These times are difficult.
How do we make sense of it all? Perhaps more pressing, what are we supposed to do?
Because that's really what we want to know. What am I supposed to do ?
The teacher Ram Dass has said that the what we "do" is learn to keep our heart open in hell. We learn how to stay open when everything wants to close.
Over the years, I have noticed a funny tendency in my dream life. In the midst of dreaming, whenever I encounter something terrifying- a tidal wave, a car fast approaching me, a monster- I close my eyes tight in the dream. When I wake up, I can remember everything up until I closed my eyes. And I can remember everything that happened after the situation resolved itself. But what actually happened in that scary moment- I do not know. I did not see it. All my energy went into squeezing my eyes shut. it's funny to me that this happens in my dreams, where there is no real threat.
Fear is like this. It comes fast and furiously. It feels red-hot and wildly out of control. It feels bigger than us, which is the point. The heart is the word for the place inside that feels and recognizes what matters most. It is wide and spacious. The yogi Swami Satchitananda said that "the human heart is atomic." I believe he meant it literally. Contained with in the heart is a power that is far greater than anything on earth or heaven. When fear- what we feel to be bigger than us- approaches the heart, our response is often to squeeze shut tight. We take what is spacious and big and feels vulnerable, and out it into a box that is too small for it. We wait for it all to be over.
But there is a point we all reach when the fear and struggles feel too big to shut out. Every time we peek our eyes open, the monster is still there. Or we reach a point where we just do not want to squeeze our eyes shut anymore. It is taking too much from us. We are tired. We want to see.
This is often the moment in time when people come to work with me. They are feeling caught in a tumble of pain. I feel excited when I see this moment in others, not because I enjoy their pain but because I know THIS is the moment when a decision to stay open can change the whole course of life. It's an invitation into something real.
Ram Dass talks about keeping our heart open as "balancing our humanity." I think he means that we keep our eyes open and let ourselves see and feel the impact of the scary thing in front of us. And also, we temper it with perspective and practice. We allow the possibility in that "I don't know the full story yet." This thing looks scary, but I don't really know how it is all going to land, do I? Just the willingness to say "I don't know" creates space inside of what was only tightness. It says, "I'm afraid I might die but I don't really know that is the outcome till that happen" or " I am outraged and hurt by what I see, and also I don't understand the full picture of why it is happening or how it might be resolved easily."
The practice of this is learning to be with things in the state that they are in. It is letting balance and steadiness come inside, so that we see that when we are busy only judging the thing, we cannot really see the whole of it, and therefore do not really understand how to heal the problem at its root.
And touching the root is where healing happens.