THE WALL: Taking a Look at Some Scary and Sad Stuff, and Letting It Go
I believe that compassionate detachment is a major component of self-mastery and spiritual awareness. To me this means, at least in part, that I continuously have to learn to let go of my own fears and guilt etc. and then do my best not take up new ones. I accept others where they are, even those whose actions and beliefs make me uncomfortable.
I don't need or want people to be "perfect." I don't know any perfect people and if I love someone, I love them as they are, even if they don't love me anymore. Things don't always work out the way we want them to. I know that, even if I wish it were not so.
I'm not saying it's easy. I'm no spiritual master - and I have my own issues to deal with. But I keep working on myself and I will until my last day as Sherry.
For me, compassionate detachment also means that I do NOT walk away from my responsibilities and go live in cave or a monastery on a mountain top to get my head straight and "be spiritual." (Whatever that means!)
Oh, for sure, there were times when I'd have liked to do just that!
I wanted to hide from the world - hide from myself, would more accurate.
I was carefully dissuaded from taking that dramatic step by a very kind and wise woman named the Reverend Master Jiyu-Kennett, who was the founder of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives and the abbey on Mt Shasta, where she was Abbess.
I met her when I was just 19 and she had a profound effect on me. I immediately wanted to go live in the Abbey with her. She gently told me that I was always welcome to visit, but that I wasn't meant to live full time away from the world, meditating and praying.
Not this time.
She said that I could "live on a mountain" but I would have to go out and be with people to do my work, and to learn about myself. I was slightly crushed when she told me this, but I accepted what she had to say.
Looking back at that conversation of nearly fifty years ago, I know she was right. My life this time is about a path of self-responsibility and balance. I can see that retreating from the world wouldn’t bring me closer to the goal of learning about my path. How do I learn about self-responsibility? By being irresponsible. Balance? By going out of balance.
I learned rather quickly that I do not like myself when I am irresponsible and out of balance. It's painful. In this way, I have slowly learned to walk closer to the middle path.
Detachment doesn't mean you have to walk away from everything. It does mean that you learn to let go of your expectations and personal attachments to people, places, things, old patterns, etc. But sometimes walking away from people, places, things...is appropriate.
I have learning that offering assistance to my fellow humans is something that I enjoy. I've also learned that it doesn't help anyone to get into co-dependent behavior trying to rescue them.
It was hard to accept that I was not helping anyone when I made excuses for their poor behavior. It's not respecting myself - or them. How will anyone mature and learn to be responsible if we keep making excuses when they are casually cruel, or downright mean? Hard lessons - and sometimes it's scary to call someone out for being a jerk. I haven't met many people who appreciate that. Although at times is feels necessary to say something, I usually don't; I just walk away, rather than make a fuss. I've come to realize that I only rarely have a chance of saying anything useful in a situation like that.
No, I didn't go live in the Mt. Shasta Abbey, but I learned a lot from its Abbess. I was focused on spiritual growth before I met her. I already understood that everything in my life must support my spiritual and emotional growth. When I realized that it no longer served that purpose, then I stopped what I was doing and did something else. The Abbess was one of the few people who understood that I was serious about this, even at a young age. I've done a lot of things in my life. I didn't enjoy many of those things, but I learned to be present in the moment, as I learned what I needed to.
These days I travel quite a bit to do my spiritual work. I live on a small ranch in some mountains in Arizona. I leave my part of the mountain to go out into the world and when I do, I see a lot of people and have a lot of experiences.
I come home to my land and I lead a very quiet life. The energy of this land suits me, and it's easy to regenerate here. It's often tiring, too, as this old ranch is always in need of repairs. The many chores and repairs keep me busy but it's a constant job to keep this place habitable.
While I work, I have time to just be in the moment, focusing on the chores. When i meditate at night, a day of hard work leaves me feeling clear. That's when I can process my experiences with the goal of integrating what I've learned from each trip. It's a good balance for me.
I bet you thought I was writing about mediating and detachment, spiritual growth, etc. I am - but that's the framework of the story... I also want to share a spiritual experience that includes those things. I had it a number of years ago, yet, the experience is still evolving as I grow older. In fact, it continues to this day.
If you know me at all you know that I often tell stories and I tell them in a circular way. I sometimes start with a back story that might not make sense, at first. Eventually, I let the listeners (or readers) in on what the story is about and I make a point. There is always a point.
Be patient with me and I'll try to make the rest of this story interesting enough for you to keep reading.
Some years ago, I ended up in the hospital with a serious blood infection, brought on by a kidney infection that had gone nuts. I was very sick but I knew that this was a big lesson for me. I figured it probably had something to do with elimination of some kind…detachment and letting go. I call this a "waking dream."
"What do I need to let go of?" I asked myself.
The answer at that moment was a relationship. One that I had thought was long over and done with.
“Oh phooey,” I thought. “Well, OK, let's see what this is all about.”
Lying in that hospital bed with an IV drip of high powered anti-biotics, I slipped easily into a meditative state. Closing my eyes, I allowed my energy and consciousness to align with a higher vibration.
Almost immediately I went into a deeply altered state. I stepped into another reality and...
I found myself sitting in front of a wall.
Let me explain. I clearly recognized the wall because it is a place that I’ve spent many years in front of. That's my wall. I built it myself over lifetimes. I sit there, seeing myself "sitting before it" while in contemplation and meditation. I'm fully there, but other "Mes" from other times are also sitting there. I can see them if I look; I usually don't.
It's a long wall and quite high. There are many blocks made of a gray, sparkly stone with only tiny spaces in between them.
I understand that this "wall" is a metaphor for a place that every Soul must eventually come to: somewhere to sit quietly and examine ourselves and all of the things we have "walled off" from ourselves.
Nasty, yucky things are behind that wall: things that we don't want to look at.
I come before this spiritual wall to sit and reflect. I sit with all of the other "Mes" that my Soul used to be.
And as we sit there, the years quietly pass; lifetimes pass.
As we sit there, we may start to see some little imperfections; maybe we think about painting our wall to make it look nicer. We might note the rough places and try to smooth them out. In general, we spend quite some time making our wall "prettier."
But as time goes on, we grow bored with this busy work, and perhaps a bit curious. Some days, some times, we wonder what is behind the wall.
Finally, we try to climb up, but it is high and we settle for trudging around it.
We look and look. We are shocked, no stunned.
Behind the wall that we have made so "nice" is a huge pile of trash and filth. The most disgusting things that you can imagine are back there. Everything is covered in a slime and grime, so we can't see much detail but we can make out some things that we recognize as one belonging to us.
We don't want to look at this after all. It is too upsetting. The thought of maybe "owning" that horrible pile of crap is much too painful to bear. How could we have accumulated so much. All of it can't be ours. It can't be all mine.
But the truth is, it IS all ours and it is mine.
We go back out in front of the wall and sit down again, trying to pretend that we never saw the filth and garbage. Maybe we are able to forget...for a while. But at some point, in some life, we have to go look again.
Slowly, ever so slowly, we begin to clean it up, piece by piece. All of the lives and the experiences that we have had are behind this wall. Sometimes the shock of seeing something we once loved - or hated - keeps us from looking at it again for a long time.
We find a lot of trash, but sometimes there are other things, once hidden by the dirt and filth but clean now and ready to be useful again.
Of course, we would like to believe that "our wall" has less garbage behind it than other peoples' walls! But I doubt it. We all have one of those walls, and we all try to hide our filth and trash from each others sight - and our own.
I have spent my life looking at my wall, then finally, behind it. Yes, I've hidden from what I saw for a while - but then I always had to look again. Now I slowly clean it up, surprised at times to find some strength and beauty under the trash.
I sit before my wall. I know that my body is in the hospital, very ill and in a deep state of meditation. But I also sit before my wall.
I sit there thinking about what I've found behind it and how far I still have to go to get it all cleared out. That's a lot of work left to do.
I suddenly feel very tired and very sick... how can I find the energy to get moving again? I might die in the hospital while I'm just sitting there in front of this dumb wall. How will I ever clear out what is lurking behind my wall? It's too much and I start to cry.
I hear a noise.
This is something new! In all the years that I have been doing this, I’ve never seen anyone near my wall before.
I turn around and see a vehicle coming, off to the left. A cloud of dust floats behind it. As it gets closer, I see a run-down looking pick-up truck: a 1960 Chevy step-side, painted a faded blue.
The truck stops before me and a man gets out. Surprised, I instantly recognize him as a spiritual Master that I have worked with a few times before. He glances around and then looks right at me and says, "I'm here to help with the job!"
He pulls out a ladder & a huge box. Pointing at the wall, he says, "Take the ladder, and put it there – then climb up, lean over, and drag out everything you can reach that directly relates to the relationships you are trying to let go of. As you find things, just put it all into the box."
I climb up, up, up... then dangling over the top of the wall, I start pulling stuff out. Somehow I knew what to grab and what to leave. I started putting it all into the box.
With encouragement, I reached into the pile of past life issues and disappointments that were sitting there, just barely within my reach.
I cried as I picked up each piece of grimy trash, examining each carefully... remembering.
Remembering the good, the bad and the very, very sad. Truly we had hurt each other too many times and there was now too much water under the bridge... rushing through so fast that it was eroding it.
Hey, wait... I could hear singing... what was that. It sounds familiar...
"Can't get it outta my head... no I can't get it out of my head...
Midnight on the waterI saw the ocean's daughterWalking on a wave, she cameStaring as she called my name
And I can't get it out of my headNo, I can't get it out of my headNow my old world is gone for dead'Cause I can't get it out of my head...
And I can't get it out of my head
Bank job in the cityRobin Hood and William Tell and Ivanhoe and LancelotThey don't envy me, yeahSitting 'til the sun goes downIn dreams, the world keeps going 'round and 'round
And I can't get it out of my headNo, I can't get it out of my headNow my old world is gone for dead'Cause I can't get it out of my head, no, no
Oh, I can't get it out of my headNo, I can't get it out of my headNow my old world is gone for dead'Cause I can't get it out of my head, no, no, no, no
The music just kept going on and on... as I gently placed each item in the box I never knew how heavy sadness, disappointment and guilt really were. Not to mention fear...my fear was like lead behind that wall. It took everything I had to pull it up and out and it hurt.
I slowly, slowly started to feel lighter. Eventually I became more detached as I got the painful things out of my head, out of my heart... the music was fading away...
Finally, after a long time, I couldn't reach anything more behind the wall. I was done for the time being. I climbed down and the Master came closer.
"You forgot something", he said as he wiped the tears from my dusty face with a clean handkerchief.
"Put some more of your sorrow, your disappointment and your feelings of betrayal into the box too."
Those were somehow in a pocket that I didn't know I had. I pulled them out... and found that it was hard to let them go. They seemed so valuable in that moment. What would I do without them?
It was just an illusion; I could see that as he took them from my hands and carefully put them into the box.
He turned towards me again, and asked me if there were anything else that I wanted to let go of, before he left.
I thought about a few expectations and disappointments that I had regarding a group I belonged to. There were some "less than loving" actions a few members of the group had engaged in, with me as the focus. I figured that was what he was hinting at.
So back up the ladder I went. This time, my eye found only a few items. I tossed them into the box that never seemed to fill up.
Then, as I was about to climb down something caught my eye. There was something almost twinkling in the dirt; it was a small, blue toy airplane and it was very, very clean.
Turning to look at my teacher, I was about to ask him what this little plane was all about. But before I could open my mouth, he looked at me with a smile and winked. The little plane had wheels and a wind up mechanism. He took it from me, wound it up and set it down. It whizzed around us, making us both laugh. It couldn't fly, but it sure flew around us on it's tiny wheels. It almost seemed alive. Who knows, in that special place strange things can happen.
"Hey, Sherry, things may not always work out - and they might not "fly" like you want them to - but they can still work in other ways!"
“Wow”, I thought, “What a concept.”
That is true.
Sometimes I have expectations that aren't very realistic. If I can drop those expectations, sometimes the thing can still "fly" in a different way.
OK, not a perfect analogy, but I got the point.
When the little plane rolled to a stop, he picked it up and walked over to his truck. He climbed in, gave a little wave and drove off.
He took the box, but left me the ladder.
Now, the tears on my face were tears of gratitude.
Soon after this experience my fever broke, and my kidney infection quickly cleared up. The Docs were surprised, but since I was out of danger, they let me leave the hospital a couple of hours later. I recovered nicely.
Here's a strange one: in my bag of things the nurse gave to my friend who picked me up was a white handkerchief with what looked like teary scuff marks on it... I've never owned a white handkerchief, but I know someone who loaned me his and I still have it somewhere.
When I had that kidney infection, I was dealing with a failed relationship - actually more than one over the years. Even today, I still have things to let go of in that area of my life. I am not very good at it, but I am working on it.
The sadness does still come up sometimes, and I do my best to face how I feel. It's not comfortable, but I won't put any more of my garbage behind that wall and pretend it never existed. I deal with my residual pain as I feel it. I cope with the traumas that I've been through - and I keep going. I keep trying.
Writing about this experience once again reminds me that NOW is a good time to let go of some more of my old, worn out things that are still behind that wall.
We can't always work through everything that we had hoped to in a lifetime.
Not all relationships last though the rough patches; not all friends stay, even when they say they will never leave you. And sometimes it's been me who couldn't stay. We all hurt. We all have walls that we try to hide things behind.
This is life. It's sure not perfect and it's often really painful. But it's what we have. I make the best of mine, as best I can.
The bad times do not erase the good times I've had with the people I love. Yes, I still love them, even though I will never see them again, in this life.
I cherish those memories and I don't need to get them out of my head.
If I only focus on what I have lost, I can't see what I've gained, or see what I still have.
I still have a lot. It's with gratitude that I can acknowledge how lucky I am. I still have a treasure chest full of blessings.
It's late at night now - actually very early in the morning. I'm tired and sore. But in a short while I will go lay down and close my eyes. I'll open my consciousness to another realm, and I will "wake up" in another place and time, in front of a large stone wall that I know so well.
I will climb up that old ladder again. I'll reach over the top of my wall, and grab some more of the trash; the trash that I put there - hid there.
I'll find more regrets, more guilt, more sadness, and yes, more feelings of betrayal, real or imagined. Up and out will come some self-pity... and some self-importance. I grab as much as I can reach and toss them away. I'll simply let it all go, and watch as they dissolve on the way down.
As I do this, I will be remembering that my life can really "fly" now, without that extra weight.
In fact, I might even be able to soar!
Hey... it works for me - it really does! ;-D
>>>>My thanks to ELO for the lyrics I kept hearing from "Can't Get It Out Of My Head"
>>>>And thanks to those of you who stuck with this story to long enough to read about one of my spiritual experiences.
Real life can be more interesting than fiction: all of my stories, spoken or written, are true experiences that I've had.