Saturday morning, I was laying in bed, thinking about some of the events of the past week or so. Since the pandemic started, I have been telecommuting, and as a result, have had more time in the morning – no more long drive to work each day. So I have gotten back into a practice of regular prayer and/or meditation each morning before getting out of bed. It’s been one of the more positive things that has come from a tough situation for the world, and I am committing to continuing, even if I do go back into the office someday. Although at this point, it seems that’s not likely. Our company, as many others, has (FINALLY) instituted some full-time telecommuting options, and although I was initially reluctant about it, I love it now. But I digress –
So as I lay there, I was starting to try to meditate, but as I said – was thinking about some of the events that have been going on – in particular, the astonishing heat wave that hit the Pacific Northwest and Canada, and even more specifically, what happened in the poor town of Lytton, CA. They hit the ALL TIME high temperature for the country, ever, last Tuesday of 121F. Just unbelievable. I live in Phoenix, AZ, and that’s hot for HERE. But that’s in CANADA, the Great White North. To make matters worse, and even more tragically incredible, a number of forest fires started, and ended up basically incinerating the little town of Lytton. The video is just surreal. My heart goes out to those people, and the animals, nature. So, so sad.
And if THAT wasn’t enough, there was the “lightning siege” from the storm clouds created from the smoke from the fires, the pipeline fire in the Gulf of Mexico – the ocean on fire – and then, an X-class flare from the sun. It was like Spirit/Mother Nature/The Universe/Divine Presence is telling us, “time is up – here comes the pain.”
As those thoughts ran through my mind, I could feel a cloud of darkness descending on me. It was like I was in the middle of forest fire myself, in my mind, and the clouds of fear and destruction were starting to smother me. It’s always hard to describe something like this, but I truly felt some fear, and a lot of anxiety as the light got fainter and fainter, and I was enveloped by the blackness. It makes me think that must be similar to what it’s like to lose consciousness before dying – the last embers of the light of awareness dimming.
And to be sure, I had always told myself that I wasn’t afraid to die. I have been deeply spiritual for most of my life, and truly believe (at least I think, or thought, or hope) that physical death is not the end – that our spirits live on. I know one day I will pass from this plane of existence, and I have made peace with the Divine Presence, I am ok with my life. So I thought I was ok to face death. But here, in this dark space I was experiencing, it was something different. Because I wasn’t just thinking about my death – I was thinking about Death with a capital D – like the death of everybody, all life on the planet, my kids not having a future, my grandkids. And I was NOT ready for that. And as much as I thought I was ready to face my own end, I realized that I was not – at least not on those terms. I didn’t- I don’t – want to die, especially not in such a hellish end as was suffocating me. And then, as I felt the darkness completely envelop me, and all hope slip away, a word FLASHED into my mind, out of nowhere, in capital letters. And the second it did, light came rushing in, the darkness receded, the light grew stronger and stronger, and I knew I was ‘saved.’ And what was that word?
Yes – SELFISHNESS. Not ‘Love,’ or ‘Truth,’ or ‘Abracadabra,’ or ‘Om,’ or some other sacred or power word; no, it was selfishness. And there was no doubt – that word banished the darkness like nobody’s business! And it wasn’t like some kind of violent thing or battle, it was just a burst of light that filled the darkness, and grew brighter and brighter, until there was no darkness.
Of course it wasn’t long before my conscious mind latched onto the situation, and was like, “What the..?! Selfishness? Really???” I was really confused, I just didn’t understand how a word like that, a word with negative connotations could have power like that. And I have to say here, that of all things I cannot STAND to be called, selfish is one of the biggest. I can’t stand selfish people, and the term itself to me is one of the worst things a person can be called. So that alone is proof that word did NOT come from me – that is NOT the word I would have used, and I just did not understand it.
So I lay there, pondering it, hoping to get some insight. Slowly, it started to come to me, that I was very selfish, with my life, in that I viewed it – like, my literal life, the life force that causes me to draw breath and live – as mine, and I didn’t want to lose it, to have it taken away from me, by God/Source/Universe, or anyone or anything else. I thought I was ok dying, and maybe 40 years from now, on a piece of land up in the mountains, all relaxed with my kids and grandkids at my side – yeah, maybe. But here, in this time, in some kind of apocalyptic climate crisis, one that could very well push the human species to extinction, and rob my kids and grandkids, and my friends’ kids and grandkids of their futures – no, I wasn’t ready for this. This life – our lives – were OURS, and I was clinging tighter to it than I ever imagined.
Still, this didn’t sit real well with me, but I realized it was true. I have been thinking about it more since it happened, and the more I do, the more it makes sense – the more I see how it ties in with the teachings of the great spiritual masters. The Buddha taught about overcoming attachment – how it alone was the cause of all suffering. And what greater attachment could one have than to their own life? Oh sure, I like to think I am ok with whatever happens, but if truly honest with myself, I still struggle with that – and just might always. I’ve also been thinking back to that verse in the Bible, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” In some translations, it says “whoever clings to his life.” Wow… I am starting to see what all that stuff was really about – it was far more literal than I ever imagined. The Bible is so often, in fact mostly, allegorical. But this – this is pretty straightforward.
I guess the reason that word banished the darkness then was because it reminded me that life, even the one I am enjoying as this consciousness in this physical vehicle, is not mine. And I need to stop fooling myself into THINKING that I understand that and am good with it, and really work on BELIEVING that, in my innermost self. I need to make peace with that fact, and let go of the selfishness of thinking that it’s mine. And I need to let go of my thoughts, hopes and dreams about the way everything should go. Because honestly, they are selfish too. I don’t want to see all that destruction, the pain, the suffering, the loss of life and beauty. But again, I don’t want to see it because it causes me pain, and sadness, grief. Of course I care about the lives and livelihoods of other living things – I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t. Love of all life is a huge part of who I am, and I will never lose that. But it has to be balanced with acceptance – with letting go of attachment – attachment to how things should go for everyone and everything else.
And so this, THIS is the real cross to bear then, isn’t it? Knowing that our freedom is in letting go of attachment to life – to our life, to all life – all while carrying deep love for all of life, feeling the pain of what could have been, and knowing that it is not in our power, or even in the best interest of those suffering necessarily on a spiritual level, to stop it. Now I saw a post the other day, something about a person saying that people who had it rough in this life ‘deserved’ it based on their past karma, and I am NOT about that. It is not for me to say. And I’m not saying that if people are suffering, I am just going to let them suffer while thinking, “It’s God’s will, I shouldn’t do anything.” Hell no! I don’t operate like that. I help people, and believe EVERYONE is worth saving. The acceptance I am speaking about is the acceptance that, as much as I want to save everyone and everything – and I SO do, I just love this planet, it’s people, it’s wildlife, ugh – I cannot. Buddha couldn’t do it, Christ couldn’t do it, Gandhi couldn’t do it, MLK couldn’t do it – I can’t do it. And that is a bitter pill to swallow. It is acceptance in its highest form.
So what does that mean practically speaking? How can I implement that wisdom in my life to improve myself spiritually? That’s what I’m working on now. I thought I had already been down this path, learned the lessons, and moved onward up the mountain. But now I find myself at a very similar vista, realizing there is more to learn on this lesson of acceptance. I am reminded of the old Zen saying: “Before enlightenment – chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment – chop wood, carry water.” It’s like there are core spiritual concepts, and numerous levels to each of those concepts that we must pass through on the Path to Truth. Acceptance – it seems to be one of those “Holy Grail” type ones on my journey. The more of it I have, the more peace and serenity I experience, and the more the Light of Spirit can shine in my life.
Did I get it right, I wonder – my insights about it? Maybe it was saying that selfishness was the cause of all the darkness, and in recognizing that, the darkness was washed away. Or maybe it was more literal, and saying that I was being selfish in my own life, and in realizing that, and awakening to selflessness, the light burst forth. I’m sure this is one of those things I will ponder and meditate on for some time to come. But in this time of uncertainty and (as much as I would like to deny it) fear, it is comforting for me to remember that life isn’t really mine anyway. It’s like a rental – at some point, I’m going to have to return it. Rather than dread that day, or try to just keep it and go neurotic trying to avoid them taking it back, I can accept the situation, make the most of each moment I do have with it, and try to bring some love, kindness, and compassion to other people and living things. I can appreciate the fact that I get to borrow it for a while, and make the very most of the time, hoping to have as few regrets as possible when it comes time to turn it in. And who knows – maybe if I took good enough care of it, and did enough good stuff, I will get an even better rental next time, maybe even an ‘upgrade’ 😉