On Beauty and the Onset of Pain

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to speak with the lovely young woman with the awakened heart who is the subject of my recent blogs, https://murshidava.wordpress.com/2010/03/12/earth-offerings/ and https://murshidava.wordpress.com/2010/03/12/god-in-the-heart/


She spoke with me about her experience reading Earth Offerings.  She told me that when she first read the blog, it was so poetic, that she immediately and rather automatically recoiled into an unexpected cynicism, denying, for a moment, the validity and depth of her own experience.

Recovering from this state, she realized how human her response was and spent the night pondering this phenomena which she called, “a deeply cynical denial and invalidation of what is most beautiful to us.”

What emerged from our dialogue was an awareness of the difficulty we human beings have loving ourselves and how that stops us from loving life, and one another, completely.  If we think and believe, “Oh, I could not possibly be that beautiful, my life could not possibly be that beautiful, the mind will create a trap to stop the flow of beauty through the heart.

I asked her why she thought people do this.  Her answer: “I think people reject what is most beautiful to them because they are afraid of the pain of losing it… because it will hurt more to lose this, it will hurt more to lose so much beauty.”

So, yes, much truth here.  Impermanence is inescapable.

Truly masterful non-attachment is the ability to feel everything, completely, to be completely alive, and to allow all that which moves through us to just keep on moving through us.  It is to neither cling nor reject while at the same time feeling everything.

The Path we are walking is through experience, through life and the body, with awareness.  To stand in ourselves fully and burn from the inside out with passionate love or ache with grief or shimmer or tremble as fear travels by, to feel the spirit gradually lift and lighten as guilt is removed from the crevasses of the heart, all of this is… life.

When we fear feeling, we begin to construct limitations with our minds that inhibit the full spectrum of our experience and we get ‘stuck’ in clogged corners of ourselves, while the rest of  us is left screaming, “Hey, wait, I’m in here, see me, feel me– wait!!!”

But the Voices of Reason, guarding the door, just calmly shush us, rationalizing our outcries.

The Cynic waves her hand and says, “None of this is even real,” relegating huge parts of the soul to the realms of Shadow where the pressure continues to build and build, toward inevitable breakdown or explosion.

Often, in this condition, we begin to feel persistently trapped as if we must escape from our lives to save our own lives, and so we run from one commitment to another, or one place to another, but in escaping we only bring the clogged stuck mess inside us along wherever we go, wondering why nothing ever really seems to change.

My beautiful young friend caught herself in the stuck place and wiggled free.  Now she is feeling all of life, including the trajedy of our own humanity resisting it.

God in the Heart

When I was a child, I felt God in my heart all the time.  My earliest memories are of this energy in my heart, this spinning, whirling love that “looked” to me like sparkling electric green-blue and white light.  I always knew this energy was God.  I never doubted or questioned it at all.

I can hardly even imagine what it would be like to be this sensitive young woman from yesterday’s blog entry, praying and praying but feeling nothing and then suddenly, at the age of 22, awakening with such force to the interconnectedness of everything.  What a shock to the system to suddenly feel alive, to suddenly feel connected to Life, to all of Life.

For me it was a shock to suddenly feel dead.  I remember being about nineteen when it happened.  There had been trauma, oh, lots of trauma, but what I did to myself was the last straw.  The cocaine was the last straw.  One day I woke up and that place in my heart was simply dead.  It was as if it was frozen, ice ice cold.

In an interview with a man named Peter Miller who is doing an extensive research project on the shamanic qualities of plants, I described this experience as having appropriated the power of the spirit of cocaine as my own because I felt so powerless, had lost so much of my own power to the relentlessly abusive and psychologically violent patterns of my family of origin.  The Cocaine Daemon, filled that empty place inside me and gave me the illusion that I was empowered.  But actually, it was sucking my Qi, my fundamental life force energy, right out of me.

I had attempted to appropriate it, and it was appropriating me right back.

If there can be such a thing, I was a fortunate addict.  ‘Rolling Stone Magazine’ published an article on Cocaine Addiction in 1983 and I checked off all the signs and symptoms of withdrawal.  A little switch went click in my head and I knew, just “saw” that my body was having a chemical reaction to the cocaine which was creating the addiction. I realized that if I continued putting cocaine into my body, that same series of chemical reactions would keep occurring.  So I stopped.  Right then and there.  I never did another line again.

Well, I did get my nose repaired a few years later and the standard anesthesiology for rhinoplasty is liquid pharmaceutical cocaine, but after the surgery, I breathed through the cravings.  I did not relapse.

There never was NA or AA for me.  Not that I was rebellious, just that I didn’t know the options existed and the shame was so terrible, at having hurt myself so deeply, that I confided in no one what I was going through.

Yes, I was really one of the lucky ones.

It took almost ten years before the craving stopped, and for another five years I would still periodically dream I was snorting lines and wake up terrified, shaking myself out of sleep into the deep relief of my clean life.  I did all the right things– I cut all my ties with anyone and everyone from that world; I turned to exercise, meditation and daily spiritual practice and developed a better diet; I tried to really process every single feeling I was feeling, leave no stone unturned and cry a lot, more than most modern, industrialized humans.  I really really cried a lot.  And as much as possible I did not criticize myself for crying, or for feeling anything.  Gradually, I even learned to set boundaries with my family and say “No.” to cruelty and meanness, not with a rising battle of well-I’ll-show you, but with a bow and a “No thank you, please.”  Gradually  I relearned that incredible gift I was born with– loving kindness– and in relearning it, I learned also to protect it this time, and never ever to take it for granted.

Yes, I am definitely one of the lucky ones.

By the time I heard about 12-Step groups, I had been clean so long it really seemed moot.  Instead, still struggling with family issues, I attended Al-Anon for several years. That was incredibly helpful.

Years later, I ran an addiction recovery program in the Lowell Prison.  It was my 12th Step work.  I was very very good at it.  The women in that program helped me to heal my shame, to forgive myself, finally, for everything I had done to myself. They helped me to see myself in each of them, in their terrible stories, in their loneliness and desperation and deep sense of powerlessness.  Together we survived all of our parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles, processed the collective ignorance, cruelty and selfishness of humanity, and helped one another to heal and to love.

I didn’t exactly follow the NA guidelines.  After all, I didn’t really know them.  But that wasn’t my job:  my job was to be helpful.  So I taught awareness.  And it helped.  It helped all of us.

And that feeling of God in my heart, of God being alive within my own heart, that eventually, after 17 years or so, came back home to me, and now, after almost 28 years clean, has continued to grow stronger and deeper.  There is not a single day that I do not feel grateful for simply being and for being able to love.

Sometimes people find me strange– I am so grateful, so appreciative, so deeply aware of how precious life is and how easily it can be taken from us.  Gone, gone in a moment, vanished.  Sometimes it makes people uncomfortable to be around me.

Sometimes they leave.  Sometimes they stay.  I go on loving them anyway.  Just as life goes on being precious– whether we dare to truly feel that or not.

in Loving Kindness,

Murshida VA

——

To participate in Peter Miller’s research project, take the online survey at: http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/era/PsychoPlants/

Addiction and the Quest for God

Addiction, a brief definition from the clinical worldA beautiful young man, after Zikr last night, shared his struggles and challenges in finding compassion for a family member caught in the throws of addiction.  He felt it was so difficult to comprehend why any person would be caught in such a trajectory of self-annihilation.  But an addict is an amazing being– someone who is willing to annihilate themselves, even for the momentary illusion of being more alive, someone seeking life more passionately than many of the successful, careful and properly behaved among us may ever know.

Perhaps that is why, in 1968, God told Murshid Samuel Lewis, “Teach the Hippies.”  Perhaps God looked with great appreciation upon those reckless young people who were throwing themselves over and over at the jaws of death in hopes of a glimpse of Truth, a sweet taste of the Infinite.

It is so easy to turn away from suffering.  Addicts walk the edge, but how insane are those of us who feel that if we do not look at the suffering in the world, it will pass us by?  Do we honestly believe that by dissociating ourselves from that which is too painful to see, we will insure our safety from pain as if God were an insurance salesman and our willful blindness was a signature on His contract?

Oh, and then there are the  Fixers.   Not the healers, healers are of another ilk, but the Fixers– those of us who believe we have all the solutions, and by following the appropriate rules, all problems will be solved.  What a comforting offer! It’s so seductive, so seductive.  Here is the attraction and beauty of religious Fundamentalism at it’s core:  follow the rule book and we will be spared all pain… or at least whatever inexplicable pain we are subject to endure in this life will be explained or rewarded the next.

What addiction is the obsessive attachment to the belief that if we just find the right rule book and follow it exactly, that we will finally be saved, blessed, free of pain?  What a dark road it leads us down, over and over again, into Holy Wars and hell on Earth and yet we persist.  What ‘loss of control in limiting intake” is that?

And Fundamentalism isn’t limited to the spiritual realms.  There are Material Fundamentalists, even Atheist Fundamentalists.  For when we cry  “Give me rational proof or give me death!”  we are no different than those who cry, “Give me my God my way or give me death!”.  In these cries, we are still courting death to preserve our precious attachment to the righteousness of our points of view.  How precious is it to simply question?  To possibly not know?  To be willing to consider?  To be willing to examine the possibilities?

What if Heaven and Hell as places of reward and punishment don’t exist?  What if they are here, right now, here with us, in our minds, our points of view, our beliefs and concepts?  What if we truly have the power to bring Heaven to the Earth, or Earth toward Heaven, just by altering the condition of the human heart?  What if the addict’s painful and often horrible descent into personal hell is just the result of throwing herself into God without any flying lessons ? What if the horrible face that stares back at the addict from his mirror each day is a face humanity needs to recognize as part of itself every bit as much as humanity needs to recognize the Saints and the Prophets?  What if  “There but for the Grace of God go I” is a lie because all of us are everyone and none of us is truly free until we can accept fully and completely both the beauty and the capacity for utter devastation within us?

After all, we would not expect a child to excel at any academic discipline without recognizing and training his or her capacities, so why would we think we can fully attain our potential as a humanity or  realize, as a humanity, any real self- responsibility at all by persisting in denying the darkness within us.

Perhaps the addicts among us are actually Saints, sacrificing themselves so that we can finally see who and what we truly are.  Ask any addict in recovery and he will tell you– no matter what horrible things he did and how many people he hurt, the person who was hurt most by his addiction was the addict himself.

Notes:

On the clinical view of Addiction–

http://www.nida.nih.gov/pubs/teaching/teaching2/Teaching3.html

On Murshid Samuel Lewis (Murshid SAM)–

http://www.marinsufis.com/murshid.php

http://www.gnostic.org/murshidsam/forward.htm