- January 1, 2017
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Learning to wake up and behave sanely when we’re immersed in the cauldrons of intense reactivity, or in the heatwaves of knee-buckling attraction, or in the chilly pits of industrial strength fear — hard learnings these are, asking much of us, but after a certain point what else is there really to do?
How much longer will we keep cutting ourselves excessive slack? How much longer will we excuse our succumbing to the siren call of our habits? How much longer will we continue making a virtue out of distracting ourselves from our suffering? How much longer will we reinforce what is chaining or draining us? How much longer will we continue over-budgeting for defense?
If we were to truly see what we are missing by postponing or only partially participating in our core-level healing and deepening, we might then find ourselves both more afraid and more courageous, with our prevailing habits no longer so readily gripping and guiding us.
We might then start reorienting ourselves, taking the life-altering step of turning toward what we have spent most of our life turning away from: our pain.
Not that this is easy! But it is an exquisitely sobering undertaking, however difficult it might be.
Consciously turning toward our pain (which means directly facing and unresistingly feeling the raw reality of our pain) is its own reward, paid in a currency that seems worthless to the part of us that’s addicted to our “solutions” to our pain.
It’s understandable and quite natural to be hesitant to take a deep look at the chronic case of mistaken identity and conditioned behavior through which we keep trying to stake out a place in the perpetual perishing of boundless Being.
Realizing that we, as we truly are, get to — and have no other option than to — show up as unique expressions of the Real isn’t exactly a triumph, even if we can manage some applause for ourselves. We’re in it for the long haul — and it’s an immeasurably long haul — so we might as well see what’s actually going on.
Nothing is moving yet everything’s in motion
Only broken waves will ever know the ocean
What we are, where we are, why we are — bottomless, edgeless inquiries these are, far vaster than any existential exploration could conceive of. But when we recognize, right to our marrow, that we are more than we can imagine, and that we cannot fundamentally locate ourselves anywhere in particular, and that our presence cannot be really explained, we are then closer than close to Home — but we cannot significantly access this without developing the capacity to wake up in the midst of stuff that is damned hard or even seemingly impossible to wake up from.
It’s no accident that such stuff is very plentiful, available to one and all, giving us all kinds of chances to practice waking up.
At our very best, we’ll let all things awaken us, but if you’re like me, the odds are you’ll need some pretty intense slumber-disturbing events to help you see that you haven’t really been seeing very clearly. I’ve hated the cosmic two-by-fours that have periodically clobbered me, but in hindsight I’m grateful for them; lesser blows probably wouldn’t have done the job.
And just because we can’t handle a particular blow when it arrives does not mean that we won’t eventually be able to handle it. The more we treat such blows as detox in drag, emissaries of fierce grace, the more quickly we’ll make good use of them.
This is, of course, not as neat as it might sound. Most of us don’t evolve in a particularly orderly fashion. Instead, we meander in multiple directions, our course taking shape in accord with an ever-shifting terrain — both outer and inner — that’s the result of innumerable factors intersecting and interacting with each other.
Anatomically speaking, this is a complexity beyond complexity, leaving our mind doing laps in babbling puddles of explanatory chatter, and our heart in an increasingly sublime simplicity of recognition, through which revelation, sooner or later, naturally replaces explanation.
We may look at our lives, and marvel that we are where we are, and that we are with whom we’re with, sensing the fine wondrously improbable yet nonetheless inevitable threads of interconnectedness through which we wander and settle and unsettle and relate.
It’s a mysteriously incomparable weave, eluding any definitive cartography, even though we all, in our own way, cannot help but navigate it, whether our eyes are open or shut.
Can’t ignite what’s gone to ashes
can’t redo my crashes
and still my dying flesh
brightens as it ages
Freedom ever unbound in its cages