Born into a world fraught with duality, none of us spring fully formed from the head of Zeus the parent. Instead we labor, step by step. We learn, the slowest alongside the fleet of mind; plod through our lessons from walking to speaking to writing. In a single day, an infant will gurgle with glee, howl with abandon. Blissful in repose one minute; tiny fists pummeling the air at what cannot immediately be satisfied, the next. Is dup
licity our fundamental nature? Or simply an illusion brought about by living on a polarized planet?
Challenges increase with age. Again and again we reach for the warmth and comfort of the light, only to be cast back to earth like Icarus with melted wings. If defeated by darkness, we seethe in a self created Inferno, buried alive in our own mental excrement – awaiting renewal like a bear in its den. Invariably just as Spring follows Winter we resurface – rising like the phoenix from the ashes – only to discover the dance continues.
If we fail to grasp the inevitable facts of our existence – that we are here to learn and grow and that this growth most certainly will involve adversity, we remain poised over a widening gap in consciousness. If we wish to experience integration and a modicum of sanity, we learn to roll with the soft body of emotions. Becoming the observer of the mind while remaining grounded in the body physical gets us through the most challenging of times.
We know what it is to feel pulled beyond our limits. At times it seems as though we might spontaneously combust in a situation or condition whose duration seems without end. And even though I know by this stage in my life that this too shall pass, I am given to wonder with each fresh challenge if the duration increases with each subsequent travail, until I am food for worms – transforming me even then into something wholly rotten and at the same time wholly new!
In The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche speaks about the bardos, or in-between stages typically associated with a time when our eyes close on this world. And yet he reminds us that this life, too, is a bardo. What we learn, our practice in this life, prepares the ground for our death and what lies beyond.
I don’t believe we are meant to be defeated by darkness, anymore than the creatures of the ocean are doomed by a life in the depths. Darkness exists in nature in far greater excess than does light: the endless expanse of the heavens, the shadows in the woods, caves and the human womb. From the depths derives our potential, bursting forth like stars, pinpoints of brilliance birthed from an inky matrix.