March 16, 2017

“The gladness in your heart won’t catch you when you fall. It makes for an inspiring day, a beautiful day, but it sleeps at night and in the dark you must find something else to rely upon. The gladness in your heart is made of sunshine; it is made of things easy and free, made of all the small gladnesses the world offers you, made of the sunniness and the brightness of life, made in the day. And it is not that that joy has fled you when night comes and the pain sets in, it’s not that it is gone; but it is resting awhile, latent, in its potential, withdrawn into the quiet recesses of your open heart. That kind of gladness is not a crutch, not an aid able to see you through your difficult moments; it is not meant to be wisdom, it is not meant to buoy you through the pain. And so, when you are in pain, when it is dark all around you, do not ask, “Where has my joy gone? Why am I without my gladness?” Ask instead, “What is here now? What will see me through this place? What is it that visits me when I am so low and the world so bleak?” Certainly your inner guidance is there, its voice like all the patience you can’t muster for yourself, its kindness the kindness of things already understood. But you have, too, your own resources, those firm places inside yourself that cradle you when you cannot stand on your own. And these are not places of wisdom, or understanding, for, in that pain, in that darkness, confusion is your natural state. And they are not places of soothing reassurance, some way you might tell yourself that all is well, because it is very clear to you that it is not. And so, what gives firmness to your own self-support? What enables you to hold your own hand through the dark night? It is courage, sometimes, that special aspect of will that enables us to persevere because we are braver than we think we are. But I would say that the ground, the very foundation of your own ability to cradle yourself in such dark and painful times is faith, that it is faith that gives resolve to your own self-support, faith that carries you and that loves you as yourself in a way that only that can. Faith is the way you say to yourself that things are not all right and that they do not need to be, that pain is here and it is consuming you and you do not need to be preserved. Faith holds so firm to the notion of universal harmlessness that there is no chaos, no confusion, no catastrophe and no pain which can ever really hurt you, ever damage you in any meaningful way at all. And, in faith, you can be held in this notion yourself, cradled in this very understanding, alive on the exquisite edge of this vulnerability and open to all the possibilities that vulnerability brings. Faith is the firmness in your own mind which makes you sane when you want to be otherwise, and it is the sweet depth of certainty where everything else has none at all. And it is yours if you will have it. It is not the responsibility of your guidance to lend it to you, not the prerogative of your teachers or guides to inspire it in you; it is yours and yours alone—your choice and your blessing. Go forth in faith, and whether or not you have gladness, you are held aloft, you are cradled, you are well. Go forth in faith and there is nothing you cannot bear. Nothing that has been and nothing that will ever be can disturb or destroy you. Have faith and you have your sanity back, you have your touchstone, you have your ground. Have faith and you have everything you need.”


February 12, 2015

This injunction to immerse ourselves in our own pain (primarily the psychological kind) is a tough pill to swallow, but it is meant mercifully, not punitively. Here, pain is not depicted as an obstacle (as we often view it) or an illusion (as spiritual texts seem to tell us it is), but as experientially real, and so “potent and life-giving and full of blessing”.

“Returning to yourself requires, not that you touch into your pain, not that you dip in with your consciousness hovering above, but that you become it, that you immerse yourself so completely that there is no distinguishing yourself from your experience of it. Your identity should get lost in the consummation of that pain. Your sense of yourself should drown; that is exactly what is supposed to happen. And the pain that you become, as it becomes you, should overwhelm you, it should fill your senses, bewilder your mind, and disorient you.

You believe that if pain is always other than you, always held at a distance, always kept apart from the core of you, then it will not damage what is precious, what is sacred to you. But it is exactly this risk that you must take, the risk that the pain will, indeed, damage something, the risk of subjecting that very preciousness to the depths of experience you have always tried to protect it from. If what you love is so feeble that it can be burned away by the fires of pain then it is too weak to deserve its place in your heart, it is too small to be sacred. But if that preciousness, in all its tenderness and vulnerability, survives the fires of your deepest pain and comes through that, as I assure you it will, not scathed but purified and all the more beautiful for it, then will you not see that it cannot be damaged, it cannot be lost, it cannot be consumed? There is nothing inside us so rotten or so intense that it can hurt our truest selves. But to find this we must submit ourselves fully to that fire so that whatever is too feeble, whatever it is that we never needed, can be taken from us mercifully and for good.

We have never succeeded in protecting ourselves; every attempt to hold back the tide of that pain only prolongs our discontent and our disappointment. Everything great in this world is accomplished through fearlessness, and submerging yourself into your own pain is the most courageous act possible.”


April 29, 2014

“Life has set you out what appears to be a series of obstacles.  Life is problems to fix, hurdles to overcome.  But every one of those obstacles, and every one of those problems, is a chance, an opportunity for something new and fresh and needed, something craved at a level we are rarely aware of.  I do not mean that on the other side of the hurdle there is a chance for newness, a chance for opening; I mean that the hurdle itself is the chance.  I mean that for the cancer patient, pain is the great opportunity.  I mean that for the trauma victim, fear and despair, these are the chances presented.  I mean that it is the thing itself which has so much potential and not the transcendence of that thing or the survival of that thing or its parting or its knowledge.  I mean that the problem which seems most intricate, most complex, most knotted and hopeless and without resolve—I mean that inside that knot is a chance, unavailable elsewhere, for great and perfect opening.”

This is to me such an inspired view, that our most difficult human troubles are exactly the perfect and sacred doorways we most need for our deepest opening:

“…it is the inherent complexity and darkness of our circumstance here on this plane that gives rise to these fruitful and beautiful problems.  We dance here even though the body will die, and we sing even though one day we will not be able to utter a sound—and if we were not going to die we would not dance, there would be no point, and we would not sing, there would be no song.  It is our fragility and our confusion which lends us both our sorrow and our potential for great bliss, but to skip the one is to forever obscure the other.”