via Wikimedia Commons
We compulsively overeat and suffer health problems as a consequence. Or we discipline ourselves with strict self-censure and throw ourselves with abandon into the gym, grunting and sweating for hours on end in an endless struggle for self-acceptance.
We slave away for hours in our jobs, grinding our way through days, weeks, months, years. Or we throw caution to the wind and start up a business in the name of freedom, only to work even more than we did before.
We pine away in loneliness and solitude, wishing for human connection. Or we attach ourselves at the hip to another, becoming an accessory to their foibles and an instrument of their dis-ease.
In all aspects of our lives, there are extremities at both ends. These extremities cause pain, no matter which end we move the dial to. Neglect of ourselves or extreme dedication to the temporal things are the same in their extremity, and they’re both about inauthenticity. They’re both about avoiding the self, avoiding the spirit and the consciousness. They’re stalling tactics for our spiritual evolution – self-chosen, but that without disparaging the very real despair and anguish in them. As someone in recovery myself, I would never deny the pain of any sort of addiction… or the responsibility for it.
The Little Voice
The spirit within, our awareness, observes – it witnesses. In that witnessing, all of creation and existence unfolds from our consciousnesses. Although the root of our spirits is tranquil and does not move, its gazing transcends falseness and knows truth. This knowing is as a quiet little voice within us; it can be buried very deep indeed but it cannot be wholly banished from the light. And that voice… it speaks such painful truths that we rush to mask it with surface pain that is all the louder for being at the surface of awareness. The more spirit calls, the more disorder the resisting person must create to cover it up.
We choose inauthentic pain to cover up the pain of knowing we have failed ourselves, and we fail ourselves by choosing inauthentic pain.
Buried deep within the subterranean caverns of the psyche, a little voice repeats, “You are not following your true path.” This is the most terrifying murmur conceivable. To drown out these fateful tones, a persistent and sizeable over-riding pain is required. And this is exactly what people create, albeit subconsciously, by maintaining a highly dysfunctional element in their lives.
Neil Kramer, The Unfoldment, p.206-207
Any truth of self we bury with surface business and pain can be resisted for a lifetime but never vanquished. We’re all inauthentic to some extent at some point. Conformity, social acceptability, and the drives of the ego keep that in us. But when we’re always inauthentic about anything – be it our resistance of our spiritual pathway or whatever else – we’ve got to create enormous phantom boulders to push up hills and demonic shadows to fight. We become lost in a world of ghosts of our creation rather than realize and confront the truth and our inauthentic pain.
The Muttering Crowd
The community encourages us to refuse our truths. There’s the obvious surface tensions when we’re told that our dreams are forever out of reach, that the path of responsibility means shouldering an adult and somber workhorse persona for the majority of our lives. But it goes deeper – the pain itself of such a path goes unvoiced as simple necessity. Almost all pain needs to go unvoiced in the proper world, because to be in need or in pain is shameful. It’s embarrassing for us to see each other without our masks on. So we wear them our entire lives, to fit into the puzzle we’ve imagined as life and because we award each other only when we remain stoic forever.
There is a tacit agreement that people are expected to quietly “get over it” and “get on with it.” It is not the way of the unfoldment to just ignore what feels wrong. If a negative emotional response arises within us, it is trying to tell us something.
Neil Kramer, The Unfoldment (linked above), p.204
It’s not as though we’re free of responsibility of this, any of us. I’ve seen myself do this with my son. He’s been grieved over a broken toy or a lost balloon and I’ve distracted him. I moved him along to the next thing – better to forget about it than acknowledge the emotions right there in public. I’ve taught him inauthenticity, as it was taught to me. We have a heritage and a culture of inauthentic pain – of created business to internalize and suppress our pain. We are admonished by the muttering crowd, which is us.
Honorability of Extremity
And we admire those who swing into extremity out of will. It’s the glory of self improvement. The obese man who overeats is contemptible, but the jock who is in supreme fitness is an example for all. We don’t want to hear from the man stuck in a meaningless job, but the successful entrepreneur is one of the most esteemed characters in society. We ignore the outcasts, and admire the cool people who sacrifice everything of themselves for popularity. Mortification of the flesh, of the spirit, of the mind. Is it not so?
But there is no morality or spirit born out of such mortification. None of us are surprised when the athlete explodes in anger, when the entrepreneur is ruthless in his dealings, when the influential are exposed in controversies. It’s an industry, because people who haven’t succeeded in extreme mortification like to see other people fail in it too. We like to think that everyones’ attempts to cover up the little voice is equally unsuccessful, since we still hear it in our sleep. And in the pathway of mortification, we’re right.
In truth, there’s no honorability in either extreme nor in the middle path between them. The entire pathway itself is dishonorable, it doesn’t matter what lane you drive in. All men and women are equal when all dwell in the despair of inauthentic pain. And all are proud in the weights they’ve conjured to carry and the nobleness of their stoic countenances as they march interminably on.
He who despises himself nevertheless esteems himself as a self-despiser.
Friedrich Nietzsche (attribution)
Letting It Go
I remember, when I was a kid, my Grandma laughing at my distress and obsession with video games. It was endlessly frustrating to try to explain the superior graphics or the awesome playing skill of other online players to her. She just didn’t get it… it wasn’t real, they were just games with nothing to do with life.
Now I understand, of course. Video games are just idle distractions that absorb our attention away from the business of living. But the business of living is also just a game – the adult games of fitness, productivity and abundance, and social success are also just idle distractions. They’re games we play just in our heads, ego games meant to ensure the survival of our species in a contest that’s already been won. The games themselves are now the biggest threat to our kind. Because there is no business of life – there is only the chirping of birds, the swaying of trees, the delight of exploring the world anew with a little one by your side. There is only… life itself.
Stop being busy. Stop coming up with problems to fix and chores to handle. Stop hurrying to and fro with endless errands. Stop relentlessly driving for perfection because you don’t want to hear your little voice.
Stop ignoring admissions of weakness and whispers for help. Stop wearing always a mask and denying who and what you are. Stop hiding your emotions to be acceptable, and stop making other people hide their emotions.
Because the truth is that much of your pain, and mine, is just conjured up from dust by you and me. Much of our effort, of our goals and grinding and resentments and fears, are just a shadow mask. As deep and vicious as an addiction, because it is one. An addiction to motion and noise. An addiction to diversion.
We must be still and silent to hear the call of spirit. Only then can we choose to begin to heal.