Growing and transcending

I’m aware that each time I write a truly vulnerable account of how I’m feeling about my disabled son I probably lose a few readers – understandably so because not everyone wants to read about someone’s suffering, especially those seeking a more uplifting story – so I’m drawn to say thank you to those who are drawn to read my experiences and feelings, regardless of reason. Sometimes I feel very alone and it helps to write it down and know people are reading my words, even when I am going around in circles with the same feelings and issues, or at least seem to be. I really do appreciate it.

I know in my heart that each of us is on a spiritual journey to realising our true self – our Christ self, Divine indwelling, soul – whichever term you feel most comfortable with -and we can’t drop off the path no matter what we do or feel. Sometimes life can feel completely unbearable and I think it is important to be honest about the suffering because it is the freedom of speaking the truth that ultimately saves us. As Carl Jung (I think) said, ‘suffering can’t always be worked through, only transcended.’ I cannot escape my pain. It just is. It exists in a state of consciousness that is fully human and I love and respect it. It will never leave me for it is part of me. But it is not ALL of me. And therein lies the answer.

I think it was Mother Teresa who said ‘when you know better, do better.’ We experience life in accordance with our level of consciousness, so once we grow spiritually, we experience life, and God/the Divine, from a higher state of awareness. However, growth is not a linear process, as I know all too well. I have meditated and prayed for years and feel I have a healthy relationship with my spirituality and the Divine. I am always growing and evolving and increasing my capacity for unconditional love. The difficulty is when old wounds get activated, or, as Eckhart Tolle says, the pain body, and once again I am lost in the pain of wanting what can never be. The pain body is the emotional element of the conditioned self – who we believe ourselves to be in relation to the outer world. Some people call this the ego, and indeed I have done sometimes, but I dislike the term, maybe because it reduces it to an unpleasant sounding entity rather than being part of my being which evolved to try and help me live in this world, however misguided it has been. It also seems to suggest that my emotions are ‘wrong’ on some level. My emotions over my son and wishing things were different are not ‘wrong’; they simply are. I can’t imagine anyone in my situation not feeling this way; at least, not without a huge and permanent shift in consciousness to the extent that one’s personal history just doesn’t matter any more because one abides purely in a state of love. This ideal was perfectly executed in the story of Jesus.

Regardless of what I, or anyone else, think about the whole mystery of Jesus, whether he was real, a myth, whether he was the only ‘son of God’ or pointing to the potential that exists in all of us, it highlights that Jesus was both fully human AND fully Divine. He often referred to himself as the ‘Son of Man’ i.e son of humanity, rather than God! He fully embraced his emotions, his humanness, his fear, anger, reluctance, sense of abandonment etc. He befriended the hurting, lost and broken people. He must have felt terribly alone in a world that wasn’t ready for him and did not understand him. He suffered unimaginably horribly in the hands of others, feeling betrayed and alone, all the while trusting in God’s plan for his life.

The most important part of the entire story: Jesus was not left to die; he was resurrected into his Christ self which transcended all his pain and suffering and restored him to his Divine identity. His old self had to die for the new self to be born. Whatever one believes about this, there is a lesson in letting go and having faith, that our suffering does not have to define us, even if it is part of us for a time (even a long time; indeed, some of us live with deep hurts our entire lives and only find relief on physical death). The story of Jesus has always brought me comfort because this is a man who went through the worst torture that I imagine is possible to man, all the while feeling abandoned by God, yet loving and forgiving those who inflicted such suffering on him, who then transcended it all; a personal reminder of the renewal of all life and our own eternal nature.

When I feel crucified by my personal circumstances and unable to find relief in any of my life’s blessings due to feeling consumed by wishing things had turned out differently, I remember that fighting against my suffering will not work. My suffering results from a part of me who understandably feels devastated and angry and let down by life. I also know that I carry within me some part of the Christ mystery – my Divine spark – which both encompasses and transcends this human life. It is a daily juggle, holding those aspects of my being, but maybe knowing they are there and perfectly okay, is enough.

All paths lead home

I’m a huge X Files fan and used to eat, sleep and breathe the show. I haven’t watched it in years but one of the many beautiful quotes that stand out for me is Scully’s sister Melissa saying ‘There’s no right or wrong, it’s just a path.’

It used to make me cry to hear it. For many years of my life I DID believe I’d taken the wrong turn, failed, or plain messed up. I thought God, the Universe or Spirit was punishing me because I hadn’t listened to my intuition, or had but made the ‘wrong’ decision anyway. I went to see an alternative therapist when I was young and impressionable and she reinforced this belief by implying that because I hadn’t learnt my lesson from one situation the Universe had needed to make my life even harder. I can see the logic behind her view but the problem is she presented it in a way that suggested that my entire life circumstances were an external punishment for not having listened to myself or Spirit.

I went through life suffering with thoughts that I was a spiritual failure, that I hadn’t been ‘good.’ Even as a small child I had strong morals and was determined to be good in the eyes of God. I wrote to Him in notebooks and prayed for the capacity to choose what was right. I was eleven years old! At thirty one I was lost in a spiritual depression. I couldn’t see my way out. I’d tried so hard to get it right, this thing called life. And somehow I kept going wrong.

Years later, I can see and understand that I wasn’t being punished, and that the choices I made, even though they weren’t always the best choices for myself, were only leading me back to where I was always headed, the only place I CAN be: my own Self. I couldn’t go ‘wrong’ in the eyes of God, or Spirit, because the Divine light was always within me, and whatever I experienced was yet another opportunity to find my way back home to my Self. (Please note: I’m not referring to decisions made by others that inflict pain or cruelty as that’s a whole other topic. )

The very human, wounded part of me, still reacts to this understanding. Like, ‘Hang on, there’s got to be something more to it than that? It has to mean more, surely? Why DID I go through that hell?’ Maybe that’s my ego-based personality not wanting to accept that the journey serves as a reminder that I am already home. In the film The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s dream journey to Oz showed her that what she sought she already had within. Without the journey she wouldn’t have realised it. I don’t love or even like the journey in many places as it’s been incredibly hard and I honour that, but I see it for what it is: my path home.

As a child I knew this, I just framed it differently. I knew that I could draw on God, or Spirit, to show me the way to being the person I sensed I was despite all the external conditioning. I knew he would lead me home if I asked. I knew I had a lot of power at my disposal that I could draw on as and when I needed. But then I grew up. That’s the funny thing about this life – we are re-learning what we always knew. As Jesus said about young children, ‘the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.’

To anyone thinking, as I did, that you’ve gone wrong or are being punished: You’re not! You are a beautiful soul dealing with this crazy game called life. It’s hard. But trust that you’re always on the road home. It’s just learning to see through all the illusions and realise the light that is always in you and each of us.

A dream of eternity

A dream I had last night reminded me most powerfully of the passage of time and the eternal nature of the soul. It showed me a beautiful stretch of countryside with a path where people walked, but as I watched, the scenery and people morphed into new versions of themselves; thick green countryside followed by more trees and cottages and then, finally, the entire landscape became a stretch of water, rather like a canal. I was a witness to this experience; not involved, but not impartial either.

I believe this was part of the same dream: At the the start, I saw hundreds of cats (yes, cats!) on a wall surrounded by a large stretch of water, I’m guessing an ocean, but I didn’t see it. Someone was trying to move the cats off the wall, presumably scared that they would be swallowed by the vast sea. I can’t remember what happened here or if they went, only this large selection of tabby cats gazing at me.

I believe all my dreams have symbolic meaning. I have studied them enough over the years to be sure of it. It also seems that the more I examine them, the more informative and useful they become. It’s as if my subconscious is saying ‘Okay Sarah, now you’re paying attention!’ So this one, like any other, holds an important message for me.

Clearly, I am witnessing change on an external level – the countryside, the people – all the while realising that the essence of all this isn’t going anywhere. Mankind has made its mark on this planet, for good and bad (mainly bad, perhaps), shown in my dream by the countryside slowly becoming more adapted by people, ending with the canal, which symbolises man’s emotional journey in this incarnation, one that is forged by him/herself and his ego development. By contrast, the ocean, the giver of life, represents the ultimate spiritual reality – our Divinity – which is perfect and awe inspiring and eternal.

And the cats? They symbolise my intuitive connection to my Divine self, which I both crave and resist due to its power. I know and sense I have greater capacity to connect to my true nature. I had Kundalini experiences over a decade ago after a period of intense meditation which blew me away and to be honest scared me as well. I wasn’t ready to receive them. I wish I had been, but it is what it is. I am ready now. I am opening myself up to whatever my Soul needs to hear and feel because I trust it will transform me. I fear being ‘swallowed up’ by the great ocean, but isn’t that just what we all fear on the level of the mind-based personality or ego? We may hold onto our separateness, our identity, because we fear we won’t be anything without them. Correction: the ego is nothing without them. Who we really are – a soul, a Divine spark – is so much more. Intuitively, I know that. Like the cats, I sit on the precipice, not wanting to listen to my rational mind and move away.

Such a beautiful dream that reminds me that while time passes , including the mind-based personality or ego structure, our Divinity does not. I am the Soul, the witness to it all.

Wholeness

Image from https//:quotefancy.com

What does wholeness really mean? Almost every spiritual teaching refers to it, pointing to the fact that each of us is whole at the core, not in need of anything outside ourselves. Of course this is not meant to be taken literally as human beings depend on each other for our very survival – most of us (not all) need others to build our homes, prepare our food, make our clothes. Even going beyond the absolute basics, it can be argued we need others for companionship and support. No man is an island, as the saying goes. We shouldn’t have to live alone. For a great many people, that would be hellish.

Wholeness points to another kind of independence, or perhaps put better as inter-dependence. Many teachings say that there is no separation and that in fact we are each part of the same soul. Put differently, we are each a spark of the Divine so we carry the God-like wholeness within our very being. We are both whole and part of everything and everyone else. We can look to others to supply what we need – food, clothing, emotional support – without losing a sense of our own self, or our own Divinity (if one is so inclined to call it).

Well, in theory anyway.

Painful childhood experiences (or indeed, adult experiences) can derail this whole process (pun intended). It is hard to grow up feeling whole when a child has been neglected, belittled or abused. Their mind will become conditioned into thinking there is something very wrong with them. Not only that, they won’t have received what they need from their parents or other loving adults to be capable of growing into a psychologically healthy adult. Trauma, not even just the ‘obvious’ kinds such as abuse, can fragment a child’s sense of self, causing them to grow up emotionally dependent on other people and unable to gain a sense of their own self – known as co-dependence.

This is why I love Carl Jung. He stated that integration is necessary for one to achieve individuation (which to him was about fulfilling one’s potential, which can also be viewed as a connection to the Divine within). Wholeness means acknowledging the painful parts of themselves, not ignoring or denying them. It doesn’t have to mean loving or even liking them, but accepting they are there and part of the whole process.

Some may call the soul the part of us that is truly whole and the mind as the flawed ego. But I feel a little uncomfortable with this. I prefer to see the soul and the mind as working in tandem. The mind, when opening to something outside of itself, can learn to serve the soul’s agenda, but the mind is not wrong. It is doing the absolute best it can considering its experiences. It’s possible to accept those parts of us that block us from being open to something more – the spark of Divinity that we are. It’s an in depth process, as I know myself. I’m not sure it ever stops. It means being aware of the aspects of our personality that we consider less than perfect – the desperate neediness, the controlling behaviour, the jealousy – and trying to accept and understand them as being part of where we are on this journey while always holding onto our potential. That’s how I have come to see it.

Wholeness, then, for me is about love. It’s all about love. Loving oneself, loving others without getting lost in them, accepting and learning to love even the parts of ourselves that take us far from the feelings and behaviours that we wish we had; learning to integrate it all like a beautiful radiant kaleidoscope of Divine colour. Everything is truly Divine; there is nothing else.

‘Love is the only answer’ Matt Kahn

I was wondering where to start and then I thought where better than love?

Matt Kahn is one of my favourite spiritual teachers at this point in my journey. His philosophy is that whatever we are feeling, thinking, or dealing with – we love that. Sounds simple but it’s very, very hard to remember and put into practice, as I have personally found.

As humans we are hardwired to want to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Well, of course we are. Who would want pain (unless they’re a masochist)? Avoiding it ensures our survival as a species. Plus no one wants to feel bad. I have several chronic illnesses and HATE feeling unwell and limited. We often don’t like emotions such as anger and jealousy and consider them negative and unspiritual, coming from the ego rather than the spark of Divinity that we are. We may try to stuff them down and focus more on so-called positive emotions such as happiness and joy. That’s natural.

The problem may arise when we resist aspects of our experience so much that we create more suffering for ourselves. We may feel angry or jealous and get upset with ourselves for feeling that way, thereby adding another layer of suffering on top of the feelings we are already experiencing. In my case, struggling with feeling exhausted and unwell and wishing I was healthy creates resistance and more suffering. But lofty spiritual ideals such as ‘accepting everything that happens’ don’t really work for me either. Do we really have to accept everything? Really??

Matt Kahn’s answer to this is to love. If we are feeling angry, notice it and love the part of us that is angry. If we are in physical pain, love the part of us that is hurting or, if that is impossible, love the part of us that can’t love the part that is hurting. The answer is always love. I don’t have to accept my illnesses but I can love the part of me who cannot accept them. I don’t have to accept the suffering in the world but I can love the part of me who cannot accept it. This works because the relationship with ourselves is reflected out into the world and vice versa. When we love the supposedly unlovable parts of ourselves we set them free. Not only does this bring us to greater internal peace, it is the key to a more peaceful world.