A PERSONAL STORY OF AWAKENING
A PERSONAL STORY
The dove descending breaks the air
then devised the torment? Love.
it came...It tiptoed itself into my heart, silently, imperceptibly,
and I looked at it with wonder. It was a still, small, light-blue flame,
trembling softly. It had the infinite sweetness of a first love, like
an offering of fragrant flowers with gentle hands, the heart full of
stillness and wonder and peace.
Chapter 11 - Fire
On our last night at The Salt Spring Center with Baba Hari Dass, I have this dream: "I am in a house with my children and I notice flames coming out of a corner of the house. Within a few minutes, there are flames coming from outside the walls on all four corners of the house. I take my children outside and watch as the whole house catches fire. The firemen come to put the fire out, and when we get back into the house, I am surprised that nothing is damaged, and there is no lingering scent from the smoke. We are safe and the house is alright." That evening the community has a fire purification ceremony. Over the next few weeks, I am surrounded by so many people who are angry at me. With each conversation I try to feel my own anger, which has remained in tight check most of my life. I want to own what is mine and also say what needs to be said. I try to remember not to retaliate but to sit with the anger until, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, "it is cooked." The Jungian analyst, Edward Edinger, says in Anatomy of the Psyche:
The image of invulnerability to fire indicates an immunity to identification with affect. Experience of the archetypal psyche has this effect to the extent that it enlarges and deepens ego consciousness. There is then less likelihood of identification with the emotional reactions of oneself or others. By contrast a weak ego is very vulnerable to being consumed by encounter with intense affect.
Later, I read these words by Irina Tweedie: To renounce the world, you have to transmute it, to transform it, to burn it up. It's a question of chemical transformation, like alchemy...it is the path of fire. And she quotes the early Christian Mystic, Gregory, "The path of love is like a bridge of hair across a chasm of fire."
December 25/00. Peter and I spend Christmas day quietly reading, going for a walk in the park, and delighting in the waves..wind..birds..the world. Then we open a present from my son, Steve, who is living in Los Angeles. He is a musician and has just sent us his new CD. During his long career as a musician, he has composed mostly instrumental music. This is the first time we have heard him singing. After the music is finished, with tears in our eyes, we sit in silence. There is nothing to be said. I cannot remember a Christmas filled with such joy.
February 18/01. Today is my fifty-ninth birthday. I think of my mother at age fifty-eight and how she got her first job, after she separated from my father, and how proud she was of being able to start her life over at that time in her life. Three years ago I, too, started my life over. Peter felt he needed to be on his own, so we spent a year living apart from one another. For most of that year, I didn't know if we would live together again. I moved from Nelson to Vancouver, and at the same time, everyone who had been close to me disappeared from my life. I was alone for the first time in my life, and that is when the real spiritual journey began for me. The day I said goodbye to Peter, on the way to my hotel, I stopped at a bookstore and saw a Buddhist magazine with a caption on the front saying, "When Things Fall Apart." That night I read the teachings of Pema Chodron, and I was shown a new way of being with the pain and groundlessness I was thrown into.
It is said that Rumi summed up his life with these words, "I burnt, and burnt, and burnt." Those are comforting words to me. Sometimes, at my worst moments, I feel like I am the only one to experience such pain along this path. I look constantly to the stories of others who are experiencing, or have experienced, intense suffering. When friends say to me that they don't understand my suffering, and I know that they will disappear from my life because it is too much for them, I wonder if I am somehow responsible for all of this pain and struggle. Then I read the lives of the mystics and I see suffering in a new light. I read about St. Teresa of Avila, with her years of headaches, vomiting, and persecutions; Catherine of Sienna, whose blood actually boiled as she coughed it up at the end of her life; and Padre Pico who suffered with stigmata wounds, which remained open and sore for thirty years, who was silenced and shunned by the Catholic Church, and yet could say, toward the end of his life: "If you but knew the value of your sufferings, you would pray fervently that they not be removed from you."
When Krishnamurti was suffering during the awakening of the Kundalini energy, he said:
My process is slowly beginning and it is rather painful. The back
of my head and the base of my spine are active once again and when I
think or write, it is almost unbearable. The moment I lie down, it's
very painful and when I wake up in the morning, I feel as though it
had been going on all night. It is altogether very curious and I don't
understand it in the least. (And his brother writes)...Every evening
about 6:30 to 8, Krishna has gone into a state of semi-consciousness
when the ego seems to leave and the physical elemental is allowed enough
consciousness to suffer, to talk and even transmit intelligently any
piece of information that may be necessary. He complains of agonizing
pain while he is in this state, centering mostly in the spine; so we
have surmised that his kundalini is being awakened.
March 16. I feel like I have survived a meltdown of my body. I don't really know what has sustained me. The question I keep asking is, "How do I keep bearing this amount of suffering?" A few weeks ago I came to the end of my endurance. I told the Goddess that I simply could not bear such intense pain. I was feeling suicidal. For nights on end I cried in pain, not knowing how to keep going. Always Peter was by my side, never complaining, even when I would waken him, night after night, to help me get through those dark hours. At times I could not walk and the pain in my head would go on for 24 hours at a time, only to start again a few hours later, day after day. My body, as usual, was on fire. Stuart said, "The door of relaxation is slender - sometimes we get through it and the pain will dissipate for a while - this is the pressure of the energy. It is difficult, but common." My body feels as if electrical sparks are being discharged just under my skin, often waking me from my sleep. Dr. Wang says it is my liver. Stuart says, "Inspect further into the spark phenomenon and see each one as a mystery of luminescence until they appear beautiful - this is the tantric practice - may it bring you the help you seek at such difficult times."
I write to my friend, Yvonne, from Sicily, who is living for a few months with her Tibetan Buddhist teacher in India. I ask for help. She replies, "Thank you for your 'call'. Rinpoche was with me here when it arrived. He read it, and then looked very thoughtful, and didn't say anything for a long time. So I know he was giving very special consideration to your words. Today he is asking the monks to say special prayers for you this evening. And then when the right moment comes he will do a divination, 'Mo', for you." I am so grateful for all the help I am receiving.
March 22. I am desperate. I tell Peter I can't go on anymore, and after another terrible night, I get my clothes on and go out to the car. I am not sure where I am going. Peter is right behind me, and later says, "Wherever you were going, I was going with you." I drive and drive and find myself at a hardware store. In the store, we see a beautiful yellow tool box. Later we say it looked like it was calling to us. We buy it as a gift for a 7 year-old cherub who lives in our apartment block. She comes down to spend time with me - because she loves the quiet she says - and we paint together. She tells me that she has no place to keep her precious things because her little brother gets into everything. This tool box is perfect for her. We buy a lock for the box, and then we head for the art store and fill the tool box with paints, paper, pastels, glitter, sparkly pens and all the things she loves. Later that night, after we have given her the box, we hear the pitterpat of little feet running down the hall, and the sound of paper being shoved under our door. There, is a beautiful card with a painting of a butterfly on the cover.
And inside it says, "Thank you Peter and Cathy. I love it. I am 'yousin' it 'rit' now. Love, Rhya." A few minutes later, another picture gets pushed under the door. I put it on the wall at the head of our bed.