Growing is hard.
Expectations lead to disappointment, which creates unnecessary pain.
I’m on a spiritual journey – an adventure of the soul. It’s not always pretty or optimistic, but it’s mine.
I want to shed all expectations, give up immediate desires and attachments, stop dwelling in the past, stop dreaming of the future and increase acceptance and peace.
A person who lives moment to moment, who goes on dying to the past, is never attached to anything. Attachment comes from the accumulated past. If you can be unattached to the past every moment, then you are always fresh, young, just born. You pulsate with life and that pulsation gives you immortality. You are immortal, only unaware of the fact.
I visited a new blog today, The Wandering Atavist, a great storyteller with lots of tales to tell. His stories of days as a fireman reminded me of something that happened a few years back, and as synchronicity would have it, fits in with my point about disappointment.
(Reprinted from June 2009):
My husband disappointed me tonight a little more than a little. I asked him to read my blog so that he knows the things I’m thinking about lately. I wanted him to say something profound and he didn’t say anything at all. [I had 186 comments on that blog at that point and none of them were his]. It wasn’t on purpose, he just didn’t know what to say. I asked him if anything I ever wrote or talked about ever meant anything him and when he didn’t answer, I turned away, feeling a great sadness in my soul.
I went for a long walk tonight to try and take some time to think. One of the things I used to do when I was younger and still living at home was walk to process my experiences and feelings. No one bothered me, I could go where I wanted to (though I often walked in the forest preserve a few blocks from home). I could walk as long as I wanted to and often did. I haven’t walked for the express purpose of thinking for a long time (though I have walked a lot to get to places).
Not 50 paces from my house did I go before I saw some suspicious-looking black smoke arising quickly from a neighbors’ house. It did not look or smell right. It didn’t smell woodsy, like when you burned a bonfire, but acrid and the smoke was black and thick, not gray and light. As I got closer, I decided I was going to check. The upstairs was dark but I could see red light flickering in through the house windows. I immediately felt a jolt of fear in my gut and I knew something was not right.
I ran to the back of the house while planning what I was going to do if it was a house fire.
When I got in the back to see what was going on, still half-expecting my neighbors to be having a bonfire in the back of the house, I found was my neighbor’s husband frantically using the hose to spray down the wall of siding.
I stopped abruptly when I saw him, and said, “Oh, what happened?”
I inquired, “Are you okay?”
He said, “Yes, I am now”
I repeated my question, “What happened?”
He paused, clearly uncomfortable with the question, then answered, “well, I ended up throwing out the wood chips from the grill into the (plastic) recycle bin. I saw it burning through the window after I’d gone inside”.
After a few more moments making sure he was okay, trying not to tell him that was a bone-headed thing to do because by the grim look on his face, he already knew that, I continued on my walk. It shook me more than a little.
I spent some thinking of all that transpired and what would have gone down had he not been there already.
I always play the ‘what-if’ game. What if the kids were home, what if he didn’t see the fire, what if he hadn’t gotten it out before it got out of control? What if I get cancer because I was standing too close to the smoke from the burning vinyl?
45 minutes later, I came back and checked on him. He was still in the back of the house, just watching the wall. He’d torn off the siding by then and was making sure nothing else was burning.
I went back home to my husband and told him the story of our neighbor’s house fire and how much it shook me. Then he hugged me tightly and told me he was sorry for hurting me and for not trying hard enough.
I told him that was okay and I really meant it.
It could be a lot worse.
And, well, having known what happened in the past three years, I hadn’t known then how much worse it would get.
Lots more disappointment, anger, resentment, pain, mistakes, woundings and struggling to keep my heart open in the face of the pain. But there has also been moments of deep joy, tenderness and happiness.
I am paying attention to opportunities for growth. My journey has been extremely difficult at times. I haven’t always made the right decisions and yet I have been able to turn potentially devastating events into growing experiences.
But in doing so, I must first pass through dark nights of the soul, and I believe my brief periods of intense despair are periods of preparation for deep transformation.
“Dark night of the soul” sounds like a threatening and much to be avoided experience. Yet perhaps a quarter of the seekers on the road to higher consciousness will pass through the dark night. In fact, they may pass through several until they experience the profound joy of their true nature…
While the term dark night of the soul is used broadly, its general meaning — in the field of higher consciousness — is a lengthy and profound absence of light and hope. In the dark night you feel profoundly alone…
You feel caught between your old way of living, your old tendencies and associations, and this nebulous, unreachable realm of higher consciousness.
You feel an exile in both places. You don’t belong in the old pastimes, in the old empty or numbing way of life, yet you somehow can’t fit in or feel at home in the fellowship of those who talk naturally of the higher consciousness and its reality. They are experienced, they are absorbed in it. They are loving, giving people. But you are unable to live, with full heart and mind, the way they do.
You try to be good, and often you can’t. You try to be loving and find at times your heart is hard like stone. Sometimes your projects fall down around your ears. You keep struggling and still you don’t break through.
I do believe these despairing periods have their purpose. I feel an amazing, though fleeting, sense of peace following one of these dark nights.
I wrote this a few nights ago in my journal:
whatever dark night of the soul comes over me…forever how long it lasts….it then passes through me, abruptly, without warning.i feel, for the moment, a blissful peace. my whole being, for this moment, feels blessedly, unequivocably, full of love and joy. there is no pain, physical, mental, spiritual or emotional. i feel the oppressive weight lifted. i feel an openness in my abdomen…i know that sounds weird…but i feel lighter there… so strange.
And this personal reflection is mirrored a bit in this passage:
Sometimes, during rare meditations, you do experience brief moments of peace. Your agonizing mind and heart rest from their turbulence and even these fleeting times of calm are so deeply appreciated.
I think I worry my family and friends. But I wish I could tell them I really think I’ll be okay, that I think these dark moods are my growing pains.
I think they are…but I’m not sure.
I suppose time will tell.
Update Feburary 28, 2014
Interestingly enough, I do think I’ve grown a tad bit since writing this post. And wonderfully enough, Paul from The Wandering Atavist has become a dear pen pal of mine for the past 2 years. I think he’s been a kindred spirit who’s accompanied me on my journey.