Saturday, July 26, 2008

See The Perfection

In my last post, I left you with the following quote:

See the perfection where the seeming imperfection seems to be
-- Lester Levenson

It comes from a very special book called Happiness Is Free, and when I first read it about 3 weeks after Deb died, I wanted to reach through the book and choke Lester by the throat! I mean, come on! My wife is dead. And you're talking about "seeming imperfection?" I'll "seeming imperfection" you one! Too bad — I was too late. Lester died in 1994.

And no, I'm not still bitter about that quote. In fact, I now completely agree with him. After much hard grief work and a lot of personal growth, I have come to understand what he was talking about. I give a bit more context for the quote in one of my earlier posts entitled Perspectives. The quoted passage starts off with the following line: "Look within yourself and see if you are willing to live in a world without problems."

But when we become bereaved, our whole life is turned upside down. We don't feel the same, all our plans for the future are put in doubt and/or destroyed, and we often struggle to mentally survive moment to moment. That first year especially, it is a major accomplishment just to get out of bed and go to work and back! Everything is a struggle. Everything is a problem. And grief hurts like hell — another problem to overcome. And our best friend / lover / companion / fellow parent / confidant / supporter is dead and never coming back, and that's a problem with no solution! So what's this nonsense about looking within to see if I am willing to live in a world without problems? Where do these guys get off writing this junk?

I'm almost finished reading Eckhart Tolle's book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose. He explains that sometimes when people suffer a profound loss, they experience an emerging new dimension of consciousness. Whatever they had identified with has been taken away. Then, inexplicably, the initial anguish or intense fear gives way to a deep peace and serenity.

In my case, this did not happen right away. In fact, I had a lot of grief work to do before, at month 21, I attended a free 10 day silent meditation course, and then I began to experience what Eckhart talks about. I realized my true identity as consciousness itself, rather than what my consciousness had identified with. And I had really identified myself with Deb, both before and after she died. But here I was on day 9 of my meditation course, realizing that there exists this guy named Vic who has no problems whatsoever. That guy is truly who I am! I am not my problems. I am not my story.

Of course, there's a strong possibility that you're reading this and thinking, "there's no way I'm going to meditate for 10 minutes, let alone 10 days!" Or maybe, "My story is very important to me. It is a big part of who I am, who I have become." Or even more likely, "I can never be truly happy ever again, now that my spouse is dead. If giving up my problems and my story is the price I have to pay for serenity, and I will also lose my identity in the process, then that is too great a price to pay. I will not diminish the memory of my dead spouse so that I can be happy."

Except that that is not what happens. Identifying with our pain, our story, our memories, and our problems sets us up for even deeper misery, as Eckhart explains [pages 57-58 of A New Earth]:

Not everybody who experiences great loss also experiences this awakening, this disidentification from form. Some immediately create a strong mental image or thought form in which they see themselves as a victim, whether it be of circumstances, other people, an unjust fate, or God. This thought form and the emotions it creates, such as anger, resentment, self-pity, and so on, they strongly identify with, and it immediately takes the place of all the other identifications that have collapsed through the loss. In other words, the ego quickly finds a new form. The fact that this new form is a deeply unhappy one doesn't concern the ego too much, as long as it has an identity, good or bad. In fact, this new ego will be more contracted, more rigid and impenetrable than the old one.

Whenever tragic loss occurs, you either resist or you yield. Some people become bitter or deeply resentful; others become compassionate, wise, and loving. Yielding means inner acceptance of what is. You are open to life. Resistance is an inner contraction, a hardening of the shell of the ego. You are closed. Whatever action you take in a state of inner resistance (which we could also call negativity) will create more outer resistance, and the universe will not be on your side; life will not be helpful. If the shutters are closed, the sunlight cannot come in. When you yield internally, when you surrender, a new dimension of consciousness opens up. If action is possible or necessary, your action will be in alignment with the whole and supported by creative intelligence, the unconditioned consciousness which in a state of inner openness you become one with. Circumstances and people then become helpful, cooperative. Coincidences happen. If no action is possible, you rest in the peace and inner stillness that come with surrender. You rest in God.

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