I’m going to be honest. I struggled with this topic. I struggled with it because I strived so hard for enlightenment fostered in systems since the early 1980’s. I could give you a long list of the various experiments and schools of thought that included but were not limited to centering prayer, lectio divina, zazen, chakras and on and on.
Then came the death. In a short and concentrated time in my life I would experience the loss of everything I understood spirituality and the divine to be. It was more than that. Everything I worked for, everything I built and everything I believed in crumbled before my eyes. 6 people whom I cared for died in a short time. Then, I would drive a taxi and learn from the citizens of the dark night of the soul that the things I tried to do to help were at the least useless and at the worst, harmful.
The darker into the rabbit hole of darkness I entered, the harder I became. The darker I became. The more scary I became. I was violent. I was aggressive. I was a survivor in the night. I was, a cynic. Jeff Bridges once wrote that, "Most cynics are really crushed romantics: they've been hurt, they're sensitive, and their cynicism is a shell that's protecting this tiny, dear part in them that's still alive.”
The shell was all there was of the former self that was always seeking, striving, and believing. I was dead. I had a friend who meant everything to me tell me that she was scared of what I became. I knew she was right, but I was lost in the woods and rather liked it that way. Even if I wanted to get out of this hole I dug, I would never know where to begin.
Then came a fateful day that would change everything. It is not what many would expect in this story. The fateful day was a dark night in which I would lay dying. At least, in that moment, I thought I was dying. As blood poured out of me and I lost consciousness, I honestly thought I was a dead man. There was no epiphany. There was no vision. There was no life flashing before my eyes. There was only a reluctant acceptance of the inevitable. The only passing thought I allowed was never having told the friend that meant everything to me that I thought she was pretty. Loss of consciousness was only physical. Spiritually? That part of me had been gone in the lower and higher awareness for a long time. Maybe it is because dead men cannot die again that I am still alive. I couldn’t die, but I could resurrect.
When I awoke there was the realization that living and dying mattered. I did not want to die. I lost weight, I quit smoking, I addressed health issues head on, I started exercising. I also told the girl how I felt and it turned out the feeling was mutual and new roads would be discovered. The fullness of that will be discussed another day. Suffice to say that after death, love was the catalyst to true consciousness.
It was in love that I found awareness of the wonders of everything. It was not lower and it was not higher. It just was. I was, and am, immersed in an awareness that I do not understand, but accept. I find in this new space gratitude to God or Divine for the pain in my life. Every mistake, every heartache, every death, every loss and every shortcoming led to this moment. This moment that I not only do not understand fully, but cherish for it is beyond my understanding, but within my ability to fully experience with awareness that doesn’t need simple understanding.
I had to lose everything to find not so much what is real, but what matters. Love is what woke me from slumber and brought me life and awareness. Maybe there is something to theologian/philosopher Peter Rollins’ Pyro-Theology. I seem to have accidentally incarnated it. (More on that next month).