Saturday, March 12, 2005

A Small Bit of Enlightenment Perhaps...

Although I am not a practitioner of Zen, I am beginning to suspect that I may have experienced what they (Zen practitioners) call 'Kensho'.

I had been trying to deal with a paradoxical problem over a period of a couple of months (I am referring to the H & G situation from earlier posts) which, to me, was like having swallowed a red hot ball of iron; I couldn't swallow it, and I couldn't spit it out.

There was no actual answer to some of the questions that I had regarding my own nature and I began to experience a mental crisis of rather large proportions (to me, at least... it affected my sleep, my eating habits, my personality, and just about everything else...) with no rational way of reaching an answer through intellectual means.

On a particularly difficult evening for me, I decided to go for a walk during a snowstorm. I walked down to the water, and stood in the swirling snow gazing out over the water at a flock of birds apparently feeding on a run of fish. It struck me as an odd, actually weird, thing at first.. that they would be feeding like that during a snow storm... then it occurred to me that they were simply following their nature.... at that moment, I felt as though I had suddenly woken up from a dream, or stepped out of a fog. Everything... Everything suddenly felt clear(er) to me.. not just the situation that had been on my mind... but everything.

It seemed laughable to me that I would go through every day with the knowledge that I will certainly get old, suffer from ill-health, and die... nobody gets out of here alive... we will all die, and probably sooner than any of us expects.... and that this situation that I was suffering over had become such a huge obstacle in my path...

I realized that it was the nature of human beings to change... and that everyone that is beloved to me will change.... and that I cannot do anything to avoid that... I cannot escape the fact that every human relationship in which I become involved will experience change....

I have to accept that relationships will change. Change is natural, and affects everything. Everything changes. Everything is temporary and transient. A chair is not a chair. There is no inherent 'chairness' to a chair. If you look backwards in time, you cannot see where in the tree the chair will come from... if you look forward in time, you cannot see that the dust that the wood has rotted away to become was once a chair... and if you look at a chair in the present moment... through successive levels of magnification, if that were possible, you would not be able to see where the chair ended, and the person sitting on it began.... the molecules and atoms that comprised the chair would appear as solar systems, with vast amounts of space between them... everything moving and changing.... I have to accept that nothing is as it seems, or seemed to me...

It is my nature as a human being to grow old and to suffer from ill-health, and to die.
I cannot escape old age, ill-health, and death.
I have to accept that I will one day become old, will most probably suffer from health ailments of some type, and, I have to accept that one day I will die.

It is my nature as a human being to selfishly crave the things that I desire, and to try to avoid the things that cause me pain. It is a childish nature to desire so much physical and emotional comfort and to avoid the less comfortable experiences...
I accept that there are both joyful and painful experiences in life, I cannot escape that reality.

I feel less inclined now to differentiate between things or to label them as inherently 'good' or 'bad'.. they are simply what they are, as I am simply what I am. That, I think is the key. I was so arrogant and sure of my knowledge of how things were and what Elysia thought, felt, and was... but actually, I only saw what I saw through a cloud of my own deluded opinions and faulty perceptions.

Knowledge is delusion, ignorance is illusion... Now I neither know or don't know... I just am.

What exists between us is what exists between us... Love, certainly... friendship, absolutely... and it only exists in the present moment. The past no longer exists, and the future is only a concept... and a delusional concept at that. The only truth that exists is in the now. That is not to say that there is no past and that you cannot learn from it... but the past can only exist in the present moment as it lives within us. I am not saying that you cannot plan for the future... but you can only plan in present moment, and you can only affect the future in the present moment.

We had a discussion last night about how much honesty is necessary in a marriage or in a relationship. How much honesty was required? How much do you really need to know about your partner? To what degree can honesty improve or damage a relationship?? How much does it really matter??

We talked this over at length. We questioned how much honesty we could really handle, and whether or not we could accept this degree of honesty and not become judgemental of the other person. We discussed the difference between 'privacy' and 'secretiveness' or 'dishonesty'.

We didn't really come up with any hard and fast answers about this. I had to say that I honestly didn't know how much honesty I could handle, because I have no way of knowing what that means.

Elysia asked if I really wanted to know her. If I could really love her. If I could handle the real her.

I thought about this and I know that I would very much like to think that I am the type of person who would be understanding and accepting of anything about her at all. I think that I am that type of person. I don't think that there is anything that I could learn about her that would change my feelings about her or my opinion of her, short of being told that she never actually loved me and that she only married me for some other reason... which I know is not the case.

That is not to say that whatever she decided to tell me would not be upsetting or a burden to me, if it were something that had caused her great pain, great shame, or something of that nature. It would be upsetting, and it would be painful and, honestly, a burden that I would have to carry until I was able to allow it to dissolve and move past it. However, I think that the understanding that would be gained through looking deeply into her would bring us ultimately closer together, and would make the trust that we share all that much stronger. I have no idea if there is even any sort of thing such as this that even exists... this is all hypothetical.

We have decided that for us, at least, a marathon 'gak-session' of forced-tit-for-tat-honesty is neither necessary, or productive. We basically agreed that if and when a topic becomes relevant in some way, and if and when the divulgence of that topic would be positive or needful, then we will deal with it at that time. If it is a difficult situation, then we will have to deal with it as we do with any other difficult situation, together. If it is not so difficult, then, we deal with it in whatever manner seems appropriate at the time. The point being that honesty for honesty's sake may not be something that is required, that everything has a context and should be addressed and dealt with within that context, and that the situation at hand generally dictates what should be discussed and revealed at that time. We both agreed that we would trust one-another's judgement in this arena, and that if and when any of us has something to say, the other will listen well, and accept what is said without being judgemental or defensive, to the greatest extent that that is possible.

I asked her whether she felt that this whole episode had damaged our relationship/marriage, or whether she felt that it had made us stronger. She said that she felt that we had reached a 'New Level' in our marriage. One where we have let some comfortable but possibly unrealistic beliefs slip away, but where we have engaged a more honest reality and have learned about one another, and, apparently, not found one another wanting in any way. We took off the masks, and still both loved what we saw underneath. I think we have moved to a new level as well.

I think that we all have episodes or incidents in our past that are difficult, burdensome, shameful, painful, what-have-you... In most cases, we would probably prefer not to discuss them or to even think of them.... I also believe that if we do not deal with them that they in some way become a part of our stored consciousness, and that we will suffer as a result of them being there.... I also think that we will cause those around us to suffer as well on some level. (To Wit: My reaction to H & G was most likely caused by unresolved issues that were present in my own stored concsiousness... things that were painful to me, shameful to me, things that made me feel powerless and small and weak... things that had never been confronted and nurtured and allowed to dissolve... things that returned in full force when a similar or seemingly similar ((whether accurately perceived or not)) situation presented itself.)

These things that reside in our stored consciousness, whatever they may be, engender feelings within us... anger, shame, sadness, despair, jealousy, whatever... we have been taught to judge these feelings and to label them as 'Bad'. As a result, we hide them, try to ignore them, deny them, and push them away... but they don't go away.

Its like a baby crying, say, in the bedroom. If nobody comes to take care of the baby, it will not simply fix the situation on its own and go away... it will continue to cry.

If the mother comes and picks the baby up and treats it gently, the baby will feel nurtured, and may stop crying. Of course the mother is not only holding the baby lovingly, she is looking to see what may be the cause of the baby's distress so that she can take some action. This act of looking deeply, of trying to determine the cause of the baby's suffering, and the action of relieving that suffering is an act of love, compassion, and kindness. If the mother is angry, or resentful of the baby's crying, the baby will sense this and become even more upset. Moreover, this will be hurtful to the baby, and that hurt will be placed into the baby's stored consciousness.... and a cycle of pain and suffering develops or continues.

These feelings and issues within our stored conscioussness or psyches are very much like the baby. If we ignore them, or treat them with anger, disdain, indifference, or resentment.. they become more insistent, more strident in their cries. If, however, we learn to water the seeds of happiness within ourselves through looking deeply inward and addressing these feelings and issues and treating them with gentle loving compassion and kindness... they settle down and the pain is diminished and eventually allowed to dissolve. In some cases we may discern the cause of the pain and be driven to take some action to address that. In other cases, the simple act of looking deeply and acknowledging the feelings or issues is all that is required to resolve them.

The way that I have found to do this is through practicing mindfulness in my daily life. I try to remain in the moment, and to greet both happy, joyful feelings as well as painful, 'bad' feelings as old friends. It is though I am a physician who has to see and treat both beautiful healthy people as well as people who have been suffering and who have long-standing illnesses or dreadful injuries.... You have to see them all, and you have to treat them all. As a physician, this is your calling... well, I am the physician of my own soul, of my own mind, and of my own heart. I try not to dwell on the things that are painful, or to hold on to the things that are good.... I simply acknowledge them and experience them in the present moment, and remain still at the center.... I enjoy the solitude, the serenity, the presence of now....

I smile at myself... I'm alive... I'm here... I'm vibrant....!!

I breathe in, I breathe out, I eat when I'm hungry, I drink when I'm thirsty, I pee when I have to, I make love to my wife when the feeling takes us, and I live.

For now, at least, this seems to be the proper path for me... I am no longer preoccupied with what may have happened, how it may have happened and why, what she may be thinking or desiring, or whether she loves me or not.... none of it matters at all.

She is here because she wants to be. She will be here as long as she chooses to be. I don't want her to stay a moment longer.

She loves me. I love her. Isn't that something?!!

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