I’ve been feeling out of sorts for a week or two–unmotivated to pray or read in the evenings. I just want to disappear and indulge in things that make me feel good. I feel this way whenever uncomfortable stuff gets brought into the light, and I don’t want to grieve a loss or accept a reality I can’t change.
When I got good and sick of Netflix and trying to beat the droid at Scrabble, I picked up where I left off in Anthony de Mello’s Awareness. This story stood out to me.
Someone gave me two situations in which she found it difficult to be aware. She was in a service industry where many people were lined up, many phones were ringing, and she was alone and there were distractions coming from a lot of uptight, angry people. She found it extremely difficult to maintain serenity and calm. The other situation was when she was driving in traffic, with horns blowing and people shouting four-letter words. She asked me whether eventually that nervousness would dissipate and she could remain at peace.
Do you pick up the attachment there? Peace. Her attachment to peace and calm. She was saying, “Unless I’m peaceful, I won’t be happy.” Did it ever occur to you that you could be happy in tension? Before enlightenment I used to be depressed; after enlightenment, I continue to be depressed. You don’t make a goal out of relaxation and sensitivity. Have you ever heard of people who get tense trying to relax? If one is tense, one simply observes one’s tension. You will never understand yourself if you seek to change yourself. The harder you try to change yourself, the worse it gets. You are called upon to be aware. Get the feel of that jangling telephone; get the feel of jarred nerves; get the sensation of the steering wheel in the car. In other words, come to reality, and let tension or the calmness take care of itself. As a matter of fact, you will have to let them take care of themselves because you’ll be too preoccupied with getting in touch with reality. Step by step, let whatever happens happen. Real change will come when it is brought about, not by your ego, but by reality. Awareness releases reality to change you.
I could relate to this woman. The only difference was that the noise was not external but internal. Although I know I’m attached to my feel good go-tos, de Mello’s words exposed a deeper attachment: Unless I feel good, I won’t be happy.
What would it be like to get the feel of my jangling thoughts, the jarring reflections of myself in the mirror, the sensation of boredom? That sounds like a ridiculous question. It would feel awful. Who wants to feel that?
But even more ridiculous is the thought that I can choose not to have those feelings. Whether I want to feel them or not, those feelings are there. My only choice is to observe them or suppress them—live aware or unaware. Or to use biblical language: choose light or darkness. Jesus said people choose darkness to commit evil deeds. De Mello explains we only sin when we are unaware. Suppressing reality comes at a cost and we’re not the only ones who pay it.
Let your suffering end your suffering, says de Mello. Suffering reveals an attachment and an attachment observed loses its power.
These words give me the courage to sit with God and look again at what has caused me to feel out of sorts. What suffering does Love want to end?
Jesus said, “I have come as light into the world so that everyone
who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.”
–John 12:46 (NRSV)
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Today I’d like to feature the love mischief of a tree. The tree I am looking at is very tall. It isn’t particularly pretty and isn’t that useful to me right now in the cool of the morning. It just stands there and grows–very slowly. Today it will provide shade for those seeking a break from the sun and rest for birds. It will be greatly appreciated one moment and overlooked the next, yet neither state changes its essence. It is completely powerless to stop anyone or any event from harming it or destroying it. It just stands there revealing God’s presence to those who will receive it.