I am looking at the ocean in Santa Cruz on an unusally bright December day and many sparks of light are dancing over the surface. In the great depths below much activity is likely happening, but all I can see is the grey-blue rippling surface and thousands of dots of light, resting below a greyish pink sky so that the world from this view is simply a peaceful and sparkling watercolor.
As we move through a world that has many troubles, among people with worries and sorrow, we hold a potential to be a spark of light in the grey, the one who can reach out and be a friend, or a helping hand or a smile. Beneath the surface much may be going on but still that potential for light is always there. I believe non-duality is about the light available in the darkness, the wholeness of One alive and bright ocean within the apparent separation.
Those who are spiritual “seekers” sometimes get their lives out of balance. The very longing to know Truth or God or “What is it all about?” demands a kind of passionate focus that can disturb all the normal rhythms of a life, along with slowly destabilizing the conditioned identity. We can begin to feel isolated, lonely and misunderstood, and withdraw from the opportunity to interact with others.
Perhaps your longing for Truth or awakening arose because of dissatisfaction with the cultural mindset , or because of difficulty in facing ordinary challenges of living in an intense and competitive world, or possibly you just came into the world wondering from a young age what life was all about. In some cases a major life event or a trauma or simply even a dream or a phrase in a book , can trigger the longing to know more. Although it sometimes feels like a desire to escape, this is actually a longing to feel whole and intimate with all of life.
A few centuries ago you would have found your way to a monastery or ashram or temple to study the secret mysteries that could help you go so inward that you would move beyond yourself. Today all levels of practices and teachings, both valid and distorted, are sprouting up everywhere. No preparation required. Little understanding provided. It is easy to get lost and confused in the inner world and the phenomena it offers, and drift away from engagement with your humanity.
One of the challenges of awakened consciousness is seeing more clearly the insanity in much of human behavior, and choosing our response. We are likely the only species willing to destroy our own environment, neglect the basic human needs of one another, and become prone to self-limiting self criticism. At some point it is natural to want to escape to a deeper peace inside and try to ignore the outer world, but awakening paradoxically makes us more sensitive to human loss and trauma. We cannot refuse to see.
Many spiritually-oriented or simply compassionate people are disturbed today by the direction of our government and institutions. It appears likely values we believe in such as equality, freedom, compassion and opportunity for the poor, open-minded education, environmental protections, ending nuclear proliferation etc. are threatened. Fear and anger can overwhelm us as our minds create the possible scenario for a new and more cruel world. We have to go beyond the mind for our response.
We only need a slight glance at history to see that these same concerns, or worse, have plagued humans since the beginning of civilization. Human life has long been a struggle between opposites and each generation must find a way to stand for the light within. Our generations have dealt with WW2, Viet Nam, the Gulf wars, the Civil Rights movement, assassinations, floods and other environmental disasters – cultural trauma is nothing new – like energy it doesn’t disappear but simply changes form.
As spiritual seekers we can become attached to the light, and develop strong aversions to the cultural and political battles of our world. Generally we are not people who are adept at fighting, and prefer retreating into meditation, interior calming and prayer. Perhaps we are holding the center for those who are out on the edges demanding change, but when we are very passive, sometimes the changes generated are not the ones we seek. Perhaps there will always be waves of power-driven people creating havoc in the world – there always has been so far – and yet there has been human progress too and great inventive minds that contribute to the rising of all. So how do we find balance and inner harmony in a world that seems to deny its value? And can we have a useful impact by offering our own light?
Here are a few quotes of Krishna speaking in the the Kula-Arnava Tantra (1.16-27) that I recently found in Georg Feuersteins book “Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy”. They remind me that we must nurture our own lives, including our bodies, and offer kindness to others, if we are to awaken to Truth. Even under a political system that is not offering the supports we think are needed, we can offer this to one another. I’ve added my own interpretation of the stanzas.
After obtaining a human body, which is difficult to obtain and which serves as a ladder to liberation, who is more sinful than he who does not cross over to the Self?(Think of sinful meaning blind or neglectful. Krishna encourages us to use the great gift of incarnation wisely)
Therefore, upon obtaining the best possible life form, he who does not know his own good is merely killing himself. (Recognize that your birth offers great opportunity! Use this precious time to awaken to Truth.)
How can one come to know the purpose of human life without a human body? Hence having obtained the gift of a human body one should perform meritorious deeds.(As humans we have a sacred purpose and can do good things for one another.)
One should completely protect oneself by oneself. Oneself is the vessel for everything. One should make an effort in protecting oneself, Otherwise the Truth cannot be seen.(Love yourself and care for the vehicle of the body/mind. This is essential in finding the Truth of who you are.)
One should cultivate the highest good while the senses are not yet frail, suffering is not yet firmly rooted, and adversities have not yet become overwhelming. (Life is short – seek truth from an early age. However, I would add it is never too late.)
Of course, this was also the message of Jesus, on whom Christianity was founded. He advised us to love our selves and our neighbors and told us that heaven was all around us yet we did not see it. He even pointed out the kingdom of God is within. Although many so-called Christians seem to have lost this theme under the stress of greed or fear, it is likely many more embrace it. Christmas is a time we try to reignite generosity and renew family ties, and remind ourselves of our capacity for love and transformation.
Can we use these challenging political times to come back into balance and inner harmony – valuing our bodies, our lives, our neighbors, our families, strangers and nature? By bringing gratitude and consciousness into our own personal environments and discovering what we each have that can be contributed to the common good we may even bring a gradual balance back to the planet.
Despite the darkness reported in the media we are the people, and what brings about the deepest change lies in how we treat one another. Politicians and corporations and criminals are not the majority of the people. Money is not the only commodity. We who seek or have found our Oneness, even briefly, can rebalance ourselves by moving beyond our personal contractions and finding our own unique way to contribute to the whole. Your way may be very quiet, touching only a few, or you may find yourself in a larger role. Truth and awakening have always been present in the world, holding the center amidst the chaos. Could this be the true message of Christmas and the life of Jesus, who himself lived in very troubled times?