Deep within myself there exist forces of darkness that are for me insurmountable.
They are pockets of psychological resistance that are tangled up with my most basic instincts; they are taboo, wild, and un-tamable.
They challenge what I think of myself and offend every conscious sensibility I have. Their very presence challenges the simple minded idea that spirituality is about the development and maintained of stability and consistency.
They can be triggered with little to no warning, and in an instant, I am gripped by fear, carried away by obsession, or overwhelmed by rage; no amount of effort on my part has ever been able to effect any real change in these difficult areas of my life.
I have tried everything under the sun—nothing has worked.
For years, I told myself I needed to find a more insightful teacher, be initiated into a higher practice or read the right book. I suppose it is fair to say that I have never been able to effect any real change in these areas of my life, because I have been doing it wrong. But my feeling on this matter is beginning to shift; I am beginning to see that the harsh, demanding, overly critical voice in my head that says, “You’re doing wrong! Try again,” is just another one of the areas I am talking about.
At a certain point, I have to concede that no progress has been made because I am not capable of changing who I am. I can change my actions, but for the same reasons that a knife cannot cut itself, I cannot change myself.
In the past, I have used spiritual practice as a way of keeping fear, anger and neediness at a safe distance. This is why acceptance seems so tricky. Acceptance is the epitome of the spiritual situation to the extent that it is synonymous with love. It is important to note love is neither tolerance nor is it some sappy romantic disposition; it is openness or fearlessness.
In my practical experience, acceptance has always been distorted by my attempts to either keep the darkness at arm’s length by observing it like a lab rat on the meditation cushion or by sedating the experience of turmoil with sentimental rhetoric. Never have I had the courage to allow acceptance, in relationship to the threat of darkness within my own life, to be characterized by openness.
So, long as I subscribe to the idea that spiritual growth is a matter of contorting myself into some ridiculous image of social perfection by eliminating or defeating darkness, the experience of Self will be tainted by the illusion of division and the feeling of insufficiency.
For years, I have thought that I was afraid of being hurt or hurting someone else under the influence of these forces. Only now do I see that I am not afraid of getting scared, as if fear were an activity that I engage in, I am afraid of being fear. The shadow does not belong to me; it is me, and it is terrifying because often times it manifests without the buffer of form. There is just the intense experience of formless energy. This is why I am so committed to maintaining the space that separates “me” from “it”.
For as long as I can remember, there has been a boisterous sense of self situated in the center of my skull. This sense of self is synonymous with the ego. It uses not only masturbation, sugar, validation, alcohol or drugs but journaling, prayer, meditation and exercise to subdue the darkness.
“I” try to tame this primitive energy by forcing it to conform to the image and likeness of my conscious self, the good guy, and in doing so reject myself, creating my arch nemesis.
Naturally, when the conscious mind is organized around relative notions of what is right and acceptable—ideas inherited from society that are not necessarily substantiated by the body—there will be a collection of ideas and impulses that are denied. This creates a sense of division and transforms all the dark, unacceptable consequences of subscribing to what is right into lifeless wraiths that wonder around in the darkness of my own mind looking to reconnect with the experience of vitality that arises from the process of honest and spontaneous expressivity.
If there is no love, then there is no acceptance. If there is no acceptance, there is no God, because there is no honesty. In dishonesty, we disconnect from the experience of Truth or the fullness of Life. This leaves us feeling lifeless.
So, there is a direct link between dishonesty and love.
In this sense, love refers to the openness that accommodates fullness. It is our ideas about who we should and shouldn’t be—our fears and expectations—that clutter our inner space and remove love from the equation.
I am not suggesting that there should be no compass, but that our true compass is inborn. Deep in the darkness of the body there is a voice that discerns between all that is natural and unnatural, and the experience of salvation seems to be contingent upon trusting that voice. The heart is the compass, not the brain.
Unfortunately, intuition falls under the forces we have been taught to doubt—it is too open and too inquisitive. Intuition leads back into the experience of being. There is nothing to figure out. There is nothing to say or observe. Intuition just reaches out in faith.
True acceptance is silent. It does not say a word, because it does not seek to change anything.
I am not invited into the darkness for a visit that I can come back from and brag to my friends about. Silence invites the darkness into me. I have to be the devil. It asks me to embody the fear, the anger, the obsession and to do so without any shame: without guilting others into believing that they are responsible for how I feel, or blaming who I am on my past; in silence I do not have any spiritual tools to manipulate the darkness, and there aren’t any intellectual justifications that seek to explain the darkness away.
It may not be a picture perfect embrace, but it is a complete embrace.
This is the return of the prodigal son. Satan is the prodigal son. But when the prodigal son has showed his face around these parts, I have denied him. I have lectured him or forced him to sit on the cushion, all the while ignoring that I am him. With every denial he became more and more aggressive, until eventually he erupted into the present moment and caused a scene.
These scenes are then used to justify continuing to deny the darkness within me; this denial is the genesis of evil within me. It is a discontinuation of the instinctual movement towards wholeness and it may only be overcome by death and resurrection.
It is in silence that we meet our death. This sort of silence is panoramic—and panoramic silence is present only when I accept in perfect honesty and faith the aspect of myself that sits in a utilitarian silence with its fingers crossed, waiting for its efforts to bring it to the desired shore of “spiritual perfection.”
I must see and love even the part of me that has unrealistic expectations of myself by seeing and loving every attempt to move beyond my unrealistic expectations as just another unrealistic expectation.
I am beginning to realize that true spiritual growth is growth towards wholeness, not linear perfection. Linear perfection may have its place, but it is not mandated by my very existence. I have no option other than to continuing to unfold as a person. I will never get to a place that I consider acceptable. I will never reach that finish line.
So, without any reservations or conditions, I must leap into my life, as it is now—with all of my strengths and shortcomings. This is the silence that is louder than words; it is the wisdom of acceptance.
The wisdom of acceptance is love. Love is the one thing I have never tried.
I have tried everything else; I have tried meditation practice, yoga, prayer, study, therapy, helping others, writing, running.
I have literally tried it all.
The one thing I have never tried is not trying; I have never completely given up. I suspect it will kill me.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise