If joy were ceaseless here in this world, would man ever desire another? Without suffering, he scarcely cares to recall that he has forsaken his eternal home. Pain is a prod to remembrance
An autobiography of a Yogi. Paramahansa Yogananda
We live in a time of unparalleled change. And now with the COVID crisis, emotions are running high, structures are falling and hysteria seems to be rampant. People are acting out of fear, and in some instances armed with assault rifles, desperately clinging onto what they think will save them. All of this is understandable. After all, the human body is designed to want to survive at all costs, but it is also this formidable wall of flesh of self-preservation that prevents the human being from seeing the transformation and possibility that a crisis can bring. The psychological structures that we have so skillfully and meticulously built to keep us safe, also restrict and paralyze our creative ability to find true and lasting solutions. That is the deep irony here. We want to cling to the old while receiving the new and it is just not possible.
I am in no way belittling the suffering that some if not most of us are going through. When we are lost in the clouds of complexity, twisted thinking, and physical hardship, it is also difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I myself have been going through a period of reflection and paradigm-shifting, of deconstruction and rebuilding. There have been times of purging and forgiveness and there have also been times of release and absolute contentment. At times I felt the pain of encrusted barnacles being scrubbed from my mind but I also enjoyed the relief that came with not carrying so much weight around. To be honest, I never know what to expect and that admittedly was scary to begin, but it has also become the "care-less" default. I was being led to a deeper place of trust and the idea of a freefall didn’t seem so bad.
"How can I trust something that I don’t know? How can I benefit from such a freefall?"
My ego was deeply insulted by such unrealistic notions.
And as quickly as the questions arose, they were surrendered just as promptly. Becoming more and more empty of the many ways I would twist myself into a pretzel of unquestioned assumptions and educated petty conclusions that I thought would deliver me, has also precipitated an assault campaign from my rifle carrying ego. At times, I would spontaneously burst out laughing at such a sight but there were also parts of me that did not find that funny and actually found it particularly offensive and in poor taste. I was going mad but in a fantastic wordless way.
The instances of ego viciousness have been pretty intense over the last few years given an onslaught of life circumstances that have forced me into isolation. To say that the ego is not who you are is one thing. To know what the ego is, is another; and to feel the kick of "old tapes" and the punch of really dark feelings, is a whole different ball game. So when people say that you will become peaceful and loving on a spiritual path, this has not been my experience.
If anything, spirituality has been a pretty destructive process.
Disillusionment and questioning my sanity meant that the illusions of myself were crumbling, creating a vacuum that my ego would then scramble to create yet another illusion of something where there was actually nothing. This was the survival instinct of an animal hardwired to preserve itself at all costs. To ensure its relevance meant that it would always have its own melodramatic spin on everything. And whenever it was cornered, it would gnash its teeth and protract its claws, ready to fight tooth and nail and to draw blood.
This continuous tug-of-war between self-preservation and emptying was the preoccupation of my mind for many years. And it only grew exponentially in intensity not less.
As walls came down, some stayed down, new ones were built, sometimes overnight and sometimes over months.
"Why would one seek to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result?"
I was getting close to the cornerstone of the ego's belief system and it didn’t like it at all.
There was simply no way to outsmart the ego. The more I gassed it, the more formidable it became.
There had to be a more intelligent way. There must be a pay off somewhere. There must be something I was getting out of this entire charade.
What was it?
I told the deeper truth.
I was embarrassed and ashamed of admitting that I had been wrong about just everything. I didn't know what love was and I was fearful of what Truth had to say about it. I was proud, constantly justifying myself, feeling inadequate and powerless and I didn’t want to feel that way anymore. There was also the huge pretense, and the exaggerated difficulty of trying to get over the megalomaniac amount of time and energy I had invested in something that was clearly inefficient, chaotic, childish, crudely unreasonable, dead and simply wasn't working anymore.
There it was. The ego in all of its notions of sacrifice and self-aggrandizement and un-lovingness.
This was ego scriptwriting at its narcissistic award-winning best. And here was its time proven template.
Create problems and then spend all your time and energy, figuring out ways to try and solve them. Mourn the past, grieve endlessly and milk your woundedness. Stay where it is comfortable.
Here was the "dynamics" of ego self-preservation being exposed as I witnessed it playing out in full technicolor.
And as hesitant as I was, like Arjuna, I was asked to go back into the fray and find out what this whole darn thing was about. There was something else that needed to play itself out. There was something more to this tale. There was still a purpose to be fulfilled. Whatever it was, to be stuck in a place of "not quite sure" was too intolerable for me.
A karma-yogi does not care for omens. He is unattached to everything because he neither rejoices when meeting pleasant circumstances nor does he ever feel dejected if he encounters any unpleasant events.
Dedicating all actions to Me and with your mind fixed on Me, freed from the feelings of hope and sadness and cured of mental fever, Hey Arjun, you must fight. Because he who has given up all desires and has become free from the feelings of “I” and “Mine” eventually attains peace.
Delight is not derived either by fighting or by not fighting. On the contrary, it is derived by being free from likes and dislikes and that too, only after controlling one's senses.
So I became Macbeth "stepped in blood so far that should I wade no more, to return were as tedious as to go'er". In dramatic ego stubbornness, I would mindlessly milk the little sweetness that the juice of insanity offered and punish myself for that indulgence. I felt entangled but in some sick way, I also enjoyed the meager offerings of staying cocooned in the familiar. I would on occasion swallow a double dose of fear and guilt, in the mistaken conviction that it was medicine and dam%, did I want so much to be right rather than happy.
I was chasing some promised pot of gold that simply didn’t exist and the meaninglessness of it all dawned heavy on my mind. It was a crown of thorns.
"Men have died on seeing this, because they saw no way except the pathways offered by the world. And learning they led nowhere, lost their hope. And yet this was the time they could have learned their greatest lesson."
A Course in Miracles
What was the lesson?
I had all this inflated spiritual knowledge but no solution to my woundedness. I didn’t know what love was or what my relationship to life was. I had become so smart to the point that I had conned myself out of happiness.
This admission was met with a full-bellied laugh.
No more understanding was needed.
Being empty of all judgment was the worst thing for my ego and the best thing for no one.
Life is like a cat and mouse game. If you are the mouse, life is cruel and a matter of life and death. But to the cat, it is all just a game.
There is a wisdom that comes not by words or cultivation but only through the recognition that disillusionment brings.
Today, disillusionment continues to be my best defense against the deathliness of false ideas and the grandiosity of self-importance. It is the unseeing of that which appears to be real but is actually nothing.
"How can I seek or trust something that I do not know and cannot see?" My ego got really threatened and became vicious.
This time an answer came.
Seeking happens when life grinds you sufficiently to the point that you cannot but look for a more intelligent way.
Trust happens when you realize that in your present state you cannot pass.
"I do not know" happens when you see that there is a love that grows and grows and does not fall within your petty definitions.
Surrender is to be "insane enough to fall in love in an unbridled way ……..not in a conditional way………not in a sensible way……..not in a nice way…… but in an insane way."
To become mad but in a fantastic way.
You won't regret falling, the bruises you get falling, will all fade away
Don't analyze falling, don't try being wise, falling
Forget all your plans, they're out of your hands
You're falling, falling, falling
Blindly you go falling, the last one to know you're falling, you suddenly see
There's no way to fight falling, no rescue in sight, you're falling
You let love inside and hope she'll abide, you're falling, falling, falling
The world that you face is some other planet in space
You taste something new every moment
It thrills you, fills you, you're falling
I have to defend falling, 'cause if you should end falling
I hope you'll be free to spend time with me
Falling, falling, falling, just falling, falling, falling
Falling, falling, falling
Songwriters: Mindy Smith
Falling lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Spirit Music Group