Today I am celebrating the edge of the universe as I know it, and those in my life who bring me edges to consider.
Already last year I knew something had changed; a shift away from “love and light” to something more balanced, or even, dark. I began to dream dreams of operating backwards, as though the back of my head was actually as ‘open’ as the front, which made perfect sense even when I woke.
I think that I owe this to Facebook, to a relentless barrage of positivity- by-way-of-cliche’, that I signed up for, to help me stay on a compassionate path. Each morning, I received messages in commanding tones, imploring me to let go and to forgive, to stand up for myself and others, to see the good in everything but not turn my back on injustice, to fight for change and to accept things as they are, to have integrity, to not hurt anyone, to care, and also not give a shit about what (these, same?) others think.
You get the idea I hope: a bit maddening.
Or maybe the shift began with the most intendingly gentle person I’d ever known… and the way the judgment and scrutiny I felt in their presence brought me to question the compassion of their way of seeing.
The other night I found myself awake (which happens about once a week: unable to sleep I find some stream and binge on a well-reviewed television show I missed in my previous rejection of TV) and watching Enlightened. Now canceled, it is the story of an executive who has a melt down and flees to an idyllic island rehab, where she has a genuine change of heart – true insights about herself and world.
It is about integration really: What really happens in our time rather than some other, when “returning “enlightened” to the marketplace” (reference: the Taoist Ox-herding pictures), and must interact with the world they have known before?
Enlightened is a validating story, appealing to me for clash and contrast between Laura Dern’s character and the world she no longer fits into, and mainly for showing that she remains the self-absorbed person she’d been before, but with a bright new new mission which she then projects onto the others around her… a “do-gooder” as she is called by her ex.
She is not perfected; she is still unaware of and disconnected from the feelings and struggles of those around her. And over time one begins to realize how much better this is, than the ideal she sees herself in.
Even falling short of “selfless buddha,” the character’s intentions are blatant enough to be disarming, and is a sensitive picture of the digestion of Eastern spirituality in the West, which tends to be focused on improving self image. (The Book of Mormon musical also did a brilliant job of making this one point, as the image of himself as missionary-savior is larger in one character’s vision, than the plights of those he is sent to help).
The thing is, as materialistic as the West’s interpretation of Eastern thought can be, it is still the very nature of those teachings to open into to something more genuine. The series ended in a more happy ending than I would usually find believable… and that was OK.
When The Secret/Law of Attraction teachings came to popularity, I found myself in an awkward position. I could see that the way the ideas were being presented, was missing the point (I had learned about this already through a journey with faith teachings), and yet many friends and family members who had been averse to meditation, were suddenly open to looking at their minds and worlds in a very new way. These teachings had reached into their lives; I couldn’t exactly say The Secret was wrong… even if not exactly true.
I couldn’t have predicted how quickly the first expressions would be self-correcting. Changing one’s outlook does go a long way toward changing one’s circumstances, and it isn’t easy at first, to consider the possibility of a generous universe, dropping the mindset that humanity is fundamentally untrustworthy, and opening the heart to Basic Goodness. It is a difference in view that Einstein once insisted was the biggest decision one could make ~ whether their universe is friendly or un.
That sort of shift prompts another… a relaxation of guard that might allow asking for what is needed, and desired, which might further prompt exposure of motives. This kind of sight tends to refine what is wished for, and who is included in that wishing… expanding the boundaries from a focus on what might garner envy or reluctant admiration from a world outside, to what might bring forth a more genuine world from within. Yes, good ol’ fashioned prayer.
I’m optimistic; I think that’s where we are now. Here is something that came to me (yes, through Facebook!), just today:
“It is easy to stand still and leave no trace, but it is hard to walk without touching the ground.
If you follow human methods, you can get away with deception.
In the way of Tao, deception is not possible.
You know that one can fly with wings,
You have not yet learned about flying without wings.”
You are familiar with the wisdom of those who know,
But you have not yet learned the wisdom of those who know not.”
– Chuang Tzu