"Face the troubles but keep yourself steady," and Purple Image
The troubles of our era on this Earth are offering us a powerful opportunity to adjust our collective and individual course. Not everyone can feel the waves of change as they wash over us, but it is happening. "A powerful disturbance in the force" is upon us, as we examine new ways to care about each other in the wake of growing acknowledgement of past and present forms of inequity and violence. What we do with our awareness, and what personal and collective decisions we make will determine our immediate and long term future on this planet. It is more vital than ever to attend to the process of liberation.
Our concept of liberation only makes sense in the context of bondage. Just like the duality between light and dark, we only understand liberation as the absence of bondage. Liberation is taught to us as a result or goal; the promised land or hereafter provides us the ultimate safe harbor from the pain and toil of mortal life. We are culturally conditioned to put effort towards the hope of freedom, without expectation to actually enjoy it in our lifetime. It is a mirage or a dream, and often taunts or haunts us as we struggle to survive or to simply exist. The wide variety of spiritual traditions represent paths towards the same destination, and often that place is nowhere near planet Earth. Pilgrimage, atonement, penance, fasting, prayer, service, devotion, and submission represent the various ways we might advance our way towards merciful emancipation and entry into the transcendental world where we briefly rest before whatever comes next. All that effort and will power devoted to using this world as a staging ground for the next world has left us with a lot of messy relationships between people and the natural world.
This is an observation, and not a judgment. Whatever path we take, and whatever our beliefs, our lives unfold here and now, in the space of these bodies and on this one planet. Here is also not a suggestion to abandon the desire for liberation. In fact, here is a reminder that this world as it is provides us everything we need to experience liberation. Sri Ramana Maharshi said (Talk 150), "Realisation must be amidst all the turmoils of life. If you make yourself comfortable and go to bed you fall asleep. Face the troubles but keep yourself steady in meditation." Our framework for liberation, is also responsible for our confusion. Establishing ourselves in the true nature of our being, means becoming more grounded in our capacity to observe and respond to the conditions of life in the present. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj reminds us, "Truth is not a reward for good behavior, nor a prize for passing some tests. It cannot be brought about. It is the primary, the unborn, the ancient source of all that is. You are eligible because you are. You need not merit truth. It is your own...Stand still and be quiet."
Awakening, self-realization, enlightenment, or liberation is the beginning of spiritual life, not the end. After waking up out of separateness, we are free to observe the cosmic laws of cause and effect at work without getting caught in the trap of arrogance and ignorance. Both Yogic and Buddhist teachings remind us that our ordinary method of interacting with life is from the egoistic standpoint, wherein all thoughts, feelings, beliefs, desires, and actions continuously create a framework through which we interact with all other beings and the cosmos itself. Humility, and an accurate recognition of our nature arises out of the effort of self-awareness practices cultivated through diligent effort, ruthless compassion, unselfish generosity, and surrender to cosmic intelligence or grace. When the light of awareness dawns within us, we are able to welcome curiosity, creativity, and joy as they express themselves through our experience. The qualities of patience, consistency, and integrity flow from within us, and our actions, words, and thoughts reflect possibility and love. Our presence in the world becomes radiant, hopeful, and inviting, and we can join our efforts with sincerity to co-create, collaborate, and celebrate being alive.
As quickly as the waves of changes are rocking our world, it can be extremely challenging to establish the spaciousness to reflect, meditate, or engage with spiritual practice. There is a natural desire to escape or shut out the negative emotions that arise as we learn more about the struggles that shape our world. We must be patient with ourselves, and remember that when we are well nourished in body and mind, when we slow down, we are in a position to make choices based in love. I need the reminder, too. I remember when I hear the song by Purple Image - "We Gotta Pull Together."