Darkness and Light

After the election and now once again, following the inauguration of the new President, I’ve noticed a troubling shift in the collective emotional energy of my community. Probably you’ve noticed it also?  Many of my friends and clients are experiencing an increase in disturbing emotional symptoms, mainly depression, but also fear, anger, hopelessness, vulnerability, difficulty getting out of bed, to name a few.

The President and his Cabinet of horrors seem poised to turn off the lights at the very heart of our communities – our access to fair social policies and justice, strong regulations of corporate power protecting us from financial exploitation, chemical toxins, clean water, and a sustainable ecology. To top it off, the “Doomsday Clock”, established by the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the dawn of the nuclear age, could move closer to midnight tomorrow.  It’s already at 11:57 p.m.

Depression is real. It’s a deep mental-emotional-spiritual sickness which requires a multi-faceted healing approach.  Acupuncture helps but is not a cure by itself.  Depression is not something that one can snap their fingers at, or recite a few positive affirmations and make go away. Still, affirmations and acupuncture are powerful because they affect us at our spiritual core. In my late twenties, I went through my own dark night of the soul and read many books on affirmations, including, “You Can Heal Your Life”, by Louise Hay, and “Creative Visualization”, by Shakti Gawain.

The concept is simple in theory – practice positive thinking and it will enhance your life with greater hope, joy, compassion, and understanding.  Would you like to try?  Close your eyes, sit upright, relax your breathing and body, and slowly repeat “I am light”, “I am love”, ten times. Let the words sink down into your very core. Change and adapt the wording if you need to: “I am powerful”. “I am whole”. “I am beautiful”. “I am valuable”. “My life has great meaning”. “My healing powers are infinite”. The important point is to make the vibrations of your words and any accompanying visualizations sink down and resonate with the deepest layers of your subconscious mind. If there is a part of your mind saying, “this is silly”, or “this is stupid”, just notice that there is resistance, and set it aside, don’t feed it with further negative thoughts. Just say the words with an open mind. How do you feel?

Affirmations are powerful but they won’t stop marauding corporations from destroying the earth, or people with hearts of greed from exploiting, enslaving, and torturing others. They are a step in the right direction though. Before (or while) we heal the sickness of the world, we must heal the darkness within our own spirit – internal disarmament – as His Holiness the Dalai Lama refers to the process of inner purification.

Many people are confused by anger. Anger can be a powerful force for change, but it is ultimately self-destructive if it degenerates into an “us versus them” mentality. There is no such thing as “us and them”. “Us and them” is just a mental construct, a conceptual fabrication that arises out of dualistic thinking and fear. We are all one people, one life, clinging to this blue marble with its tiny pocket of air, water, and soil. We will either thrive or perish together.

When anger cleaves our heart, building emotional walls between our-self and others, we suffer, and end up inflicting suffering on others – turning the wheel of delusion, and the fighting is never-ending.  Fight the evil that dwells in another person’s heart, but send them love and compassion, for their mind is overcome by a deadly sickness.  Employ non-violent direct action to disrupt business as usual and raise awareness of the need to shift away from unsustainable and unethical practices and policies, but do so without feeding the demons – your own or that of others.

Cultivate mindfulness of feelings and emotions to see what demons lurk within.  These are the true destroyers of happiness and peace, not external events and situations.  Stories abound of great yogis who used their prison sentences and torture for inner transformation. One of my favorite stories is of an old Tibetan monk who reportedly said that his greatest fear while in prison was that he would lose compassion for his torturers.  This might seem an exceptional case and beyond our capability, but it is not.

We all are endowed with the same basic mind-nature – pure, like a stainless mirror. Therefore, we all have the same capacity for spiritual awakening – even animals and insects. This is the core truth of the vegan movement – respect for the inherent worth of other living beings. The only difference between an awakened sage and myself is that the sage has applied herself diligently over many lifetimes to purify the mind of all evil and I have yet to complete that path.  I acknowledge my own shortcomings, but remain confident in my potential. Diligence!

If we harbor resentment, anger, jealousy, pride, arrogance, greed and possessiveness, anxiety, fear, lack of confidence, or any of a range of other mental shadows – first just notice, without judgement. Cultivate antidotes. For example, when anger arises, remember love. For pride and arrogance, humility. For greed, non attachment. For desire, true seeing.

“The darkest moment is just before the dawn.” (unknown)

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