I was sad one day and went for a walk.
I sat in a field.
A rabbit noticed my condition and came near.
It often does not take more than that to help at times,
to just be close to creatures who
are so full of knowing,
so full of love
that they don’t chat,
they just gaze with their
—St John of the Cross
I had a powerful moment in group the other night. It was Thursday at Center, and for the first time in many weeks I was not sitting on the cushion facilitating. Instead, I was sitting on a cushion facing the Guide. My heart cracked open on seeing that beloved figure, framed by the meditation bells on one side and a profusion of white flowers on the other. It’s hard to articulate what I was feeling in that moment, but perhaps it was the experience referenced in the poem of being bathed in a gaze of marvelous understanding. I was aware of receiving the tremendous gift of certain knowledge that I had a Guide, a Friend, someone on my side as I make this spiritual journey. I surrendered to the exquisite sweetness of feeling held and supported.
That I was moved so strongly by the gift of support made me aware of the extent to which I had been spending time in a place of no support, a place where it was all up to me, where I could not count on anyone else, where the weight of my existence was mine alone to shoulder. That place, of course, is conditioned mind, and the sense of alienation and isolation is a signature of ego identification. Spending time in this bleak landscape, devoid of encouragement, compassion and understanding, is not just lonely; spending time identified with ego blocks out all awareness that support is there for the asking; it dulls the receptors that register the loving little creatures—the darting hummingbird, the gorgeous dragonfly, the cuddly cat—that offer solace to a troubled heart.
It is a paradox of the spiritual journey that one travels a terrain of Unconditional Love but that Love does not trumpet its presence. The onus of recognizing it, seeking it, embracing it is on me. Unconditional Love has already chosen me. The task is for me to choose it unconditionally.
If I could design a process of awakening, I would have Love, Kindness and Wisdom rescue me in times of distress. Instead, the way it appears to work is that I am required to seek Love when it feels least available, when what I’m identified with blinds me to its presence.
The diamond takes shape slowly
With integrity’s great force,
And from the profound courage to never relinquish love.
In the thick of a karmic storm, I don’t feel courageous or loving. In fact, I feel the despair of having been forsaken. But perhaps that’s the point of the crucible of transformation: to face down the illusion of the “absence of Love” until the veil drops and Love reveals Its presence. Perhaps, in the maelstrom of the dark night, “I” am whittled away until I can see that Unconditional Love never relinquished me, and that what holds on is Integrity’s great force. The small flame that flickers on, unquenched by the darkness of an ego crucifixion, is Love triumphant. Even the worst whirlpools of the mind cannot submerge that jaunty flame. It’s mine to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, in good times and bad, not even to be parted by an ego’s death.
If we are lucky, we will come to a point at which practice moves from a bitter divorce from ego to a love affair with Life. Wherever we are in that spectrum of practice, what we practice remains the same; we train to be in relationship with the wisdom, love and compassion that is our True Nature. For in the dark night of the soul, we don’t want to lose the thread of Love that will guide us out of the maze and into the Light.
To transcend the ego is not an easy task. To be a part of a community that supports this monumental endeavor is a privilege. To have a teacher we trust to guide us on the journey is a gift to be marveled at. To be supported by a practice structure that gives no quarter to the ego, that will hold our hearts until we find the willingness to make a choice for Love, but will never intervene to insist on it, is a miracle that is almost impossible to comprehend. And so as we come to the end of another practice year, we bow deeply in gratitude and recite: The blessings of love and respect we offer to all, in times past and present, who have opened the doors of wisdom reuniting all beings with their intrinsic purity.
I was sad one day and went for a walk.