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/

On Compassionate Truth and the Dissolution of Friendships

Last night I wrote a very difficult letter to a friend.  I love this friend.  Really with my entire being, but there are times when we see something in someone’s actions and we just have to call it out.  This, for me, was one of those times.  I found myself like a wolf baying at the moon, calling for all the truth to come out of the shadows, to light the darkness of the soul.  And how this light penetrated my friend, I may never know– his response was to remove me from his facebook friends and cut all communication.

It was not a cruel or angry letter.  It was just honest, clear, penetrating, and ruthlessly compassionate, but these energies are not always something people are willing to take in.

And so, my friend may have shut me out permanently.  And, the thing is, no matter how much the head says, “Well, that is just how it has to be”  the heart still grieves.  And my heart is grieving.

When I was younger perhaps I would have grieved for days over this, but now it just isn’t possible for me to feel that kind of despair.  I have seen too much of life to feel utterly devastated by the loss of even the most beautiful and promising love or friendship.   Somehow, along the way, my bones got the message that nothing which is truly mine in this world can ever be taken from me.  And I certainly have known for many years that, “There are some truths far better than belonging.”

If I compromise the integrity of my Self to keep a friend, both the friend and I will have less than nothing.

One of my students said today that the thing about our community is that all your shit can come up, it can go right out on the table and you will be loved even more for that as long “…as you’re willing to work with it.  We don’t care what the shit is,” he said.  “We love you more for being human.”

Growth happens at these times.  Real growth.  Real change.  Real transformation.  It also requires real courage and cultivates fearlessness to go to and through these places.  It’s not for everybody.

“We are deep divers here,” he said.  “If that’s not for you, go to the kiddie pool.”

He has a way with words.

And he is very loyal.

Deep diving is not for everyone.  It does not make a person immature or less if they prefer not to dive.  We are all made differently.  Some of us are better swimmers than others. Some of us have better lung capacity and so do not fear the deep water.  For those who look on the expanse of the ocean and all they see is the terror of drowning, God has made the shallows, hot springs, cold springs, rivers, waterfalls… there are many beautiful choices.

Deep diving is only one.   And, yes, all rivers do eventually lead to the ocean, but one doesn’t have to begin on the back of a blue whale in the middle of the Pacific.

Many people still live lives where the deepest secrets they keep about themselves are from themselves and if anything shines a light into that darkness it is profoundly threatening.  Often, we will kill (some parts of ourselves, the spirit of others, or even literally kill) to protect our ‘horrible secrets’ when the most life-giving thing that could happen to us is that the secrets be dragged out of the Shadow and into the light of conscious awareness in a safe space.

When we actually have the courage to see what is underneath the ‘horrible’ things we have done or are doing, or sometimes even just thinking and feeling, then we begin to make progress in Self-Love.   Almost invariably, what is beneath these choices is some real need begging to be fulfilled.  In recognizing and honoring the need underneath the darkness, we can begin to find beautiful and powerful ways to fulfill ourselves, truly.

Carl Jung said that the Shadow, our disowned and often denied, repressed and even consciously suppressed parts of ourselves, contained some of our finest qualities.  The key to transforming the Shadow world lies in having the courage to face who and what we are, as individuals and as a humanity.

As Jesus of Nazareth said, “When we bring forth what is within us, what we bring forth will save us.  When we deny what is within us, what we deny will destroy us.”

Truth has an immutable, an unchanging quality.  It endures when all else passes away.  Perhaps this is why I prefer relationships built on this foundation– I find they persevere gracefully even in the face of Life’s most challenging passages.   So for those of us who prefer the shallows, the springs, hot and cold, the waterfalls, our time will come eventually, those waters will eventually flow into the ocean.

And in the meantime, I am working through my grief.  And it may take a while, but it is better to know now, rather than later, at a crucial time of tension or stress, who and what will have the strength to persevere.

in Loving Kindness,

Murshida VA


Notes:

Lama Tsultrim Allione has a truly magnificent CD, entitled, “Cutting through Fear” which walks the seeker directly through the process of facing and transforming these dark or hidden inner forces.  Ultimately this process becomes a way of life and is deepest when practiced within the container of a conscious community (Holy Company).  However, for anyone who is curious and wants to experiment on their own, dip in a toe or a finger, Allione’s CD a great place to start.   “Cutting Through Fear” is available through Amazon.