I often feel that I have not appropriately thanked my teachers and my ancestors in my haphazard writings. So I am beginning this post with a prayer to the Buddha(s) in their honor. If you’re interested, here is the Prayer of Confessions and Prostrations to the 35 Buddhas and a “shorter version”, the Sutra Illuminating the Darkness of the 10 Directions.
The lessons are coming hard-and-fast now. Things are speeding up. I know this experience isn’t unique to me. Maybe, as we crest our mid-40’s and start seeing our 60’s as nearer than our 20’s, we all start having this experience? Or is it that there is some sort of evolutionary imperative at work - subtle yet powerful forces churning and dancing just below the surface of our collective consciousness? Hmmmmmmmmm.
As I get older, the things that are most important to me – the things I hold most dear – are also the things that I am becoming more-and-more acutely aware of losing. I look at examples of the incomprehensible, complete lack of compassion or reverence for the lives of fellow human beings, animals, our Mother Earth – and I feel overwhelming sadness and pain. I feel inadequate to stop such things – to make any sort of difference – to contribute any sort of pure, authentic good to situations that seem completely devoid of it. This is darkness.
Carl Gustav Jung famously said, “Enlightenment is not imagining figures of light but making the darkness conscious.”
That’s what it feels like. That somehow, the things that I find so disheartening in the world are in fact reflections of an inner turmoil. And by my doing the hard work in trying to resolve this agitated state of being – this darkness - things may “change for the better” (I will develop the clarity of authentic perception), because I will have dismantled a very elaborate projector system – myself. Maybe it is because we are witnessing or experiencing such horrendous and appalling tragedy – on a magnitude like never before - on almost a daily basis – that it is further sign that the darkness is being brought to the surface to be somehow integrated? I feel this to be the case.
If I can completely honor and accept these feelings of utter helplessness, I will be able to move beyond them – and not be stuck in them (bless you Abdi Assadi). Only then will I be able to be fully present in the world in such a way that I am able to meaningfully contribute to this world and honorably, respectfully, and compassionately serve my fellow beings. It is only because of my teachers and ancestors, that I am able to begin to grasp this fundamental lesson.
I am reminded of spending time in Italy with one of my beloved teachers, Tim Miller of the Ashtanga Yoga Center in Carlsbad, CA. When he was speaking of his time with the late, great Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (Guruji) – particularly when he first took Darshan and Pranaam (bowed to touch his feet), it certainly wasn’t a common thing to do as a Westerner (particularly in the U.S. in 1978!). As Tim was reminiscing, tears of immeasurable love and gratitude freely flowed from this great man. In the witnessing of such devotion (Bhakti) and love for his teacher (Guruji), it puts into proper perspective the feelings I have for him (Tim Miller) and all my other teachers.
I will close this posting with a quote I’ve used before, but it conveys the greatest lessons of all – honoring the love of those that mean the most to us – and remembering with reverence those that have gone before us:
"These teachings have been brought to you from Padmasambhava's enlightened heart, across centuries, over a thousand years, by an unbroken lineage of masters, each one of whom only became masters because they had learned humbly to be disciples, and remained, in the deepest sense, disciples of their masters all their lives. Even at the age of eighty-two, when Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche spoke of his master Janyang Khyentse, tears of gratitude and devotion came into his eyes. In his last letter to me before he died, he signed himself "the worst disciple." That showed me how endless true devotion is, how with the greatest possible realization comes the greatest devotion and the most complete, because the most humble, gratitude."
"The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying"
by Sogyal Rinpoche
May all beings, including ourselves have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all beings, including ourselves be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May all beings, including ourselves rejoice in the well-being of others.
May all beings, including ourselves live in peace, free from greed and hatred.
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.