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Love and Light

Are maybe not what we thought they were

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

I grew up in the Trance scene in South Africa. The one where everybody signs off their emails and social media posts with “Love and Light.” What a load of rubbish, although it was fun. I’ll give it that. But then I got sober.

I was introduced to the spiritual principle of honesty early on in recovery and I took to it immediately. But… little did I know how often we lie to ourselves, and to each other, because of fear and the inevitable denial because of said fear.

I thought I was being honest. I got real about my shit and I tried to change the things that didn’t work for me and those close to me. I even progressed a little.

What I never did, was get honest enough to see the reality of my situation and the things that I really needed to see, and change, to fully recover. Instead, I learned to be overly accountable for other people’s stuff, to be “clever” enough to use spirituality to bypass what I actually needed to acknowledge, and to practice compassion with a “Love and Light” approach that did nothing more than hold me captive for many years.

My “spirituality” and my ignorantly Western appropriation of the principles of “detachment” and “compassion” kept me trapped for years.

I began my spiritual practice, with an amalgamation of bits and pieces of a variety of spiritual practices many years ago. This, after reading “The Celestine Prophecy” in my twenties and developing an ongoing interest in the universal and “oneness” of it all. I talked to anybody who practiced anything remotely spiritual on my journey, to try and understand more, but I was always personally curious about Buddhism.

My Gran was half-Chinese and my agnostic/atheist home (s) wre filled with Buddhas. My gran’s personal wisdom on life, naturally, often shared the same approach and principles because she was raised in Shanghai. Buddhism has always been familiar.

I met a Buddhist monk along the path

I went to a Buddhist meditation one afternoon, around a year into sobriety, and began to attend classes once a week to learn more. I was fortunate enough to, often, be the only person who pitched up and I had the opportunity to question this teacher more deeply about the Eight Fold Path.

This was around five years ago.

I had ended up practicing this particular way of walking in the world, almost accidentally, before I even knew that I was doing it.

This came to light more fully when I, finally, got to attend a Vipassana Course recently.

Although the course specifically states that the meditation practice is secular, there were many references to the Eight Fold Path during the lectures. I found myself nodding along, in agreement with the principles and practices shared, smiling and feeling at “home.” I also questioned the course teacher about the meditation’s connection with The Eight Fold path, but she refused to say more than, “You don’t need to know that. Just practice the meditation.”

This very wise suggestion pretty much encompasses everything a person really needs to know about becoming “enlightened”, but I didn’t “get it” and kept searching for more intellectual understanding.

The second time that I went to the Vipassana Centre, then for a work period, an international teacher facilitated the “sittings.” I was able to dig a little deeper that time, and he confirmed that the mediation technique being shared was indeed handed down from the teachings of the original Buddha… as The Path towards total liberation.

What appealed to me so very much about the suggestions, are that an individual is expected to walk The Path themselves, in their own way.

Although everybody will take a different route and have a variety of experiences, we will all get to the same destination through taking action to test the suggestions for ourselves, thereby integrating them experientially as “truth”.

But Vipassana

After practicing this technique for ongoing 5 weeks, I could already see the possibility of achieving said “enlightenment” for realsies. The practice is that profound.

I went to the Vipassana course because I too, had been living in the “Love and Light” realm of “spirituality,” until a massive curtain of denial (that was largely woven with chronic naivety), was torn away.

Due to a really difficult situation that unfolded unexpectedly, I was forced to step outside of every box that I had chosen due to other people’s expectations and society’s dictates of acceptable and cool.

At last.

I finally had to “walk” my “truth.”

It was by doing this, that I finally began to see “truth” more clearly, as the responses of my environment (and myself) became vividly apparent. No more smooth words or dishonest smiley emojis. Actions spoke far, far louder than words.

It was pretty traumatic though, because it all happened really fast!

I knew that Vipassana would help me to integrate the learning.

And it did. Really fast!

Here’s the thing…

True Love and Light

Love is based on truth.

Real love. You can’t avoid this. If there is no real truth then you’re not really connecting, sharing or experiencing any “present moment”. With anyone. Nor with yourself. You are not sharing your true “Self” with anyone. Nor with your “Self”.

It then follows, rationally, that they aren’t able to really love you. And vice-versa, of course.

Light is also based on truth.

Only when the darkness and shadows have been illuminated is there “light”. You can’t only see the “positive” things in life, yourself and other people and call it “light”, because any light shone on to anything creates shadow. Complete “light” is only possible when the “negative/darkness” is seen as well. Both the “good and the “ bad”.

If one can sit with absolute “truth” ie. everything as it is, without trynig to avoid it, or trying to “cling” to one part of the whole experience. If one can sit with everything as it is and accept it in full. The truth about oneself. The truth about others. The truth of any given situation. The world. The universe. And god, I suppose (small g intended).

If one can sit with this until all fear is lost. Until such time as there is no avoidance, or desire for only one part of the experience. Learn to do this and see things in full, with clarity and equanimity. And, finally, with total acceptance of it all. This is where true liberation lies.

Because no more fear = no more “aversion” and/or “craving”.

But… it really is only through action that it “works”, and any progress is made.

Practicing compassion

My “compassion” also kept me in the dark for years.

“Love and Light” also doesn’t mean accepting bad behaviour. Compassion insists we step up to fight when it is necessary.

I asked my Buddhist teacher about this concept over and over again. To try and explain the practice of compassion so that I could understand it fully.

He would say that we were to meditate and to wish for ALL beings to be happy. For ALL beings to be loved and at peace. For all beings to be liberated.

And then he would add, inevitably, that this doesn’t mean letting people walk all over you, or ignoring other people being walked all over. In fact, the polar opposite is taught. Working towards “enlightenment” mean’s be are spiritually “bound” to take relevant action. It is the outcome of the action that we’re supposed to practice non-attachment to. Not action itself!

If we avoid, enable and even encourage behaviour that is directly in contrast with natural/spiritual “laws”, we not only prevent our own learning and growth, we prevent other’s learning and growth because none of us are actually walking the walk.

Yet still, I could not understand how to balance compassion or to actually put it into action. Not for a long, long time.

What are the resoundingly similar “laws” in almost every great spiritual practice?

  1. harm none
  2. honesty and truth

Do share more if they come to mind.

Spiritual bypassing slows things down

I was severely codependent once-upon-a-time.

You can replace the term Codependence, with “People pleaser”, but it doesn’t really explain how destructive the behaviour is on a personal level.

Codependence is not a joined at the hip with your intimate partner thing, which is the general misconception.

Codependence is a brutally insidious and self-destructive trauma response (specifically the “fawn” response) and it was responsible for every major “rock bottom” in my life. It made me less than I could be. It made me sabotage my own happiness and success repeatedly. And it almost killed me a few times with the so called “mental illness” that became as result of it.

It was only when a really toxic person in my life went full throttle for somebody that I loved, that I finally stood up and said an authentic, “No more!”

See there? The codependence, inadvertently, saved me in the end.

This person had been hurting me for many, many years. But “Love and Light,” right? So I had tried to be the bigger person and had kept on walking through the shit storm.

Struggling and exhausted, but peacefully keeping the peace. Suffering in silence, because I thought I was practicing some kind of spirituality. But when somebody I loved was getting hurt, it kicked me into fuckin’ warrior mode, because my entire existence was built on trying to please and rescue other people.

When I was finally put into a position of having to say an authentic no to everything that wasn’t “me”… the real learning began, because I had started to walk it.

More “enlightenment”

Now more years on, in the thick of the meditation course, a lecture on the spiritual practice of compassion crops up.

Again… I‘m being told if I choose to walk this path, I’m obligated to take action if I’m attacked or see someone else/another creature being hurt.

I finally understand.

Shameless self promotion.

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Nope. I we can’t achieve “enlightenment” by avoiding the darkness and the shadows and only focusing on the fun and safe bits.

It’s just not possible.

Taking psychedelics twice a year and throwing a bit of DMT into your joint is not going to get you any closer to real enlightenment, by the way. Nor will Aya ceremonies if you aren’t prepared to get a bit dirty and dance around the fire (or preferably walk through it) with the “darker” gritty stuff as well.

You want a really hardcore, psychedelic experience?

Get honest, get sober and sit with yourself without any other distraction or form of “validation” for as long as you can. And then do it some more.

Thanks for your reading time

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