In the Spirit of Halloween, let’s unmask our demons.
One of the forms of celebration associated with the ancient holiday of Halloween is divination. The ritual of divination is connected with a primal instinct, as everyone of the world's major religions are vehicles meant to bring about the realization of divinity. This ritual manifest in a great many ways, and in honor of Halloween I would like to take a moment and explore the divination of our dark side that Halloween emphasizes.
Before we can experience our shadow side we have to be willing to step outside of the box, that is, into the unknown. We have to be willing to put away the night lights and bed time stories the ego uses to keep the demons in the closet. In short, we have to be willing to go beyond the formed mind that has an answer for everything before it even happens and step into a world that has no questions.
Beyond the institutions of a self-centered mind rests the realm of pure experience. If what we think about experience is transcended, and pure experience is touched, we discover the most powerful teacher imaginable, Truth. This is the Tantric approach to meditation in the Buddhist tradition: awaken to the living quality of meditation right here—right now. Therefore, a great deal of these practices are concerned with daily life and not necessarily relegated to formal meditation sessions. It is not a method caught up in time & effort, but is concerned with instantaneous awakening. The aim is to see through the formed mind and tap into the reservoir of enlightened energy that is our inheritance as human beings. This tapping into happens here and now—not tomorrow or after a certain amount of time and effort have been invested. From this point of view, wherever we are is where the path begins, and sometimes we find ourselves in the midst of pain and suffering. This is where I would like to begin. In the spirit of Halloween let us unmask these demons so that we may discover the clarity and intelligence that underlies even the most uncomfortable dimension of the human experience, “the negative emotions.”
If we look beyond our commentary on these emotions we can see the gospel they are pointing at. However, we have to be willing to let go of the words associated with these sensations because, such words are loaded and carry with them negative connotations. These words are the bed-time stories and night-lights the ego uses to keep the monsters under the bed. When we label them “negative” we reject them prior to investigation. We have no idea what these emotions have to say, because we have never listened to them. Embracing them doesn't mean acting out, but getting to know them in the same way that we come to know the snow by lying down in it or a piece of cake by eating it—intimately and directly. So, when I use the words anger, envy, depression, fear, pride, etc. I am referring simply to the fact or sensation and not to what we think about these sensations.
The first thing made evident by looking at the sensation itself is the fact that it demands our complete attention. We do not experience anger or fear, and then go about doing whatever we were doing. They take front and center stage when they arise. Never mind all the commentary and negative gossip, just looking at the facts it is evident that they demand our undivided attention. These sensations are sharp, precise, and often overwhelming—they are not to be ignored! So, they are not asking for back stories, commentary, explanations about the situation, or even solutions; they are simply requesting complete and total attention. This insight is made tangible when we share with a friend or loved one a difficult situation we are dealing with; we do not want them to fix it or solve our problem, but to listen—we want their undivided attention.
The natural consequence of giving these sensations our undivided attention is the death of “me”. When “I” genuinely settles into “anger” it is discovered that I and anger are not two separate things, but one in the same—I am anger. When we get caught up in the words and labels anger becomes some thing apart from me, some thing that I is doing, usually expressed as, "I am angry." This perspective enables us to keep these monsters at a safe distance so that we can continue to sleep. It validates our belief in a solid/separate self. This distinction is important; one is dualistic and facilitates blame and aggression, while the other is spiritual or singular and is awakening. In spiritual experience, anger is not being condemned as negative or praised as good, but simply accepted as natural since it is clearly a fact—the truth of the present moment is I and anger are one.
Language produces praise & condemnation—a sense of division—while simple awareness reveals the texture of the present moment. So, in undivided attention all traces of “me” dissolve, along with all the oppressive labels imputed upon "other", in this case anger, fear, envy, etc.
At this point, transmutation takes place. The details revolving around our difficult situation do not even have to change; rather the Truth of this very situation is revealed to be free of fixed characteristics. Energy is neither destroyed nor created, it is simply realized! This is the process of transmutation. When I was a child I use to watch Unsolved Mysteries, and then head off to bed. I would often lie in bed overwhelmed with fear, because the nature of the mysteries were that they were unsolved. Furthermore, I had a security light just outside my window. Its light would shine onto a tree, which was also strategically located just outside of my window. This was a recipe for disaster. I would stare at the shadow it created on my window blinds, and obsessive over whether or not this shadow figure was the culprit behind the mystery that was in fact unsolved! Then one day I called my dad in and told him about it. He opened the blinds and showed me it was only a tree. Fear gone! Nothing had to change; I only had to see. That is the nature of insight.
These “negative” emotions were never negative, they are misunderstood facts. Upon seeing them as they are and not as we would have them be, it is discovered that they are not some evil thing to be destroyed. It is like getting out of the bed, and peeking into the closet to see that it is empty. The observation of confusion is insight.
They demand our undivided attention, because we are ignore-ant. These emotions are like a type of psycho-physiological alarm system that goes off when we begin to operate under the premises of a false assumption. All they demand is undivided attention, which seems to indicate that the “problem” or the event which triggered them was ignore-ance or divided attention. They are pointing at the confusion that gives rise to and sustains the belief that life is some thing that exists apart from us. They remind us that we are not solid-separate ego's charged with the task of dominating our environment, and simply listening to them returns us to the world of infinite possibilities that is the totality of the present moment. They are a function of primary intelligence.
Furthermore, when undivided attention is given to them the alarm is silenced, which reinforces the claim that all they wanted was for us to wake up to the fact that we were asleep! When we settle into our own dishonesty or fraudulence (our attempts to be something we are not), we are immediately revealed to be genuine or honest; a liar cannot call himself a liar, because to do so is a truthful. We cannot be genuinely fake, because the moment we accept that we are phony we awaken to sincerity! When perfectionist ideals dissolve, and we allow ourselves the space to be who and what we are in this moment all traces of aggression are transformed into Love—an open and gracious state of mind, that is free of the unrealistic expectations imposed upon ourselves and others by the ego. This state of mind called Love is then pressed out or the same openness is extended to others, which is called compassion. When we realize all of the envious intentions that motivate us, we immediately become aware of a wealth of energy and an organic sort of gratitude begins to emerge—envy is transmuted into contentment. Spiritual Progress is a myth, but accepting life as it is, in-&-of itself, instantaneous liberation!
Everything that human beings do is fundamentally connected with basic intelligence, because that is the basic nature of the human condition.. Even in the midst of our confusion we never completely forget our natural orientation toward happiness, which is our primal resting place. So this Halloween I hope that as we put on our masks and costumes that represent all of the dark creations of our imagination we will remember that it is a creative intelligence which underlies all of these costumes, and the free expression of this creative energy occurs naturally when it is embraced in it's totality, which includes our shadow!