Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, so lives the foundational doctrine bred into every American from birth. Every business leader and religious guru tell us this is the key to both worldly and spiritual success. But what if this is idea is only half-baked? What if it has a terrifying shadow side? What if the pursuit for unending happiness is the cause for so much of the suffering and destruction of the world?
Don't get me wrong. I want to be as happy as the next girl -- happier even. It feels better in every single way. When I'm happy, I love the flowers more, I love my friends more, I love my life more. I even love myself more. It's sort of like living in L.A - a perpetual blue sky, summer day where I get to run around carefree and bubbly. Who doesn't want that?
But when I'm not happy?! When I'm not happy, it starts to get a little dicey. I can feel the bloom start to fade a bit, and the panic sets in. I feel an underlying urgency to change this trajectory. I must find my way back to the golden land ASAP. If I don't, it's failure. And the annihilating shame of failure is NOT an option.
To head off the impending downturn and subsequent shame, many of us grasp at worldly things - a new lover, another drink, a new sweater, another "like" on Facebook, a new self-help book, another inspirational talk, a new snack, or another...well... almost anything to fill the scary space of "negative" emotion that is opening up. Or, for the more spiritually bent, we may try to breathe, meditate, yoga, journey or presence our way back to happiness. Each strategy is simply an effort to get to the light, a mask to what is calling us from the depths.
But what if the only way back, is not to avoid the descent but to actually go all the way through it? Maybe our task is not to turn away, but to look directly into the darkness? I mean, we think the seasons are a failure. I know that fall will not last forever or think that the sun is failing because it is night. Each season - fall, winter, spring and summer - has a rhythm and a beauty.
Other cultures seem to get it better than we do. In ancient indigenous European societies, the cycle of the year was both a spirituality and a psychology. The cold dark winter of the world, and the cold dark winter of our minds, were just as important as the vibrant summers. In fact, traveling through the inner seasons was considered an important part of becoming a contributing member of the community. For how does one know true compassion without walking the path of pain? How does one learn to care, without care-taking, unless they have found the gems that come from being in the ugly pit of darkness?
In these tribes, a young maiden (you might call her Persephone) is out with her mother in the flowering fields of summer. At some point, she suddenly knows! So much more exists within her than she can possibly access by staying in this summer of her youth. So, she takes a brave breath, grabs the hand of her wise old grandmother (Hecate) and together they venture into the unknown of the underworld. She discovers the volcano of her anger, the depth of her loneliness, the well of her grief. And she is changed by it. When she is ripened, she returns to meet her mother in the field of flowers - stronger, wiser, softer. And then months or years later, she knows...there is another layer of herself to unearth and she goes under again.
Every once in a while, she doesn't want to leave the field. She ignores her grandmother's beckoning. If the whisper grows into a scream, and she still refuses to answer, then her fierce soul (also known as Hades) will grab her against her personality's will, and she will suffer until she surrenders to the pull. After all, we must respect the cycles of life to remain in balance and in harmony.
Yet most of us don't head the call, because to turn away from the sunshine of summer would mean certain failure in this culture of bliss. We stay in a perpetual youth, and perhaps as a result, less and less helpful to our tribe and culture. When our soul finally grabs us, instead of letting ourselves be ripened, we medicate it. Either through a doctor's prescription or our own self-selected drug of choice.
But really, given the current state of our world, is anger, grief and loneliness all that irrational? I mean look around. Dying oceans. Child pornography. Never ending wars. Homelessness & hunger. Suburbs & isolation. Animal life sold as a commodity. Human life sold as a commodity. Every single thing sold as a commodity. And the media distracts us, telling us we are flawed and not enough but that some THING might make us better.
If you live in this world, and you are at times sad, angry, lonely, depressed and anxious, then maybe absolutely nothing is wrong with you? Maybe you are awake and feeling a universal life force as it moves in you? Maybe you are feeling the interconnectedness of all things? Sensing the pain that we have caused in others by continuously pursuing happiness in the form of comfort? Maybe in such a world, you are not suppose to be happy all of the time?
Don't get me wrong. It's still wonderful to enjoy the beauty of the world. To smell the flowers. Celebrate the sunrise and sunset. Feel the wind on your skin. Melt into consensual human touch. Feel the pulse of beauty in every living thing. After all, summer is important too! But let's not all move to the Sunshine State just yet. Let's not turn a blind eye to the other seasons. To the pain, the isolation, the injustices of the world and in our hearts. Because if we never feel them, we may never work to change them.
Maybe the path to happiness is really a path to wholeness...one where we allow all of the inner seasons a place of honor. A world where feeling our feelings, whether glad, sad, mad, fear and love, are all seen as a form of success. In this world, emotions are not shamed but seen as important clues that guide us. If we allow their cycles to ripen and mold us, perhaps we will then be better able to serve the outer world, community and culture. Maybe, we will turn from a world full of youthful acorns into a world full of mighty oaks.
The heart is a strange organ. It beats every few seconds, filling and emptying with blood. Yet at moments, it feels almost like a vacuum, filled with a vast void of nothingness. The spaciousness almost annihilating.
It is made of some of the strongest muscles in the body, yet it can feel as delicate as fine crystal that shatters easily. Once, my heart felt like it was trying to run 10,000 watts of energy through a 100 watt outlet. It blew the whole thing up like humpty-dumpty and all of the king's horses and all of the king's men could not put it all back together again.
But then there are these other moments, more mystical. Like when, almost out of nowhere, the heart fills with some unknown force and all of the world is alive with color and vibrancy. The sense of separateness dissolves for a moment and you know, at a visceral level, that this is not your energy alone. It is the same force that moves through all hearts. And you see everyone as this light, a force that is the connection between each one of you. And all of a sudden, you understand mystical aspects of Christ. It wasn't an individual person. It is the singular fire burning inside the hearts of all humans. It just happened that one man, named Yeshua, lived from that place enough moments in his life for people to write about it.
When you get a tiny glimpse of that flame in your own heart, you want to hang on to it before slips away into the catalogue of intellectualized thought forms. But alas, more than often the thoughts take over.
Have you ever seen the sacred heart of Yeshua? Or the one of Mary? His is encircled by thorns. Hers by roses. Both are alight with flames.
Why the difference between the two? I'm no expert, but I do know my heart fluctuates back and forth between the two. We cover our hearts with roses when we sense it will touched by another's beauty. In this state, we call the "other" our beloved. Yet, when hurt, misunderstood or dismissed, it feels encased by thorns. In that state, we call the "other" enemy, though often it is the very same person who was once our beloved.
Both, friend and enemy make us catch up breath. Breath, in Hebrew is Rauch, which can also be translated as wind, force or Spirit. So when we "catch" our breath because of a beloved or an enemy, it is a direct sign we have disconnected from spirit, from life force, from the one.
In numerology, the basis of all sacred geometry, first there is one - the point, the singularity, the birth of existence, separateness and wholeness. It then separated into two -- polarity, attraction, repulsion, desire and a sense of "other". Then the two come together and we find the sacred third - trinity, dynamic movement, the spinning vortex that sets magic in motion. And from this three, all 1001 things (infinity) come into form.
Perhaps that is the magical equation of the heart. First there is one - me, separate, space and alone. Then there is two - another, sometimes I want to enmesh with him, bringing us back to one and at other times, I want to keep him separate, in a constant state of two. Yet neither will create the world of expansion. If I don't allow the duo to move forward, the contraction kills and suffocates.
So instead of pinging back and forth between enmeshment and separateness, I need to somehow expand into something I do not know. Me as separate, him as separate, yet together as part of a sacred third. What is the secret of allowing this?
Perhaps, the answer lies again in the breath and the spirit. When we feel the "catch" we can learn to breathe, for both of us - me as singular, you as singular (friend or enemy), and us as unity. Maybe then, in the flow of the breath, we can turn to each other and expose the fullness of the heart. Pull back the skin, crack open the ribs, tear through the sinew and let another see the raw, vulnerable, raging beauty of the heart, both the fragrance left by flowers and the scares left by wounds. If the other is willing to do the same, to sit with the vulnerability of both needing and being needed, without taking on the task of figuring out how to mend, fix or fulfill the others heart, but rather simply be with it and allow the sacred third to emerge....well then....then we have real magic. Two flames, learning to burn brightly with the light and dark Twins, willing to help each other become fuller than they ever could alone.
Together we evolve, two flames, the same source, not become one, but becoming three. A third that could never be found without the other. Yeshua & Mary Magdalene. Isis & Osiris. Radha & Govinda. Me & my beloved. Trios who have the potential to evolved the world.
According to Ayurveda -- an ancient practice which can simply be translated to mean the science of life -- being healthy means living in harmony with the cycles of life. So recently, to get myself out of my funk, I decided to start waking up with the sun again.
It's not a practice I like. My bed is my safe place. I've always wanted to be a cat, simply because they stay curled up in the warm folds of the comforter for as long as they want, stretch their long bodies with a silent yawn around 10:30am, and then groom themselves for a few hours before they go play. Seems like a great life to me, living in a state of perpetual Zen. But fate, or destiny as it may be, had different plans for me. I got the "fortunate" boon of being born a human in this lifetime.
So I have to get out of bed everyday. I have to make stuff happen somehow. Evolve and shit. Quite literally. But I still feel the past-life cat DNA trying to hold me in bed for as long as I can without feeling guilty, which usually starts around 7:30 am. Lately, it's been creeping up in to the 8:00 am range. Which in and of itself wouldn't be a big deal, but I've been depressed. Grieving something I loved so deeply and could not last. Only the mystery knows why.
To kick start my life and my mood, I reached into my Ayurveda tool bag and recommitted to the 5:30am rise-and-shine time. At first, with grand delusions that I would hop out of bed and get my sweet ass to a spin class. It's winter, and I need some endorphins. But that perfectionist's plan simply led to anxiety, resistance, and staying in bed even longer. My inner rebel is stubborn, especially when she feels my inner child is being forced into something without being considered or consulted!
So, we called an inner counsel. Everyone was invited - the magical child, the wounded child, the strict disciplinarian, the perfectionist, the inner feline, the queen, Isis and Sehkmet and many more. We worked together to discover what would feel nurturing, supportive, and inspiring.
So far, the new plan seems to be working. We...
This river, five blocks form the house, is not just any river, it's a sacred river. I know, I know, they are ALL sacred, as is any place on earth. But this one...it's the 5th oldest river in the world! Older than these mountains, which lay claim to be the oldest. We are talking BILLIONS of years old. She also happens to run north, which still doesn't make sense to me through the explanation of elevation. But we'll just let that slide for now.
Most of the citizens of Asheville don't respect her very much. After a hundred years of industrialization, she's been pretty polluted, so we all bitch about how we can't swim in her because she's infected with Ecoli. But isn't that the case with most sacred beings these days? Look at Ganges! And still that doesn't stops people from cleansing their sins in it.
So, yes, I've started to head to the river to pray. She's been around a long time, and I figure she has a lot of wisdom to share. The prayer changes each day, but most days I'm simply WOW. A way to open to the awe of the beauty that surrounds me, even on these cold grey, brown November days.
I wonder what I'll learn from this goddess. She baths me in the herstory of nature, more cleansing than any shower. I imagine it's a bit like swimming in the unfathomable heart of the blue whale as it calls deep rhythms into the vastness of the ocean.
Today it was the Pilaeted woodpecker, who swooped by in his erratic flight to say hello. He is a shaman, I'm sure of it, bringing messages I still can't translate. Yesterday, it was the squirrels, who jumped out of the trash can to jolt my heart into a joyful laughter. The day before, the brilliance of the sun, peaking out over the mountain before it disappeared behind the molten grey sky. This river, she has such wisdom. I wonder who is listening? I wonder what secrets she'll share?
What I do know, is already she has awakened my heart, soothed my mind and opened my soul. As I follow the advice of Ayurveda, AND Mary Oliver, I will continue to wake early throughout the winter. As I find more harmony, I also find, with absolute effortless effort, that I'm following another one of her directives...Instructions for life...
Tell about it.
Thank you to the resurrection of each day...and the resurrection of life.
What is moving in the world? In the cosmos? In our experiences? Are we detoxing an old energy to bring forward a new consciousness? Or is the government out to get us?
All I know is that almost everyone I talk to seems inflamed - emotionally, relationally or physically. It is clear, something is up and for most of us, it hurts...big time. Our bodies aren't working the way we want. Our minds are not able to handle the emotional turmoil. Our self-talk is filled with shame and blame. So is our opinion of others. Everything feels out of hand, as we feel overwhelmed, at our wits end and weary. For many, the bridge down the street seems like the only way out, and idle talks of suicide seem commonplace. My sincere hope is that this is merely an escape fantasy and not a real plan made under the crushing weight of whatever is moving through us collectively.
Which begs the question, what is moving through us?
My cynical nature wonders about conspiracies and government plots. Is Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) warfare real? And are the Russians, or our own government, using it against us? Or is the pain we feel something more benign or even beneficial ultimately - a great awakening and shifting of consciousness.
Let's start by exploring the former.
If you don't know ELF was developed by Nicole Tesla in his attempts to create wireless energy. My very basic understanding is that a pulse is generated in the Electromagnetic Field. This pulse creates a VERY low frequency, meaning the wave pattern (which we do not see or hear) is very long and slow -- so slow in fact that they can actually separate the electrical and magnetic forces. The Navy uses ELF to communicate with submarines, and you are exposed to some of these low frequencies near power lines or household appliances.
Many ELF frequencies exist, ranging from 10 Hz to 100 MHz, and sources argue about the effects of different frequencies on the human body. Some say that these frequencies can stimulate bone growth. Others debate whether ELF will affect our DNA, cancer and birth defects. Conspiracy theorists suggest ELF is used for mind control and even cite early incidences of mass gun shootings. Scientists debunk this as complete nonsense.
A report from the International Programme on Chemical Safety seems relatively based in reality. It reviews dozens, if not hundreds of studies looking at ELF's effects on humans and animals, and notes that subjects exposed to different frequencies complained of effects on the nervous system and blood biochemistry. It also states that indeed enough evidence exists regarding incidence of cancer and pregnancies rates to require further study.
The thing I found most interesting is a table showing a whole host of studies on animals. Some of the studies show that exposure to different frequencies of ELF can cause everything from small behavioral changes, to hyperactivity. It can increase excitability of the fight or flight nervous system response, as well as the shut down or "freeze" response. It can create excitatory changes in neuromuscular function and slow recover from fatigue. It can even change brain behavior in some animals.
Now, I know we are not animals, so you can't extrapolate that any of this applies to humans. But I have to admit it does get me wondering. I know dozens of people suffering from vertigo right now, which is associated with a disturbance in the crystals of the ears. ELF is known to affect some animals because it stimulates the small hair of the ears. Coincidence? Who knows? But I find it interesting.
Let's say I'm totally off base and ignorant when it comes to interpreting the data. I can accept that. It still leaves the question, what is going on with everyone? Why is there so much pain?
A more hopeful theory is that we are going through a collective detox.
According to ancient Vedic science, we are in an era known as Kali Yuga - the age of vice. It has many wonderful benefits, for example the ability to transform and transmute karma, but also lots of challenges and pain. It is the era when we feel the most isolated, alone and in conflict with those we see as other.
Scholars estimate that Kali Yuga started around 3102 BCE, which just happens to correspond with the beginning of recorded history. In our collective consciousness, we imagine that not much happened before that. Oh how we forget!
Humans, in our current form, have existed for as many as 80,000 years. Did you hear that?! We are EIGHTY THOUSAND YEARS old as a species! For some reason we have come to imagine that any time before 5000 years ago, we were was simply a bunch of Neanderthals running around grunting and beating each other on the head, totally at the mercy of impulses and nature.
Yet, Archeological evidence shows this to be false. Great civilizations arose and fell. We see times of great peace, in which no town had fortification, implying that no defense was needed because no attacks occurred. We show times of harmony, where the most common tools to be found were not weapons or implements of agriculture and war, but rather devices that measured the moon cycle or a woman's menstrual cycle, or maybe both.
Sages say that those earlier eras were filled with harmony, but because there was no grist for the mill, few changes could happen for the soul or humanity. In contract, in Kali Yuga we are rife with challenges, difficulties, and a sense of separation. In fact, it is the only Yuga where language is needed to communicate - a clunky tool at best where we often misunderstand each other, especially when it comes to love. Previous Yugas employed mental telepathy, because who needs language when there is little sense of an individual self?
It turns out; Kali Yuga may be coming to an end, and the current pain and struggle may simply be the last hurrah!
Think of it like a detox. Often, as you start to clean up your diet, you feel like hell. All of the toxins are coming out of stagnation to be flushed out of the system. But, after of few days of headaches and nausea, you start to feel like a million bucks.
If we are in fact are moving into the next era of time - perhaps one of peace, harmony and a degree of stagnation, than maybe its time to get the toxins out now before they get stuck! Maybe we are being forced to face the pain that lives in our shadows both in our personal lives as well as at the collective, so we can release it?
In one Indian Myths, the beings of peace (devas) are in a tug of ware with the beings of chaos (auras). As the pull back and forth they churn the ocean of milk in which they live. From this churning, at first poison arises from the depths. All of the toxins float to the surface, and Shiva, benevolent soul that he is, swallows it so that it doesn't harm and destroy the whole of the world. Yet the devas and asuras continue to fight. As they churn, something else begins to emerge. It is the god of medicine, and in his hand he holds the sweet nectar of eternal life.
Perhaps we are at the first stage of churning. Perhaps our toxins, in body, mind, and collective are surfacing. The question is, will you be like Shiva? Will you turn to face your own pain? Will you offer your great compassion to the world -- not by turning away, ignoring or spiritually bypassing the pain but by consume it whole, knowing that you have the strength to digest and transform it? Or will you let it spill over into the world and destroy all of life, including your own?
The question is for each one of us to answer, but for none of us to do alone. May we continue to hold each others hands as we climb. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, the next Buddha, or Shiva as the case may be, will not be one individual, but a community of people.