Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Painful Beauty of Being "Broken-Open"

"Water finds limitless power by seeking it's lowest point."
– Zen saying

There's an essential aspect of our growth through this life that, by it's very nature, is so undesirable and contradictory to our search for happiness that it's often purposely overlooked, even by the most ardent self-examiners. In fact, I almost don't want to mention it (but I will). It's what happens to us when unavoidably awful things are happening to us…that is, when we have really good reasons to be unhappy.
This is a miraculously beautiful world we get to inhabit, no doubt about it, but it's also fraught with terrible passages, and what appear to be injustices of the worst kind all around. Unfortunately, none of us will escape these experiences completely. But is it really misfortune, or is it our opportunity to discover our greatest potential? After all, feelings will come and go in a predictable way. Bad things feel bad, good things feel good. It is a sensory world.
When something awful happens to us: When we're laid-off from a "secure" job; we lose a loved one in an unfair way; when we are ourselves suddenly victimized by bad health; when we "fail" at finance – or with a relationship; or even when we're just forced to confront our flaws again. At all those times when we're forced into a situation we don't want to be in (a place no one wants to be), but simply must go through at one time or another, then there are choices we can make based on our not having any choice.
Unavoidable powerlessness in the face of Fate evokes a deep, personal response in everyone who's ever lived. Suddenly, involuntarily, we discover true humility at it's most profound level. It's thrust upon us when there's no alternative. Nothing can be done except to face the situation standing as firmly as you can on the ground of your most basic being, with all pretense of specialness or entitlement (gratefully) stripped-away.
Ouch. You've been fired. Your Mother is dying. Your boyfriend has betrayed you. A soulless corporation is exploiting you and your pristine world. Your car won't start. Instantly, you are no longer the VP of your company, or untouched by loss, or in a happy relationship, or safe from the unconsciousness of a developer's greed, or getting there on time – you're just a human being, being washed-over by the tsunami of Life – it's very unavoidable erosion suddenly stripping away all of your artifice.
What gifts could possibly be there to meet you, when you're beset upon by these catastrophes? The gift may just be that clear window of self-realization. A realization of the principles which underly personal survival and happiness at their deepest level. You are forced to confront a powerful, more appropriate respect for all life; an unconditional identification with everyone else who's ever been in the same difficult spot; a real understanding of the importance of Love; and a resolve to meet the challenge (and maybe then, all your life) with honesty, openness, and willingness. It's the gift of an involuntary faith that you can only find by becoming profoundly vulnerable.
In the clarity of your resolve to live – to get through it – you might realize that you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. It's not so bad, being a human in pain. This is the moment that you are really alive. Life is showing you what's real. The injury is really a state of grace.
That's what that spiritual presence is (Buddhist "Right Occupation"): compassionate purpose without self-interest. Occupying that difficult, unavoidable place and choosing to reject the imaginary penalties of fear and separation. Recognizing the true medium of Love that flows underneath, within, and through everything; and becoming it's facilitator, it's medium, if you can.
So we occupy these difficult places tentatively, often unwillingly to start, but then we can enter into the pain completely, knowing this too shall pass. Then we can choose to show up for Life with an innate positivity that's made evident in that pure light, made visible to us by being thoroughly broken-open to it. In that difficult place, whatever it might be, we can truly celebrate this delicate condition we all share. We are cycling back to where all love lost will be rediscovered.
Am I suggesting that we seek pain, and enter it willingly? Thanks, but no thanks! But as there isn't much hope of avoiding it, I ask only that you try to recognize what it might be offering you – the chance to occupy that place the best way you possibly can – with Love in your heart; and there to meet another you – the inter-dimensional, spiritual you that's alive within everything you are, and without everything you were "supposed to be."
"The Heart is the centre of the real...the ego is the [human] link between spirit and matter; it is...the knot of radical ignorance...When this knot is cut asunder by proper means you find the centre." "Go back constantly to the question "Who am I?" Tear everything away until only the source of all is left."
Ramana Maharshi

Read about this and much more in the new book: How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Wisdom From a Near-Death Survivor is due out early 2018, from Llewellyn Worldwide can be pre-ordered online. The first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is available everywhere – but ask for it it at your local bookstore!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Earth Day!

When I was a kid, there was no environmental movement to speak of. There was very little awareness or consideration of what the exploitation of our global resources might lead to. Everything seemed to be such a long ways away, and it appeared that there would always be plenty to go around.
The world has gotten a lot smaller since then. More "right sized," in fact. More and more of us, all the time, are becoming aware of the real circumstances we're generating; the way our combined consciousness is shaping the conditions we see around us on our little planet. Our little planet that's everything to us. Now we can recognize that just actually doing something about it – even if it's just the little we can do – makes much more sense than publicly complaining about it.
So how's about today let's everybody start by taking the original Outdoor Life Conservation Pledge, (adapted for global application)? Raise your right hand, Global Earth Scouts, and repeat after me:
I give my pledge as a [an American] Human Being to save & faithfully to defend from waste the natural resources of my [country] planet - its air, soil, and minerals, its forests, waters & wildlife.
Now, all we gotta do is do something about it, big or small, do something about it – today, and everyday, if at all possible.
Here's the link to an excellent American Experience documentary, all about how the environmental movement came to be.
And some good action agencies: The National Resources Defense Council; Environmental Action; World Wildlife Fund...
Thanks, and Happy Earth Day everybody!