It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything new here. I have no excuse; I just haven’t really felt like it.
The last few months have been extremely hard and intense for me. As I continue shedding the remnants of this unbelievable and catastrophic darkness, I’ve been slowly (very slowly) returning back into the normal world. The inner clearing and healing work continues (albeit in new aspects and along new dimensions). It is still taking up the majority of the hours each day, demanding priority over all else. I’m told that’s temporary and will lessen over time.
Interacting with others, short conversations, and even running small errands are now becoming more and more manageable. It often feels like I’m a brand new person, with an entirely new personality, learning how to walk all over again – painful, awkward, scary, and with lots of ups and downs. (I figuratively fall on my ass a lot.)
Navigating all of this has been incredibly complicated and difficult. Without any rulebooks or external guidance, I’ve had to move through this, basically feeling my way through it, one terrifying step at a time. In the last few weeks in particular, the process turned outward, and I’ve been pushed into confronting some very real and serious external challenges, which have taken every ounce of strength, and faith, and courage to endure. They are all part of the healing and training process, but still they are extremely scary. It is only by the grace of God, and two exceptionally devoted friends, that I’ve managed to get through all of it. They say that if you have one really good friend you can get through just about anything. I am blessed with two such friends, for whom I am endlessly grateful. You know who you are!
Up until now it’s been too vulnerable for me to really share the details of these recent experiences, for a bunch of different reasons. Aside from fears and doubts, I didn’t quite have the words to convey the gravity or sanctity of what’s been happening to me. I still don’t. There are aspects of this that I can’t articulate, can’t conceptualize, and at times don’t fully understand. At first I found this to be intensely frustrating, but then resigned myself to the idea that not everything needs to be mentally understood or shared with others. (Shocking, I know. I’m kind of a blabber-mouth, so not sharing everything with everyone is weird for me. But I’m getting used to it.)
As fate would have it, just as I’d given up on sharing all of this, I met a very special person last week, who appears to have precisely the right words! Enter my new friend, Henry, the poet, from Cuba. A kindred spirit with a deeply intuitive heart, Henry magically appeared in my life in a rather unexpected way.Our seemingly random (and spiritually significant) encounter left us both a little shocked and reeling, I think. The magic and divine mystery that surrounds our lives is wondrous and truly extraordinary. No matter how many times I see it, no matter how many times I’m completed floored by the significance and intensity of it, my awe and surprise never seem to diminish.
A few days later, Henry sent me a poem he’d written some time ago. Receiving it first left me speechless, and then completely overwhelmed with emotion. Each time I read it, I cry again and again; just as with some of the other works I’ve written about before. I’m not usually moved by poetry in this way, so it’s especially meaningful for me when that happens.
I think Henry’s poem speaks powerfully on its own; so it doesn’t need any introductory fanfare from me. The concepts are both deeply mystical and spiritually universal. The words carry an unmistakable energy, and can be interpreted as deeply as one wishes to go. To me, this piece rivals some of the best mystical poetry I’ve ever read. But more than that, personally, the words seem to answer a long-forgotten prayer from deep within me. It feels as though the words, arriving in perfect timing, served as a much needed validation of something that couldn’t otherwise be seen or confirmed in any other way. I am filled with immense gratitude for this incredibly meaningful meeting, for the message of this poem, and for Henry’s generous permission to share it with you here.
Before I share the poem itself, just a few short disclaimers of apology. The original is written in Spanish. I’ve taken the liberty of translating it very roughly into English (without any idea of how one is meant to translate poetry). I apologize to translators everywhere. Secondly, the spiritual energy and magic of the poem exist in the original alone. It is in reading it, in Spanish, that the effects can be felt somatically. I translated it for the sake of intellectual participation by non-Spanish speakers, trying to stay as true to the literal words and contextual meaning as I understand them. At the same time, I am trying not to compete with it, nor create a standalone piece of English poetry. I’m sure this is technically wrong, butchers the original, and is probably sacrilegious, so for this I beg the forgiveness of both Henry and poetry scholars everywhere. Thirdly, my Spanish isn’t great, but with the help of google and some other translation websites, I think I got the essence of it right. If I didn’t, apologies to my Spanish speaking friends; your suggestions/corrections are welcome. Finally, because I feel so deeply connected to this poem and so certain of this connection, I will endeavor to share the mystical significance of the words. For this only the saints can forgive me. So without further ado, I give you:
Clamor de guerra a la luz
By: Henry Pacheco
El alma vacío su llanto en la sed de las pupilas idolatradas;
Un montón de vidas maniatadas,
Destruyendo el decoro del universo.
He aquí un híbrido de la luz, la oscuridad, a veces bueno otras perverso.
Locura desenfrenada abre las puertas de los misterios.
Ángeles pecadores entrando al infierno;
desorden mundial, oscuridad, panico, miedo.
Diluvio bendito siente en las entrañas de la tierra,
la lava, el fuego, la luz, el viento.
Regeneración, resurrección al te quiero.
Príncipe de la luz, despoja a tu princesa de su hipócrita velo.
Hagase a la luz nuevamente.
Muestrame tu camino.
Pájaro de amor,
Canta de alegría tu humilde trino.
Siembra rosas, girasoles en el patio de tu vecino
Luz a la vida, vida a la luz.
Guerrero de mil batallas,
Liberate de la cruz.
Sucio el mendigo, limpia tus harapos de esclavitud
Rompe el llanto, las cadenas, prende las velas, incendia el manto
Clamor de guerra a la luz.
The clamor of warfare
By: Henry Pacheco (translated by me).
The soul emptied its weeping in the thirst of worshiping pupils;
Innumerable lifetimes bound up together,
Destroying the decorum of the universe.
Here a hybrid of light, darkness; at times good, at others evil.
Unbridled madness opening the portals to the mysteries.
Sinful angels entering into hell; world disorder, darkness, panic, fear.
A blessed flood felt in the bowels of the earth, the lava, the fire, the light, the wind.
Regeneration, resurrection at “I love you.”
Prince of light, strip your princess of her hypocritical veil.
Return yourself to the light once again.
Show me your way.
Bird of love,
Sing of joy your humble trill.
Sow roses, sunflowers in your neighbor’s yard.
Light to life, life to light.
Warrior of a thousand battles,
Liberate yourself from the cross.
Filthy that beggar, clean your rags of serfdom.
Break the weeping, the shackles,
light the candles, torch the mantle.
The clamor of warfare into the light.
I cry, I sing.
This poem tracks the journey through the most arduous mystical darkness encountered on the road to enlightenment. Detailed in these words is a profound account of the divine purification process of a mystic (and ultimately, a saint).
This particular experience is considered one of the most advanced stages in the spiritual process – the tail end of the purgation of spirit described by St. John of the Cross. Even among mystical writings, these descriptions are very very rare. Not every mystic attains this level of development and those that do often don’t write about it. (It’s a myth that enlightenment is some static uniform thing for everyone – it isn’t. Mystics vary; and mystical development has its own hierarchies and systems, directed and dictated from above.). In all of my research and work in this area, I’ve struggled to actually find accounts like this in the writings. Perhaps in the secret scrolls buried in monasteries around the world more detailed accounts exist to which I am not privy.
Captured only in these rare poetic glimpses, this experience is only really understood by those who themselves have encountered it. (I say that without any sort of pretense. For centuries mystics have complained and complained that no one understands them… it’s not weird that this experience, part of the larger framework, is even less well understood). Talking about these things, writing about them, trying to convey them or describe them leads only to confused silence at best, and attacks at worst. St. Teresa always took a rather careful and defensive tone writing about this subject, anticipating her harsh critics’ skeptical responses. I think most mystics would say that describing it to someone who hasn’t experienced it would reveal nothing to the listener, while only denigrating the experience for the speaker. (As I said before – some things are really not meant for sharing). Despite that, we continue (Because also as I said before – blabbermouth). 🙂 God forgive me.
During a particular stage in the process, following a clearing of the wounding of this lifetime, the soul begins to empty itself of all the lifetimes of pain it carries. The pain is digested emotionally and psychologically through the human body. What comes pouring out is lifetimes of human trauma – injustice, oppression, bondage, betrayal, grief. Unimaginable grief! Universal themes of suffering. Mind-numbing human pain. It is endless crying; every day, all the time, for months and months, until all of it gets digested out. It is all felt and lived through again and again, as if it were all happening now. Panic, fear, paranoia, persecution. The world turns upside down, and becomes a nightmare of hell that feels like it will never end. The truth is literally blinding and deafening. As the centers of perception open completely, and a raw impossible sensitivity takes hold, every experience is felt with such a magnitude that it feels like a continuous and persistent destruction of the very core of one’s being. Past life death scenes are encountered, one after another, experienced as if you are right there, remembering it, and re-living it again and again. At the same time, all aspects and varieties of fear are being processed out, triggered, digested, and healed. And courage and virtue, our default traits, arise to fill the empty spaces left behind. That too feels torturous, and very difficult to endure.
I’ve used the metaphor of a civil war in writing about this before – it is really experienced that way. This process tears a person apart completely, and the pain and the light (and the experiences of being burned by the elements) seem to come from above and from below. The fire feels as if it’s rising from the bowels of the earth itself. Wind and light and lava… all of it consuming parts of you at the same time. It is torture; psychologically, physically, emotionally. Were it not for the greater spiritual purpose, it would not be possible to bear. Even knowing the greater purpose at times doesn’t help to bear it. The descent into this hell is horrendous. And the ascension is very slow, very complicated, taxing and extremely painful.
The hell is a hybrid of both light and darkness because in this state dualistic morality collapses – and a truth is revealed that good and evil are not distinct things, but that they are intertwined together. Both inside the person, and abstractly so, in the world at large. It is one and the same. Nietzsche tried to explain this, somewhat unsuccessfully. It’s not really something that can be intellectually explained or understood. (You know me – I’m gonna try anyway). Essentially, the understanding of good and evil arises from the same emptiness – it’s all an illusion. There is a divine realization that human morality is ultimately meaningless, spiritually speaking. What we call moral rules are really only the rules of the game here. They are important for soul development at this level, but the spiritual planes operate by a different set of rules all-together. From the correct height of perspective earthly good and evil are equal – two ends of a spectrum, different only in degrees. The metaphor of a chess board seems appropriate here. Light and darkness exist in a kind of balance, each a necessary part of a singular whole. Seeing this and having the realization of it are the actual experiences of mystical oneness. But seeing this and realizing it in the midst of pain and suffering, in the depths of victimhood, is devastatingly painful.
A few words about the unbridled madness: The mysteries of the universe (small tiny fragments of them) come as revelations, often in the middle of the night. I think I’ve written about this before. It feels much like a spontaneous opening of some kind of portal that allows everything to suddenly come in. These openings are so massive that it’s not possible to grasp everything they reveal. It is like standing in a house of infinite mirrors, trying to grab hold of all the reflections at once. The mind is not capable of handling that kind of experience. It is a kind of ungrounded madness when that happens.
I think the words here, of madness, echo a second and deeper meaning, which is that these experiences cannot be explained nor understood by any of the normal academic disciplines. It’s a philosophical Catch 22 – if you experience these things, then technically you are mad. But the only way to prove you are not mad, but rather completely sane, is for the other person to experience it himself too. It’s very annoying that way. These experiences do not conform to our world, and generally they never have. It is not in their nature to conform. They are unique, personal, and highly idiosyncratic.
In truth, there is a powerful and divine intelligence at work directing and orchestrating this process. To see this, to experience it, to understand it is to then immediately be defined as mad. The things that mystics see pose such a fundamental challenge to so many philosophical underpinnings of “civilized” organized society, that calling it madness is the easiest and most expedient resolution to an otherwise overwhelming dilemma. (It’s not a modern faith versus science problem – it’s an ancient problem that not that’s ever going to change).
Those that go through this particular darkness are “sinful angels entering hell,” because they are humans (naturally flawed) who are something like saints-in-training. Despite being good and decent people, and despite all of their spiritual cleansing work, they still remain flawed and imperfect. Heading into this hell, they still carry their sins (of ego), which is the stuff that is going to be purified. They enter this hell in order for the soul to be cleansed fully and completely – which appears to be possible only through the digestion of this pain in a human body. The Catholic tradition calls this the “way of perfection” for this very reason. And I think the basis of the Buddhist belief in reincarnation is grounded in this idea as well – that liberation can only be attained via the human experience.
And the regeneration and resurrection (the healing, the emerging, the shedding of this hellish darkness) is only at the attainment of “i love you.” This is the love of God within. It is the unconditional forgiveness of God. The unconditional love He gives, despite the sins, and flaws, and human frailties. The resurrection happens only when we attain real self-acceptance and self-forgiveness completely; when we have healed and released all of our pain and shame; when we have truly forgiven ourselves in the depth of the ugly truths, rather than in the avoidance of denial. We are all innocent really, even when we are not. And God loves us that way, and asks us to love ourselves, and one another, humbly and honestly, that way too. These principles are true at the surface, and they are true in the depths of this hell. They are the keys to all the healing imaginable, and the foundations of all the spiritual ascensions as well.
I could continue on about these subjects for pages and pages, but I’ll conclude with this final idea. It is understood (and believed) in many mystical traditions that the energy directing this purification process is the female aspect of God, Sophia. She appears to always be present in these dark night experiences, pulling all the levers behind the scenes. She lets her presence be known in myriad ways, but generally she stays veiled in the shadows. (This is intentional; part of the wrestling with doubt and the genuine cultivation of faith). It is Sophia’s wisdom, her intelligence, and her ruthless sort of love that guides the soul through this excruciating process.
Once cleansed of ego/sin/impurity, and re-calibrated to virtue, Sophia takes her expression through the human and unites with the Christ energy (that we know of in the Christian tradition as Jesus, the Prince of the light). This is the removal of the veil – the divine marriage – the ultimate unitive state or goal of the entire mystical process. After this spiritual inner war is over, the marriage takes place energetically. Union with God is attained as these two energies merge together. And all that remains on the outside is a humble human, wise and war-torn, full of love and compassion for others, often found crying and singing (perhaps dancing or whirling or writing poetry) in a state of ecstatic and pious bliss, dedicated to service of God.
I’m done with my pseudo-scholarly commentary for now. But back to the purpose of this post – Henry has managed to capture all of this (and much much more) in his few short incredible sentences. I continue to read his poem again and again, with awe and reverence and a great deal of excitement. I hope you love it as much as I do.
PS. Bernini’s sculpture of St. Teresa of Avila, which is the image above, is derived from her description of an episode of this specific experience of mystical darkness. Here’s what she wrote about it:
It pleased the Lord that I should see this angel in the following way. He was not tall, but short, and very beautiful, his face so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest types of angel who seem to be all afire. … In his hands I saw a long golden spear and at the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire. With this he seemed to pierce my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he drew it out, I thought he was drawing them out with it and he left me completely afire with a great love for God. The pain was so sharp that it made me utter several moans; and so excessive was the sweetness caused me by this intense pain that one can never wish to lose it, nor will one’s soul be content with anything less than God. It is not bodily pain, but spiritual, though the body has a share in it — indeed, a great share. So sweet are the colloquies of love which pass between the soul and God that if anyone thinks I am lying I beseech God, in His goodness, to give him the same experience. During the days that this continued, I went about as if in a stupor. I had no wish to see or speak with anyone, but only to hug my pain, which caused me greater bliss than any that can come from the whole of creation.
At least that’s how the expression goes… Here’s what’s been going on since I emerged from the darkness a few months ago.
I’m not entirely in the light yet, but the horizon is a lot brighter these days. On the whole, I’ve been feeling a lot better and stronger. Much more functional, with some ups and downs. I’m still rather sensitive energetically, but interactions with others are becoming easier. Of course, the inner healing work continues, but now the results are really palpable, which is very exciting for me.
I’ve written briefly before about my experiences with my higher self. I had my first encounter with Her, as a vision, over a year ago. With the visual image came the knowledge that this was a spiritual divine aspect of my soul, a more evolved higher vibrational aspect. And that She would be making room inside me so that full embodied expression can be established. It’s been a lengthy and complicated period of integration.
There is a lot of overlap between the higher self integration and the kundalini process itself. I’m not sure yet where the distinctions lie, but not everyone with an active kundalini has this higher self process. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have had an active kundalini for years, and most have no tangible experience of what I’m talking about. Basically, of all the weird stuff that can happen, this is even more uniquely weird.
So far, my theory is that one must have an active kundalini to go through this process; but the activation itself is not enough. The energy doesn’t do this on its own. The person has to actively do an enormous amount of inner work to make any real transformations. And contact with the higher self, and the process of integration, is something that comes from Grace. It’s not something that can be done by any mechanical means. I don’t have any functional control.
When the integration period began I didn’t know anything about the higher self, nor about how any of it works. Slowly I’ve found bits and pieces of information, sprinkled throughout different esoteric writings, that now give me a semi- solid framework for the process I’m going through. In my research, I came across another person going through this precise sort of integration. Her experience of it follows a path similar to, and yet totally different than, my own. So I offer the following only as my own experience and larger understanding. Not necessarily the same for everyone; in fact, likely entirely unique for each person.
This engagement with the higher self, and living as the embodiment of it in human form, is the true arena of mysticism. It’s kind of the entire point. There are theoretical mystics, who are interested in the pursuit of truths in the intellectual sense. They are a wealth of knowledge and information, but only in theory and observation of others. And then, there are practical mystics (like me) who have little theoretical knowledge, but actually go through the process of complete inner destruction in order to become the human expression of this vibration. It’s a very complicated process that does not lend itself to formulaic expectations. There are no set stages or consecutive chapters, except for the most general of categories. When the shifts of consciousness happen within, and the higher self comes through, it really feels like an entirely different person within. (Some in the new age community describe a similar experience of a “walk in soul exchange” – this is a slightly different experience, as far as I can tell, but it really does feel like a completely different soul coming in and taking the reins).
In order to make room within my consciousness for this expression, (for the higher self to take permanent root) everything that is not truth has to be excavated and removed. Everything. Every single false belief. Every emotional wound. Every thing that is not of the highest vibrational quality of love within is getting processed out. !#&!@&. It’s not pretty. The last phase involved all the childhood pain. This new phase focuses on other areas, including a lot of past life stuff.
I have been dredging up all kinds of subconscious garbage for a few years, but never as ferociously as has been happening the last few months. Huge huge inner structures are disintegrating, as the core beliefs that sustain them are released. Stuff that remained hidden from conscious awareness (even after years of intense work), is now coming to the surface. I’m always slightly shocked to find new stuff in there. Just when I thought I’ve found everything, some new knot shows up to be untangled. (It keeps me humble 🙂 ).
There is also a ton of shadow integration happening, where the polarities of my human personality (and/or some learned ego patterns) are being balanced out by their polar opposite. In a rudimentary sense, it’s the cliche yin yang thing.
For example, it is in my nature to be independent, in the sense that I like to do everything myself. I love this particular trait, and admire it in others as well. I get a wonderful sense of accomplishment and self esteem from doing things on my own. The more complicated the better. In addition, through my childhood experiences, I learned to be fiercely independent, and hate feeling like I can’t handle everything without having to ask for help. So Spirit creates situations for me in the three dimensional reality, where I find myself in circumstances that make me feel extremely vulnerable and helpless. Through these experiences, I have to learn how to be ok with this opposite polarity. By wrestling with the judgments, beliefs, and emotions that arise out of these situations, I come into acceptance of being this opposite way, to my normal way of being. I see the beauty in vulnerability, and I can appreciate how proper interdependence with others can lead to some really profoundly sacred feelings and experiences. (I have to re-learn how to trust other people!).
As I balance independence with vulnerability, the shadow of that trait is incorporated and balanced within. This allows the higher self greater and greater latitude. It creates more space within my consciousness for this higher vibrational energy to take more permanent residence.
There has been a lot of this over the last few months. And it’s not fun at all, being pushed out of my comfort zone and turned into the opposite. But it appears that a lot of inner axes are now in a comfortable state of balanced alignment. It’s still a work in progress… It’s a curious thing that my self has to be healed, strengthened, and built up, only to then be dissolved. (There is an old saying in spiritual practice that you must have a self before you can get rid of the self. I think this is what it refers to. You cannot have sustainable spiritual transformation without the psychological healing, otherwise you end up with a completely fractured personality.)
So far, the expression of the higher self within and through me has been very interesting. I’m still trying to get a handle on the mechanics. I’ve written about the few defining characteristics before. She is kind, loving, and supportive in the deepest sense. Also fierce, direct, and stoic, but with a wonderful sense of humor. She is intelligent beyond anything I could ever fathom. And She is only interested in truth and fairness of the highest spiritual order. My experience of the higher self as these things (contrary to the saintly angelic concepts) has been confirmed again and again in the writings and experiences of others. She is much more warrior goddess than Mother Teresa…
I wasn’t really comfortable being the embodiment of these things for a long time, but I’m getting more used to it. I used to make the distinction between what I would say as me, and what I would be asked to say from Her. As I become more comfortable with the expression, the distinction is no longer necessary.
I’m learning very slowly how to allow this expression to come through fully, without judging it. It feels quite scary at times, not knowing what’s going to come out of one’s mouth, and not having much sense of control. (I used to love having a sense of control). But also, if I remember not to judge it, it’s kind of exciting. I never know what is going to be revealed.
I still have regular experiences of insight and wisdom that come, although they are a little different now. I can only describe them as a kind of intuitive download of understanding. Sometimes there is so much of it coming at once, that it’s too much for my brain to grasp, and I begin feeling overwhelmed and ungrounded. It’s like standing in a house of mirrors, and trying to keep track of an infinite number of reflections at the same time. My brain is just not smart enough to handle it all at the same time. So I spend a lot of time doing actual research and reading various texts in all different areas of study. What to read and study is also inspired from within; as sudden sparks of interest appear, which weren’t there just the day before. This gives me a framework and context into which I can incorporate what I’m shown. The downloads then become a lot more comfortable and manageable.
In the interim, for the human me, as I go through this new phase, there are so many fluctuations everyday in the core of my being, that I’ve given up trying to hold on to anything solid. It just not possible. My entire belief structure gets overhauled again and again. What I have noticed though is that as the old structures are knocked out, and the wounding they held is healed and released, the next day or so, those particular areas feel a lot more deep, stable, and solid. The emotional reactivity of that particular sphere drops entirely to zero. And a new stability and grounded peace emerges. I do experience a sort of floaty sensation sometimes, as if my sense of self has become very shallow, floating above emptiness.
In addition, as if all of the above weren’t enough, there is an experience of being made into nothing, which is a hallmark of the kundalini process. I’m not entirely sure how it relates to the higher self integration, if it does at all. The fully activated kundalini is said to be a life-long journey of becoming nothing, because the ego and conditioning dissolve and with them the sense of a self also dissolves. But there is a more intense concentrated experience within the process, which only started in earnest in the last few months.
Everything that is important to the human me, all the attachments, all the things I use to feed my sense of self worth, are being removed. It is as if I’m being stripped down to nothing. This hurts a lot. And can feel like unsupported free fall. There’s a lot of fear, shame, and grief involved in this particular section. I often feel like I’ve hit a kind of bottom. I make peace with that bottom (mourning the loss of the stuff that went and getting comfortable with the exposure), and then a new bottom is revealed. Ugh. But that process too appears to be nearing its end. (I hope. I really really hope).
There is a very distinct experience that started slowly some time ago, but happens more frequently now. More and more, I become able to “see” very clearly into a person. It’s a feeling, a sensation, and a series of thoughts that come as a sudden knowing. It’s not empathic, as I don’t feel their feelings. And it’s not clairvoyance; it doesn’t have anything to do with the past or future. It’s more like spiritual sight. I thought for a while that it was just a deductive reasoning; like a good educated guess. I’m relatively smart, and self-aware, so it follows that I can sort of guess what’s happening within people who aren’t self-aware. But what I see (which is later confirmed to be true), is not on the surface of the interaction. In fact it seems at times totally contrary to what the person is saying to me. No one would reasonably deduce what I’m shown from the interaction. It made me feel really nuts for a while. And while I still doubt the veracity of it quite a bit, I’m being shown that I can in fact trust it fully.
(There are implications of this new ability that I started writing about, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing it just yet. I’m still trying to work out how much of it is related to my own growth, and how much of it is in service to others. I’ll explain more about this when it feels right).
Just as the previous phase I wrote about, this entire thing is being guided and directed from within. It’s not my doing, but rather something I’m guided through (without much personal will in the matter. Resistance is really futile. Really.). I don’t know where the inner resources come from to continue this work. It feels at times like it’s taken everything from me. At the same time, I feel as though I’m being carried on some kind of current which directs the process and gives me the inner strength to get through each day. If it weren’t so painful, I’d say it is intensely beautiful. It’s sort of both at the same time. A most intricate, sacred, and magical play of light and darkness.
A real blessing of Grace, for which I am most humbly grateful.
A couple of months ago a new energetic force arrived in my life. On top of all the different energies surrounding my strange existence, this was something different. Uninvited and unannounced, it came into my life and took me on an extremely difficult and painful journey into the depths of darkness. It is both a sacred journey, and one I wouldn’t wish upon another living being. Ever.
You can call it an “ego trip,” but not in the usual sense. Slowly and methodically, following some invisible plan, this energy of darkness took me on a regressive ride back to childhood. Part healing, part training, it felt like my consciousness was aggressively yanked backwards, against my will, to revisit the entire formation of my ego.
A little bit of background first: There are a lot of misconceptions about what the “ego” is. In spiritual circles, it’s something bad that needs to be avoided, rejected, killed or transcended (depending on which tradition you follow). Lots of people mistakenly conflate the “ego,” with the entire personality or “self,” which creates a lot of confusion. And the entheogenic folks use the term “ego death” as a threshold marker for the mystical realms; also inaccurate.
In my view, it’s relatively straightforward.
The ego is the false self. It is a solidified network of beliefs in the subconscious mind, which generates thoughts, feelings, reactions, and patterns of behavior into the conscious mind and personality. It’s not bad, per se. But left unattended it leads to a lot of suffering in life. In essence, it is a program (like in a computer) of coping mechanisms that we develop, for living in a world where being yourself is not acceptable. Ego is the mask we learn to wear, because we’re too afraid to be real and vulnerable. Ego is the person you believe you should be (or must be in order to be loved and accepted), rather than the person you actually are.
Ego takes shape in response to experiences during the formative childhood years, and hardens and reinforces itself over time. The more rejection you encounter, the more fear, judgement, criticism, shame, and trauma that is inflicted upon you, the bigger or stronger the ego becomes. Like an armor or a shield against an emotionally dangerous world.
The real self, the personality you were born with, gets buried deeper and deeper until it’s completely repressed. Without awareness, most people have no inkling of their real self. They identify with the program running in their subconscious mind, believing that that’s just who they are. They wear a kind of false mask to face the world, and live out the dictates of this subconscious program. Most people live without conscious awareness of this program their entire lives.
(There is some philosophical debate about whether there is even a real authentic self at the core or not. The argument is that even the very process of birth effects the personality and conditions it in some way, so there is no absolute personality at all. My view of this is that there is very much a real self; but it’s not consistent or definable. It’s a mutable feeling sense. It’s not something that can be conceptualized or described. It’s something you feel, not exactly something the mind understands. There is an authentic self, but there is no self concept. You can’t reduce the truth of the authentic self into words, because it’s too fluid in its expression. It doesn’t conform to anything consistent.)
And so all real spiritual work is an undoing of this false ego self. Not because it’s bad, but because it stands in the way of authentic expression, joy, happiness, and satisfaction in life. Ego causes lots and lots of emotional suffering. With love and awareness (and the proper tools) dismantling the ego is not that difficult. Different spiritual traditions approach the dismantling differently, but at the core that’s what spirituality is really about – the shedding of the false self (that which isn’t the real you, that which isn’t the truth), so that the real self can be fully expressed and liberated. The entire chakra energy system is built around this goal – getting a person into authentic alignment and expression. When he is in alignment with his real self, all the chakras are in proper balance. (It’s also the central goal of the kundalini process – shedding the false self so the authentic self can emerge and live freely. This is what true liberation is all about).
There are more advanced spiritual practices that try to take a person even further, to a state that transcends the self entirely (to gain access to the spiritual realms), but that’s a separate discussion for another time.
As I see it, if a person isn’t doing the inner discovery work to shed this false mask (by healing the wounds that created it), if he isn’t striving to live more authentically every day, with more self-love and acceptance, more in alignment with his true nature, then he isn’t spiritual at all. He doesn’t actually understand what spirituality is all about.
Despite what passes for spirituality in the mainstream these days, in my opinion, there are few people who understand this fully. Meditation is not enough. Mindfulness is not enough. Yoga is not enough. Talking about esoteric mysteries, and love and light are not enough. Ayahuasca ceremonies are not enough. And even having a fully active kundalini is not enough. It takes conscious effort and disciplined awareness practice (deep deep self discovery work) to really make a difference with actual results; actual transformations in consciousness that work from the inside out. Everything else, to me, is just pomp and circumstance. Pretty forms without any substance.
I’ve gone off on a tangent again. Sorry. I’ll save the preaching for another post. Let me get back to my story…
So I’ve been practicing this form of contemplative inquiry for several years. I’ve done a lot of discovery work, a lot of childhood stuff, and tons of healing over the last few years. And having reached particular milestones, (ego death, higher self, etc.) I felt confident in my own process, in my own healing work, and in my work with others.
And then in November, without much warning, amidst a bunch of other strange experiences, this really dark energy took me over. It literally felt like darkness descended upon me. I couldn’t shake it. It was heavy and thick, and debilitating. It plunged me down into a special sort of hell; simultaneously torturous and sacred. I’ve dealt with tremendous pain before, but this… this was totally different.
This energy asked me to apply all of the tools, discipline, and strength I had, until there was nothing left. Day after day, in indescribable psychic pain, I was shown how my ego, my false self, was formed. I got to visit every single one of the places I was hurt, shamed, criticized, rejected, abandoned and unloved. All of the relevant crucial moments where my childhood self internalized the words and actions of others, believing herself to be deeply unacceptable as she was, and forming a more acceptable version of herself (my false self), in order to be loved, accepted, and safe; all of it came alive again before my eyes.
Most people, everyone who has even a modicum of self-awareness, will tell you that their childhood was painful and difficult. Subjectively, mine was as well. It’s a socially conditioned illusion that childhood is some idyllic wonderful carefree time. It’s not; not for anyone, regardless of circumstance. And people who continue to believe that their childhood was perfect (and their upbringing ideal) are in a deep form of denial. Even the children of the most loving and evolved parents will collect wounding, ego conditioning, and (subjectively) traumatic experiences of rejection. It’s unavoidable. It’s the very purpose of incarnating into human form – to accumulate pain, and then learn from that pain.
And so for the last two months, I have had a front row seat in my own life review. Every day, multiple times a day, I would receive the internal energetic signal that there was work to do. I’d sit down to investigate the arising thoughts and emotions (intense feelings of shame, fear, guilt, anger, despair, anxiety, depression), and each time I’d trace them all the way back to the moment of their creation. I would then fully re-live and emotionally re-feel the ancient experience, in its entirety. It felt as if I was holding my inner child in my arms, as she took me through everything she’d ever felt; every place that she learned she was unacceptable. There are no words to describe the pain of this. There are just no words…
Sometimes I’d have to revisit the same memories multiple times, each time with a slightly different vantage point and perspective. This is what’s known as the spiral effect in healing. You go over the same thing again and again, each time at a deeper level of awareness and understanding. Kind of like a downward spiral. This was all happening to me; as if according to some divine schedule. It wasn’t something I was orchestrating or directing. Even after all of the magical things I’ve experienced so far, most days I couldn’t believe what was happening to me.
And as I’ve been shown over the last few years, resisting this work and these lessons only causes more pain. If ignored or resisted, Kundalini will ratchet up the pain with all kinds of physical symptoms until one comes into compliance. There is no way out of the pain, but through it. In this arena, the concept free will becomes something of a joke. Seeing all of this, and feeling all of it, you come to understand that you were never in control to begin with…
During these months, it became physically painful to talk to other people (not that there are many people who could understand and accept what was happening to me). I became energetically sensitive in a devastating new way. I felt completely raw and exposed, like all my insides were now on the outside. I’ve had phases of this experience before, (being turned inside out) but never quite like this. If I wasn’t actively crying, then I was on the brink of tears all the time. In that kind of extreme vulnerability (with all the spiritual components) there is almost no one who has the capacity to offer the right kind of presence, compassion, or support. Other people’s well-meaning attempts to cheer me up, or offer me advice or opinions, felt like nails on a chalkboard; only making me withdraw further inward. And so I spent these months in almost complete isolation and seclusion. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t interact with anyone. I could barely make it off the couch to walk the dog.
Led by nothing but intuitive guidance and synchronistic signs, there were moments when I really didn’t know if I’d make it through this alive. My faith was severely tested. My sanity barely hanging by a thread. The psychological crisis points were so acute that words don’t convey the magnitude of it. It is an other-worldly sort of pain that I can’t explain. The only real solace was an inner knowing that this is okay and necessary. It’s part of my own healing process, and it’s part of my training as a teacher. It was as if living through it, I was also observing it happen. There was an internal separation between the one experiencing this, and another awareness watching and learning.
Through this process I was offered a map of the darkness; like a guidebook (built on the foundation of all the prior spiritual processes I’ve developed). I was shown how absolutely every single thing we think and feel is childhood itself; being reflected for us like a mirror image, for our spiritual growth. It’s so divinely intelligent and intricately beautiful in its design, that it would leave you awed and speechless if you could see it in all its glory.
The healing protocol works like this: If you can stay with the emotional reaction long enough, investigate it fully with spiritual awareness, find the roots of what’s being reflected, apply love, compassion, and wisdom to that pain, and allow those old emotions to move through you – the wound heals itself. That’s it. It’s really rather simple. It’s also really really unpleasant. But there is a magical component to the healing that makes it all worth it. (Not that I have much of a say in the matter).
If this is done correctly, when you think back to that memory again there should be no emotional charge. You see the scars, but there is no internal movement in the emotional body. Sure enough, at some later point something in the external reality will come along to retrigger that wound (something that would have sent you into a strong reaction before), and internally nothing happens. That’s how you know the wound is healed.
Over time, with practice, you can heal all of the wounding in this way.
Over the last few days, it appears that my journey of darkness is finally coming to an end. There have been significant shifts in consciousness that feel “back to normal.” (I use the word “normal” very loosely…). I’m not sure that I’m totally out of the dark just yet, but this phase appears to be coming to an end. The blissful mystical and transcendent experiences have returned. It feels very much like this darkness has been lifting, and I feel more and more stable and grounded again. Yesterday I could envision talking to other humans without a feeling of aversion. A good sign, I dare say.
Despite the pain, there is an incredible sense of reverence and gratitude for the experience. And there is a new really profound level of peace accompanying this re-emergence. The deeply buried fears and anxieties that I carried my entire life are gone. All the future planning, worrying, needing-to-know-and-control-things thoughts are gone. There are virtually no attachments to anything, even less than there were before. There are still some remnants of old stuff arising, but nowhere near the intensity of the last few months.
Mostly there is now a kind of surrendered repose in the present moment, and finally (finally!) a growing sense of excitement about what’s ahead. I am cautiously glad to be coming back to normal.
I wish I had some kind of graceful way to end this post, but I don’t. So be it.
Authentic people are endlessly fascinating. Not because they are especially intelligent, or funny, or charming. Theirs is a different sort of attractiveness.
Authentic people allow the creative energy of the universe to flow through them unencumbered; and they express it freely, without a moment’s hesitation. Humbly, they know they are merely a vessel or conduit for whatever wants to be expressed; and really nothing more. They rarely take personal credit for what flows through them. They are not arrogant in their manner, but at best, quietly self-assured. (more…)
To me, one of the hallmarks of love, is the ability to honor someone’s feelings. In every relationship, romantic or otherwise, feelings get hurt. They just do. On one side, or the other, or both, occasionally. Knowing how to handle these situations properly, makes or breaks most relationships.
Learning to honor someone’s feelings means cultivating the ability to listen, open-heartedly, when someone comes to you and says “this thing you did… it really hurt me.” And then learning how to respond properly, lovingly, by validating the other person’s feelings, and demonstrating that you care about them. (more…)