Leo Tolstoy on God

LEO TOLSTOY ON GOD: "When you look inside yourself, you see what is called 'your own self' or your soul. You cannot touch it or see it or understand it, but you know it is there. And this part of yourself--that which you cannot understand--is what is called God. God is both around us and inside of us--in our souls.

The more you understand that you are at one with God, the more you will understand that you are at one with all His worldly manifestations."

Sunday, November 3, 2013

When Darkness Comes: Hunker In...It's a Wild Ride! (Wake Up: Part II)

"Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand that growth does not take place in the sunlight." Joan Chittister, Uncommon Gratitude

The above image and quote, notwithstanding, sometimes, even to ourselves, life simply does not make sense... sometimes.

We're not talking here of little day-to-day trials, or even short periods of darkness. We're talking of when the curtain comes down on an entire period of your life for months, even years, where you have to keep on walking but you have no clue where you're headed and why.What "you know for sure," though,  is that you have to keep on moving, whether it's seemingly on the treadmill of life, or you're actually making strides in some direction "of which you know not of." You sense there might be a protective presence right there with you, but again, you are no longer sure.

This is the journey  of the "Dark Night of the Soul," covered by St. John of the Cross in his book of the same name. The translation we will use to understand the depth of this journey and its stillness is by E. Allison Peers.  

Spiritual literature abounds with the promises of enrichment that follows the person on a spiritual path.

Promises of simply "thinking and growing rich"  are everywhere in self empowerment books, while others may say you simply have to look within and the road will open up to greet you.

Perhaps these positive things happen right at the beginning of the spiritual journey, when people first discover there's an entire part to themselves that they've been missing. They then begin to go within by starting meditation classes, reflecting in quiet moments and doing things they previously had not done before. By staying positive, even when things go awry, they do see good changes happening in their lives.

These are the good times.

Stop there. 

Truly stop there and go no further, especially if there's no compulsion in your Soul to know more. You'll continue to fully enjoy your life, if you just stop there! Any dark nights you encounter should just be a natural part of life.   
Image of diver, doing free diving, where divers test their limits 
with death-defying free dives. See 60 minutes episode:"Free Diving"

Please always keep in mind
this caveat as you walk the spiritual path: We should
not give up our lives to go "looking"
for God. Rather, live our lives with the consciousness
of Spirit within! There's real danger in going "looking." Live your life by doing what's right moment by moment; connecting within should be the only "looking" you do. If you find yourself wanting to give up careers, jobs, husbands, wives and/or children, you've traveled into dangerous territory.)

For those who truly feel called to go much deeper to connect to the within and those wanting to understand more about the mystery of life, there's a strong likelihood that you'll encounter "dark nights." But few spiritual leaders dwell upon the darkness that often results from following a deeply authentic spiritual path.   [A"dark night" experience is more than a bad day/night. Nevertheless, this Deepak Chopra story makes interesting reading:  ("My First Job: My Dark Night As a Real Doctor")] 

Check out whole libraries, and the literature is scarce on the dark side of spiritual enlightenment. It's as if the teachers are reluctant to share that part of the journey, or, they simply have not reached that point in their own evolution. Indeed, they may have stopped journeying inward, as they encountered light, and more light, on their path. Positive thinking does work! Many DO Think and Grow Rich!

There may be a reason that even those willing to talk about the darkness stay silent for long periods after having gone through the dark night. Most need to process the experience for a long time afterwards; many are reluctant to share such a period they know is "grace." 

The "dark night of the soul" has unspeakable horrors, as well as unspeakable joys.This is the time in our lives when all the spiritual muscle we've developed before atrophies and becomes useless. Nothing works!

Church doesn't work, prayer doesn't seem to work, the bible offers some comfort but not enough, affirmations and all that we may have once believed as "Truth" no longer work. Indeed, even the very selves we knew begin to disappear. The road becomes so dark we doubt we'll make it through to the other side.
To imagine this dark road, try to see your hand when all the electricity in your home has been turned out and you have no candles to light your way. Imagine trying to go outside and it's darker still, as the street lights are not working and there's no moonlight.
Imagine the darkness of such horror.
Imagine, too, that somewhere in the stillness of the darkness, you hear a faint, very faint voice, calling you to move in its direction. As you keep traveling towards it, it seems to grow clearer and clearer...But you know, you've still got a far way to go.

St. John of the Cross, a great Spanish and Carmelite monk in the 16th century, spoke of the dark night in as clear a fashion as anyone can share.

For St. John, this is a period of God's abiding love for us, yet, it is the most painful, as it a purifying period. Pride, avarice, envy and other human imperfections are held up to the light, so we can expel these negative traits from our Soul.

For those who are faint of heart, this is not a journey to be undertaken without much forethought.
Even for those who undertake it, unknowingly, and wish to turn back at many times, there is no way back.

The beauty of the "dark night of the soul" is that as it expunges the impurities, there comes more light, more wisdom, more joy, more beauty of the Soul and a deepening love for God.

This is the same light that Jacques Lusseyran in his book, "And There was Light,"* explains as a different vision that comes to the blind child or person.

"All of us, whether we are blind or not, are terribly greedy. We want things only for ourselves. Even without realizing it, we want the universe to be like us and give us all the room in it.
But a blind child learns very quickly that this cannot be. He has to learn it, for every time he forgets that he is not alone in the world, he strikes against an object, hurts himself and is called to order. But each time he remembers, he is rewarded for everything comes his way."

There are unspeakable horrors, as one's missteps are held up into the light. Who really wants to see the ugliness of their behavior played out on a movie screen that is their mind and heart?

Yet, there's the unspeakable, unparalleled joy of wisdom and insight and the glory of being held, however briefly, by God.

No one can speak of this journey of darkness to illumination.
Few do.

If you're privileged to get that far in your journey, you'll understand why, too.

And you'll know that all you can do is to hunker in...through the darkness...as the glory will come...the light will come...eventually. 

While you're at it, I strongly recommend as your companion, "Dark Night of the Soul," by St. John of the Cross. You will learn from him to give thanks through it all, and you will be grateful for the journey.

 "A sacred illness is one that educates us and alters us from the inside out, provides experience and therefore knowledge, that we could not possibly achieve in any other way." -Deena Metzger, Healer

Happy Thanksgiving!

*We will cover this book in more depth in December.
**Via Gratefulness.org, Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. Deena Metzger is a writer, poet, essayist, playwright, novelist, counselor and healer. According to Wikipedia, she has been teaching for more than 45 years and has developed therapies called, "Healing Stories."

1 comment:

Che' Vyfhuis said...

REPOSTED by Che' from email:
"Wow. I really enjoyed your latest blog. I have read uncommon gratitude and did like its focus. Thanks for your wonderful insights. Much love."


Personal Authenticity: "To Thine Own Self Be True"...

"To Thine Own Self Be True and it must follow as the night, the day, Thou canst not then be false to ANY man."
William Shakespeare.