The Darkness Before the Light

Amma Thanasanti

 

Our world is in descent.

 

This summary of steps of a personal journey may help navigate the bigger picture.

 

Many life-changing events happened. I wasn’t willing. I was cornered – There was no way I could think or maneuver myself out of the situation and I didn’t see other options. With every ounce of fur, fang and resistance I could muster, I battled every inch as I stepped into the trenches to do the work. My resistance softened out of sheer exhaustion. Slowly I turned toward what I feared. I was confused and agitated. I unraveled. Descent into darkness was dismantling, disorienting, and dangerous. I didn’t know who I was, or what to plan more than a few days ahead. What was disallowed, repressed and unacceptable was unleashed. As my mind body processes were held in a frame of moral integrity and observing witness, until what is pervasive emerges. Guides support me in the process, I averted danger. Eventually, light emerges.

Cornered-

What is, is.  It won’t go away.

Resistance-

I feel how unacceptable, shocking, infuriating, terrifying and defeating this is.

Exhaustion-

At some point, I get worn out. When I get curious about the way that I experience my resistance, it begins to change.

Turning towards fears-

Underneath my resistance are my fears. I turn toward them, see them and name them. As courage builds, I feel them.

Confusion-

When I start to let go, assumptions, frame-works and belief systems fall away. In this place where I can’t locate myself, what opens up?

Agitation-

When I feel a large space without characteristics of identity, and there isn’t anything holding the fall, descent is frightening. I need to regularly soothe my anxiety to keep from meltdown.

Unraveling-

In this big space, what happens to “me”? What is asking for acceptance?

Danger-

There is so much that is at risk, the magnitude is overwhelming. Where do I engage to bring more safety? I prioritize needs and make sure that self-care is on the list. I do what is most compelling. Direct action helps dispel anxiety.

Unleashing what is disallowed-

I look at my contribution. Where am I interested in my own comfort at the expense of others or the Earth? When am I unable to fathom another’s perspective and go into judgment or dismissal? When do I condone racism, misogyny or religious profiling? What support do I need to make different choices? Where have I internalized these things in myself? What supports me releasing these patterns?

Moral Integrity-

Regularly affirming the intention to do no harm, and to support what is beneficial to all beings gives me a rudder when everything familiar is falling apart.

All Pervasive Love and Awareness-

I balance keeping my body healthy with letting go completely. I let go of thoughts, feelings, sensations and relax attention into what is groundless. I let go of trying. I rest.  Body and mind drop away. What remains is vast, luminous and pervasive. The mind extends beyond all reaches, limitations.  Love, awareness, energy pervade everything and everyone. Who and what I am becomes a thin veil,  conecting what is pouring in, to what is pouring out. There is no separation.  

Guides-

These are my mentors, therapists, friends, rocks, animals, trees, practices and qualities of mind that remind me to stop resisting, to be present and meet what is arising. They hold me as I let go. They help me get up in the morning when I feel bruised to the bone and devestated and do what needs to be done. They support me to access seamless reality and remove obstacles that occlude it.

Emergent Light –

Death has been a gateway, an opportunity for new life. When I meet my own darkness,  dare the world to end in me, I live with less fear. I’m motivated to return to what is vast, timeless, and ever present. In the middle of THAT accumulations release and clarity emerges. There is reciprocity between people, culture, the physical world and “me." Darkness is within the light and light emerges from the descent into darkness. My heart is full. I'm ready to do what is needed include meet my own human fraility in the journey of bringing relative and pervasive kindness and truths into the world.

The devil whispered in my ear, “You will not be able to survive the storm.”

I whispered back, “I am the storm.” 

                                                                                Author Unknown

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Self Love

Adya and love

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Beyond Guilt: A Reflective Approach to Mistakes

Recently, I was at Brian Gravestock’s Bike Clinic – designed to outfit and repair bikes for the homeless and unemployed. I love going there. Conversations with Brian, observing his dedication and the kind and respectful way he deals with his customers is as important to me as getting my bike repaired. I frequently leave the clinic energized, encouraged and inspired.

The bike clinic operates from the garage of a shelter helping homeless men transition to mainstream. While I was there, a well-dressed man from the shelter came up to me and talked at length about my electric bike’s battery. I was impressed by his command of the subject. But I was mystified. I didn’t expect an educated and articulate man to be homeless. When I shared my thoughts, Brian said, “Most people are here because they have gotten into trouble. But I don’t think it is right to judge someone by the worst thing that they have done.” Touched, I reflected more on it. 


Many of us have experienced guilt being been used to shame us into skillful behavior. The problem is that it doesn’t work very well. When we feel guilty we feel bad about ourselves. This can diminish our energy as well as capacity to focus clearly. Without clear focus, it is more likely that we will do the same thing again. When we do the same thing again it can reinforce the idea that we are, in fact, a bad person. It is ironic that guilt contributes to repeating our mistakes. Yet, when we see this, we can be motivated to find a guilt free way to be more skillful.

From a Buddhist perspective, guilt serves no useful purpose. What is extremely important is to separate out the cause-and-effect of the unskillful action and its result from the bad person who is the agent of the action. Looking this way, we can see that there isn’t an enduring bad person that does bad things. Instead, we see the result of unwise attention, unwise action and unskillful results. When we don’t feel like we are a bad person, we aren’t likely to succumb to feelings of toxic shame. Instead we can see that when we do something unskillful, it causes unskillful results. Seeing this, we naturally recoil from causing harm.

Seeing our choices and their results has positive impacts. Rather than drain our energy and loose focus, we are careful not to make the same mistake again. Since there isn’t a “me” that gets configured when we look at the cause and effect, we don’t see ourselves in a fixed way – thinking we are basically bad, stupid or get everything wrong. Likewise, when we see others make mistakes, it makes it a little easier to stay open to their strengths, vulnerabilities and weaknesses, place their actions in context, and stay connected.

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