Let's face it. Going through challenges in life is no fun. Whether it be the loss of a loved one, a broken heart, financial hardship, depression, injury, a pandemic, an economic crisis, sickness; all of these can bring up a lot of charged emotions that can seem formidable, overwhelming and out of control.
The fact is that we can also be so mesmerized by what is wrong that we forget our sense of self. We forget that a narrow and sick focus paints such a prejudiced view of life that when believed in, we cannot but spiral into depression and self-violence.
I experienced such a personal hell a couple of weeks ago where I had an injury and was literally was on my back for 16 hours a day in solitary confinement with my thoughts and feelings. We know how well that can go.
This incident definitely brought up a lot of stuff for me. "How can I take care of myself now?"; "Why is this happening to me again?" ; "What did I do wrong this time?". This was the boogeyman of sick imaginings and "self-preservation at all cost" and it was totally unforgiving. As I lay on the floor, at times, it felt like an unrelenting wildfire coursing through my entire body reminding me constantly that I had all the reason in the world to be fearful and that fear was the only thing that could protect me now. "RESIST. RESIST. KILL. KILL. Get it over with". This incessant shriek was hateful and wanted me dead. I was confronting the grim reaper.
What I didn’t realize then but recognize now is that by resisting so vehemently the boogeyman, I was also resisting the very thing that would dispel it. Talk about irony.
Fear was something that I seriously thought I had "dealt" with before but here it was again, stronger than ever, and staring me right in the face. I knew this was something to be investigated but to be honest, I was scared shitless to the point of not being able to do anything. It felt like a download of everything that I had judged wrong in my life, everything that I had regretted and been pissed about, and everything that was hostile, crude, unreasonable, and unlovable within me. It brought up past guilt about wanting to kill myself and also the endless torment surrounding burnt bridges, failed relationships, and how I was deeply unlucky and had no choice in the matter. It was as if the paralysis of my body reflected and mirrored the cruel narrative in my head.
And as "gut-wrenching" and unbearable as it was at times, it was also this violence that eventually burnt down the stubbornness so that I can be shown another way. Here it was, another invitation to go deeper.
Ram Dass calls it "Fierce Grace".
I called it "F%%K, not again?!!!"
In fear, I had pushed away, resisted and rejected this very thing that also had the capacity to bear it all, accept it all and embrace it all. Like the Boogeyman, It too was unrelenting and bold and fierce. The only difference was that It was gentle. It waited on my welcome. And It couldn't be received as long as I resisted it.
"How could there be fear of such a gentle thing?" This made absolutely no sense.
This thing or no-thing felt strangely familiar. It was home. And it was this abstract PRESENCE that reminded me that It couldn’t see any of the truth behind my belief in guilt, attack, and pride. I wept. All is forgiven. I could let myself off the hook. And even though I was still unable to walk upright, I knew I was going to be OK. The healing had begun in my mind and I knew that my body would follow suit.
That experience stirred up a renewed energy in me. It was like I had an upgrade of a new boldness and I found myself no longer willing to blindly follow the inner voice that sought only to diminish, invalidate, and destroy. I was now ready to tell myself the truth and to question all the evidence that the boogeyman presented. I was done feeling frightened.
I now had a true choice. A choice between cruelty and guilt, fear and punishment is not really a choice. Now, I could either choose to stay wounded or I could let go and trust. I can willingly be in the cloud of unknowing or I could keep thrashing around in the memory of what was cruel, inefficient, and clearly not working anymore.
And so one night, I decided to just wait, laying on the floor, in the dark, unmoving.
And it was in that instant of surrender that I saw the complete insanity of it all. I witnessed a me demonizing another me. How strange was that? Both an attacker and a victim in me. I never quite saw it that way before but it was as clear as day. I could no longer be in denial as to the unreality of the horror show I was witnessing.
Why would I attack myself unless I was mad? The simple answer is "I wouldn’t".
Why would I bet against myself unless I was insane? The answer again is "I wouldn’t".
Everything suddenly made perfect sense and laughter ensued. The self-proclaimed intellectual logical educated mind could not grasp something so simple.
It had no opposites.
An unspoken understanding.
An overwhelming sense of gratitude.
Life crisis confronts us with the polar opposites. The thing is, we would never hurt ourselves willingly. This self-hypnosis happens on a scale that is so unimaginably vast but if you can take a step back, it is also quite breathtakingly beautiful and profound to behold. After all, it depends on where you are looking from.
Shall we love or forgive? Shall we learn from life experience and grow or become resentful and wounded? Can we let others off the hook or are we still demonizing them? Shall we withdraw from challenges or can we take full strides? Shall we transcend life crisis and master it once and for all? Can we face fear and see it for what it is? Can we choose hope instead of discouragement? Can we use our life experience to inform and share and love, or shall we withdraw into the cocoon of the past?
Every emotional experience is an opportunity to go up or down. Which do we choose? This is the ontological battle that confronted ARJUNA (Bhagavad Gita) and it is within all of us. No matter how hard we may try to escape we eventually have to face it. The very resistance is what keeps fear protected and hidden.
What does it take? An unwavering sense of commitment. For me, it meant to tell the truth in any moment until there was no more shred of this self-deception. To awake from a dream that never was. Truth is uncompromising and we are all invited to rise to it.
Choice is the obvious escape from what appears as opposites. Decision lets one of conflicting goals become the aim of effort and expenditure of time. Without decision, time is but a waste and effort dissipated. It is spent for nothing in return, and time goes by without results. There is no sense of gain, for nothing is accomplished; nothing learned.
A Course in Miracles
And as the dismantling proceeded, more revelations and insights came. It was yet another deeper deconstruction of the human condition which paradoxically also made me more human, more compassionate, more accepting, and understanding of what everyone is going through.
All Healing is release from fear and guilt. Self-forgiveness meant that it was time to stop criminalizing my feelings and punishing myself. To stop the blaming and pointing fingers.
Self-attack is not only totally unnecessary but also painful, and it is a pain that is borne out of the INNOCENCE of believing something that I am not. I saw that this is true for everyone. Truth makes no exception and if it did, would it still be true? Would it still have any value?
Truth cannot come where it could only be perceived with fear. For this would be the error truth can be brought to illusions. Opposition makes the truth unwelcome, and it cannot come.
A Course in Miracles
The fact of all human experience is that we always have that CHOICE. Love cannot intrude where it is not welcome. But when it is welcomed, it is the perfection that casts out fear.
As human beings, we can really be very stubborn. And sometimes, it takes a little nudging from life to show us that what we are holding on to is insane, inefficient and simply doesn’t work.
Every crisis holds within it the power to wake us up from this self-hypnosis. It can only if we are willing to be in that cloud of unknowing and listen to that still inner voice that we have resisted out of fear and pushed out of awareness.
Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. It is irrationality and makes us feel the guilt of thinking ourselves separate and unloving. Guilt is not LOVE, WISDOM or UNBRIDLED GENEROSITY. And we all have the awareness to investigate it and to realize that the logical mind cannot take us where we truly want to go. We must remember that we always have a choice between fear and love. We always have the innate ability to let go of that which has no more value.
Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh. In his forgetting did the thought become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effects. Together, we can laugh them both away, and understand that time cannot intrude upon eternity. It is a joke to think that time can come to circumvent eternity, which means there is no time
A Course in Miracles
As human beings, we are all capable of tremendous violence. But I also know that if we can hold that "violence" with gentleness, that makes the world of difference.
How would you like to hold your universe?
And as the dismantling process happens all by itself within me, I am also grateful that I am constantly reminded that there is such a thing as receiving something for nothing. It is the very generosity and love that we give ourselves that heals truly and completely and for all time.
It is our very own Self that we are seeking and sometimes falling apart is the very thing that helps us do just that. Sometimes it is the falling apart that gives us the boldness to go where we have never gone before.
Love isn’t patient. It isn’t kind and humble. It is messy and horrible and selfish and…. (pause) BOLD. Love isn’t finding the perfect half. It's the reaching, trying, and failing. LOVE IS WILLING TO RUIN YOUR PAINTING FOR THE CHANCE AT A GREAT ONE.
Ellie Chu (Netflix movie - The Half of It)
What is the boldest stroke you can muster today?