Friday, April 1, 2016

Growing the lotus

In darkness is fertile power; the mystery, the great unknown.
In light is the clarity and vision that come from having the courage to embrace the dark.

Diane Mariechild

I've been getting some interesting feedback about Wednesday's blog, "Miles Drentell, Don Draper, and the Insatiable Dragon", and not all of it has been from folks who've read it.  Writing it was a catharsis of sorts, but in the end, my conscious has been nudging me through vivid dreams and long-lost memories to realize that there's more to the story.  I've lived more than half a decade since those events happened and I have to once again remind myself that none of it is happening now.
Yesterday I was reading Thich Nhat Hanh's book, No Mud, No Lotus, which describes the art of transforming suffering into happiness.  He explains that without experiencing sorrow, how would we know what it means to be joyful? To be human is to endure a whole range of emotions and experiences.  There are those who say that suffering is simply wanting our circumstances to be different than they are.  While there's some truth in that, even when I fully accept my life as it is, I'm not always feeling grateful for the lessons I'm learning or overjoyed that I once again need to slog through the mire of anxiety, anger, or antipathy. 
It's not that we should always try to circumvent suffering as that's not possible; in the end, the avoidance always causes more grief.   It's that we need to learn how to accept our pain more fully, to acknowledge it exists and thereby bring it more fully to light.  I've discovered through writing Open Road, through meditation and reflection, that compassion for others and myself is the only way through the most painful periods in my life.  Only then can our sorrow be the dark mud of sustenance that will eventually grow the lotus of our illumination.
A recent study reveals that highly sensitive women and those with INFJ personalities often attract narcissistic men, for they are compassionate, overly intuitive, and seek to help others heal.  I fall into both categories, and yet as the years pass by, it's a joy to know I can both feel compassion for the person who's challenging me and still know how to maintain healthy boundaries.   In truth, I don't imagine the relationships would have been so awful had we both not been suffering in some way. 
When I look more deeply into the events of my past, I am reconciled with the truth that my father and David and Raji all were in pain as well, even though it was masked by their cruel behavior toward me.  That's not an excuse, but it is the underlying origin, and recognizing that is my first step toward forgiveness.  It doesn't mean I set myself up for more of the same.  It doesn't mean that what they chose to do didn't have a profound affect on me.  It simply means I will no longer drag around the experiences like a passel of albatross which will only drown me in more sorrow.  In freeing them from my bitterness, I also free myself to more fully embody that which I believe:  we're all here to learn and to teach, and the most profound lessons often come in the form of the most difficult adversaries.   
So here's the last section from a chapter in my memoir entitled "One", which reveals perhaps the greatest lesson I learn every breathe into and through each moment is to bring all things from darkness into light.

 A week later, I left Big Sur, all the more willing to return.  Willing to see if California held seeds of more growth, a place to finally call home.  Willing to try once again.  In surviving the worst hell of my life, I had found the hidden seeds of heaven.  And I did go back to Esalen, but in returning, I knew that my lessons with Raji were complete.  Still, it has taken years for me to realize that what damned me the most wasn't his abusive nature.  It was my own self-inflicted shame that was unhealthy and debasing.  It was the breaking of all of my own self-imposed rules. 
Through being with Raji, I learned that it was my own need to be wanted that fueled that choice for me.  Not the sexual pull between us.  Not his looks or his charisma or his charms.  Raji was the first man who had wanted me and did something about it.  Unfortunately he only wanted me for the moment, and that was the source of my undoing.  I've since healed that space in my heart and I wonder when the slumbering Snow White within me will awaken yet another time.  When I will ever let myself love that way again.  
Even now, I'm infinitely sorry I got involved with Raji, but I have no regrets.  Still, the line between my sorrow and regret is as thin as an onion skin and much more difficult to peel.  The tears I've shed over this single, naive choice have been countless...but not worthless.  The relationship I had with Raji and everything that came after was absolutely not worth the wait.
But it was infinitely worth the work. 
I will always be thankful for Raji's presence in my life.  For the opportunity he gave me to reclaim once more that which is mine.  That which is most humanly sacred.  That which is most humble...this great gift of my sensual self.
 Almost nine years have passed since that bittersweet time in my life, and it's a blessing to know that not one cell of my skin has touched Raji's.  He hasn't touched one hair that now grows on my head.  Every single cell in my body that was present at that moment has been recreated and all that's left are my memories.
I have faced every day of my adult life one person. 
I am responsible for every choice I make. 
Everything I say. 
Every thought I have.
Now, when I think of Big Sur, I think of Raji and the compassion I still feel for him deep inside my heart.  I see myself standing outside that hut on the cliffs at Esalen.  I hear the ocean and the countless waves whispering to me, every one of them saying, "Let go...go on."     
Breath by breath...
One by one...
I do.

You can find No Mud No Lotus here on