Interested only in Ascension, I find myself withdrawing more and more from society into a cocoon. There are parts of that experience that are warm and nourishing and parts that resemble a dark night of the soul. (1)
As a writer, my agreement with myself is to make my process public. I’m not only a witness to my own process, but, in a sense, I’m also a witness to the times.
In this moment, as I let go of sensory and social habits, three of my society’s paradigms become clearer to me. As a witness, albeit never free from bias, I’d like to discuss them with you. (2)
Doing vs. Being
The first becomes obvious when I let go of prevailing social agreements. It’s that we seem to be a society that bases itself on “doing” rather than “being.”
If one shows an interest in “being,” it’s as if one has stepped off society’s carousel and isolated oneself.
Some people ask me, “What are you doing for Christmas? New Year’s?” I’m not doing anything. I’m “doing being.” “What are you doing tonight? Or tomorrow?” Nothing. No plans.
What is there to say about being? Nothing. How are you being today? When you be, what do you do? There are no answers. (3)
Some people actually get annoyed when I tell them I’m just being. It’s as if my being presents a challenge to them that they don’t want to deal with. It’s not easy to get it across to an irritated friend that I’m doing what I feel I need to do and that no one else need join me.
And so isolation seems reinforced and the already-dark night darker.
Women are Beautiful; Men are Strong
The second paradigm seems clear when one who has drawn inward ventures out into society, say, to buy something. It becomes immediately apparent, upon observing others, that, in my society at any rate, women appear to be esteemed for their beauty and men for their strength.
This view of men and women seems to be projectedd by almost every advertisement, movie, and TV show I watch. I observe women applying makeup in their car mirrors and on subways. I watch young men posturing, glaring, rigged out in colorful costumes that say “I’m tough. Don’t mess with me.”
I’d have thought this view of things went out in the Sixties, with women’s liberation, but apparently not.
The rising energies had me lose interest in sexuality quite a while ago. And that loosened the tug of the remembrance of sexual pleasure. I sometimes slide out of the apparent prevailing role for men which is to scan the social setting for attractive women, comment (if even to myself), and endlessly sexually fantasize.
I actually find myself looking at the extremes in cosmetics, costumes, and fittings that some women endure to appear attractive – stiletto heels, high boots, fancy hairdos, overweight women pouring themselves into tight clothing, etc.
And always the look into the store window at one’s own reflection.
Men too. The lengths some men go to to signal to others “I’m tough. Don’t mess with me” also bring an inner smile of remembrance – the beards, tattoos, mirror glasses, aggressive stances, etc.
But I’m not natively attracted to men so I just pay attention and stay out of their way.
It was only today that I realized that I had fallen utterly outside the paradigm set aside for males and females – to look tough and beautiful. It was as if I had fallen off the train.
I felt separation from “real life” like I was watching a movie and not participating in it.
I found myself like a servant at a costume ball, who doesn’t need to act and so he watches.
But again the isolation grows as one leaves social paradigms behind. The upside is the wonderful peacefulness and love which arise in the resulting space.
Sociability and Success vs. Loneliness and Despair
A third paradigm of our society is that we must be a success in life and part of that is we must be sociable.
If you look at consumer ads on TV for instance – the ones that are selling goods and services – the preferred presentation of people of all ages is that they are commingling happily and appear satisfied and successful, no matter what their circumstances – old age, in debt, bad health.
What is studiously avoided – except in the social-service ads – is the presentation of people who are lonely and despondent, and, when these conditions are presented, they are shown as circumstances from which we must rescue the person right away.
But loneliness and despair, my experience suggests, appear to guard the door to Ascension. They form the Checkpoint Charlie between the domains of doing and being.
Loneliness arises in the domain of doing and robs me of a sense of being part of a socially-beneficial movement, in this case, 2012 Ascension. It deprives me of any sense of companionship or of anyone I can confide in.
At last it causes me to turn back and, once and for all, not cast my lot in with the domain of being and Ascension.
Despair also arises in the domain of doing and accuses me of being an abject failure in life. It robs me of the motivation to keep going forward and endure whatever I must to leave doing and unconsciousness behind.
It robs me of a sense of legitimacy in asking to ascend. It leaves me with a sense of being not good enough, undeserving, worthless overall. I must experience it to its completion. In this manner, I serve Ascension.
On the occasions in which I’ve spent time in the domain of being, no despair or loneliness arose. There was no self present to be despondent or lonely.
I’d say that despair is the last weapon and loneliness the last refuge of the self.
Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
Abandon self. Abandon all paradigms and comfort.
Apparently, abandon everything, except joy and gratitude.
(1) St. John of the Cross actually distinguishes two “dark nights of the soul”:
“[The] first night is the lot of beginners, at the time God commences to introduce them into the state of contemplation…. The second night or purification takes place in those who are already proficients, at the time God desires to lead them into the state of divine union. This purgation, of course, is more obscure, dark, and dreadful.” (St. John of the Cross in Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, 73.) I’m referring to the first.
(2) I’m reminded of what American philosopher William James said on this subject, after his death:
“It is difficult for a man not to mirror his times, for he is so tuned in to them that despite his attempts to disentangle himself, they dye his thoughts and he is everywhere surrounded by their cast [sic], which is shed alike upon all events and endeavors. Yet, unfortunately perhaps, the more a man finds himself acclaimed by his age, the more certain he can be that his insights are foreshortened.” (William James in Afterdeath Journal of an American Philosopher, 137.)
“But if a person’s mind is given to philosophy – if the heart questions the head, and the head the heart – if the person seeks the answers to questions that rise like smoke from the fire of daily life, if mind and heart alike are united in their untiring search for what comes before and what comes after; then there is no recourse but to stand somewhat apart from the times. There is no recourse but to steadfastly refuse that concentration upon daily details that others find so fascinating. For such persons see alike life’s flaming patterns and the ghostly ashes left behind, the hearths of one civilization built upon the cold embers of another; and question incessantly.
“The answers must come from another level that gives meaning to life’s daily context so the questioner treads a careful line of attending to life’s daily context and not attending at the same time. He must be involved and not involved.” (William James in ADJ, 138.)
(3) On Jan. 2, 2010, I listened to a video by Adyashanti in which he had this to say about doing and stillness:
“The ego is basically repetitive patterns of thinking. … This noise arises within stillness. Stillness is a quality of your essential nature. …. Your essential nature is Spirit. … And Spirit is already still.
“Now one of the qualities of Spirit is Spirit is allowing everything to be as it is. That’s what conscious Spirit is doing or I should say that that’s one of the things it’s doing. But that’s not really much of a doing at all. To allow everything to be as it is doesn’t require you to do anything.
“What it does require is that you stop doing. Let go of the incessant and compulsive need to do, do, do cause all of the doing is nothing more than a way of not allowing everything to be as it is. And as long as we’re not allowing everything to be as it is, it is very difficult to awaken from this egoic state of consciousness.”
To view the video, which has taken my own understanding a great distance down the road, go to http://www.adyashanti.org/cafedharma/index.php?file=video and hit The Basic Teachings ~ Part 2 Application of the Teaching.