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.


Why Be Monastic?

Time and again people ask us, “Why on earth would you want to be monastic?  Are you trying to escape from the world, or what?”

481567479-56a0c46d3df78cafdaa4d775Becoming a monk or a nun is a vocation.  It’s a calling from Divine Spirit to lead a life of prayer, immersion in the dharma teachings of a spiritual pathway, and an opportunity to live in community.  Living in a monastic community means living with people who may, or may not, be your friends, which then creates an opportunity for acceptance and compassion. Monastic community creates a society dedicated to the common purpose of thinking, praying, meditating, working, and living for the benefit of all beings.

True Prayer and meditation is the ability to harness Divine Mind (the One Mind) to declare and know healing, peace, light, harmony, generosity, and compassion for the needs of others.  The monastic life requires hours of focused attention to being awake in the moment.  When we are awake in the moment it’s possible to choose compassion, kindness, generosity, fearlessness, and hope.

suffering.jpg.e0ba387663cfd689d3b50b560c59a3e0Every day billions of humans on this planet are THINKING!  They are thinking into the One Mind of infinite possibilities.  And from all that thinking decisions are made.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the majority of humans are putting into the One Mind, and into action.  We see it in the news, on Facebook, and in the public marketplace.  Anger, hatred, contempt, despair, hopelessness, violence, and domination are the ugly manifestations millions of humans are constantly projecting into One Mind, no wonder the spiritual teachers tell us this world is hell.  No wonder so many are suffering.

Yes, there are good people, kind people, and generous people everywhere!  But even good people are often filled with anger and despair at the state of the world.  Stress and anxiety has been determined to be the number one disease of the 21st century.

Monastics train, daily, hourly, to send thoughts of loving kindness, peace, healing, and compassion into the One Mind generator of action.  It is a life dedicated to creating light in the darkness of world mind.  Throughout the ages humble souls, dedicated souls, sensitive and generous souls have given up the things of the world (money, possessions, power, prestige, family, and relationships) to devote their lives to prayer, meditation, and service to those in need.

Monks and nuns do not run away from the world.  They chose to renounce ordinary life and enter a world of devotion, to become a Bodhisattva in hell.  Perhaps we should honor their courage, their sacrifice, their unremitting determination to free all beings from suffering!


The Power of Prayer

1d1e2bb0541f7fcdfdc747b317477299In dark times, when anxiety overwhelms the humane qualities of compassion and kindness, it becomes necessary to seek inside of ourselves for Divine Connection.  This is the power of prayer.

The world would have us believe that the only way to respond to the pain and injustice around us is by social activism or to rely on various governmental or political authorities to take care of the problem.  Yes, non-profit, humanitarian organizations working for mercy and justice deserve our support.  If possible, we can become actively involved or we can donate money to the cause.  We do whatever we can in these arenas.

83c6ac27d8db06e63eaa32562f654f3fBut there is still more that we can do.  Prayer is an unlimited and often underutilized resource.  Each of us can take the time to develop a consciousness of prayer.  Prayer is turning our mind to Divine Truth- compassion, healing, loving kindness, generosity, and seeing others as ourselves.  Prayer is knowing what could be possible if… If we chose love instead of hate.  If we chose hope instead of despair.  If we believe, with Anne Frank, in the goodness in the hearts of most people.  If we stop allowing media saturation to convince us that the hate-filled, angry, and vocal few that spew their hatred and violence in every news program are the majority.

When we pray it’s important to let go of our fears, depression, and concerns of the world.  Prayer is turning our life over to a Higher Power.  Prayer is resting in the arms of Divine Father and Divine Mother.  It is holding awareness of Spirit Truth and finding a way to manifest that Truth in our thoughts, words, and actions.  The formula for success prayer is:

Rest within the Higher Power
Know the Truth of Spirit- Life, Light, Love, Joy, & Peace
Speak words of Faith from this knowing.
Manifest our words into actions throughout the day.

7b993145dc42d360ba3d7399e55179e4Remember, a mind that is focused on anxiety, fear, anger, and despair knows only these things and sees them everywhere.  A mind that is focused on kindness, hope, and compassion knows only these things and sees them everywhere.

The world is filled with complex, confusing, and contradictory problems.  In addition to supporting social activism through time, money, and action, let us also hold and know- through prayer- that seemingly impossible dreams are often made possible by the focused will of Workers of the Light everywhere.  Let us each Pray and Be that Light in this time of evil and darkness!


Willing To Go Into The Dark

Truth-Himself-Change-It-To-Reality-Final-Cover-FITAOne thing that has to happen on the spiritual path is to take a journey into the dark to find the light of truth, to discover our precious and true self.  There’s a difference between reality and truth.  Reality is what we imagine life is, truth is what life actually is.  Every time something happens we imagine an interpretation of the event and weave that meaning into the story of our lives.

Example- Marlene tried to reach a hospice patient on the phone.  She called three times in a three hour period but couldn’t reach her.  The patient lived alone so Marlene was concerned that she had died and worried about it for many hours.  But when she finally called the same woman later that evening her patient was fine.

So we can see the facts (truth)- a telephone call was made and there was no answer.  Then we see there is an attempt to interpret why the telephone was not answered.  Attempting to figure out why the telephone was not answered is pure imagination.  Reality is created from imaginings while the Truth is created from simple facts with no interpretation.

6627345_origWhat you know to be the truth about you does not need to be interpreted.   To say I have a heart of service does not mean you a good person. It means you have a heart of service. To say- I love people does not mean you are spiritual- it means you love people.  One is truth and the other is an imagination of meaning.  This could also be reversed.  I was angry, therefore, I am a bad person.  I told a lie, therefore, I am not spiritual.  These are imagined interpretations of an emotional state of experience.

When we take a journey into the dark to find the light of truth…we are attempting to find the thing itself not the stories about it.  So as we take the journey of finding our precious self- we will need to work our way past the interpretations and stories into the true purpose of our lives.  This means that we are going to come to new understandings about what it means to be human.  Everyone has an opinion about what it means to be human.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAANrAAAAJDNmNDEyOTQyLWQyZTUtNDdkYy05MjYxLTM2NjA0MjZmY2IzNwExample- At some point we may have experienced betrayal from a loved one, or at least know someone who spoke of betrayal by their partner, friend, or family member.  Once a betrayal occurs there is a tendency to stop believing in love and instead simply wait for everyone we love to betray us. However, having something happen, even many times, does not make a truth- it does not automatically become THE WAY LIFE IS.  Questions need to be asked, how many times has this happened to us or another, once, twice, three times-  was it truly every time in every relationship?  How many people have we known in our lives- was every one of them involved in a betrayal incident with us?  When looked at logically we can see betrayal is not a truth- it is a perception of reality.

Most of what individuals consider truth is a perception of reality.
A perception is formed when we give meaning to certain events
and hold onto that interpretation when making future decisions.

As we proceed to go into the dark to find the light of truth- there will be some ideas that are universally true and some concepts that are only a perception of reality.  For example there is a perception of reality that women who live in cultures where there are multiple wives have a true space of sisterhood.  Or men in other less civilized cultures always work together to help one another.   Neither of these statements are universally true.  These things may be true sometimes and not true at other times.  There is no place on earth where life is always wonderful.  It is universally true that all beings fear violence and death, and seek to be safe and loved.  But how individuals go about seeking these truths might require lengthy journeys into the dark of imagination and interpretation.

There isn’t anything wrong with having thoughts about our lives.  But life could be less filled with suffering if we learn to separate fact from generalizations and storytelling.  Life can be wonderful when we allow our stories to mean less and our true heart experiences to mean more.

Remember we are deeply entrenched in a belief system about perfection.  Most of us are trained into the idea that there is a certain perfected state which we must attain through struggle and hard work.  But as soon as we begin to measure ourselves against some imagined state of perfection we are creating a mental and emotional hell for ourselves and others.

Going into the dark is finding our way out of illusions
and dreams into what is awake and true. 

The-sacred-lifeWe are sacred and life is sacred because it is, not because of what we believe or think about it.  Everything is a unique expression of Great Spirit’s energy.  Some people say that in order to be sacred we must be able to take action.  But a flower is sacred and it is not taking action- it is only being.  What exists can be considered sacred.  It has life- even a flower has life- it has an indwelling spirit.

What makes humans different from other creatures of the earth is discontent.  When we let go of discontent what happens?  Peace.  Joy.  Freedom.  Love.  Harmony.  Humans are capable of discontent but we are not doomed to discontent.

What thoughts are we going to bring into our awareness?  Can we know our holiness of being?  We can share our holiness of being; which does not require us to do anything except be that energy.  When we come into beingness we have found the Light of Truth.

It is important to learn to center ourselves in truth.  Remember that Truth begins with what we know is precious about ourselves.  We are all well trained into pathways of discontent.  If we find something precious within us what will happen if we don’t express it all the time?

We are discontent with ourselves.  When I am full of peace then I am sacred.  When I am full of joy I am sacred.  When I am serving other, when I have a willing heart, when I am offering my gifts…then I am sacred. The rest of the time I am profane, confused, angry, hurt, and unhappy.

unborn_babyWhat if we just are sacred without doing anything?  To rest in each day is important because it is only by going into a place of non-action…into the dark… that we can truly appreciate and find the precious light.

Before we were born we were in the dark.  There was nothing for us to do and we did not understand that we were supposed to be bored and unhappy with our lack of accomplishments.  We just existed.  And for most of us- our experience was- that our mother knew we were precious even though she couldn’t see us, hold us, or do anything for us.  We must go back into the dark womb of Our Divine Mother so that we can find once again remember and find the Light.  There is nothing to do there.  There are no questions to ask

Let us go back into her dark womb and allow ourselves
to be reborn from Divine Mother.