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.