What Lies Below: America and The Great Dissolvent
When I sit in meditation, I fall into a stillness that is a wide, expanded, infinite space. My awareness falls down, underneath the the rushing tumult of the mind and its thoughts. As I fall, I look back and see the underside of these thoughts, a rushing current on the surface of what I call Myself. When I detach from the thoughts, when I just observe them but don’t react, I fall beneath them, where it’s quiet.
Further I drop, and now the body feels porous. My breath moves beyond the edges of my skin and any pain or sensation detaches from my identity, and I just observe. I fall beneath sensation. Now I am in stillness, and I just receive. I just observe. I see how emotions rise and fall. Hatred, anger, shame, fear. I see them tense the body, I see them sicken and churn, tighten and wrack and ache, and then they pass through. When they leave, I am again left with peace.
The funny thing about this space is that when I am here, underneath thought, underneath attachment, underneath what I call the ego, what I call Clementine, what I call the self or “I,” then I no longer identify with these emotions. I can invite them fully in, and as I rest in this neutrality, I see them rise, pass through, and dissolve. It is as if all they want is recognition, all they want is to be seen and felt, and when I just let them be and don’t grab on, they pass away.
This week, sitting in meditation, I have seen a lot of fear pass through. It rises and my breathing becomes shallow. I feel a clutching in my chest, a sinking through my torso that I call nausea, a sick and pervasive ache that threatens to pull me out of this neutral, expansive place of peace. I just sit still. I don’t react. I just invite the feelings in. By not reacting, I can handle every bit of unpleasant sensation. When I am in the ego, when I am attached to the Clementine self, I think there is no way I will survive feeling the depth of this pain, of this fear. I think I could die from grief, die from terror or be overwhelmed with anger. But here, in this spacious awareness, there is no death. There is nothing to die. This place is infinite. This place is God.
I call it Love. This is love the energy, not the emotion. I guess it is dangerous to call it love because we have so much attachment to that word, but I have no other way to name this energy, the one that animates reality. This is the energy that holds the planets together, that holds the molecules and atoms together, the energy that has created this Clementine who walks the planet and worries and fears. All emotions rise and fall in this energy, and it lies infinitely underneath. All truth lies in this energy. It is stillness. It is compassion. It is peace.
The day after the Presidential election, I had a vision of America. I saw a big lake, stretching from coast to coast. Objects had risen to the surface, and it was thick with all of these oily, heavy things. Hate, fear, and all the “isms” that manifest from these emotions. As I observed this rising, the first thing that passed through me was a deep, choking despair. It cut off my oxygen and contorted my limbs and veins in pain. I tried not to get attached to the sensations, to identify with them. I just observed. And after a while, the feeling started to dissolve. As I just invited the despair in and just observed it, I saw it begin to fade. Suddenly, what passed through was a surprising wave of relief, of lightness. Good, I thought, there it all is. All of those things that have been lying deep the whole time, all the things hidden in the mud and the leaves, stuck to the bottom. Good, I thought, there it all is, in plain view. Good, I thought, finally do I see.
I saw a big sieve, and I swiped it across the surface of the lake, lifting away the heavy, dark matter to reveal clear water below.
Because of circumstances it is not for me to know, I was born into this life as Clementine, privileged to intellectualize my aversion to injustice, but from day to day privileged to live a life in which these deep problems rarely touched me. Because of my time and place and luck to be born with progressive parents and society, because of my education and complexion, I have heard and seen injustice but never really understood how deep, how pervasive. Now, I cannot avoid seeing. Now those deep emotions and energies, racism, sexism, classism, all of that deep oily and heavy energy that has been lying on the bottom of my society has risen up. I cannot help but see.
First, I feel embarrassed and shocked, the shock of someone who was blind to what seems now to have always been in plain view. I feel humiliated by my ignorance. That humiliation, like all others, dissipates, and then I am grateful, grateful that finally, knowledge too has risen to the surface. I cannot unsee. Let me invite in this knowledge. Let me see it all clearly, every bit of injustice, so that I can now find a way to fight.
How to fight. If I live in the ego and identify with fear and anger, then I fight with the same energy as that which I am fighting against. If I separate myself from those who are different, then I strengthen separation. If I debase, defame, lash out, then I don’t remove any of it, but just keep the surface thick and churning.
But if I fall beneath these emotions and reactions, if I fall into that spacious consciousness below these feelings of fear and anger where there is no ego attached, then I fight in truth. Then I meet those emotions with peace, with stillness, with courage and with compassion. In this place, hatred dies. Love is the great dissolvent.
I am thankful for so much, for the time and place and station this Clementine person was born into. And now, I am thankful for the opportunity to fight for truth. I am thankful that my ignorance has been illuminated and I am thankful that my ability to fall into love is so deep. I feel called to walk the Earth for the rest of my life with that big sieve, my eyes wide open, sweeping away injustice, hatred, pain, separation, in any way I can be of use. Please, let me be called to be of use.
I have seen the still blue water of peace. I have seen the depth of possibility. I have seen water so clear that the bottom seems just an arms-length away, mossy green and singing the soft click of rocks breathed by current. I have seen the cool water of possibility at the depths of humanity. Compassion is infinite. Love is the answer.