In the last post, I quoted the following, “I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments” (From The Invitation, Oriah Mountain Dreamer). It can be scary, those empty moments. We can fill the day with all sorts of distractions, but it is often in the empty moments, like after sleeping or on awakening in the middle of the night, or in a walk by oneself, or while waiting, or at countless other moments, when a small voice inside almost like one’s conscience reminds us of that which troubles us. At the moment, for many, it is things around the threat from pandemic illness, but it might be something else. We might, despite all we know and all our best efforts, find ourselves descending into the familiar pit of our suffering. We might scramble to get out, but the sides keep falling in and there we are, stuck with our pain. That can be when one despairs.
These times come to test us. They can keep coming until we find a way to manage them. For some it can offer a way through to greater peace, but for others it just keeps coming. There can be many reasons. It might be our own personal process that we are working through but it might also be circumstances outside of us. In troubled times in the world we may also feel the pain of others and it can seem as if it is our own pain, when in fact we’re taking on others’ suffering. Now can be such a time.
Using awareness of suffering
This is where self awareness is important, to be able to enquire within as to what it’s about, and to be able to discriminate between our own pain and that of others.
I’ve suggested before that these “dark nights of the soul” can be very scary, but they can also be instructive. It can depend whether we are willing to embrace the situation and see it through to the important understanding that it can offer.
It is also be useful to be able to have ways to release ourselves from that which is troubling us, and each might find their own way to learn what the pain is about and how to release ourselves.
Understanding the mind
The Buddha said that Pain is certain. Suffering is optional. Humans suffer, unless or until they gain a mastery over it. Then they can be the observer of pain but not caught up in it. This is where understanding the mind is important.
Left to its own devices, the mind can take us all over the place. It’s very powerful. We can go to the heights of elation and the depths of despair. We can make up all sorts of things, about other people, ourselves, what’s going on. You name it. If we let it.
The mind is very creative. What we we think, we are. What we focus on, we draw to us. It’s the law of attraction, like a magnet. So, if you or I keep focusing on something, it’s more likely to happen. If we let it. Hence we have choice. It’s an option.
Use mindfulness to manage the mind
So, it’s important to stop. Use the skills of mindfulness
- So notice what you are paying attention to. Become mindful of it. Notice you are thinking a certain thing. Become aware of it.
- Step back from it. Put distance between the thought and you. This is where the will is important.
- Notice it, like you are now the observer of it. As we say, witness it. Be the witness of your ego at work, but not caught up in it.
You are not your thoughts. You, and I, are so much more than our thoughts, the “sweaty ego”.
When we step back and witness our thoughts, we have true power.
The other side of fear is love. That’s who we are, in whatever understanding you have of that.
When we step back and become the observer, we let can love in.
This is why these dark nights of the soul are so important, to know the space beyond suffering.
Then rest in the witness. Rest in the awareness that you are love.