How do we properly integrate the experience of the miraculous? How do we know where the ego stops, and the infinite begins?
That’s the quandary of the human condition. To come out of sacred rapture, and then have to deal with the imposition of your typical patterns of thought, typical forms of self-criticism, and overall skepticism.
I know now why the great masters make the important point or lesson of careful, loving, compassionate integration. What immediately comes to mind is the book by Jack Kornfield, “After the Ecstasy, The Laundry” – where the title itself is an appropriate, multi-faceted study on this predicament. That there is not only work to be done, oftentimes mundane, but also the important work of cleaning-up our own guises or clothing – the stuff we carry around on our backs and call spiritual.
We all have our own unique stories and paths. This is especially true of the spiritual path. Even though this is the case, we must continually look to our teachers to help gently (sometimes not so gently!) guide us based upon their own hard-won wisdom – based upon many years of arduous work and experience.
I take great comfort in thinking of my teachers when it comes to integration of important events in my life – especially events that fall outside of typical or mundane experience. Without them, without their love, my means of processing – the very bandwidth of my analytical and intuitive abilities – is woefully inadequate.
I am my own worst enemy when it comes to accepting gifts – in whatever form they may arrive. I am slowly learning to accept them with graciousness and without self-imposed conditions. By that, I mean my association of guilt, inadequacy, skepticism, and unworthiness with the offering. It’s this backlash of feelings that sours or dirties (remember the laundry?) the overall experience – the very essence of the gift – the giving in and of itself.
I have been the recipient of immeasurable gifts – blessings – the numbers and forms beyond my ability to consciously comprehend. It is my ultimate lesson to be able to assimilate these blessings and not consider myself unworthy (oh yes, the dirty laundry again). To be able to trust in the intent of the giver and the giving is for me extremely difficult. It is as if I’m still a small child, not trusting the hand that offers – for fear that it will invariably become the hand that also takes-away.
We experience “special-ness” for a moment, and then quickly reject that notion for fear that we are being selfish, arrogant, or deluded. This is an important crossroad. We are warned of it – rightfully so – by our great teachers. We should not consider ourselves as any more special than the homeless person, begging for spare change down on the street corner. But at the same time, in that very moment of rapture, we are indeed special, because we have completely experienced the sacredness of the moment (the gift) – and then the moment is gone. It is then followed by the experience of duality (the laundry) – the humbling, imperfect, balancing-act that makes us human.
I heard these words (title) from Manuel Rufino, an Ayahuasquero and Healer from Native American traditions during his talk given as part of the 2nd Annual Ayahuasca Monologues on April 17th.
April/May shaped-up to be pretty big for me and I had a sort of prescience for it (as described in past posts) – an anticipation that seemed to be building since the beginning of the year. The change of seasons has indeed brought with it many shifts – and many blessings.
Dana and I traveled to Encinitas/Carlsbad, CA to spend some time with our West Coast and senior yoga teacher, Tim Miller, during the first two weeks of April. My 42nd birthday was on April 21st. April 29th the great Dr. Albert Hofmann, ‘the father of LSD’, passed away at the age of 102. On May 2nd I installed a photography exhibit at The Shala. I lost a full time, on-site freelance contract on April 11th, but started another one on a work-from-home basis on May 9th. At some point during the last month, my yoga teacher, Barbara Verrochi, gave me the final pose (setu bandhasana) in the primary series of Ashtanga (the Mysore-style practice). Completing the primary series was something I thought I’d never do – at least in this lifetime. And lastly, I received some interest in my doing a bit of journalism – something I’ve always dreamed of pursuing.
I wonder if the shifts I seem to be undergoing are being experienced on a more universal level. No, I know they are. It’s hard NOT to see the synchronicities – and the drastic changes. Eckhart Tolle and Oprah completed their 10-week online series. Barack Obama appears poised to take the democratic nomination for the Presidential run in November. The housing/foreclosure crisis is further traumatizing the middle class – and calling into serious question the societal 'programming' (and lending practices) surrounding the so-called ‘American Dream’. Gasoline prices are so alarmingly high that the senate hearings with the oil tycoon CEOs regarding the astronomical oil company profits harkens-back to the ‘Big Tobacco’ hearings of the late 90’s. Everywhere and at every level of our culture, the sheer greed of Wall Street and the continuing corporatization of every aspect of our lives are beginning to send catastrophic shock-waves throughout the entire planetary existence. One need only look at the environmental collapse, the rapid rise of religious fundamentalism and related violence, the micro-and-macro impact of these out-of-control, robber-baron conglomerates, the increasing insensitivity of the population when it comes to blatant acts of violence and depravity in our media or otherwise, the perverse fascination with ‘celebrity culture’ and voyeurism for those in our society that seek only to further expose their own vanity, the disturbing level of government complacency and duplicity for the lobbyists and special interests, etc.
I want to believe that we are in the midst of a paradigm shift in consciousness - the old ways giving way to the new. It has to be this way – we cannot evolve as a species without something BIG taking place - even if that something big brings with it significant suffering in the course of the grander scheme. The ripple in the still pond is always greater near the epicenter.
On a more personal level, I often wonder EXACTLY how to be in this world – how to conduct myself in my day-to-day existence. My struggle the last several years appears to be around holding my personal power and manifesting (and holding) abundance. How do I do this? And I don’t need any more metaphors or mystical analogies. One of my issues is that I am such the anti-establishment kind of person, so non-mainstream that I’ve basically alienated myself from a lot of our culturally-sanctioned paths to success. By being the ‘outsider’ but all the while secretly wanting the trappings of success that define the ‘insider’, is a hypocritical stance to say the least. I don’t know how to reconcile the two worlds. All I know is that my mind is my hindrance and my worst enemy. What I’m left with as a practice is to try – no, to risk losing everything all the time just to make damn sure that I’ve tried to do my absolute best in this life to ‘carve-out’ an existence that is inline with my ideals and my dreams. I would rather risk everything day-in-and-day-out and suffer the constant unease due to that seemingly never-ending struggle – than to remain ‘asleep’ in some cookie-cutter, societal idea of ‘a decent life’. As a friend of mine once said about a corporate gig in the typical sea of cubicles: “Man, that’s a slow death.” I couldn’t agree more.
If I have any advice for the reader it’s this: Follow your dreams no matter the cost, because if you don’t the price you’ll pay will be your very soul. This life is yours and HIS/HERS. What you do with it is between the two of you. In the end it won’t matter because you’ll return to HIM/HER. And all this will have been his folly. But if you waste this precious gift, HE/SHE may have you come back and do it all over again, and again, and again – until you get it right. So, carpe diem my dear friends and face your lives in the only skillful way that I know at this point: “I don’t know anything. Nothing at all. Thank you.”