Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Merits of Adversity

Iron Ore may think itself senselessly tortured in the furnace
but when the blade of finest steel emerges, it knows better...
Lobsang Rampa

Phoenix Rising
If we could see our future, if we could know how things will turn out and if we could comprehend the greater and wider picture, we might move through this life very differently. Then again, we might not...

As we move through life we tend to cherish an arrogant assumption that everything we think and do is up to us and yet is this really true?

We like to believe that we are the master of our own little ship.
That we are standing at the helm, making all the decisions and that we are in control. The whole setup looks and feels so convincing. There we are on the bridge of our own self-made vessel clutching a self-made 'wheel.' All around us is the wide and open sea. We feel secure in our flimsy vessel, with a little bit of stick in our hands. Yet that sense of security is just a thought.

Despite the size and the ever-shifting seasons of this vast ocean space in which we live, move and breath out the course of our days, we feel that somehow and in some way, we are steering our own independent course.

Yet, is this really true?
And how can we know if it is or not?

Recently, I underwent a journey at considerable expense of time, money, energy and effort. It did not turn out the way I had been hoping for or expecting. In fact, it was altogether quite disastrous in terms of my preconceived expectations. 

It seems not to matter how long we live, how much we do or how far we travel, to some degree or other we remain glued to our belief in what we 'think' we know. Very often the results of life experiences don't seem to add up to much and certain things may take place for which we can find very little meaning at all and yet at the end of the day, do we need to? Do we need to find a meaning in everything that happens to us in our world? Would what we know or think we know really affect the outcome?

Is there anything in what appears to 'happen' to us that we can actually hold onto and claim to own as ours or mine?
Its all so very elusive isn't it? If we look back on the events that have taken place in our lives they are nothing more than memories. If we look forward to future happenings, they are simply fabrications of the mind's hopes, fears and endless expectations.

The only thing we ever really have is this very moment of 'awareness.' There really is nothing else. Each of us needs to investigate and experience this consciously for ourselves. We need to pierce the bubble of our 'known' world of perceptions and preconceptions and take a cold and hard look at what actually is.

The mind is brilliant at fabricating, interpreting and judging, but can we really trust it? I think that deep down we all know that our mind is very unreliable, that it is shape-shifting and filled with contradictions. How can we find peace and happiness with such a 'master' at the helm of our little ship?

The ego can take a certain satisfaction in what it perceives as worthwhile or positive outcomes but what do we do with the stuff that we just can't make sense of? Do we simply try to cast it from our memory? Is that enough to bring us some relief from our endless mind made torment?

If we are not to become cynical about or jaded by 'life' there remains only one course open to us. But how do we get to the point where we can let go of our preconceptions and assumptions without going through a process which will ultimately and at the end of all searching and struggle leave us with no other choice. Such a process is likely to be a torrid and long drawn out affair?

As tiny children, we could look out at the world without preconceptions, but then life set in and we were loaded with so much information, imprisoned by so many surrounding thought-forms and finally so bound up by our own created mental preconceptions that now we can no longer remember the simple innocence of just 'being.'

Getting ourselves back to the simple realisation of our profound and ever present 'state' requires that we unravel all the constructs which our minds have created around the essence of who and what we really are.

Who among us will cast our mind towards the 'profound' when life is buzzing around us and all is going well? It's only when we encounter adversity that we begin to question the basis of our day to day reality.

Think of the way each grain of sand on the beach has arisen by the action of endlessly crashing waves through countless seasons. We can be likened to these grains and our life experiences to all the ups and downs and unexpected twists and turns that shape and polish and in turn, reveal the true and inner beauty.

"If it were not for the stones and boulders that make up the composition of a mountain, we could not catch hold of and retain our grip on those steep and slippery slopes or continue to move onward and upward to the summit of the peak.

How many of us ever reflect deeply in the midst of happy circumstances? When things are going our way, we relax and tend to let the time fly by. We don't consider the deeper questions surrounding our lives and our existence. 

We are like children, deeply engrossed in the game of building sand castles on the beach. All the while the tide is coming in closer and closer but we don't notice it because we are so caught up in the game which we are playing.
At last the waves begin to touch our feet and the castles that we have built begin to disintegrate with each incoming surge. We suddenly look up from our game and notice that the sun is already low on the western horizon and that soon it will be dark and that night will be upon us. 

This is how we live our lives, in a state of perpetual distraction.
We don't question our assumptions about this world. In fact, we take our lives and the extraordinary fact our existence completely for granted.

Only when it is about to be snatched away from us or from someone to whom we are deeply attached, do we stop and give our attention to what is most important.

As babies, we could look out at the world without bias but as we proceed deeper into the maelstrom of life we lose our 'real' selves and become hopelessly entangled and confused.

In the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, there is one sentence which is graphically sobering;
"Water, water everywhere, yet not a drop to drink." 

Afloat on the sea of life, our very existence arises due to the inexhaustible spring of our awareness and yet we often feel ourselves to be alone and abandoned on a vast ocean from which it seems that we cannot quench our thirst.

Again and again, life rises up and forces us to look more closely. The filters created by our mind must be swept away, either one by one or all at once before we can see it for what it really is. Sooner or later we must acknowledge that nothing could exist without the innate sense of knowing that we exist.  We do not even need to reach out to grasp at what is inherently already there within us.

So next time we feel ourselves to be like the helpless iron ore, aflame within the furnace of uncertain life events, we can remember the blade of finest steel. It will flash brightly in the rising sun to remind us of what has always been ours. The very fact that we know that we exist is what makes the flashing of recognition possible in the first place.

Ultimately, we have two choices; either to let go and recognise what we already are or to undergo the painful, forging process which will eventually force us to drop the multitude of misconceptions that our mind has created and which prevent us so effectively from recognising who and what we really are

The Fire-Bird of Transformation

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