Monday, August 8, 2016

On Courage: Cutting our Way Through The Forest

So often the difficult times in our lives are much like a jungle, the amazon jungle for instance. We are smack bang in the middle of all that vegetation, all those things that distract us from looking at our pain, our regrets, the things that haunt us. We bury these things and get lost in the vegetation of the forest. We allow little insects (the small irritants of a Western civilized, capitalist society) to annoy us, to get under our skin, to cause us to curse at the heavens for allowing such a thing as humanity to exist.
But then we may at times be offered a machete. A chance in any small way to cut a path through the forest; to mow down the branches and wide leaves that block our path. And where does our path lead you may ask? I think our path always should lead to the top of the nearest, highest hill. In life this could be anything: a song that causes us to face our feelings, a good gym workout that enriches our body and mind, a spiritual meditation or prayer, or even something cultural like a moving theater production, work of art, film, or the company of a friend that understands. These small transcendent moments are those hills surrounding our forest. These moments make up in height what they lack in length. What do I mean by that?I mean that they are brief but immensely rewarding. 

Once you have cut your way through the forest of your pain, felt everything you needed to feel, cursed at everything you needed to curse at, and sumitted your hill, you are able to look back at your struggle, look back at your past pain and fading demons and see them for  what they really were. In the midst of pain and strife it’s hard to see clearly, hard to hold our heads true and stick to simple goals. But it is those very same simple goals, simple passions, simple connections that are our weapons to cut our way through to the summit of  our hill.

So what does it take to do this? It can be summed up in one word: courage. But this is not the courage of superheroes whose powers put them at an advantage when facing danger. No, this is a courage whose strength lies in its vulnerability, in its ability to break down for any reason and hurt till there is no more hurt left. This is a courage that empties the hurt tank,that expels the demons instead of suppressing them. When Joan of Ark was arrested by the English and interrogated so that the English could convict her for blasphemy, she was no doubt scared beyond words. But what made her face the pyre bravely? What made her stay true to herself and to her beliefs? It was courage. A human courage that sees the quality of life not in its length but in those moments that are transcendent and universal. Joan believed that her suffering had meaning and it is quite interesting to note that in another country centuries ago a wise man named Siddhārtha Gautama had preached that human life is suffering.

So we face that suffering with a vulnerable courage that is creative, that channels pain into meaning, that forms the bliss in the void, that seeks, that reflects and that lives authentically. Finally, we must remember that courage is not the absence of fear but the realization that there is something more meaningful, more worthwhile and more rewarding than fear. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Why The Hardest Moments in Our Lives are the Greatest Moments in our Lives.

I recently had a very close relationship of mine break down rather unexpectedly. The results of this breakdown were confusion, nihilism, pain, bursts of random euphoria and a numbness that promised to comfort me if I called it home. My inner world seemed laden with these memories that threatened to send me spiraling into some sort of heartache-depression, leaving me disillusioned with love or even life itself.

But then I began to think about the possibilities that lie in the pain and loneliness. These two concepts: pain and loneliness, somehow seem like things destined to kick us down and keep us in the dirt. But I also think that in life these two things can be gifts.

I found that over some time now I may not have been paying much attention to my inner life. I neglected my writing, I disregarded the inner world of spirit and consciousness and I chose to focus on the things that were physical: my body, the job, my significant other. I found myself  empty or even self-negating and with these new gifts of pain and loneliness I was offered a chance to enter into  a state of deep reflection.

In the Catholic tradition they have a period called Lent, which is a solemn period of forty days and nights that is taken out of the year to deeply contemplate one's personal life and also the suffering and sacrifices of Jesus as he underwent temptation and trials in the desert. In a similar way, I have entered my own Lentern period. Delving deep within myself and washing my inner world with words, art, and  meaningful connections to people.

This is no easy thing to do. With a heavy heart one takes a brave step each day and one tries to recreate oneself anew, to recapture a lust for life by reminding oneself about the infinite possibilities of life, even if those possibilities seem far away or even invisible at the moment.

In life we will face disease, money problems, relationship problems and various other struggles that promise to hold us down and beat us till we black and blue. But what if in our moments of immense struggle we decided to celebrate our pain, celebrate our strife and our struggle. What if we took hold of all those pent up traumatic emotions and actually held them up to our faces and examined them with a kind and gentle heart. Would we then be able to see ourselves anew and orientate  ourselves afresh to the ego within: an ego that constantly undergoes evolution.

The hardest moments in our lives are the greatest because there are no rules to them, the possibilities are endless and limited to our own creative might. Those moments that leave us in ruin, or that take us out into the wilderness do so in order to show us a new path, a new way to rebuild and a fresh way to journey and wander through the world.

We have a choice when it comes to the hard times in life. We can either let them debilitate us or we can let them reinvigorate us. So I have decided to sit in my own ruin and listen to the stories that the rubble has to whisper to me. I will cry, I will feel anger and then finally I will stand up and walk out into the wilderness to begin the journey of a thousand miles once again.