¨The divine working is not the working which the egositic mind desires or approves; for it uses error in order to arrive at truth, suffering in order to arrive at bliss, imperfection in order to arrive at perfection. The ego cannot see where it is being led; it revolts against the leading, loses confidence, loses courage. These failings would not matter; for the divine Guide within is not offended by our revolt, not discouraged by our lack of faith or repelled by our weakness; he has the entire love of the mother and the entire patience of the teacher.¨ Sri Aurobindo
These past weeks have not been easy for me. I feel as though multiple tornadoes have swept through my soul; at times, I felt like one of those people on the news standing on a pile of rubble that used to be their house wondering, how do I begin to clean this up? I’ve had to reach deep within myself to pull up some very deep-rooted feelings, and as I mentioned in the last post, my hands have gotten quite dirty in the process.
Being in Auroville has put my internal evolution on fast-forward, and the last two weeks feel equivalent in intensity to the past two years. Fortunately, this environment is the perfect place for confronting and integrating the darkness inside that I´ve been too afraid and reluctant to face.
When we start on the spiritual path, we usually have expectations that, with diligent practice, we will one day find a way to overcome suffering and to get beyond all our petty habits that have caused such problems and brought us to seek the path in the first place. What we find (sometimes after years of practice) is that the path doesn´t lead us away from suffering, but deeper into it. The Zen teacher S. Suzuki was reluctant to disclose to his students that there is no end to suffering, since that might discourage them. It can be quite a shock when we finally understand that there is no escape from our selves.
For me, I´ve known for some time that the path is not all about rainbows and bliss. What has surprised me these past weeks, however, the extent to which I still deceive myself and walk right into the same traps I´ve already identified and tried to move beyond. It wouldn’t be so bad if only I were involved, but unfortunately, other people got hurt in the process. At certain moments, I felt hopeless, lost, and deeply confused, as though I had not made any progress after years of practice. I felt like a man who didn´t learn from past mistakes, but one who kept on making them over and over again until he was finally so beaten down and miserable that he had to relent and resolve to live a life in line with what he knew to be true in his heart, but inexplicably couldn´t bring himself to embody. The nadir of this process has been watching how my ego took control of a realization where it has just seen how not in control it is: even in my defeat, I could see how there was still pride at having been open enough to see my negative and painful aspects. In this way, I found myself guilty of the original sin of arrogance: I took an insight that had been freely offered to me in the form of grace and claimed it as my own creation, my own achievement, my own accomplishment.
I cried and wretched and screamed as I felt what had happened, and the pain I had inflicted on others- a feeling that stuck with me for days. All the while, I tried to remind myself of my aspiration that the universe continue showing me the path of Truth, and allow every experience and person and event to be a learning experience. Days passed where I felt so confused and miserable that I had no idea when or if this would resolve itself. And then, quite unexpectedly, while digging holes for trees on Wednesday morning, it struck me that it didn´t need to be resolved or ´figured out´- if only I took a different perspective.
I had seen my confusion and pain as something that I was responsible for and that I had to resolve. What struck me as I dug into the earth that morning was that I could actually learn to be at home in the depths of my fear of not being enough (which was the common root of all the weeds that had sprung up- something that so many of us face). I saw how my resistance to this pain actually created more of it: the fear was bad enough, but then I became afraid of being afraid, which led me (in the past and present) to do all sorts of destructive and harmful things. But if I could see this darkness as something worthwhile and valuable- as something sacred, in fact- then I wouldn´t need to be so afraid of it after all. If I could feel this emotion (a combination of fear, guilt, inadequacy) fully, and understand that it, as much as everything else in this world, is part of being human and is a reflection of the divine, then I didn´t need to chase it away at all. If I could de-personalize it and see its true source, then I could embrace and honor it. Put simply, I felt my own longing for love as but a fragment of the divine´s longing to for Him to known Himself (feel free to choose another metaphor if that one doesn’t suit you). Everything that sprung from that (fear, frustration, confusion) could also be valued and celebrated similarly.
And now that I´ve admitted and seen how much I need love, I suddenly find I don´t need it from others as much as I thought I did; my continued existence is proof of a love much vaster than any single human being. Now that I´ve fully felt how inadequate I thought I was, I don´t feel quite as defective; I am free to see that, as the Zen saying goes, “you’re perfect, but there’s room for improvement.” Now that I´ve seen how fear has driven so much of my life, I´m not so afraid; with Giulia’s help, shining the light of love in these dark spaces has shown me the fear for what it was.
Everything I discovered these past weeks is still within me- there was no ¨resolution¨in this sense. But what I’ve seen is that instead of running away from them and pretending they don´t exist (as I had done before, with negative consequences for myself and others), I can now welcome them as teachers and reflections of this life’s vastness and beauty.