It is only human to strive for more and better. Without this natural desire we would not improve or evolve.
Like any natural desire, some of us take this to the extreme and others of us ignore it all together. This does not make anyone better or worse, more evolved or less so, only in a different place on the continuum of growth.
Just notice for yourself how in some areas there is a strong desire to know more or perform with excellence, while in others there is no interest whatsoever. So it is from person to person.
We have a tendency to judge what the other deems important or worthy of attention.
We are all so self-absorbed that we do not stop to consider that the other may just have a different set of priorities.
How much more peaceful life could be if we could each recognize our own strengths and our own weaknesses, and with compassion choose where we feel growth would be most helpful. If we could each tend to our own growth and respect the ability of the other to do the same.
Those of us who identify with being on a spiritual path are sometimes the greatest offenders of the basic law of brotherhood. Our desperate striving for inner peace and enlightenment can turn into a fast moving train, wiping out everyone in its path. A firehouse of “information,” put out everywhere and anywhere, to anyone who will listen (or not, we don’t even notice!) without taking into consideration that the other may not appreciate being hosed down.
Not everyone wants our “help!” Some people really are only complaining, and that is all they are interested in doing! And that is OK!
I am writing this for myself, by the way. If you happen to resonate, I am happy for you. I know I need to put in check my desire to solve the problems of my friends, loved ones, and dear sons. If anyone wants my insight, they can ask. Otherwise it would behoove me (perhaps you too?) to tend to my own garden.
Most of us have an underlying feeling of betrayal. Perhaps you use a different word. This I only just discovered, buried under hurt and anger and frustration.
There has been a situation stirring for a year now, nagging at me day and night. It has to do with someone with whom I have little contact, except in the war raging in my own mind. My ability to blame the other knew no bounds. Even as I did so, the absurdity of the situation was not lost on me. My self-judgment, demanding that I feel other than how I did, kept me from getting to the root of the root.
Betrayal finally revealed itself. I spent days dwelling in all of the many ways I had been betrayed. Mother, father, sister, partners, life, all, everyone, had done their share. It was helpful to see that the present day situation, as I had suspected, was an opportunity for me to clean out an old, dense, frozen piece of my soul.
But I was still stuck. Until I realized that the betrayal that rocked me off of my knees as I prayed this morning was my very own.
Self-betrayal. It feels like the worst possible kind. How does one escape when they are their own captor?
This is a trick question, I now realize. We are all our own captors. There is no escape. In fact, the desperate trying to escape is usually, like Chinese handcuffs, what keeps us locked in our suffering.
The key is, with help from our higher self, to go into and through the worst of the worst of ourselves. Yes, it is very painful. No, it is not all tied up with a pretty bow. It is gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, soul shattering and mind blowing at its best. Finally, it is freeing.
When I see that it is I who betrayed myself, if I am willing to have the courage to be vulnerable, I can learn to trust myself.
I can promise you I have not learned anything by blaming my feelings of betrayal on others. By having the courage to be vulnerable, feel how I was hurt, disappointed, felt as if I didn’t matter – and still hold onto myself, I can strengthen myself for the inevitable bumps on this road.
When I see that the other is simply human – doing what she learned to do, just as I do what I learned to do, in order to survive, before we knew any better – with compassion for myself and the other, the world feels whole again.
It occurred to me this morning, as I was beginning my meditation, that some of the time the request for a deep breath is denied by the body.
There is a tension, a fear, some feeling that is blocking the body’s ability to relax and just breathe.
The question is, as a person who meditates, “Now what?”
The usual first response is to judge. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I breathe? The inner voice says “Oh no, this proves there is some danger, I knew it all along!”
In response to this inner voice, the body becomes rigid. Now every part of me is convinced. Death is imminent.
Then, because I have been practicing the great art of “remembering,” I go toward the tension rather than succumb to the temptation of avoiding it.
As I get closer, I recognize this part. I had disowned her many years ago. She was too much.
That was the belief then.
Now, I realize I cannot be whole without her. She has so much life to offer, life that long ago was rejected by parents who knew no better.
Tears stream down my face. Tears of sadness, then relief at my willingness and ability to feel what at one time would have surely killed me.
We cannot go around these parts, painful and fearful as this process may be. This is the process of meditation. We go into ourselves that we may find more and more of what had to be tucked away. We dismantle the wall of separation which we built out of our need to protect our broken hearts. We feel the pain still lingering there, waiting for us to remember. We welcome this pain now, knowing that this is just pain and it will go away. We no longer have to hold this against ourselves, but rather ingather.
Many of us are suffering what feels like a great injustice in our world. We fight and cry out and complain.
We ask over and over, to anyone who will listen. “How could this have happened?!” It doesn’t make any sense. And, yet “it” did indeed happen. The question is, as always, what is my own responsibility in the matter and what is there to do now? Some are fighting harder, voicing our protests louder; some have crawled under the virtual blanket of denial and refuse to engage in the real world in its current manifestation.
It has been said thousands of times, what we resist persist. The question is not “how could they…?” The question is, what was my own contribution? Where do I hate, refuse another being based on my opinion? How do I hold myself above another, even unconsciously?
Human beings have a negative energy deep in the core of our being. None are spared. It is part of the human condition. Some say it is the purpose of our existence to see and transform this negative energy.
We all, everyone, resist our negativity. It isn’t pretty. Alternately, we exaggerate this powerful force and pridefully pretend that is all of who we are, meanwhile hiding the weakness we see in those who are afraid of their own dark side.
Under this darkness that we all share is our light. Nelson Mandela famously said that it is this light that we are truly afraid of, not the darkness. Nonetheless, we hide what we truly are. We are so afraid of being rejected, turned out, not loved, found out, etc., that we hide.
The problem is that when we hide, our light cannot shine. It makes sense, as a child, to not openly display the hate the child experienced at having been disciplined, have toys taken away, wishes unfulfilled. This makes perfect sense. As adults, however, we continue to childishly hate when our wishes are not met and then pretend that, on top of that, we are mature.
Or, we blame life, the other, our political system, point to all that is wrong “out there” as the reason for our hatred. The hatred lives within. We feel guilty and ashamed about this, so we fight against it or rationalize it. Neither works.
What there is to do, with love, compassion, and understanding of our human condition, is see where it is that we hate and why. See how it makes perfect sense that, based on the conditions in which we were raised, we came to certain conclusions, made broad assumptions about life and other people. See that, with prayer and meditation, asking, always, for help from a higher source than our own human mind, that there is a larger force at work here. We cannot allow this higher life source to work through us as long as we are committed to our present “I am right and you are wrong” position.
We cannot rid evil from the world. We cannot even rid evil from our own consciousness. We can accept what is, see that it is not in line with universal laws, and pray daily that we can see and transform and clear ourselves bit by bit, with the help of the universal life force. Not by hiding, but by exposing and understanding, again with compassion, the darkness that lies in our own hearts. Only then can a higher level of energy begin to flow through. Only then can there be true justice in our world.
The human conditions of greed, hate, violence, racism, bigotry, sexism and egotism are in each and every one of us. Our external world is a perfect out-picturing of our internal beliefs, conscious or unconscious.
If we are witnessing in our world energy systems that we deny, refuse, project, judge and blame, it is we who are responsible for their creation. They are to be seen, understood, recognized for what they are; part and parcel of the human condition. Then, and only then, can these qualities be transformed.
We cannot “do on top of” and expect a different outcome. Life cannot be tricked. Giving to the poor, no matter how generously, out of guilt or some need to be personally fulfilled and appreciated keeps poverty in place. Denying rage and hatred, all the while claiming to be peaceful, keeps us at war. Being blind to our internal racism perpetuates the divide of persons of color.
Refusing to accept the parts of ourselves that we do not like, allowing our inner tyrant to run our thinking, has us believe the bullies of our world. No matter how hard we try to make believe that we are true, responsible, loving and inclusive people, our external reality does not lie.
It may be time to turn inward, look deeply into our true hearts and souls. The purpose would be to take each and every evil that lives within each and every one of us and see for ourselves what lessons we have missed. For, truly, we have missed the lesson. We cannot cheat this test. The greater consciousness is not fooled by empty promises and wishful thinking.
The knowing energy systems of our universe cannot be placated. If we, honestly, want peace and harmony, acceptance and tolerance, equality and equanimity, we must begin with ourselves.
All that is needed is to feel whatever you may be feeling without making yourself, the other, or life wrong.
Yes, you have known these words and, on one level, understood the meaning. You, however, have yet to know deeply how constant the “make wrong” is, and will continue to be for some time.
There is a bigger part of you that still only wants a solution to a problem. The internal belief that there is a problem interferes with your natural life flow.
Picture a stream coming upon a rock. Feel into the stream; imagine the stream stopping, refusing to move because there is a rock in “its way!” This is what you do, energetically, when a feeling comes into you that you have made wrong at one time or another. Or, you have made yourself wrong for simply having this feeling.
It is, indeed, a sin to not value yourself. You cannot value yourself while making yourself wrong with every wave of emotion. This is antithetical. To honor yourself means to allow what is in you at the present moment. Do not reject anything that comes. This does not mean to let your ego run with whatever comes; that would truly be insanity. But so is rejecting what comes.
In your dualistic present state, you cannot see, hear, feel and know that if one thing exists, its opposite also exists. The two seemingly opposites are one and the same; it is just not experienced because it is rejected.
You cannot love without knowing where and why you hate. Feel into the hate so that you can better understand where it originated. Then, and only then, can you reclaim that part of you that got lost along the way.
Yes, you were hurt. As were all human beings. Painfully so. Not because you were/are innately bad and wrong, or because life is punishing. Not at all. Only because, through this pain, you are propelled towards finding yourself.
Otherwise, be honest, you would not be bothered. Motivation is hard to come by in human nature. Not everyone is blessed with a huge amount. Most people are only motivated externally. To be motivated internally requires something. This is the purpose of pain, simply to motivate you. If it hurts for you to hate so much, look into the hate rather than away.
Do not project the hate outward. It belongs to you. If you are willing to feel the pain under this hate, you will discover a deep love and resurrect this most powerful spiritual energy. It will never be handed to you, no matter how much you stomp your feet. You cannot do enough in the external world to earn this love you long for; it is already inside of you. It is buried under your own rejection of yourself. You could not help but reject what you could not understand at one time. Now, you have the tools to reconstruct your belief system. You deserve profound respect, innately.
With love and appreciation. There is gold there. Keep digging.
These wise words have been written and spoken, preached and beseeched for centuries. And yet, here we are – the schism only wider. We continue to hurt only because we have been hurt and refuse to feel the pain of this.
The pain has to go somewhere; it is an energetic force field. Because we, individually and culturally, all refuse to accept the pain that has been inflicted on us and the pain that we all have inflicted on others, the cycle continues.
Human beings are a pathetic lot in many ways … and we also have the possibility to transform. Again and again we hear about self-responsibility and again and again we think, and act out of, the lack of this most critical spiritual law. We refuse to be responsible because we do not want to face the worst in ourselves. We would much rather point to the ugliness in the other. We then hate in them what we know we have in ourselves. The guilt of this continues the vicious cycle of hate and violence towards others, and, if felt into deeply, ourselves.
We all have some greed, vanity, hate, superiority, inferiority, self-will, pride and fear. No one is spared. This is the human condition. As a species, our very survival once demanded that we have some one-upmanship, some self-preservation, some deep longing to improve and be “better than.” Today our very survival depends on something else – our evolving our collective consciousness.
Our next step in the evolutionary process is to bring consciousness to our deepest selves. By inclusion rather than refusal we can, if we are willing to feel, without rejecting, the worst in ourselves, we can transform.
The pain inflicted hurts, very much indeed. It is quite normal and natural to want to avoid this pain.
Unfortunately, our avoiding this pain has us only continue to inflict on others what was inflicted upon us.
Yes, it is sad, but the true tragedy lies in our continuing to refuse to feel this sadness. The pain then gets locked inside, blocks our creativity, our natural intuition, our desire for connection.
We keep ourselves “safe,” we believe, from the possibility of ever being hurt again by blocking out what love comes our way. This is the true tragedy.
The narrative that is playing itself out in the world right now is the narrative that we all have playing over and over again in our own psyche. My prayer is that we can each, every one, stop and feel into what it is that we are trying to avoid by projecting our pain out into the world.
Yes, pain does hurt. What hurts even more is hate and fear. There is a price to be paid for all of the horrors human beings have inflicted upon one another. It is our own individual work to be willing to do our part by accepting, without flinching away, the pain that has been inflicted upon us and the pain we have inflicted.
At some point, and this is different for each of us, it is necessary to declare peace with one’s self.
It takes a while to even realize that we are, have been, and will continue to be, at war within our very heart and souls. We think we are protecting ourselves from the quite obvious threat of the outside world. We weave entire story lines around how dangerous this situation is, this situation called life. As we interact with others we may find a few who we deem to be safe territory, but it is mostly us against them. Some are lucky enough to have families that are a safe zone, others not so much.
As we peel back the layers of our defenses, bit by bit, we realize that it is not me versus the other. There is a deep recognition of the fact that where the war has been taking place all along is inside our own hearts, minds and souls.
We all have places in us of which we are not proud – to put it mildly. We can actually shudder if we allow ourselves to hear our own negativity.
Rather than cringing away from this negativity, these awful feelings, thoughts and attitudes, the key is to sit down and hear them out. In many ways, this is how I imagine a peace treaty comes about. Rant, rave, complain, accuse … followed finally with, yes, I can see that. That makes sense that you feel that way. What else? Going back and forth for what seems like years, because this never ends … until you have received all of what the negativity has to express.
You can then soothe and re-educate and hold yourself just as you are. You allow yourself to cry out, scream at the top of your lungs, rock back and forth or curl up in a ball. Stomp and wave your fists in the air with all of the outrage that you have been covering up, to the detriment of your soul.
We can then make a decision to let go. This new thought takes a while to settle in. We don’t trust it at first, naturally. We go back to the table time and again, willingly, with all of our hearts wanting peace.
What feels like total despair happens even to those of us who do “the work.”
One of the difficulties of being on a spiritual path is a common belief that this work should handle all of life’s problems. It doesn’t. Pain is simply part of our human condition. What can make pain turn into despair is the demand that we not have such strong reactions to life anymore.
We do. And, the sooner we allow whatever is coming to the surface with compassion, love and curiosity, the sooner we can return ourselves to ourselves.
Personally, as a survival mechanism, I learned to leave my body at a very young age. It felt like a really smart thing to do at the time and it probably was.
As an adult, not being in your body can make an already painful situation much, much worse. When one is literally “beside themselves,” there is no one home. Then, the loneliness, abandonment and desperate fear of the child combines with whatever situation happens to be occurring in life. Whatever rational part of our brain is still functioning can’t make sense of the quite obvious overreaction. As to friends and family coming to the rescue, how does one explain? “Listen, I am not really in my body and my brain has been high-jacked, so could you just bring me back to reality, please?!?”
When one is in this state, “reality” is a foreign, terrifying concept. Part of the belief when in this particular state is “This is reality, and I have been kidding myself to believe otherwise!” A childish superstition can kick in that sounds something like “You aren’t going to trick me again!”
So, we hold on desperately to our defenses, without which we will surly die. This feels so very real because, at one time, it was real. As a child, without the defenses we so brilliantly devised, we would not have survived. A child cannot tolerate the rejection of the beloved parent, let alone the not uncommon physical, mental, and emotional abuse many children suffer. Our defenses kept us alive, literally. And now, this very defense keeps us from life.
The work is to see this, know this, and work though this. The most challenging of all of this challenging work is, when I fall into despair, to forgive myself. Again. And again.
There is no magic, any more than there is a punishing god who will rain terror on us for making a mistake. What there is, is a commitment to bring oneself back, over and over and over again, to this sometimes glorious and sometimes painful life.
Reality. It is not the ideal, pain-free, rainbows and unicorns we once (and sometimes still do!) believe it should be. And, if allowed to be without judgment, without a demand for perfection, without taking it personally, simply accepted from moment to moment, reality can be trusted.
With great love and appreciation to all who have stood beside me, even when I wasn’t home to myself,
Pain is such a relative, subjective term. I have two quotes hung in my office. One is:
I would see these words every day except that my office is a mess. Even if it were not a mess, they would eventually blend into the wall. This is what happens to all things we see every day, we quit seeing them. Unless something reminds us.
I am getting a little reminder right now. After minor gum surgery, I am in pain. I have been watching my relationship to this pain and my relationship to that relationship. If you could hear the thoughts in my head, you would think I knew nothing about transformation, self-care, holistic pain management and so on. I have a feeling I might be in the majority here, and there are always those few exemplary people out there who make we mere mortals, if we are unwise enough to compare ourselves, look like wimps.
I hurt, am nauseated, tired, don’t feel like doing anything. My face is swollen and I have to be very careful about how I eat so as to not disturb the graft. That is all. This will pass within a few days, and I will have a complete recovery. It is no big deal.
Now, let me tell you what is really going on. I feel like I am going to throw up, which has me practically hysterical inside. I am in a panic, emotionally. My mouth hurts and I don’t think it will ever stop. It shouldn’t be this way. What is wrong with me? The swelling was supposed to have gone down by now!
Should I call the doctor?! Hysterics kick in….
Then, “What is wrong with you, you loser?! Quit your bellyaching and make some lunch. Good lord! If there were ever anything really wrong with you, you may as well just call it a day. Get over yourself! There are people out there with real problems! You don’t deserve the time of day. You’re just using this as an excuse to be lazy, which you are!”
After this berating, I fall into complete despair. Now I have completely lost touch with reality. At first I blow it out of proportion, then, I refuse to validate a perfectly reasonable feeling. Pain.
The quotes in my office come to mind. I am in some pain. That is all. Yes, it hurts. No, I don’t have to do anything about it – nor do I have to blow it out of proportion. It is also not helpful, in fact is harmful, to compare my pain to that of another. This only results in more either exaggerating or minimizing and is not at all respectful of the person to whom I am comparing myself.
Watching my thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and catching my misconceptions, has been quite an education.
All of these patterned ways of being are unconscious, until we take the time to look at them. Unconscious or not, these patterns mold our life substance and determine the creative forces from which we live.
I see the split in my emotional development right here; either I collapse into complete weakness or I overcome with mean aggression. Neither one of these strategies works, and the result is that I am left frustrated and a victim of my circumstances. So, what is the solution here?
I can tell you what it is not, which is to by-pass the pain using the already developed strategies. What most people do is to develop a “more mature” character to play the role of the person we think we should be.
She would sound something like, “Yeah, I had a gum graft, but it’s OK. I have friends who are really sick, so who am I to complain, I’ll be fine, it just hurts, that’s all.”
Meanwhile there is a voice inside screaming “HELP! I am hurting here! Why doesn’t anyone care about me?!” This voice I silence by changing the subject and making a show of being more interested in the other person so that I “look good.” All the while, the internal wailing goes on.
The real solution is to stop and be with whatever is there in reality – in the present. Yes, it does hurt. Ah, poor sweetheart. Let the tears flow, let the rage express itself, let the one who feels life is unjust scream her head off. Let the sobbing, wailing, stomping, kicking, hating life as it is right now, let it all be there.
Experience all of these fully in your body. Make no judgments and do not stuff anything down. It is vitally important, however, that you express these emotions with an adult part of you present as a witness to your own grief. Otherwise, these emotions can just take you over and you forget that this is just a part of you expressing itself.
Watch yourself allow the waves of various feelings simply go through you. Do not stop any of them unless it feels too overwhelming. If you pay close attention to yourself, each feeling will come and go, just like a wave on the beach. With each feeling, the invitation is to breathe deeply and allow, with curiosity, whatever comes.
If you catch particular thoughts, stop and question them with honest curiosity. Something like, “I just had the thought that something has to be wrong here or the swelling would have stopped by now.” If I just let my childish emotions take over here, I go into a panic. Using my adult consciousness, I can assess the situation and determine if there is actually cause for alarm or not. In this particular case, I really don’t know. This is another slippery slope. “I don’t know” brings up more panic. I remind myself that as a child, not knowing was dangerous, but today, this is no longer true. I stop, validate, soothe and reeducate the part of me that goes into panic when faced with not knowing.
Catching each and every thought, feeling, sensation, reaction, and, with interest, curiosity and compassion, performing a reality check, does take a tremendous commitment, and we all fail time and time again. This habit, however, once in place, gives us access to a deeper, wiser and more loving and caring part of ourselves. From this place, pain is just pain.
This is not something another person can just tell you. Had my loving partner reminded me that “we create our reality, and all pain is relative,” I would have given him some real pain to mull over.
This is an experiential learning. I have had those quotes in my office for years, and their meaning only got deeper today.
It is my intention to, bit by bit, organically and over time, catch each of the parts of myself that was not honored and respected over my 62 years. Our work is ours to do. There is no hurry because time, too, is relative. And, wouldn’t it be lovely to spend the rest of your life, fully alive and present to each and every gift of feeling that offers itself up to you, to be expressed through you.
There is pain and there is joy, just as there is life and death. These cannot be separated. The more we can be with pain and the eventuality of death, the more joy and life is available.