Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Just Who Do You Think You Are?

...A person? A nation? Maybe an impersonation. :)

Our epic travels around the sun are taking the populations of the northern hemisphere into a time of increasing darkness, while we respond by turning up the heat and the lights. Stress is already being dialed up, as well--family stress, "holiday" stress, and conditions like Seasonal Affective Disorder...right along with National Financial Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, the clouds have moved back in, making the brief visits of sunshine seem precious. The artist in me is on high alert for those remarkably beautiful spears and cascades of brilliance, the heightened contrast that brings such gorgeous dimension to the sky and landscape.

I do love the light! Along with this true love is a corresponding appreciation of deepening shadows, and the natural downtime involved in approaching winter. My animal self wants to burrow under the covers, retreat to the back of the cave for longer periods, and hibernate. Not out of fear or depression, but in rhythm with the native cycles of being.

I'm convinced that much of our seasonal and social/political angst is due to a denial of this urge to deepen, to go within for a while. Some of us fear what we might find at the back of the cave, in the dark. Many years ago, I realized that interior forays are as well-lit by the beam of attention as exterior journeys are in the middle of a clear summer day. The inevitable discoveries are invaluable and necessary to the thriving of all aspects of life, even if the terrain and creatures encountered seem foreign. Much treasure is found in the willingness to venture below the surface, simply to shine an observational light upon oneself. It is a gift that truly "keeps on giving" long past our symbolic celebrations.

This is the time of year that feeds my contemplative soul, and not only am I unafraid, but I look forward to it!

"As above, so below" is an ancient observation that is certainly borne out as soon as one shines even a dim light on the human psyche. Depending upon the point of view, we are one universe of many galaxies, one world of many countries, one species of many members, even one god of many faces. Our complete nature is fractal that way; psychologically speaking, we experience ourselves as one person moving through time and space. In reality, we are many, many characters, each playing out a part, each with its own set of fears and desires and carrying an agenda. That nagging feeling of being "at war" with oneself is the inevitable conflict of an unexamined "subconscious" colony. The corresponding physical "fact" of our wars with each other is this ignoring (ignorance) taking further form as the world of disputing ideoligies and needs.

All of us have ideals that we adopt or develop as responses to our personal stories. Socially, it is important to us to feel secure, healthy, cohesive, attractive, balanced, loving, powerful in some way. Inevitably, this translates as a list of shoulds--the singular "I" should be thinner, wealthier, more caring, less timid, more objective, etc. In the quest to personify our ideals (thus, we believe, finding happiness), we tend to run into countless stumbling blocks along the way, in the form of an annoying--and sometimes destructive--self that can't stay out of the candy dish, consistently shows up late, refuses to accept the inevitable, wants to intimidate the neighbor or is still afraid of monsters in the closet. This rogue self seems to thrive in the face of our judgements about what is good, right and best for ourselves and all concerned. We give it lots of names--Ego, Satan, Because, Addiction, In Case, Biology, Them. We tend to treat it as an enemy that stands in our way or a trait to be vanquished, pretty much guaranteeing an energetic fight.

There is a different way, one which involves a mental pause, a descent through the tear in the fabric of one's world (we always leave this opening to put our heads through, and yes, pull our heads out!), akin to the instinctive burrowing of a mammal and the healing quest of a shaman. Our own intention to see is the very light we need; our attention to the process is exactly the vision that changes everything.

The sheer depth and horrific beauty of our underground suspends judgement for a time. This is good, because we are not here to praise or condemn what we find. The moment that we stand there with nothing in mind but the torch of awareness held up in invitation, the children of our deep begin to come forth. Oh, my. All ages, conditions, professions and types, fascinated by the rare appearance of light, anxious to tell all about themselves and their mostly unnoticed existence. It's like an entire world, just out of sight--but now, it can't be ignored!

Initially, much hunger and desperation may be encountered, along with every form of wounding known to humankind. Just the simple act of being there dissolves most of it. Things quiet down, and the most persistent and permanent resident characters of the underground become known. Aha--there is the sugar fiend! There is the abandoned child, the hangman, the joker, the fool, the princess, the visionary, the beach bum. Some of them spend all their time persecuting, some of them acting the victim role, some of them avoiding and some of them chasing. It becomes clear that they exist within for reasons that are quite logical to each of them; they are what they are, and they don't need changing. Attempting to change them or convert them, another judge springs to the fore, and another argument ensues.

A reconstructed role is not required, here. A different mask, a new set of clothes, a new coping behavior is not what this exploration is about. Open looking, naked observation is all there is. Feelings like fear and disgust soon reveal themselves as yet more characters of the underground, one more victim and one more judge. Nothing can hide from an intrepid light.

Inevitably, an ageless, solid security arises, an independent and utterly free sense of cohesiveness that has nothing to do with manipulation or pandering. It is discovered through simply recognizing what appears as an entity, character or feature in its own right, needing nothing in particular and granting no special power. Whatever it is exists fully and completely in the warmth of attention before dying a natural death; in truth, nothing exists before your awareness or after it. The size of the world, the quality of its being, is determined by the quality of attention.

At the back of the cave, the direct connection between what seems to be within to what seems to be without becomes obvious. At exactly the same point and time that we imagine we are characters standing here looking out at the world, we-the-world is looking into our interior. Each projects the other in a mirrored dance so close that only an imagination could discern any difference. I am looking out at you and looking in at myself, all at once. My imagination exists to draw lines between the two of us in different places, for different effects...or no lines at all!

The characters, either interior or exterior, both and neither, continue to appear. No threat now, no false masters. I can see them, finally, with compassion and an affection which appears to spring out of an underlying stability beneath the ceaseless change. I can see them clearly when I am not busy downsizing to characterhood, losing myself in the drama.

A little reflection goes a long way in the waning of a moon, a year, a system, or a self...eventually, we will outgrow our mirrors, and know that we are nothing but clear, full light.

1 comment:

  1. Very powerful, encouraging post! I love the idea of looking forward to the dark time of year to journey inward. Never thought of it that way before.