indispensable. We may be important in the lives of many people but they got along somehow in the world before they met us and they will get along somehow if we are no longer available.  It’s ego to never take a regular time out for rest, play, and sanctuary because others “need” us to be there for them.  As Gandalf said, you are just a little fellow in a very large world after all.  We have been chosen to offer our gift…but so has everyone else.  Our job is to do what we can and let others take care of the rest of the problems.tumblr_mlipahaKVj1qhmhdfo1_500
  8. Because we seek enlightenment we are bound to acquire some sooner or later. Most enlightenment is about our behavior, habituated choices, cultural conditioning, and coming face-to-face with personal entitlement.  This is why true enlightenment often results in our saying- Oh, shit!  The common sense of discovery is to see or recognize what was and make a plan to free/liberate ourselves from that suffering.  So, retroactive guilt, guilt that comes from feeling bad because we were ignorant and did harmful things is not useful.  If, however, we continue the behavior after we know better guilt could assist in making positive change.  By and large, however, guilt is not helpful.  Shame is not helpful.  Deciding to make a new plan, a new life, a new attempt to do better- that’s helpful!

This is a short list of a common sense approaches to spirituality.  There are undoubtedly many other items you could add to this list.  Perhaps the most important advice of all is- ask questions, try things out for yourself to see if they work for you, and remember this is your journey to the ultimate union with the Higher Power.  Others have left a trail, a path, even a road…make sure their way is the best way for you

Decisions in Wisdom

Life is an experience. There is no way to avoid the experiences life presents. We are affected by the weather, by what we eat or don’t eat, by having a home or being homeless, by the quality of the air, the water, and the thoughts in our minds. We are affected by the news, social media, movies, books, the games we play, the conversations we have, and the communities to which we belong. Interdependence is a truth and there is nothing we can do about it other than develop skillful discernment.

GalaticAlignEyeSometimes we get the impression that being wise means being perfect or not making any mistakes. Striving for perfection is considered a sound business goal, a necessity in education, and a religious ideal, but that striving in and of itself is unwise. Many times, it seems we have only two choices- be 100% right or guilty and a failure for being wrong. Neither of these choices are particularly logical.

Everything changes. What was wonderful and beautiful one day might be on the compost heap another day, like the flowers from a birthday or anniversary. Wisdom comes from the ability to respond to life and adjust our response when the results require it. Life has cycles. Sometimes we have lots of energy- physically, mentally, or emotionally- and sometimes we are unmotivated and just plain tired. Wise decisions come from seeing what is needed where we are.

Of course, the modern world of work and family, doesn’t allow for cycles. If we enter a time of low energy we are expected to find a way to bring that energy up to the level we are being paid to uphold. If we enter a time of quiet or contemplative thought people are asking us what’s wrong. When someone is experiencing grief, there is an expectation that it can only last for so long and then it needs to be gone. And if old memory upsets arise we are told the past is past and needs to be forgotten. No wonder so many modern people end up with a drug or alcohol problem.Wisdom-Quote-10

So, what can a spiritual person do? The first possibility is noticing if we are responding to life or reacting to life. When shit happens we probably have an internal reaction to that shit. This is called an emotional arising. If we act on that emotion it is often a mistake. To respond, we must develop a pause. Whatever emotions we experience, even the most desirable and wonderful kind, like love or joy, require a pause before a decision is made. The pause can be three minutes, three hours, three days, or three weeks. It needs to be long enough that we can emotionally move out of arising into contemplation. We enter contemplation to ask questions. How does this opportunity fit into my overall life goals? What will I need to change to engage this energy, and will those changes be beneficial over the long haul? Sometimes, we might ask what does this (thing, idea, emotion) have to do with peace? How will this create more love for everyone? We can even ask- What would Jesus do? Or Buddha? Or any Great Being that we admire. Or perhaps use my personal favorite- Will this matter after I’m dead?

wiseAn excellent way to determine wisdom in decision making is a simple statement- Results Matter! If we don’t like the results we need a better plan. If a better plan doesn’t do it we need to drop it. We can have the best of intentions and then discover that the results have created suffering for ourselves or others. That means we made a mistake. Most mistakes are not fatal. Life is about learning by trying and doing and making lots of mistakes along the way. When we truly understand this, we can begin to be with what is. This is wisdom on the spiritual path.

I vow to be with what is:
if there’s a cost, I choose to pay it.
If there’s a need, I choose to give.
If there’s pain, I choose to feel.
If there’s sorrow, I choose to grieve.
When burning, I choose heat.
When calm, I choose peace.
When starving, I choose hunger.
When happy, I choose joy.
Whom I encounter, I choose to meet.
What I shoulder, I choose to bear.
When it’s my birth, I choose to live.
When it’s my death, I choose to die.
Where this takes me, I choose to go.
Being with what is, I respond to what is.

Wisdom is often confused with knowledge. We are taught that if we know facts and lots of them we will be happier and wiser. Knowledge that is not practical and that doesn’t help us to be better human beings doesn’t lead to wisdom. Sometimes, it’s even unnecessary information. Maybe it’s information that we are unable to do anything about like the suffering of people in war zones around the world. Constant knowledge of those facts can lead to emotional suffering or the callousness to feel nothing. How much news or social media we chose to expose ourselves to on any given day requires a decision in wisdom.

Sometimes facts are irrelevant. Let’s take the example of a Hindu yogi who lived most of his life in a small forest monastery and was much sought after for his holiness and spiritual wisdom, but didn’t understand that the Earth was round. “It’s always looked flat to me,” was his response when told this fact and he was uninterested in changing his mind.

blessed_620Often the wisest person is the one who has a simple formula for life. We can adopt one of these for ourselves or create our own statement that keeps us steady on the Path of Wisdom.
“Even the smallest person has a contribution to make.”
“Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart and your own mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
“Give to others only what you are willing to receive yourself”
“Today, I will do what I can.”
“My actions are my only possession. I am the heir to my deeds. My deeds are the ground on which I stand.”
“The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.”

I Am

I am is the most important energy in the life of a human being.  This is because everything is about us.  Humans always think in terms of I am.  “I am happy.  I am sad.  I am angry.  I am compassionate.”

b550a71c4cc07c6432bd0f76decd7b56--positive-feelings-positive-lifeI am consists of two parts: the Great and the little.  Great Self, True Self, Higher Self is the I am with a period.  For little self, personality self, incarnate self the words I am is the beginning of a sentence.  Humans explain our actions, our thoughts, and our intentions through the words I am.

Spirituality, we are informed, is to arrive at the totality of the Great I am.  Imagine a circle.  This circle is Divine Spirit, the All Is One energy.  It encompasses the infinite potential of all that has been and all that will be, or might be.

However, as duality arises from mind the circle begins to be crossed by lines.  We do this in religion as we divide the great circle into conceptual pictures.  The lines could be expressed as- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Divine Mother, Father, and Weaver; Earth, Sky, and Spirits.  There are numerous ways the circle becomes a picture.  And then the picture becomes the path, the way, the truth.  We can’t help thinking and attempting to understand but we start making trouble when our picture becomes The Picture.

As humans we are always busy trying to understand ourselves, others, and the universe.  As spirits we discover the Great Circle that is the I am; the Divine Avatar connection, Buddha Self, Christ Consciousness Self, True Self, Higher Self, etc.  Then, because we are physical beings, we begin to define ourselves.  We have spent lifetimes creating patterns and habits of thinking and acting that are lines in the circle of our Great I am.  After a while, we have a very complex picture within the Great Circle of Life.

Most of us assume that the path of spirit is about changing ourselves to fit into the “spiritual” role defined by whatever set of teachings we are engaged in.  Sometimes it’s about finding the right path so we can be saved, healed, or magicked into a perfect being.  We have forgotten the Great I am and focus only on the messy lines we have scribbled within the circle.

To bring our attention back to the wholeness of our circle it’s necessary to accept all the lines within the circle, even the scribbles.  Everyone has things we don’t like about ourselves.  But, we are the artist who drew the picture.  Some of it we created as a child.  Part was created by a scared or angry adolescent.  Other parts seemed to be there when we were born.  What if we simply redraw the lines, or add new ones, so all the parts fit together into a mandala of beauty? cf678298ff62e73909fc118e228cc284--lotus-mandala-tattoo-lotus-flower-tattoos

The place to start with our Great I am mandala is to stop thinking we are broken. It helps to focus on how we already are loving, generous, kind, and compassionate.  Sometimes we will discover that we are harder than we thought; softer than we thought, more fragile than we thought, smaller or bigger than we thought.  Those are just lines in the Great I am Circle.  We can learn to say, “I am that.”

Once we add lines or restructure lines within the Great Circle we have wholeness.  We will have structural, spiritual, moral, and ethical integrity.  What if we paint the mandala of our life in all the colors of creation?  Maybe we will end up being who we were always meant to be.

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