10 Jul In Times of Darkness
As I arrived in Bodhgaya, the holiest place in the world for Buddhists, I did not expect an extraordinary and sad event to hit my journey. I guess, like in life, good things and bad things happen, always. It is our ability to handle them, to react or not, to move forward or not, which, at the end, defines our true capacity to be happy here and now.
A few hours ago (a few days ago as you read this post), multiple bombs exploded in the very heart of the Bodh Gaya Mahabodhi temple, a temple dedicated to love and enlightenment, one where the prince Siddhartha, before he became a Buddha, came to meditate and sat under a now famous tree. In the next few days I will write a post on this place if today’s event allows me to enter the shrine complex.
When you are awoken at 6 a.m. at sunrise by the sound of a bomb, you realize first how glad you are to be alive and not injured. I cannot ignore the fact that many people live constantly with this terrible sound and walk around their homes and towns with that permanent fear. Fear of an attack; Fear of everyone around; Fear of an invisible enemy.
Fear is the base line of what closes our heart and makes us more violent; what closes us to good possibilities and makes us more “primitive” in our actions. Fear blocks the light from entering us. And then darkness takes over our thoughts, soon our words, soon our actions.
At my level, the enemy is not someone living in another country or with a different religion, as it often is for so many people on this planet. For us who live in relatively “peaceful” countries, the enemy is not visible – it is not outside of us, but inside. Fear of tomorrow, fear to lose our job, fear of others, fear of today… The Fear is that ferocious beast inside us; much more difficult to fight than any beast outside. It is responsible for the most common diseases and causes of death in our modern world: anxiety, stress, depression, heart attack, hypertension, suicide and many cancers.
As Eckhart Tolle puts it:
“The psychological condition of fear is divorced from any concrete and true immediate danger. It comes in many forms: unease, worry, anxiety, nervousness, tension, dread, phobia, and so on. This kind of psychological fear is always of something that might happen, not of something that is happening now.”
So how do we create a space inside ourselves for more light and less darkness? How do we proactively let Light enter our bodies? Relaxation and meditation are great exercises – as I mentioned in a previous post on The Power of Meditation – but I want to discuss another, more important, angle here today.
In The Power of Kabbalah, Yehuda Berg (check his great FB Page) says that the best trick Satan (call it the darkness in the world or in us if you don’t want to use that word) ever invented is to make us believe he does not exist, that “Satan” is a myth. I like this image as in so many ways we often cannot see our darkness. Its power can be so strong that most people go through their entire life without inquiring about it. It is, most of the time, a full blind spot – one that only an active work of introspection can reveal. (I have an awesome book to recommend about this if you are interested to explore).
We know when we are upset, impatient, worried, scared or judgmental, but how often do we think we are the source of the problem? We always put this on the outside world. Our boss. Our job. Our company. Our neighbor. Our relationship. Our parents… “This happened to me.” “He did this to me.” “They said that about me.” “She behaved that way towards me.” Our problems are always linked to outside events and other people.
A little reflection on this, though, will very quickly show that it is our behavior in the first place or our reaction that is causing our suffering. If we were to handle it differently, we might see the world in a very different way. It is an old trick we play on ourselves to avoid taking accountability and to continue to behave in the same way: We don’t let the light enter, we project our darkness onto the outside world, and we use that projection to justify our negative thoughts, words and actions (which, on top of it all, we see as being as positive and justified as those in our blind spot).
I am not saying here that no one out there is acting in bad ways or saying bad things about others or us (in fact there are a lot!). But what I am saying is that by reacting and fueling that behavior or speeches, we continue to be part of the global darkness, we do not allow light to enter, we are an active piece of the dark puzzle and we make the world a little less shiny.
As always, the solution, the answer, is not outside, but inside. That’s where we need to turn to find the other way out, or, as I should say, the only way out.
In the book “The Peaceful Stillness of the Silent Mind”, Lama Yehse answers the question “Could you explain to us again how we find answers from within ourselves?” by saying:
“Let your obsessed sense perception rest for a while and allow silent mind to surface. Then ask your question. You will find that the answer to your question will appear spontaneously from within the peaceful stillness of your silent mind.”
At every moment, in every situation, we have the capacity to take a deep breath and reach that stillness, that Light which allows us to be pro-active and not reactive. It’s reaching another SOURCE as I explained in a previous post. Good sailors survive ocean crossings by being pro-active with the wind and the waves; not by reacting every time a wave pushes them or the wind blows from another direction.
So we need to act from a place of Light, out of darkness. Or, to be more precise, we need to allow a space for Light to enter and “un-do” our darkness. It is said in the Kabbalah that only then can we grow spiritually. When we make the conscious choice to allow light to enter.
The train is late and you’re going to miss an appointment? A person is slow in front of you at the register desk? A driver insults you while passing your car? A friend tells you how horrible that other person has been to him? Your boss is upset at you for no obvious reason? In a discussion, someone completely disagrees with you and push back hard on you? Someone shoves you to get in the subway? Your girlfriend/boyfriend is upset with you? These situations happen very often, sometimes multiple times a day.
Where our power lies is right there in those “dark” situations. It is, in fact, in the midst of the dark that we can decide to shine our light or not. We have a choice. We have total free will to act. We can either react (re-act – using the same energy and spreading more darkness) or we can be proactive (using our Light). It is the other side of the same coin, the glass-half-empty story. We are given those little moments to step up or not. To be or not to be, for that special moment, a little Buddha. Someone filled only with Light. Someone that is going to open his or her heart, and show a different way.
Think about this now, how amazing it is if we start to see those negative moments in our days, in our lives, as opportunities that are given to us to grow and let Light enter.
Okay, I agree, it’s not an easy task! Often, we are trapped in our behavior in such ways that we can’t refrain from reacting. We don’t even see those actions as truly negative. They hide well in our blind spot… We are slaves to our own ego mind; basically we are on autopilot. Try to observe those little moments when your heartbeat increases, blood rushes to your face and adrenaline kicks in, just a second before thoughts, words and actions arise from that dark place. It’s mind-blowing how little control we have.
The more I started watching my thoughts and observing my reactions, the more I realized I was NOT in control. (This also led me to question of who is in control.) I was on complete autopilot when I thought I was in complete control, that I was the pilot. That’s the human condition, the way most of us, including me, function nearly all the time. And that’s what convinced me to start practicing meditation as a mind-inquiring tool.
As Chogyam Trungpa puts it:
“Meditation is not a matter of trying to achieve ecstasy, spiritual bliss, or tranquility, nor is it attempting to be a better person. It is simply the creation of a space in which we are able to expose and undo our neurotic games, our self-deceptions, our hidden fears and hopes.”
Creating a space for Light to enter: As I said earlier, we don’t need meditation to do this. We can and should practice this in our everyday life, when all those little dark moments are confronting us (I like to think that this is the only purpose of those dark moments, to help us grow our Light). It is “I” that can now decide what to do (once I realized I was on autopilot), that I now have a choice, and that this choice will make a big difference for me first!
So what happens when we try another way of being? When we listen to that upset friend and take a deep breath before answering? When we gather our Light, forget our Ego, and answer from another place, from our heart, and give another perspective? When instead of reacting to that angry driver, we step back and smile? When instead of reacting to that person that pushed us to get into the subway we smile back and say, “Sorry to have been in your way.”? When someone tells us how bad their day was for so many reasons and we offer Light instead of adding to the story? When in a discussion we disagree with what is said but we just step back and listen instead of arguing? Remember that this has nothing to do with acting differently just because it’s the right thing to do (even if in the end it is).
What happens? When the action is genuine and we truly in our heart bring that Light? Things shift in a magical way. I repeat, we have to be careful here of not acting just because it’s “the right thing to do” (this is your mind intellectualizing what you are doing) but truly acting from that place of Light (which is in your heart).
Not only are we liberating ourselves, but we are also allowing Light, in that unique moment, to enter us and do its magic. In the Kabbalah it is said that we are climbing a little step up on the spiritual ladder. Each time we do so, even for just a few seconds, we are taking one step away from suffering – for us and therefore for others as well.
It is one little candle we light in our darkness and the global darkness. Imagine our world if each human on this planet took that one action, that one step, just once a day. Billions of little lights entering humanity… it would be pretty bright, wouldn’t it? And imagine doing this multiple times a day – adding all those little lights inside you.
So in a world today where light seems to become dimmer and dimmer, and days like today where I witness a terrorist attack on a peaceful holy place, we have a choice: re-acting, or being pro-active. “Quit the drama triangle” like my teacher told me (that’s for another post). We can do it as an act of “good conscience” or “good karma” but even if you really don’t care for others (which I don’t think any of us fundamentally do), you should do it for yourself.
More light inside you means more happiness and joy and more good things coming your way. You will be very surprised by how others react when you change, and how things will happen in your life. When you don’t go into the small talk but offer a view from another place, a brighter place. You will see more light around you. And we will have the possibility to fill this planet with way more Light!
Try it! I promise it will be magical.
I leave you with this great quote from Saint Francis de Sales on the individual work we have to do.
“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them — every day begin the task anew.”
Thanks for the reading, and please share back your experience here or on my FB page. Love your comments!
Remember to travel with your Heart,