Gratitude, Joy, Oneness, Service, Purpose and Meaning (Day 1091 – 1101)
On Saturday, I marked the passage of another year in my life. I used to love birthdays and I’m not afraid to admit that I loved it if people fussed over me. I would cajole boyfriends and family into fussing over me on my special day (when I was a child, this stretched to my special week, and – if I could get away with it – my special month). I think I would still like birthdays if I had a significant other who make a big fuss over me and celebrated me on my birthday.
But, there was a year, a few years ago, when I was hitting a milestone birthday and my career was in the tank and I had just ended a relationship. I really did not want to be reminded that time was passing as what seemed like my whole life was falling away. Since then, I’ve had an ambivalent relationship with birthdays and I respect anyone who says they really don’t want to make a fuss over their day. The older we get, the more we have to adjust to the idea that life is probably not going to bring us a castle or a Maserati or a soul mate life partner in the way we dreamed that it would.
The older we get, the more we are asked to let go of these wishes…at least, if we are on a spiritual path. More so, if we are on a path of mysticism.
I meditate with a group of mystics. I have a sense of what mysticism is and I think we all know it when we see it, but put quite simply – it is the belief that a direct experience of Oneness with the Divine can be achieved through the heart or mind of the mystic. This is not a pretentious group of self proclaimed mystics; they are earnest mediators on a spiritual path of mysticism, with the hope of the Grace to achieve that unio mystico (union with the Divine) that every mystic craves, like an addict craves heroin.
Like an addict, the mystic appears crazy to the world around them. The mystic is drunk on the love of the Divine and knows that what the soul needs is not always in the best interests of the personality. Sometimes what the soul needs is terribly painful to the personality. In my early days on the spiritual path, I learned about the importance of a teacher to guide us, because in yogic traditions, when the kundalini awakens, it is disturbing to the entire system, and can cause psychosis, without a knowledgeable teacher helping to guide us through the destruction of the ego and our entire world view.
My kundalini has not awakened and if living as one with the Divine is how we define being a mystic, then I’m not a mystic, either. I’m grateful that I’ve not had a disturbing awakening – because I am afraid of it. I’m shit scared of it, to be honest. And, at the same time, my soul yearns for it. When I travelled to India to immerse myself in yoga, I teetered on the precipice of surrender to the Divine and the path of awakening. Like most spiritual aspirants, I couldn’t do it. I was afraid of the pain.
I have spiritual ambivalence, and I’ve struggled with this, all my life.
I’ve known since childhood that my purpose in life is spiritual but as a young person, it is easy to put off what is difficult because we feel we have all the time in the world to live our lives and get down to the serious business of spiritual attainment later in life. As I get older, I see that the next breath is not guaranteed, and spiritual attainment does not usually come without spiritual practice – done in earnest and for a long time. It is a disservice not only to myself, but to living my purpose on this earth, to put it off one moment longer. And yet, in both conscious and unconscious ways, I’m continuing to put it off.
Recently, I was given a gift by Spirit. It caused me tremendous pain and so, in an impulsive moment, I prayed to be relieved of my pain until such time as the gift could be received in a package that was palatable to the personality. And just like that, it was gone. I felt relief, but as the pain left, so did the gift. The absence of that gift is perhaps more difficult to swallow than the pain.
What I had not realised is that the pain was a roadmap to where Spirit was calling me to work, in my life, toward my soul’s purpose. Those who work with depth psychology will know that depression is a gift, if we learn to work with it. In it, we can find meaning and listen to our shadow story that wants to be told. Once it is told and freed, we are no longer ruled by the unseen forces of that unconscious story line waiting to be heard.
Of course, I’m not belittling the suffering of those in depression or anguish or despair. It is horrible. Sometimes we aren’t strong enough to bear it. But it is important to remember – and I have come to realize the hard way – that when we wish away our depression and our pain, we wish away the opportunity for healing and integration.
Until we face our pain and listen to the shadow story that it tells, it will repeat over and over again in our lives. Looking back from the perspective of a heart in relief, I wish I had had the courage to deal with it now, rather than when it surprises me again, in the future. The meaning of our lives is not found only in the narrative of success and triumph and cultivated relationships that we tell ourselves and one another. It is also found in the story of broken hearts and power plays and dark obsessions that the soul yearns to tell and have heard and accepted.
On Saturday, I had the joy of spending a wonderful evening with a new friend at her home and she bought me a cake for my birthday. I had the opportunity to make a wish as I cut my birthday cake. I’m always grateful for the opportunity to dream or to wish or to become deeply connected and pray. Having been granted freedom from suffering – and with it, freedom from a direct experience with God – I chose not to make any more wishes.
As the variant of the old Yiddish curse goes: Be careful what you wish for; you just might receive it.