It has been said that the spiritual path consists of become more conscious, more awake, allowing more of our unconscious to be illuminated by the light of our awareness. The whole notion of enlightenment denotes "IN-LIGHTenment" -- the shining of the light of our luminous awareness within to discover the sacred treasure that we truly are.
The ancient Oriental mystics knew this all too well. They described the lustrous Shen as the fiery, yang-like spirit that resides in our Heart. This spirit is said to be illuminating and our inner-emperor/empress, governing us with virtue as transmitted by Heaven (which here doesn't mean a Christian, utopian afterworld, but a more expansive dimension of reality). It gives us the all important power of awareness. The Heart's counterpoint is the jing that resides in the Kidneys. Jing connotes our essence and has been likened to our DNA or what the ancients called our mandate or mission from Heaven. The whole process of fulfilling our life is to take the radiant awareness of our shen or spirit and to turn it within to light up the dark, watery nature of the Kidneys so we may understand the essence of ourselves and our mission or dharma/life-path. Self-reflection is integral to the path of fulfillment.
There's many interesting parallels to Western understandings here, such as the fact that we now know we only utilize a very meager amount of our DNA (about 10% at best) and the rest represents latent potential (interestingly when first discovered by Western scientists, the latent 90% was called "junk DNA", revealing the Western mind's unappreciation and aggression toward the mysterious and unknown). As we spend more time in self-reflection, we begin to extract the wisdom from this essence in the Kidneys (wisdom is the virtue of the Kidneys) and, concurrently, we being to feel contentment, which translates as "natural joy"--the joy that requires no effort to create but rather is unfolded. We are literally reading and activating more of our DNA which engenders us with good feelings as we begin to understand ourselves better.
"It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."
Moreover, the light of our awareness actually can cause the waters of our essence to warm to such a degree that they release a kind of condensation that is the child our fire and water nature. Called ling, it represents spiritual potency and rises to nourish the spirit in our Heart. When ling is created and consumed by our spirit, it is said that life takes on a miraculous texture in the form of synchronicities appearing more abundantly, which are purposeful "coincidences". This is the process known as nourishing our destiny as we become fully responsible creators of our life's path and we are bestowed spiritual powers of intuition, abundant wisdom, constant love, emotional equanimity and more by Heaven as we are seen as deserving caretakers for these powers. It's like a high-five from the divine!
Many of us are having such experiences and are also struggling to illuminate our darker aspects as they can lie hidden under the murk of past trauma, pain and sufferings. In spiritual circles, we often prize those who are full of light, who are seemingly pure and who are constant nexuses of love. This is a noble honouring. However, we also need to take time to honour as well the struggle that many of us endure with our dark as it is our teacher and not something ultimately that we want to struggle with or fight. Often, we prize the light over the dark and create spiritual bypassing around the work and dance needed with the parts of ourselves that may be uncomfortable to look at. Alas, they lie un-integrated and haunt us with unconscious pain and urges that can manifest in toils of addictive behaviour.
It can be very difficult to face our pain and darkness with the love-fire of our heart with fierce compassion. And we need to have compassion unto ourselves, aided by the understanding that we exist in a culture that is disconnected from the spiritual and has been seemingly for aeons. In this sense, we can understand that many of our personal struggles and sufferings are actually impersonally a part of a deeper human evolution and continuum of growth. For example, when we look at something like an addiction to something unwholesome, we can recognize that often it is a coping strategy that we are using to mask our pain so that we can function better. Often, we are coping with a traumatic experiences that happened in our childhood when we were too young to protect ourselves or understand the psychological complexity of a situation and how to manage it. As Dr. Gabor Mate asserts, we need to honour the addict and the addiction as a reasonable response to an unreasonable situation.
"In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present."
As difficult as it may be, eventually we may find ourselves having compassion for our perpetrators, even in the worst cases of abuse, when we understand that abusive tendencies more often than not are themselves the result of experienced abuse and trauma, going back long in ancient lineage even.
I believe we as a species are now beginning to look at some of the most disturbing elements of our culture and the human condition because we're experiencing a universal in-lighten-ment. The light of consciousness among us has reached an unparalleled point and so it shines into the dark places that were previously unknown. It is in these times that we need most of all each other to share our pain and keep it flowing toward understanding. Sometimes this requires letting out a primal roar, surrendering into impassioned song, finding ecstatic embodiment in dance to channel intense feeling states and the willingness to be transparent, to hide no longer and trust that there are people out there that we can trust to love and care for us as we open the fragility of our wounds. As we do so, we will turn our wounds into wisdom. Our pain is a great teacher and it often makes us suffer when we choose not to listen and engage it. Turn around. Embrace it. There is no need to fear. As disturbing as the trauma is, we are stronger and it is our strength that needs to be revealed. If it is too immense to task alone, seek out healers. There are many now who have experience in helping with these transmutations.
"For me, singing sad songs often has a way of healing a situation. It gets the hurt out in the open into the light, out of the darkness."
Ultimately, as we begin to face ourselves day in and day out with compassion, we begin to change the vibration of our lives, putting an end to inner-conflict. Our self-inquiry begins to become rooted in ardent curiousity about what lies bundled up in our energetic knots, knowing that if we smooth out the kinks, more power and light and love can flow. As we do this work, we find tremendous resolve and confidence because we are literally creating our lives anew by overcoming adversity. It's as Shakespeare said: "Sweet are the uses of adversity." And we can also look at it universally: we are all wounded and suffering. This evolution of our species has not been easy by any means but we now have opportunities to heal that our ancestors could barely dream of. We truly have the potential to transcend some of our most harrowing obstacles and integrate long lost parts of our humanity. As we progress on our personal journey of healing, we are healing actually the greater web of humanity and all creation. We are healing ancestral lines and in moments of prayer to those ancestral spirits you will feel their love, joy and support for your work.
An indigenous teacher once shared a vision she had in an ancestor ceremony once. She said she looked behind her and saw a line of ancestors going on for miles, all the way to the horizon. They were all looking at her, with a huge smile, full of love, waving. This teacher is not unique. She has no special gifts that you or I do not have. She is human. This is the kind of support we all have. Go within. Shine a light on your darkness. Extend a hand as a friend. Ask them to reveal themselves and share why they are in pain, what it is to learn. Create more radiance with them and return them to balance. And then share that wisdom with the world. You will discover not only more of what you truly are but what truly we all are...