Journal Entry, Spring 1995. On the struggle to honor the seasons of the mind even while recognizing their transient nature and their role as our teachers.
I offer you as my special gift the grief that has been walking with me off and on for a few days now. Bodily sensations of heaviness and lethargy and feelings of hopelessness all make it seem as though to stand would be to defy the laws of gravity.
Part of me wishes to take a walk in the woods of sorrow and find a dark tree base around which to curl up, covering myself with fallen leaves and dry pine and fir needles. Yet part of me also knows that grief is a sacred visitor who has come to bring to my attention feelings that wish to have an audience.
Grief is just another current on the winds of space-time, just another opportunity to turn from fear to love. Yet how many of us are mindful enough, honest enough, brave enough, to truly admit to our softness? How much easier it seems to brush everything away as though it were of no matter. Only, every such incident leaves its subtle traces in our consciousness; and no emptying is possible without looking in the eye each grief and disappointment we have experienced, whether consciously or unconsciously. Spiritual awakening is taking a broom and sweeping our consciousness over and over, examining as though they were diamonds all of the particles of dust collected in such an operation. How eager is the body to release everything it has held so we may, when we are ready, receive the learning at the heart of each suffering!
Give us the courage Oneness to open our heart-mind to the truths in the tapestry of suffering we have woven from threads of grief we have, out of shame, left carelessly hanging. Shame is nothing more than a judgement of our responses to life. Shame and judgement are the judge and jury that condemn us for not living up to their projections of who we should be. What an irony that so many of us willingly give over our entire lives to be sentenced by shame and judgement when both are an effect of fear. It is as though out of fear we allow ourselves to be held hostage by fear. What is this glorification of an absence of feeling, this sense that to open deeply to sorrow, shame or self-doubt is somehow to be weak? What could be more courageous than to be fully present to all the energies flowing through?
Now, there is a mistaken belief that freedom comes from simply documenting every story, its genesis, its growth and development, the twists and turns of its plot, the attempts at its resolution. To seek to free oneself from story it is not enough to bear our grief as a trophy. Wisdom is not born of clinging to the story and making it one’s own. Rather, wisdom and freedom emerge when the story is tended as a story and the visitor, once received, is understood to be an itinerant traveler. It is so easy to stop at storytelling, to feel one’s agency in storytelling, to think one’s identity is that of storyteller, to think one’s salvation lies in finding many who will believe the story, to think that the purpose of life is to discover how it is that we are made of story. What a cul-de-sac and dead-end such a route is! How much more spacious the road that leads through the thicket of stories into the blue sky beyond, each story viewed as a wisdom-bearing cloud that has temporarily obscured the clarity and vast emptiness of the true nature of mind-heart. Why cling to the cloud when you can realize yourself as the sky? Why harness an energy that has simply arisen to offer a teaching before it resumes its onward journey?
Teach us Oneness how to walk delicately, how to touch the story, when to touch the story, and when to kiss it goodbye. May we never abhor our tender humanness. May we never eschew our human tenderness. May we never turn away from even the most ephemeral of phenomena. May we be present to all that arises within us: knowing that though our teachers they are not our identity nor the axis around which to construct a self. To do this would be to seal such stories into place so that what should have been a transitory experience becomes, as it were, coated upon the surface of our skin with the sealing agent of attachment. Help us to navigate the raging river of human experience, avoiding the whirlpools of attachment, evasion, and denial. May the oars of wisdom row our boat expertly along the course that you have mapped out for us, for our growth in each moment.
Postscript: This dialectic between honoring the facts of suffering even while refusing to be contained by them equally holds in social contexts. For more, see here.