Originally published November 14, 2014
So, in case you’ve been wondering … I’ve been on a spiritual journey. I desperately need a break from it, and I’m here to tell you …
It’s no picnic.
To be perfectly honest, it’s hellish, chaotic, and no bed of roses. (Okay, maybe I’m being a tad melodramatic. But seriously … What. I. Said! Trust me.)
Christian mystics call it “the dark night of the soul.” It’s been said that Mother Teresa suffered through it 40-plus years. In Jungian psychology, it’s known as “a transformation of the psyche.” One quote by Carl Jung, a protégé of Sigmund Freud, sums it up like this: Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. And, Joseph Campbell — heavily influenced by Jung, and praised for his work in comparative mythologies and religions —
Well, more about him later. I’m feeling the urge to jump to my point, which is this: Wrestling with our internal demons — to purify our souls/our spirits and/or to better understand our thoughts and actions — so that we can know God and/or know peace and live in harmony with others (as we’ve been taught to do) shouldn’t be so friggin’ hard! Maybe more people would go on “these journeys” if they were more fun!
Admit it …
Some of you are nodding right now; you’ve already discovered this truth, and you’re giving me a virtual high-five. Some of you are offended by my attitude and ready to dismiss me as a fool who would rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. And, some of you are “sitting on the fence,” not sure what’s coming next, perhaps only waiting it out (whatever “it” is). Will you stay beyond the next social media alert? You’re like that big bird on the branch, surveying the territory, knowing that winter is quickly wresting control from autumn. Watching the world turn … It is what it is.
(I think it’s a hawk, by the way. I spotted this magnificent winged creature by accident. I was trudging through this year’s first wintry storm, trying to “embrace” and control it all from the get-go. Literally, I was practicing gratitude for it and other things when I scanned the heavens, and there “he” was. Snow stung my face as I gazed up in wonder. But, I didn’t care. I was giddy like a child and continued to keep my eyes open as I hiked ahead. Thirty minutes later, when I returned to that same vantage point, “he” was still there. Unmoved.)
I, however, felt changed. It was that quick, that simple. And, I resolved to translate this epiphany into something insightful. Yes! I would immediately go home and FINALLY finish this post, breathe a sigh of relief, get rid of my headache, sleep better, awaken from the darkness, and arise like the phoenix! New me, new life … Yes!
But, that’s not how it played out. It had stopped snowing by the time I arrived home, and I thought, “I should shovel the driveway.” There were already several inches of heavy stuff, and the streetplow had left its “gift” curbside. An icy, chunky mess … much of it piled in front of the mailbox. I remembered our mailman, who two days before I had angrily swore to my husband I would report to his supervisors “for being a creepy jerk!” Certain he didn’t like me, I wasn’t going to like him either! In fact, I hated him, and I wanted the whole world to know it! I ranted on for several minutes, literally stomping around the garage (which we were cleaning out), grabbing “this old thing” and “that broken thing” and throwing them into The Bagster (which I recommend). I was like a kid throwing a temper tantrum.
Now, let me explain …
There was history with this guy, but I had forgotten it (or, thought so) when I walked toward him, making small talk as I reached out for the mail. Long story short, he wasn’t nice, and — now — I didn’t want to clear the mess away from the mailbox. I smiled as I imagined his “pain” upon having to deal with it.
But, only briefly. I grabbed a steel-edged shovel from the garage to break the frozen mound into sections, then I removed and tossed them out of his way. And, for 99.9% of the time (okay, maybe more like 99.8%), my thoughts floated peacefully: “I betcha he wasn’t happy about the weather forecast.” “God, I’m so glad I don’t have to drive through this stuff for a living.” “This is good exercise, but I better take it slowly.” “He did give dog biscuits to Chloe.” “I have been pretty crabby lately.” “I hope this makes him smile.”
I realized it might not phase him, but I was happy still. In part, because I knew my months of playing a virtual Rubik’s Cube with my thoughts and actions were paying off. Don’t get me wrong … I didn’t start out combing the depths of my soul/my psyche with the mailman or Mother Teresa in mind. Essentially, I found myself faced with a serious problem that was all too familiar, and I went from feeling hurt and stupid to furious and hateful. But, because I didn’t want to “go there” again (a la “Groundhog Day”, if you catch my drift), I made the conscious decision to become the change I wanted to see in my own little world.
The hardest part has been learning to control my thoughts, especially if I feel justified in my anger or in believing I know what’s best. I don’t know about yours, but my thoughts can be way too random — especially, if I’m trolling the Internet for “answers” — and disciplining them can be like herding cats. Nonetheless, I feel stronger — even smarter — for going into “the darkness” because my spirit is learning to master my mind, rather than the other way around.
When I was a Catholic schoolgirl, I was taught that our thoughts could be sins, and I scoffed at that for many years. Just thinking something “bad” can’t be the same as doing it, right? Yet, I’ve realized over time how harmful negative thinking — about others, our relationships, and even ourselves — can be. Eventually, it “leaks out,” from our hearts, minds, and souls and pollutes our words and actions. Somehow, someway … It always does. Or, that’s what I’ve learned. (Actually, still learning … I’m having a hard time with the not-saying-anything-about-someone-unless-it’s-something-nice thing. I suppose it’s time to get back to that “journey.”)
But, what if I — WE — see it as “a spiritual adventure” instead?
This is where Joseph Campbell comes in … I was a big fan of his even before I knew (his book) The Hero with a Thousand Faces was the inspiration for (his friend) George Lucas’s “Star Wars” films, which I immediately loved. For me, “The Force” resonated deeply as “Divine Spirit.” The darkness, the aliens, and the asteroids hurling through space … I believe these represent our personal demons, and if we willfully set out on a quest to tame them — not only for our sake but also for others in “our space” — we can discover our own divine lights, our own God particles.
And, so I ask you, my fellow Spiritual Warriors … What’s not to love — to embrace! — about becoming heroes/peacemakers/angels on Earth?
Photo credits: Nicola Kelley Hyser, and stock photo