Wednesday, April 21, 2010

To Be Human Is Divine

“If it is someone’s karma to suffer consider it your dharma to help him.” When I first heard that (paraphrased) message of one of my spiritual teachers, I thought, “Well that idea’s either a ticket to enlightenment or the next Codependents Anonymous meeting.”

When it comes to contemplating how and when I serve people, another quote—this one from Jung—brings me balance: “I’d rather be whole than good.” Ahhhh. Yes, the fresh air of acknowledging my humanity delicately greets my body and mind, and I deeply breathe it in.

I truly love to help people, but I do have my limits. I’m not sure if saying No to a person in need is going to get me kicked out of heaven, but it may keep me from losing my sanity.

Being whole is about acknowledging our myriad feelings and needs and not shaming any of them. Getting to know the different parts of ourselves is a long process; some people (especially Jungians) say it takes a lifetime. If our psyches are set to “Automatic Care-take," we’ll never know when we genuinely want to help someone or when we are just playing a role, i.e. “being good.” I’m not going to doubt the direction of an enlightened person who says that selfless service is the way to God, but I do think that that service needs to be authentic.

What is “being good” to you? And does it keep you from being whole?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Great Buzz Kill

My living space is full of photographs of divine emissaries: the Dalai Lama, Ammachi, Yogananda, Jesus, Babaji, Neem Karoli Baba, Mother Mary. I love the celestial buzz I get whenever I gaze at their jubilant faces. But a quote from Jung on my refrigerator keeps me from staying giddy on God for too long. “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,” my Jungian fridge proclaims, “but by making the darkness conscious.” What? You mean in order to get to those elevated states of awareness I so revere, I’ve gotta stop staring at my beloved spiritual teachers and start looking at myself? Yes, Jung says.

Well, shit.

I am as about as interested in excavating the dark corners of my psyche as the next person. However, I know Jung is right. Waking up is not a big game of Let's Pretend. If I want to heal, I need to be honest with myself about who I am. It would be wonderful if I could express unconditional love to everyone. However, pent up anger and hidden insecurities are part of who I am; they don't go away just because I and my cherished ideals want them to. In fact, avoiding them is the surest way to arrest my evolution. I adore my photos of the great saints because they remind me of what's possible. But, in the end, I know I'm not going to arrive at enlightenment's door with anyone's face other than my own.