Tuesday, June 24, 2014

walt whitman's corpses

Today was the end of another part of my life. A piece of my ego that really wanted to believe a certain story about myself went out in a ball of flames. Very dramatic, painful, and, clearly, necessary.

I had believed for years that I was somehow more skillful ethically than many people, that I protected people and really thought of others first. That the traumas I had survived had taught me to not do anything similar to anyone else. That I was always so careful to not cause harm that somehow I was above the fray in that way. That I would never cause someone else undue worry.

So this weekend a situation arose in which my ego latched on to one of my deepest desires and shaped it into an attachment to a certain outcome that would support its concept of reality. A reality in which if the ego wants something in particular, and I am a 'good person,' then I should get the preferred outcome, or at least a gentle lesson and a promise that it might be fulfilled in the future.

But instead, at a certain point my heart and my brain stopped talking to each other, I forgot my true nature and even the other person involved for a short time, because I was amazed that a particular outcome seemed to be happening. I let myself stare into the thrall of the ego. The story became my single pointed focus. And when, a few minutes too late, my brain woke up and paused the drama going on to reassess the reality of the game being played, everything came crashing to a halt.

So, no, I am obviously not above making disastrous mistakes. No, I am not different than any other human. Yes, I can act so unskillfully that I create suffering for myself and possibly for others- depending on what story they believe about it. Yes, I still have voids in my system that my ego tries to fill by looking outside myself for validation, love, interest and approval. And no, I don't have a handle on my emotional reactions yet and tend to be so hard on myself that I make myself physically ill.

The end of illusions is cause for celebration. When shit hits the fan, those who intend to love you will try to figure out what to do next rather than bailing entirely. Your friends that truly know you will remind you who you are and forgive you if you can't forgive yourself yet, because they know who you are better than you do sometimes. To be truly compassionate to others, first you have to look inside yourself at your worst horrific parts, the things you never thought you'd forget to do, the things you never imagined would happen because of something you did, and the most terrifying things that you did imagine that finally did come true, and caused your world to end one more shattering time.

My good friend Drew reminded me of the poem below this weekend, which seems to articulate this trip's effect on me so far. Peeling away fears, anger, sadness and despair, all the stories I wish were true about myself, others, the world, all of the concepts I hold onto and the characters I have played and still want to play. Everything is falling away, or being ripped away... or I am lighting it on fire unintentionally after soaking it with gasoline... Letting go is so painful sometimes, and seeing my own fallibility mirrored back through someone I love's dark gaze of anger and disgust is mortifying.

I bid you welcome, my worst case scenario. This ego is yours to destroy, devour, disembowel.

But truly, this is my practice too. Seeing the truth of things, of people, of my small self. Watching the cycle of birth and death, even of concepts and dreams. Learning to act from my core and true Self, but still getting caught up in ego and attachment pathways instead. This is how we all create suffering. If I can't tolerate it in myself and learn from my own wrecked life, how can I understand others, and how can I pretend to practice compassion and more skillful behaviors?

It's time to see my stories for what they are. To see my expectations and the reactions and attachments that are fueling them. To watch my dreams, and my ego, and every character it comes up with, die.

O LIVING always—always dying!
O the burials of me, past and present!

O me, while I stride ahead, material, visible, imperious as ever!

O me, what I was for years, now dead, (I lament not—I am content;)

O to disengage myself from those corpses of me, which I turn and look at, where I cast them!
To pass on, (O living! always living!) and leave the corpses behind!

-walt whitman

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