In my contemplation the pain and suffering in life has become ever more clear to me. I am very sad about it, but the truth is that I just don’t have strong opinions and/or beliefs about what will fix it. As a social worker and development worker I became disillusioned, not seeing the significance of my intended actions. I did not see that my actions or anyone else’s made a significant difference accept at those times that one was able to bring love, compassion and clear seeing to those moments and relations.
I struggle these days with the many opinionated and self assured voices that I encounter and often feel that I am passive and misdirected in their perception. Although I am in agreement with the observation that there is immense suffering and injustice in the world, a strong emotional reaction insisting upon the fault and responsibility for the acts of injustice and how to intervene is unsettling for me. It seems to be incomplete; their perceptions missing something fundamental in understanding of a more complicated situation.
These days I look more within and attend to what I discover there, encountering a deep sense of pain that seems to be ignited when encountering these reactions from others. I look more to be with that, listening to what I discover there in that void, being asked to explain something that is ineffable where my words are just never enough.
What Beatrice Bruteau writes about is how I perceive myself to be. I find that Buddhism does not value this quality of expression in the same way that she espouses. I have a sense that as humans it is what we have evolved to be in our authentic being. The ability to express our experience is inseparable from that. So I see the value in sharing and expression as part of a creative unfolding. I think Toni Packer, a past mentor for me who was a spiritual leader at the Springwater Centre valued this as well.
From Beatrice Bruteau’s book “Radical Optimism”, she writes,
“When we can feel ourselves securely to be this free, undefined being which is the creative act of God and simultaneously our own act of being ourselves, then we can also express ourselves freely and creatively as finite beings. Metaphysical reflection leads to insight, which leads to artistic manifestation. Any artist, filled with the formless realization of great truth and beauty, gives expression to this realization in some particular form of sound or shape or color or action. We experience ourselves as actively speaking our word, itself an overtone of the Eternal Word. The word arises out of silence, the Void of the Absolute, transcendent of any particular form, but as spoken it takes a form, takes a body, becomes incarnate in a particular place and time and circumstance. And we consciously put our whole selves into this word which we speak by our lives. Thus we realize ourselves as both the formless one, undefined—and in this sense infinite—and one expressed in form, thus finite.”
You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Cracks and crevices appear on the surface of the sculpted, mask-creation that has become an extremely familiar adornment over the years. I am tentative in opening to what might be emerging from within that is facilitating this outer change; never the less, I no longer have the energy or initiative to indulge in surface activities that seem to have maintained the appearance of the mask over the years. There is something of me that now realizes that this attention only really served to insulate me from a more whole and sensitive being and expression of that.
An illuminating expansion of my conscious experience alongside an intensity of newly felt sensations seems to emerge as a result of letting go of old habitual ways. It can be somewhat exhilarating and at times overwhelming in its intensity. It seems all to be a part of what a more direct experience of living brings forth and invites of what has been ignored of being. This in turn, contributes to the increased cessation of the surface obsession and the suffering that has been the consequence of it.
I find myself laughing and crying at times in shame and regret as repressed memories surface revealing the anxiety, drama and folly I have entertained in looking to the influence of the outside world and how inability to cope with it has contributed to ongoing hiding. Until more recent times I couldn’t seem to bare the deeper truth of life and being; of my authentic self. It all requires adjustment. I know that I can not be completely separate from the deluded life I led.
I am now more ready to look for truth, and realize that the truth I desire to realize does not come to us from outside. There is something more authentic of what I am, already within. The secret of divine life is discovered there and needs only to be accepted and nurtured. There is an awareness of the union of infinite with the finite discovered in that and a much more intimate encounter with existence drawing nearer.
I listened to the late Harold Bloom today in an interview, recorded a few years ago, with Michael Enright of CBC radio. Something he said struck me. That was that we humans use convention as a way to help deal with chaos, the consequence of this being that the use of convention is suppressive.
I often feel with others that there is a subtle imposition or projection of their perceptions and way of seeing the world on to me. I suspect that this is how the human ego functions. It all seems to be a very normal way of surviving and bringing order to a chaotic external world in lieu of opening to what is missed in that orientation; however no less authentic and relevant. That includes the realty of a sense of vulnerability as an impermanent being in this universe.
I am increasingly aware of what is missed in being dependent on conventions and how our tendency to understand the world in terms of isolated, external and conditioned criterion is confining.
At a personal level I feel at times as if barriers are being constructed around me in which I am constrained and defined by a force external to me. There is something amiss in this. How can we expect to understand well what is going on in cosmic history apart from a careful examination of what goes on in the interior striving of life that reaches the summit of its intensity in humanity’s spiritual adventures?
It’s not that others are the problem. The pressure is in fact arising from the insistence of my own demands; possibly to the degree that I am attached those norms and wats of seeing and have abandoned direct experience as my guide to knowing myself and the world.
Maybe it is all a necessary and unavoidable step in human development. But in arriving at a place where I am seeing the limits of convention and discovering more openness I am realizing that there is a point where we become aware of how much of what we do and expect is limited in our blind acceptance of what we have been told about God, religion, culture, science and most any other thing we come to believe in.
Maybe it requires an act of grace that we are enabled to step out from what we have been conditioned to believe, to discover for ourselves the deeper truth of life. I don’t know, but, I am extremely grateful that something of my being has been enabled, to question and inquire and to realize the limitations of convention and to allow myself to be drawn to a more open and expansive envisioning and other possibilities than what convention allows for.
Most of us humans spend our life hiding. Relationships can help us to hide. In short, in our ego-consciousness we ultimately see ourselves as separated beings, fragments that relate to other fragments in terms of efforts to obtain some advantage. As such we experience life in a limited way, ignorant of something more complete of ourselves discovered more in looking within.
These days many old relations seem to be falling away; partly a result of impermanence and partly because I am becoming aware of the aversion to being alone that has sustained many of these fragmented relationships. This piecemeal identity that I have created myself “to be” in a search for security has ironically perpetuated a sense of being unreal and alone in life.
In stillness I realize with greater clarity the consequences of all this. I see the self centred neediness that has contributed to and is part of the fragmented perception of the world and others. I still at times resort back to this, although in silence, there is clearer seeing and a falling away of the old crust. I am left naked in that falling; at loss and feeling vulnerable, at these times. All those feelings that I have ultimately and relentlessly avoided experiencing.
I am better able to cope with these changes these days in my contemplative way. The darkness discovered in isolation seems not to be so incapacitating as I imagined it to be. A big part of this is adjustment involved in coming to new and more real insight and in shedding beliefs that were once held so closely; that once served as an illusive sense of security. I was blinded in those beliefs, to the confusion, entanglements and illusions of self and depthless relationships that I was enmeshed in. It all seemed to serve a groundless creation I called “my self” rather than anything more intimate or authentic of what I was.
It seems now that there is an ending in sight of the suffering that came with the grasping and from the darkness that it sustained and emerging from that opportunity for more truth and intimacy in relating with all in life.
Most people don’t know what to do with my openness to feeling and talking about my sense of being vulnerable. Often there is an assumption of depression or something that should be fixed; some part of myself to be improved or some ideal or optimal state to be reached. Advice is often offered about how I might be able to fix or improve my self image. It seems to be quite prevalent in the Buddhist practitioners that I have come to know perhaps from the dangled Buddhist offer of an end to suffering. But I no longer see the need to fix myself; discovering that there is liberation in being able to experience life in a deeper more authentic and complete way free from ideals beliefs or notion of pathology that divert me from looking sincerely at what is within.
Contemplation, for me means, withdrawing attention from outward, objective, particular, and temporal concerns, and refocusing on inward, subjective, general and even eternal realities. The desire for self entertainment falls away as I turn my attention inwardly toward the heart. I see that desire is fuelled by outward, objective, particular, and temporal concerns; a yearning for distraction from a a truth of life that includes both joyful and uncomfortable experiences. A possible truth might be that through these concerns we separate what is inseparable. We are conditioned to pursue hedonistic impulses and to avoid suffering. The irony is that one is not separate from the other. Turning toward the heart we find a joy for life not dependent on the search for pleasure. From this place we are better able to understand and deal with the temporal and particular. We find joy in love as we bring it to relations. But it includes a tolerance for suffering that our conditioning causes us to be averse to. I find that it is in coming to be ba able to be with my suffering that I rediscover compassion and a more direct experience of relating to the suffering of others.