A Bhagavad-Gita Double Encounter
Last week, I traveled to North Carolina for work. Right before I left the house Monday morning, I decided to pick a book that I read two years prior, full of notes and areas highlighted in yellow and orange. I had done my homework exploring and dissecting The Matter of Mind, from Master Djwhal Khul through Kathlyn Kingdon, and didn’t expect it would catch up with me at this time. The chapter that caught my attention, after skimming through the book, is the one entitled From Emotional Reactivity to Enlightenment. It caught my eye precisely because emotional reactivity (how do I deal with the emotions that emerge within me) is what I had been experiencing for a fairly long time. The chapter tells the story of a famous passage from the Bhagavad-Gita (wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhagavad_Gita) where Lord Krishna is in conversation with Arjuna over his impending duty to go to war against his relatives. Arjuna has to face the immensity of the task—his call to duty—and wobbles between desperation, anger, and finally blame—a very generous spectrum of emotions.
As I flew from Newark to Charlotte, I suddenly got the idea to check my email—what else can we do in the friendly skies? As I opened the first message in my mailbox, an unpleasant feeling of upset and anger started to engulf me. A co-worker of mine, in a different land, with whom I am designing a members’ survey, was commenting on my last draft and giving me instructions on how to design a multiple choice survey; my initial intention being to design an open-ended questions instrument where client members could freely roam and reflect based on their needs and preferences.
A week after the occurrence, I can still remember the dangerous path my mind took me through, meandering between retaliation strategies, an email to the board of the organization, not to mention several dark scenarios where I would leave the volunteer group that I joined three months ago. It felt like a pit. As good fortune would have it, the response I prepared on the spot, in the heat of my anger, could not navigate the airwaves because the plane had gone below 10,000 feet and the connection was interrupted. I saved a draft of my response, and later erased it, realizing that I experienced EXACTLY what the chapter of The Matter of Mind refers to; going through a whirlwind of emotions, and for a reason!
What the From Emotional Reactivity to Enlightenment chapter describes is how many of us tend to respond to emotions: either by letting them out at the people who triggered them (whatever their intention was), or by suppressing them. Neither way is going to bring us very far and the author’s advice is to rather stay with the emotion, as calmly as possible, and fully experience it. It is difficult for many of us to do just that but when I tried, a couple days ago, the metaphor that entered my consciousness is that of a waterfall. Because of the amount of water gushing forth, and the beauty of the falls, we often limit our view to the falls themselves, when there is usually a clear, calm and beautiful pool of water right behind them. The image is also appropriate to the extent that the falls are often as ‘noisy’ as our emotions.
Here is an excerpt which addresses the direct experience and our need to stay in it:
“In the Gnostic (i.e., knowing) experience, perceiver and perception are merged. Direct experience engages physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies—totally. For all its glory, direct experience can be threatening to the ego mind, which is continually looking for itself in the “having” of the experience. Direct experience lacks the observational distance needed for ego mind to find itself. To fall into a direct experience, the mind must release its hold on conventional reality—so laden with the personal reference points ego mind craves. If you consider the mystics of the great spiritual traditions, they all have the ability to lose themselves in the divine. To do so, of course, requires the dissolution of those personal reference points, for they obscure the very experience the divine one is seeking.”
“As with the child in the snow, what induces direct experience is full openness in/to the moment and a completely absorbed attention. To allow whatever arises to simply be, without the judgment or other manipulations of ego mind, is to find the vicinity of direct experience. In this open and attentive state, one can allow even emotional pain—grief, fear, hatred, greed, selfishness, envy and so on—to dissolve into the spacious radiance of direct experience. When the mind’s eye is fixed on the full spectrum of enlightenment, it is very difficult to find the small bandwidth of, say, anger. The effulgent glow dissolves the very self that steps into it.”
I knew something—a new understanding, another veil getting lifted—was up for grab last week. The knocking at the spiritual door got “happier and louder” when, back home, I received an email from a list on LinkedIn mentioning a post from Ken Stone. Ken Stone is a Colorado-based person who, beautifully, calls himself “The Soul Archeologist.” We connected a few months back and I happily accepted his invitation. Despite his lack of response to my introductory email, I remained intrigued and curious about his spiritual guidance and counseling.
In his message to the LinkedIn list, he invited us to visit his blog where he posted two stories. The first one is about the Dalai Lama who, being true to himself, honestly mentions his dislike of a cake that has been baked especially for him; the second story is Arjuna’s story…
Writing these words brought another metaphor to my spiritual shore. As I heard back yesterday from a Tarot de Marseille card reader with whom I worked this year, she mentioned, in response to my account of our last trip to France, my success with the “great problem in my life,” i.e., my mother. This is a long, beautiful story that I will keep for another day. Suffice it to say that thinking back about my mother, and what went on in our home forty years ago, made me think about the “grooves” she imprinted in us—my father, my brother and I. I can only speak for myself but the pain that I felt coming out of these grooves for a number of years is now gone, at least on a conscious level. The weeping pain and anger have dissolved, just as the excerpt above mentions, not so much in a single, direct experience, but through years of assiduous spiritual practice and developmental work. Similar to the waterfall metaphor, the pain has transformed into a clear pool of water where I can now see and welcome my mother’s pain when she was, among other instances, abused and beaten up by her own mother during WWII. Abused to the point that she still needs nowadays, thirty-one years after my grandmother’s passing, to distance herself from the woman that gave her birth by calling her “the grandmother.”
My deepest desire at this point is that we all become aware of the grooves (or wounds, if you wish) we carry within ourselves, wherever they originated from and that we make progress on the path to self-realization, on the path to finding our true nature. There is beauty, there is purity on the other side of our inner waterfall and, thinking back about Arjuna, it is our spiritual duty to go past the falling water and reach out for the pool.
So Mote It Be!