We must assume our existence as broadly as we in any way can; everything, even the unheard-of, must be possible in it. That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter. That mankind has in this sense been cowardly has done life endless harm; the experiences that are called “visions,” the whole so-called “spirit-world,” death, all those things that are so closely akin to us, have by daily parrying been so crowded out of life that the senses with which we could have grasped them are atrophied. To say nothing of God.
But fear of the inexplicable has not alone impoverished the existence of the individual; the relationship between one human being and another has also been cramped by it, as though it had been lifted out of the riverbed of endless possibilities and set down in a fallow spot on the bank, to which nothing happens. For it is not inertia alone that is responsible for human relationships repeating themselves from case to case, indescribably monotonous and unrenewed: it is shyness before any sort of new, unforeseeable experience with which one does not think oneself able to cope.
But only someone who is ready for everything, who excludes nothing, not even the most enigmatical, will live the relation to another as something alive and will himself draw exhaustively from his own existence. For if we think of this existence of the individual as a larger or smaller room, it appears evident that most people learn to know only a corner of their room, a place by the window, a strip of floor on which they walk up and down. Thus they have a certain security. And yet that dangerous insecurity is so much more human which drives the prisoners in Poe’s stories to feel out the shapes of their horrible dungeons and not be strangers to the unspeakable terror of their abode.
We, however, are not prisoners. No traps or snares are set about us, and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us. We are set down in life as in the element to which we best correspond, and over and above this we have through thousands of years of accommodation become so like this life, that when we hold still we are, through a happy mimicry, scarcely to be distinguished from all that surrounds us. We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
She is merging onto the Edsel Ford Freeway in a car
no longer made,
in a city that no longer makes it, talking on her cellular
phone, slouched to the left,
fingernails purple & red & caging the wheel, head cocked
& foot heavy.
In pursuit of a race car, she has bought a roll of black
duct tape, has rolled three racing stripes down the sedan’s hood
as if she has been whispering with Buddha & he said, Sister,
relinquish your resistance, your discomfort, forsake
your ego. Which she has done, which is what it means
to want but not have
in a city stacked with desire, to know that desire
is our most ruinous trait,
the moment in the morning
when you decide to be unsatisfied & unhappy.
Our want is just one of many in a line of wants
& the line of wants is ancillary to the line of needs.
People close to you are hungry & you have ignored it.
People close to you have lost their jobs.
Today somebody’s mother has died.
Today somebody’s child has been murdered.
Today some body lost sight. & your Lumina runs.
Your Lumina runs well; Luminosity,
woman: No one is coming to save you.
There is nothing from which to be saved.
You are the fountain of the sun’s light.
I am a willow shadow on the ground.
You make my raggedness silky.
The soul at dawn is like the darkened water
that slowly begins to say “Thank you, thank you.”
Then at sunset, again, Venus gradually
changes into the moon and then the whole nightsky.
This comes of smiling back
at your smile.
The chess master says nothing,
other than moving the silent chess piece.
That I am part of the ploys
of this game makes me
That I should make much of myself and turn it on all sides,
thus casting colored shadows on thy radiance
—such is thy Maya.
Thou settest a barrier in thine own being
and then callest thy severed self in myriad notes.
This thy self-separation has taken body in me.
The poignant song is echoed through all the sky in many-coloued tears
and smiles, alarms and hopes; waves rise up and sink again,
dreams break and form.
In me is thy own defeat of self.
This screen that thou hast raised is painted with innumerable figures
with the brush of the night and the day.
Behind it thy seat is woven in wondrous mysteries of curves,
casting away all barren lines of straightness.
The great pageant of thee and me has overspread the sky.
With the tune of thee and me all the air is vibrant,
and all ages pass with the hiding and seeking of thee and me.
~ Rabindranath Tagore
Today I am remembering that beauty and truth are eternal, but that forms are not. All forms change, evolve, dissolve, re-form. That is to say, everything transforms in time, through death or dissolution. It simply is.
Yet, nothing essential can ever be lost.
I love the metaphor of the wave and the water. Every wave rises, crests, falls, disappears entirely. What was lost?
The form of that wave.
What was that wave made of?
We suffer unnecessarily because we believe we are the wave.
But of course, at essence, we are the water.
This is not to say that we should not become attached to forms. I think it is inevitable and beautiful that we do become emotionally attached to our own lives and bodies, our loved ones, the form of a particular relationship or work, a place… and loss and grief are an integral and necessary part of this story. Recognizing our true essence does not mean disengaging from the bonds that we form. Engaging fully with life, in the full awareness of your vulnerability, takes courage and real strength. When the time of loss is here, we must grieve. To be willing to live so openly and courageously is the best way to live, I sense. I also imagine that it is nearly impossible to live so willingly open without some sense of the eternality of the essence of things, or without awareness of the wholeness that we belong to. So much of our suffering we create ourselves in resisting loss and death. We close our bodies down energetically in fear. Hearts become dry and dim. Our minds grow rigid. We get stuck in habit patterns that don’t even serve our own happiness, let alone the happiness of others.
A teacher of mine says that to transcend is trance-ending. Another teacher says that to transcend healthfully, we do so in a way that is inclusive of all that came before rather than in a way that is dissociative. As our consciousness shifts to include perspectives that reflect a deeper truth than we could previously discern, there is yet an embrace of the more limited perspectives, and a respect for how they served us and for the particular nuances that each level of perception illuminates, but the spell of that more limited perspective is broken. As we begin to see that we are the wholeness as well as the part, it is possible to honor and love all the parts more deeply. As we transform our consciousness, it is possible to make space for fear and grief, and to feel them wholly while remaining rooted in the peace at the core. I think sometimes we remain rooted by a thread, and for all you can access it the peace at the core seems like a pipe dream, or worse, like delusion, but if you know that you don’t have to feel it or see it right now, if you even know that it might be true that at the core is peace, then in the willingness to consider this possibility there is an opening. As in the story of the man who awoke in the darkness of night to see the shadow of a fearful snake in the corner on the floor, who trembled in a panic for hours, and when a storm rolled in and a flash of lightning lit the sky and shined in through the windows, he saw… a rope coiled in the corner on the floor. And as the sky blackened once more he was no longer afraid, even though again he was in darkness. One moment of illumination can anchor us in a deeper truth, even while habit compels us to tumble back into the prevailing trance and doubt what was revealed.
Discipline = to become a disciple of the deepest truth or most adequate perspectives that you have ever accessed. To be a disciple means that we apprentice ourselves to the ongoing development of our capacity to live in integrity with our deepest awareness. This means that we are committed to the practice of surveying our consciousness, our lives, our choices, relationships, habits, and actions in order to discover where a less adequate perspective may be prevailing, and then to do the work of bringing everything into alignment with the deeper awareness, even as awareness is continuing to evolve. This can be deeply challenging at times. And it is in the challenges and contractions that we need to call on ourselves to remember what we saw in that streak of illumination — the snake was a rope — then we can gradually bring the light of that illumination into those shadowed blinds within us. I guess that this is what practicing faith is — not adherence to doctrine or hiding from fear within the fortress of orthodoxy — but reconnecting to the truths of our own moments of great love, deep clarity or intimations of a grand vista that is yet beyond our imagining. I think that faith is choosing to invest trust in what was revealed in those sublime moments, even when it seems most dim and distant and doubtful. Faith need not mean certainty. Only consideration of possibility and a willingness to remain open to it. Only humility.