Where the light gets in

I had a very profound thought during the night. I know I’ve read it somewhere but I can’t think where.

A couple of days ago I was telling someone how it went with my son on Thursday and I made the very sad but nonetheless true statement that ‘my heart will always be broken.’

Even as I said it, I sensed the truth; the immense power in those six words.

I was reflecting on this during the night and almost immediately another thought came to me, almost from outside myself, carrying the wisdom and grace of a deeper realisation:

‘This is where the light gets in.’

Suddenly the balance shifted from despondency to hope. I had a wonderful visual image of God’s divine grace surrounding the broken pieces of my heart like a pure golden light, filling in all the cracks and making it stronger and more beautiful than ever.

There is always a choice. Closing down to protect a broken heart seems the best option, but it leaves one cut off, alone and in darkness, where healing is impossible.

Jesus healed people. He restored them through their own faith. At least once he asked the person if they wanted to be healed. I don’t believe that he was suggesting they didn’t or stating the obvious; rather, he was inviting them to open their heart and accept what is possible through faith. Literal or metaphoric, the healing he brought upon others was only made possible through an open heart, which is the ultimate gift of love.

It’s all too easy to protect one’s heart from further pain and become hurt and bitter. This is the challenge of being human, especially in regard to deep traumas that laid the entire foundation of a life. Each of us has our own path to walk and obstacles to navigate, as well as the particular tools to help us through. Thankfully for us, there are so many teachers, past and present, who have pointed to the truth that we all carry within.

And what is this truth? In my experience, we exist in Divine love. We are eternal beings, filled with the grace of God/Spirit/The Divine, here living a very limited human life in all its glory and tragedy. The heart is the bridge between the two. When we keep it open, the love and light of God’s grace is always available to love and heal and restore us no matter how broken we feel.

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.

My suffering and the story of Jesus

The story of Jesus reminds me that suffering doesn’t have to separate us from God or mean that we have failed, it brings God to us, right here, right now, suffering with us and for us and AS us.

I haven’t posted for some weeks because I’ve had so much going on, some good, some bad, mainly bad. I went abroad for a few days to Turkey, something I’d wanted to do in many years but been too unwell. It wasn’t easy but with special assistance booked and a mobility scooter hired I managed it and feel very happy that I did.

Unfortunately, I knew in advance it was a risky time to go away with everything going on with my son but it was booked ages ago and the only time my friend and her family could make it, so I took the chance. The last night there I heard that my son had been hospitalised due to unmanageable behaviour and his grandmother was no longer capable of having him. The previous assisted living staff did all they could but are no longer involved. My son remains in hospital. There is now a new care agency supporting him there, but no accommodation for him to be moved into. There is no medical need for him to be in hospital and no clinical need for mental health sectioning. Whilst the professionals involved are trying hard to find accommodation, there is nothing.

I can’t put into words the pain of thinking of my son in hospital and exactly what happened when he got there. Sometimes pain is beyond anything I could say. All I can do is have faith that something will work out for him. He DOES have a placement to go to in the autumn but it’s currently a building site and won’t be ready until September at least. This is something to be thankful for despite the wait. The problem is finding somewhere for him in the meantime.

For a lot of my life I’ve believed that suffering separates us from God/The Divine – that if I’m experiencing ‘negative’ emotions, something is wrong and I’m not feeling God’s peace. It is true that when we become still, we feel the peace that passes understanding – that goes beyond the mind. We leave behind our troublesome thoughts and experience what is always present. But God is there in the suffering too. Regardless of what one believes about the story of Jesus – fact, fiction or myth – its point is that God isn’t apart from this world, he entered into it willingly, showing us that through his creation we are all part of him and never alone.

The symbolism of the cross and the entire crucifixion is the state of being crucified between Heaven and Earth – not fully human or Divine, but a bit of both – and existing in that space, neither here nor there. It’s a tough place to be once one fully realises it. I feel lost in this world, devastated by my suffering, my son’s suffering – neither of us belonging here or anywhere; myself longing for my spiritual home to the point nothing motivates me here but the need to become fully immersed in God. This is why the religion of my childhood – Christianity – draws me in – its a faith of love and suffering and promise of resurrection – what some may call a new state of consciousness, a living with Christ, in whatever form that takes.

I’m holding onto that faith. Right now it’s all I can do.

Keeping the faith

Not for the first time I feel like Job in the Bible asking ‘why’ in the midst of despair.

Some time ago I mentioned to a therapist that I often wondered ‘why me?’ during my painful struggles and she said that when she said the same many years ago people in her circle used to respond ‘why not you?’ There is a bitter truth in that. We cry out from the depths of our hearts. Our pain feels so deeply personal. So much so that God/the Universe must have done this to us. Like Job, we feel wronged. We know we’ve always tried our best, or even if we haven’t, we’ve made up for it somehow. So why did this terrible event/situation/tragedy occur? No one has or ever will have an answer to that beyond that suffering is a given and no one is spared. It’s just that some people seem destined to suffer much more or less and the only way forward is to somehow trust that it’s all unfolding how it’s meant to be because otherwise it would be different than it is.

Yesterday I heard that my son is being evicted from his residential home. I knew how much the staff were struggling with him but somehow I never thought this would actually be the outcome. I feel bone-crushingly sad. I have no idea where he will go now. It could have been such a lovely home for him. Those are the words I seem to constantly repeat in relation to my son: could have been. I pulled out all the stops to try and make things easier for him so that his behaviour may improve but it hasn’t worked. I know there is a lot of hurt in those words. I feel affronted that none of it made any difference. It’s a deep-seated wound that nothing I’ve done has made a difference to my son but I know that isn’t true. It springs from my sadness that I wish life had been different for both of us. And I know if I hadn’t become so sick/hospitalised and that if my ex wasn’t the way he is, things certainly would be very different now.

And therein lies my struggle. It drags me down like a lead weight until I feel I have no strength to fight. Giving in feels too much, too painful. So I frantically search for a way out, considering all the addictive tendencies I’ve had in the past as a way to escape unbearable feelings, but not able to bring myself to go there because I’m too aware, too conscious of my actions and their consequences now. I’m left with raw pain that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I can’t cry either so I’m just staring listlessly into space and waiting for someone to ring me – my son’s social worker, the home, a family member – so I don’t feel so desperately alone with it all. At the moment it seems the social worker will call tomorrow. I don’t yet know the way forward.

I’m remembering a scene from the movie ‘The Shack’ (wonderful movie, btw) where the guy is in a boat which is breaking up, a metaphor for his terrible pain and struggle over the abduction and murder of his young daughter, and Jesus walks up to the boat, on the water, telling him to ‘have faith’ and ‘look at me’ because each time the guy focused on his suffering, the boat broke apart more and water poured in. Eventually, the guy found his faith and climbed out of the boat onto the water with Jesus, finding himself able to walk back to the shore. This is a natural re-telling of the Bible story where Jesus told his disciples to have faith. I don’t believe the walking on water was literal, although who knows it may have been, but a metaphor for our ability to overcome our emotional pain when we keep the faith in something bigger than ourselves, whether that’s God, the Universe, or our own soul/higher/Christ self.

The Bible is all about faith in the midst of terrible suffering, as well as the human need to cry out and ask ‘why’ when we are hurting. Whilst there’s never any clear answers to why we suffer, what’s certain is no one is alone, and while life is desperately hard sometimes, with faith we find the strength to keep moving forward.

My soul flies like a bird

On a morning walk with my dog I heard beautiful birdsong and watched the sparrows and tits peeping out of overgrown hedges and disappearing again. And for a second I wished I could join them. I wanted to trade my life as a human with all its pain and complexities for the simple, carefree life of a hedge sparrow. The longing arose from deep within, pointing to a knowledge that no matter what I’m dealing with or the world is facing, my soul flies free. I don’t have to be chained to fears and illusions of this world, only insofar as necessary to play my role here. Jesus said ‘Be in the world but not of it’ and this statement has never felt more true. My heart is the bridge between the spiritual and the physical; I exist in both, but my soul is always home no matter where it is, flying high.

Christmas: The eternal light within

Firstly, I truly hope everyone had the best Christmas possible, whether spent with family, friends, strangers, or oneself (I have done all of these at some point).

I was listening to another you tube video by the wonderful Matt Kahn yesterday entitled ‘Choosing to be here’ and thought how badly I need to take that in and really, really, apply it to my life right now. I am feeling a lot of inner resistance to what IS. I spent Christmas day with a few relatives and while I was blessed to have somewhere to go, I felt very disconnected and sad. The wounded part of me was crying out for my upbringing to have been different, for my relatives to behave differently, for my life to feel more connected and loving than it does. On reflection it was obvious that the disconnect came from me. Not that it means blaming myself for my feelings or experiences because they happened and they hurt, but I have a choice now in how I relate to myself and those around me.

Matt Kahn talks about relating to each moment as if we had chosen it. I know this is a common idea in spiritual circles but I had not fully grasped it until now, whilst feeling the pain of resistance to the extent that I did after spending Christmas with my family. It does not mean that myself or anyone else ‘asked’ for abuse or other horrific experiences or even that we literally chose them before incarnating (although we may have, who can know); instead it points to the idea that everything that happens is our teacher and we can sift even the most terrible experiences for their gold. Rather than sinking into despair over our longing for something different, we can look at what IS and ask how we can respond to this, how we can learn from it, how we can let it transform into something greater.

My hurt is real. My inner child is real. A common pitfall on the spiritual path is to ‘bypass’ our woundedness in favour of intellectual spiritual wisdom, all the while forgetting that true wisdom is found in facing our darkness, our pain, head on and understanding and accepting it. The essence of Matt Kahn’s teaching is loving whatever arises, or if we cannot love it, loving the part of us who cannot love. In this context, I can love the little girl in me who was sad at Christmas because she knew others were having Christmases that she could only dream about. More than that, she longed for the experience of belonging to a family who loved each other and had fun together in ways that hers never did or will. Those longings are valid. Who as a child didn’t want to be cared for by people who loved and respected each other and came together at Christmas of all days? It is okay to hurt. But the key is not getting stuck. We feel to heal.

I spent two nights crying with emotional pain that I thought I’d transformed ages ago. I felt so awful that I wondered if I was dying. Then it occurred that maybe I was. Not literally of course, but dying to a past that has gone; dying to the wish that things could have been any different. I can only accept the child’s emotions and tell her that she is loved and accepted and we’ll be okay somehow. She needs to know that it is not ‘wrong’ to feel the way she does. But as with any child, she also needs to know that those feelings are only a small facet of her world and they’re not going to destroy her entire being. On the contrary, they will bring rainbows once the storm has passed.

The adult me knows that I can only change myself, not other people. Maybe the gift of Christmas lies in knowing that ultimately I belong to myself. I am made of light. I can love and accept myself. I can learn to feel at peace within my own being. No matter how dark and dire our personal circumstances are, how agonising the despair, our inner light is stronger. Whilst I feel on the outside with family members and indeed many others at Christmas, the learning lies in what Christmas is all about: love and hope and transformation. Emotional pain WILL be transformed, if we let it. The image of the crucifixion is what THIS is all about: ‘I have overcome the world’ says Jesus. So can we all. This doesn’t mean never being affected by anything – Jesus himself felt abandoned by God in his darkness moments – but we can trust in our eternal light which cannot ever be destroyed. This is the spirit of Christmas.

Wishing everyone the very best as we approach the end of 2021.