Out of the Woods
Mindfulness has become a global trend.
Cultivating “the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment… the energy that helps us recognize the conditions of happiness that are already present in our lives,” as Thich Nhat Hanh has defined it, seems to promise an enlightenment for a modern age .
The simplicity of its message has enabled the approach to take root not just in sangas and yoga practices, but also in schools, corporations, and even governments. In these contexts, mindfulness is sometimes used as another device for encouraging productivity; yet, there is a beauty in its ability to generally create more presence in society.
Awareness is, after all, the medium of realization.
Mindfulness is often presented as the cultivation of a state of being, rather than a state of action, however. In that sense, it functions like one half of an equation. Mindfulness practitioners may encourage a state of awareness and equanimity, but they don’t necessarily prescribe a means to directly transcend negative patterns or transform a society. Their approach often focuses primarily on going into the self.
A mystic, on the other hand, looks outward to look inward, seeing the external world as an extension of her being. She may use mindfulness not merely to be aware of her emotions and current state of being, but also to be aware of how she can transform her surroundings. She lives in a state of action, using information from her environment to change herself by acting in the world, beyond meditation and yoga.
Action is meditation for a mystic. The eyes are mainly open. There is no separation between what is within and what is without.
Life becomes a path not of withdrawal into contemplation, but of action through intuition and inspiration. If mindfulness is the art of inward contemplation, mysticism is its flipside: awareness leading to proactive transformation within and without.
In this practice, the heart becomes not only a barometer of one’s feelings, but also a guidance system for life. Emotions are the rudder of the ship; they become information about the state of one’s reality. Recognizing them and going more deeply into them allows a mystic to transform herself by taking action to find the root cause and release a pattern that no longer serves her.
External challenges occur in flow and synchronicity to reveal the elements that need to be resolved within. Understanding and resolving them allows the mystic to slowly face her shadow fully; once she has integrated it completely, she comes to sit under the sun at noon as her shadow is no more.
Should she instead flee from those emotions and cues, it would be like setting sail without a rudder, and being continually subjected to the currents and waves of subconscious reactions, with a sense of powerlessness.
Yet after delving into her shadow and shedding light upon it, by having the humility to accept and transform whatever misgivings come to light, a mystic will slowly, step by step, come into a new reality, one where she gains more ability to manage her experience through intention. As she transcends her own fears, she comes into a new state of being and shifts her entire reality out of fear, ego, and delusion.
As the state of unconscious reaction recedes, the consciousness of a mystic grows, allowing her to know herself not as an individual drop of water but as part of a boundless ocean.
Thus the path of mysticism becomes a way to connect with the divine — within. As a mystic comes into deeper clarity and broader consciousness, life falls more and more into flow. This is what it means to be a part of an ocean: elements in one’s day occur in synchronicity with realizations and thoughts.
As this happens, pursuing comfort or contentment is no longer interesting — life becomes about journeying into the unknown. To become a manifestor, a mystic learns to abandon all expectations and allow life to defy limitations as she goes into uncharted waters.
This is how mystics play within a living system. Through the challenging experiences of everyday life, they reinvent themselves constantly to come into a deeper state of flow and creativity. They aspire not merely to the state of mindfulness as a single actor, but to a multidimensional oceanic awareness.
This is how life then becomes a school of love rather than fear, where the depths of creativity and joy are relished in the context of having experienced their opposites. [And although we have used the feminine here, the Sacred lies within both genders].
The following poem, from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet, describes in its depth and subtleties the sacred path of involution that leads towards the sacred path of light.
Then said Almitra, speak to us of Love.
And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them.
And with a great voice, he said:
When Love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings unfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as a north wind lays waste to the garden.
For even as Love crowns you, so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth, so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn, he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart,
And in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.
But if in your fear, you would seek only Love’s peace and Love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
into the seasonless world, where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself, and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
When you love, you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course of Love, for Love, if it finds you worthy, directs you course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return at eventide with gratitude;
To sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of grace upon your lips.
— Khalil Gibran, The Prophet
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