Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Soul Wounds

There are some blows in life so hard...
                            I don't know!
Blows that seem to come from God's hatred;
                            as if before them,
the backwash of all suffering
were welling up in my soul...I don't know!

                            -- Cesar Vallejo

     If I love with radical openness from my soul, sometimes I will radically suffer. There's no way to avoid this. At least I've not found one. If the ultimate goal of the spiritual path is to attain a pure and constant state of utterly blissful detachment, exempt from "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," then I still have many lifetimes of learning to go.

      Yesterday I lost a beloved friend--suddenly, shockingly, irretrievably. And today I'm a walking wound. How can I escape from this terrible grief, which after all is only the opposite face of that once joyous love? It's the risk I had to take for opening my soul unconditionally to the beloved; it's the price I must pay now, now that that love has shattered beyond all mending.


There are crimes so bad
                       I can't find words,
wrongs too obscene to bear.
If you think I'm lying
we've got nothing to talk about--
you inhabit
              a different universe.

There's an inferno of hate
         the human mind
                       can't encompass--
like a flame thrower
                    incinerating a rose.
Nothing's left
              but ashes that scream.

At such times
                all love can do
seems less than zero.
      We gaze dumbstruck
                    on Medusa's face,
       scorching us to stone...


     Do you know what I mean? How can you not know--here and now in 2011--either by direct experience, or from what you've seen and heard about the suffering of others? What I understand of "enlightenment" is the choice, every single moment, to keep my soul wide open and profoundly awake to the incalculable winds of the whole universe. The corrolary must be immense courage--for I can never predict or control what those winds will bring. So my soul is also a cosmic window, and to remain alive and growing there, in my naked soul, means to accept that absolutely anything may potentially enter  and profoundly transform the innermost sanctum of my being.

             WHAT THE WIND SAID

We agreed to meet this hour so I'm here
wind, faithful to the promise. As are you,
gusting with biting urgency on my face.

Then let our palaver begin. But mostly I'll
listen, hoping to grasp what you're trying
to say. Thus far, this is what I understand:

Don't clutch at even the barest "certainty."
It blows away like shingles in a hurricane.
Everything's provisional, forever changing.

That's all. The rest is theme and variation.
Which still leaves me alone with my heart--
its loves and fears, its longing not to die.

Wind, I concede; you're older and wiser.
You prowled before the icecaps formed!
Spellbound shamans conjured your voice.

But I'm so small. The dark's so immense.
Isn't there an axiom I can hold and save,
some truth that doesn't always confound?

I'm the free quintessence of who you are--
the Spirit's breath transforming all things!
Surrender your crutches. Fly home to me.


        What I hear that Spirit's breath telling my soul is not "don't let everything in," but rather "don't try to hold on to one bit of it," because that's impossible anyway. As Heraclitus wrote: "Nothing is permanent in the world, except change." There are so many priceless moments my friend and I shared. They're enshrined in my heart forever. But I can't bring them back, because I can't bring her back. I can't even hold on to our love as a living, breathing, astonishing and immediate experience. All I can do is to be wholeheartedly grateful for what we once had, and to know that it's a part of me now, and has changed my life forever.

     We see clearly...that there is suffering in life, that the suffering is inherent in it, that the cause of it for us is our grasping or our identification. When we learn to be free in that way, nothing can touch us. We discover that there is a real liberation that is possible for every human being. We come to understand the teachings of the heart, and see that it is possible for the heart to open and to contain the entire universe.

                                   --- Jack Kornfield

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