I awoke this morning (September 13, 2001) within a dream of walking with thousands through a darkened city, with the familiar “astral glow” that accompanies these unique kinds of dreams, and realized that I was walking with those who had died at the World Trade Center in New York. My instinct was to remain silent about this vision, but out of respect for those who remain behind, and to console any one of those people to the extent that I can, I decided to share this on The Zoo Fence.
How many fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, friends and children died in that event I cannot count. The pain and heartbreak of those who remain behind, missing their loved ones, and longing to see their faces again is almost unbearable for me to contemplate, and even then, it compares in no way at all to the pain those actual individuals are feeling. There is no way that I can address this pain or relieve its agony. It is something which can only be healed through individual effort, and the struggle that will come for each remaining individual to get through this, to reconcile it, to learn to live moment to moment with the pain, the confusion, the loss. My only contribution can be my own heartfelt compassion for those individuals, and my own reconciliation within my own heart, in an effort to try to integrate this into history, to attempt to fit it into the puzzle of life, to assist each individual to the extent that I can through my own heartfelt compassion. That is all that I can do. In the final analysis, this must be given to God by each of us, to the extent that we can, and remain assured that within God’s perspective, and within the transcendent view, there is order and rationality to this, however insane it appears to be from our worldly perspective. With faith and surrender to that Force, to that Order, to that Power, we can get through this; it is only when we rely on and believe that the extent of our power ends within the boundaries of our physical bodies that the suffering continues and the impotence seems insurmountable.
The night of these many deaths, as I sat looking up at a still and silent sky, with no contrails, no activity whatsoever in the heavens above this tiny space in rural Maine, only clear, sparkling stars and not even the light of a moon, only starlight, there came a wind up the hill, loud and intense, and surprising, which swirled through the trees, whistling and bowing their branches. It lasted for about twenty seconds. I am certain, without a doubt, that this wind was a message from the earth herself, sighing in sadness, possibly all the way from New York City, carrying the event northward, and heavenward. There had been no wind previous to this, no movement of the air afterwards. It was immense in significance, and sobering. It brought my heart up into my throat, it stopped my mind, it held me in reverence and awe; it spoke to me of things greater than physical, and reassured me of the importance of this event, and the embracing of the earth and heavens that occurs with every moment of time, and every event, however huge or small.
The ancient traditions state that the soul normally takes three days to transit from its body to its new destination in the event of death. This is the third day, and my dream signifies to me that that process is underway. Many of us, as living embodiments of souls, assist that transition, I believe, through the intermingling of our consciousness with theirs, and often the dream state reveals this process. There is no doubt in my mind, that these individuals are, in this transitory state, intact, complete and conscious. What little consolation that brings those loved ones who remain behind, is hard to measure. However, to my own mind, it is significant that there is no terror within this process, no fear, only some confusion calling for guidance and direction by those who assist this kind of transition, and of those, I assure you, there are many. Indeed, this dream was about that assistance and that process; orderly, quiet, and progressive, these individuals were walking together, en masse, toward a destination that was orderly and directed.
I remember years ago listening to a number of people speaking about traumatic events, and their subsequent “deaths”, and who returned subsequently to us resuscitated to report that experience. These people actually died, some for minutes, some for seconds, only to come back to life with their memory intact of the subsequent events after that death. Without exception, they had separated from their bodies prior to the actual death, and indeed, some had moved out of the body while the trauma was occurring, and observed the event from “above” and “beyond”, with dispassion and curiosity, indeed watching their body struggle, move about, or do whatever it was that was in train prior to that process. It appears to me that there seems to be a safeguard device within the consciousness that protects one from intolerable fear or pain, and in the event of death, removes us from the actual experience of it when it occurs, and is remembered only later.
If we remember that each of us views our own world, literally and individually, from our isolated and distinct position, and thus, the world unwinds according to our own, individual pre-suppositions and assumptions, and memories, and expectations, then, it might explain to us why we can see what appears to be to us intense suffering, while, at the same time, the consciousness that is “suffering” may be actually observing the event from a detached position. If carried to its conclusions, this points us in the direction of our own relief from suffering, in that we are in the position to change our own individual perspective, assumptions, and so forth and thus transform our own state of consciousness. And this in turn, will address the emotional and mental turmoil that each of us who remain behind must contend with. It is this turmoil that is so interminable, so constant, so persistent, to which each remaining member must now address his or her attention. It is to this turmoil that, in my own mind, only reliance upon a power greater than our small selves needs to be addressed. Certainly, in my own life, it has only been when I turned to my God that the unending struggle, the interminable doubt and chatter of a suffering consciousness would come to an end, and peace would surface.
With that said, to the extent that I can, I place all these souls in the hands of God, and rely upon the order, peace, and tranquility inherent in that God to bring each soul to his or her own place of peace, order and tranquility. May God’s Grace be with them all, and accessible within each heart.
I have a sweet friend, indeed I have a number of sweet friends, who suffer from the consequences of pride. I suppose it would be more accurate to say that all of us suffer from pride, in varying degrees. What is more important, however, is that pride, in all of its disguises, creates enormous suffering and unnecessary problems in our personal lives, and few of us recognize how simple it is to correct. (I say simple, because the act of doing so is simple; however, the effort and trust required to do it may be enormous.)
The definition of pride is a complicated one. At base, pride is a structure that we have erected ourselves, in order to remain intact, in order to justify our position, in order to remain apparently invulnerable and safe, in order to escape that discomforting feeling that we may be “wrong”, which in turn, if recognized, would be interpreted by us as being vulnerable to attack or, in this case, correction. Of course, if we study the reasons for this fortification, we will find numerous justifications throughout our life for actually erecting this barrier – parents who did not reinforce our openness and heart-generated emotions, parents who themselves were proud, parents who mortified us when we were open and vulnerable, partners, teachers, or friends who did the same, and so forth, throughout our lives. That exercise, of course, simply explains and justifies our continuing to maintain the fortification. It does not eliminate it, obviously.
We normally consider pride to be based upon positive qualities that an individual has cultivated throughout one’s life, and thus, we normally think of a prideful individual to be one who has accomplished much, or who has reason to be prideful. But this is a sleight of hand. We all are prideful; and indeed, frequently those who are most full of pride, are least confident, full of fear and longing to be loved, and often have become prideful as a result of enormous suffering experienced in life when they were open and vulnerable. One of the first steps toward demolishing that barrier to openness and love is the willingness to recognize that one’s pride exists, and that it is not justified for any reason other than a protective mechanism we have erected ourselves in an attempt to remain unhurt. (Of course, the exact opposite occurs. The more we fortify this barrier, the sadder we become, and the more we suffer individually BECAUSE of that barrier, since love cannot reach us, and we cannot reach out to express that same love.) Indeed, my first step toward demolishing some of the great edifice of pride that I lived within was to acknowledge to myself that I felt unloved, and that, indeed, in some cases, I was unloved, even by those whom I had loved throughout my life, even by those who had expressed love to me. This was heart wrenching and terrifying, to admit that those whom I had, throughout my life, assumed loved me, perhaps did not. But truth has a way of repairing things, and by acknowledging and investigating truth, we always come out the better for it, and the stronger for it, and ultimately, we receive all that we long for and seek for once we acknowledge even the most terrifying truths.
Pride expresses itself in numerous ways. It can actually be experienced as a sense of superiority to others, but more often than not it is expressed in anger, depression, mortification, chagrin, sadness, and irritability. All of these emotions are methods whereby we create a diversion, or a mask, around the real cause of our discomfort, which, at base, always, without fail, is a sense of failure, a sense of inferiority, generated by a sense of not being loved (in some cases, not being loved enough – it is a minor difference). Again, all of those feelings are a result of our life experience, and MUST ultimately be laid at the feet of those who did this to us, including our parents, our friends, and so forth. It is a hard task to recognize and blame our parents for failing to love us enough – many cannot confront this real possibility. Of course, they too experienced the same mistreatment as children, and so it goes, ad infinitum. Nonetheless, blame needs to be placed appropriately, because, ultimately, pride is a defense against feeling less than perfect, and that feeling, of course, is the result of conditioning by others throughout our lives.
One particular good friend of mine cannot overcome the anger she feels toward a damaged relationship. She still loves this friend, and would give anything to repair it back to where it was, but she cannot overcome the anger in order to do so. It seems to me that this anger is a defense against experiencing the pain, once again, of correction, and the feeling of being “wrong”, and thus, capable of mortification and chagrin that being wrong generates in all of us, thanks to our upbringing. She is afraid of being vulnerable and willing to ask forgiveness, in the fear that the response will simply be “I don’t care” or indifference. Does that sound familiar? Do we not all refrain from risking that vulnerability for fear of repeating, once again, that childhood sense of having failed, or being mortified, of looking the fool? How many times do we therefore resist the impulse to seek forgiveness, to open up our little hearts to another, in order to avoid the possibility – and it is usually only a possibility – that we may not be received in equal measure. Indeed, if one actually asks for forgiveness, without following it with a defense, the response will almost certainly be equal in measure, if not greater. But we are afraid, and thus we pull back in fear, and put up a defense, usually remembrance of hurts, anger at those hurts, inability or unwillingness to forget, and forgive. Remember here that forgiveness can only be requested when we forgive the other, and in turn, ourselves, for being imperfect, and for being human and vulnerable. By recognizing the imperfection in another, in particular in those for whom we care, we risk the possibility that we too are imperfect; and that generates pride, and all the rest of the dance progresses once again. Indeed, if one investigates one’s irritability at those we love, without fail that anger and irritability will be generated by fear that the other, whoever that other may be, is not perfect, and therefore, neither are we, because we love them. Thus, when observing imperfection in a loved one, we are always reminded of our own imperfection. It is the classic psychological projection in reverse.
Thus, pride erects a veil over the truth of being human, it protects us from experiencing our imperfection and weaknesses. The tragedy, of course, to all of this is that those very imperfections and weaknesses are what make us human, and loveable. If one considers how easy it is to love a pet, and how many imperfections that pet has, and despite those imperfections, how lovable the pet is, then we get a small insight into how we need to love ourselves and one another, and how loveable we each are, because of our own imperfections. In other words, we are loveable because we are human, and we are human, because we are imperfect. If we were perfect, we would no longer be human, but we would instead be Gods. (That comes, eventually, to all of us, but most of us are a very long way from there!)
The ability to forgive, then, becomes the crux of our human dilemma. How do we actually practice, express this forgiveness of ourselves, and others who have hurt us, in a way such as to actually put into play the process of forgiveness, which consequently creates a response of love from those from whom we ask forgiveness? If we do not do this properly, then the attempt is not genuine and openhearted, but becomes another justification for our pride and anger and protection.
There was a great teacher who taught that if there was something I wanted for myself, or something I wished to accomplish in my life, I needed to BE it. At first I did not understand that, but I now understand that to mean that I need to give away what I want. The esoteric basis of this action is immutable, and without fail, it works. This is not only a spiritual concept, it is a law of physics, or at least meta-physics. It works. It also serves the survival instinct within each human being, and thereby fools the mechanism within each of us, sometimes miraculously so, into doing something for self-interest, while at the same time doing something lovingly and generously. It is thus self-full or “selfish”, and at the same time, unselfish. (Of course, this also requires a little trust in the truth of this statement; sometimes, early on, trusting even those we admire is a tough thing to do. This of course is simply another expression of pride, here articulated “I am the pilot of my soul, and no one knows better than me what direction to take”. Of course, this is absurd, since we follow others’ directions constantly, if only those given to us by parents and teachers in our early conditioning – carry that to its logical conclusions, and it is amazing that any of us get up in the morning!)
In any case, the practice of forgiveness requires trust in the kindness of the universe, trust in the benevolence of friends and loved ones, trust that they will respond in kind when we take the leap of trust, and this can be iffy, in particular if our early conditioning did not reinforce this trust. However, we are not limited to our early conditioning, and we have minds and hearts capable of throwing out garbage, and embracing truths and new concepts that are to our advantage. We do this daily, subconsciously usually. (However, with all this said, there is a very powerful, and extremely sad moment in all of this when we actually integrate into our hearts and minds the fact that all our avoidance in acknowledging the childhood pains, when once recognized, and plunged through, brings us a moment of extreme sadness and anxiety when we recall, and even relive, the childhood pain of feeling unloved. Each of us goes through this eventually – either today, consciously and voluntarily, or at our death, when we come to grips with our childhood pains and the consequences of those.)
We approach, therefore, this practice out of pure self-interest. We recognize that the problem lies within, and we set out to involve others, through practice, in forgiving us for that situation. In other words, we acknowledge that we need forgiveness ourselves by the mere act of asking for it from others. This in turn forgives us, and releases us from our barriers against forgiving ourselves. As we forgive ourselves, others naturally, sometimes despite themselves, forgive us as well, and, coincidentally, they are allowed to forgive themselves. Everybody wins!
Therefore, to practice forgiveness requires the initial step of recognizing our own failure to trust and practice forgiveness based upon our past conditioning. We accept that we are imperfect today, despite all that past conditioning, and we say that’s okay, I can live with that. The next step is to ask for help from those whom we trust even a little bit, and find that that’s okay too, I can live with that, even when those responses may be less than perfect. That’s okay too, I can live with that. We then begin to express verbally our own imperfection. We say to those from whom we want forgiveness that “I have a problem forgiving, please forgive me for that difficulty.” Or, “I am trying to learn to forgive, I am having trouble doing this, please help me and forgive me for not being perfect here”, or something to that effect. In doing this practice, we are opening our hearts to another (and risking their rejection), but knowing full well that this practice is about forgiving oneself, and whatever evolves, we take it as a lesson toward further forgiveness of ourselves. And that takes practice. In the final analysis, it is not enough to KNOW the facts about the truth of ourselves, but we have to BECOME it, we have to express it, we have to DO it until we become it. Otherwise, it is simply data stored in our brains, and gumming up the works – it is useless information, since it does not transform.
Finally, it must be done, and we must ASK for it. It is not enough to wish it to be, to indirectly suggest it might happen, to manipulate the universe into doing it FOR us. The transformative process requires an investment of ourselves, literally, in order for it to work. (This explains why so many scholars and students of all disciplines, including the spiritual, but not exclusively, fail at transforming their discipline or study into a living experience for them, and therefore, a transformative event). It is not enough to know; it must be lived, integrated, practiced, and expressed as an expression of ourselves. The way that is done is to DO it. Pure and simple; sometimes scary, but inevitably beneficial.
At the end, God, I conclude, compensates, punishes.
If He should reveal Himself a hundred thousand times, not one will resemble another. You also this very moment see God; every instant in His works and acts you see Him multicolored. Not one act of His resembles another act. In time of gladness is one epiphany, in time of weeping is another epiphany, in time of fear another, in time of hope another. Since the acts of God, and the epiphany of His acts and works, are infinitely various, not one being like another, therefore the epiphany of His Essence is likewise infinitely various as is the epiphany of His acts.