Awakening is a tricky business. Pre-satori, I believed that if I could see clearly, all my problems would be solved and I’d live happily ever after. My hang-ups and fears would magically dissolve and I would be free. Ha!
It’s a little more complicated than that. To grow on the spiritual path you must become whole, which means embracing the darkness and re-integrating your shadow. I realised this and was diligently cleaning out my dark corners, but I didn’t know what was waiting for me in the darkness.
Living the Nightmare
Back in 2010 I was surfing a wave of creative inspiration that was bringing a lot of joy into my life. It was the year I started blogging, and began to write my first novel. I was practising gratitude, letting go of the past and opening to the life I believed my soul desired (and deserved). In a fit of excruciating and deluded madness, I said to the universe: “I’m ready for my highest good. Bring it on.”
You’ve probably guessed from the title of this post that what happened next wasn’t what I was expecting.
(Quick aside: you should NEVER say you’re ready for your highest good! You have no idea what you’re asking for or the price you’ll be asked to pay. You don’t know what your highest good is – it’s so far from your normal perception of reality, you have no frame of reference that can even comprehend it. That said, your Higher Self knows what it’s doing, so maybe it’s okay… Even so – be careful what you wish for!)
From that moment on, I was a marked woman. My number was up. The genie was out of the bottle. The toothpaste was out of the tube and smeared all over the bathroom mirror. I was about to be hit with a full-on Shadow Attack and an eruption from my subconscious of the darkest, soul-destroying demon: The Predator.
Nutshell version of the saga: I live in a block of flats and early in 2010 I got a new neighbour – let’s call him Ian. I was busy writing the first draft of Addled and my intention was to finish it before my 40th birthday (and I did, despite what follows). One night there was an explosion of urgent hammering on my front door followed by a torrent of abuse and death threats. I was so surprised I didn’t take it personally and just thought he was drunk and shouting at someone on his phone. (Goodness knows why I thought that – it’s amazing the stories you can concoct when you’re trying to rationalise something insane.)
A week later it happened again, only this time I could tell he was definitely shouting at me – ranting about how I’d not get out of here alive and that he’d do time for murder. There followed another two years of madness: more death threats and false allegations made against me for anti-social behaviour. It wasn’t just me – others in the block suffered too.
It was clear Ian had mental health problems. I tried to understand and be compassionate, and discovered how hard it is to put lofty spiritual aspirations into practise. I’d never had a proper ‘enemy’ before. Love is easy at a distance, but when the object of your supposed compassion is standing in front of you in all his dead-eyed menace… well, let’s just say I failed.
In the meantime I lost my job along with thousands of other public sector workers. By then my health had deteriorated and I was struggling with colitis and a collapsing immune system. My skin was breaking out in angry boils and eczema, and my hair was falling out. At one point, my neck and face were so raw it looked like my head had been boiled like a ham. I was seething with rage and jumping at the slightest noise. I felt like a caged animal.
Everything began to unravel. Anything that could go wrong, went wrong. The universe seemed to be opposed to my every thought and action. When I was positive and had faith that something would work out – it would go disastrously wrong. If I was fearful and convinced something would be a nightmare – it would resolve itself perfectly. I couldn’t think and I couldn’t not think. It got so bad that I was scared to switch on the oven in case it blew up in my face. My fears were like boomerangs – every time I let one go it hit me between the eyes.
Instant karma hurts!
Thankfully the troubled neighbour moved out and my health began to improve. By some miracle I managed to write through the whole fiasco. The dust began to settle and I thought I could finally risk poking my head above the parapet.
In January 2014 I published Addled.
Nothing went wrong! I relaxed, maybe it was over…
A week later one of the heroin addicts who lived downstairs blew himself up and set the building on fire.
I stood outside and shivered, and watched the fire brigade battle the flames, overwhelmed by absurdity. I just wanted to laugh.
What the hell was going on?
Black Holes and Revelations
Before we delve into the whys and wherefores, I should say that nobody was hurt in the fire and there was minimal damage. The hapless junkie was carted off to a police cell never to be seen again. There was a rumour he’d been mixing crystal meth. (I live in a most salubrious location!)
Anyway, back to the plot…
Throughout this whole period I struggled to maintain my spiritual practice but I kept getting thrown off centre. I was on a learning curve so steep it defied the laws of gravity. When I did manage to meditate and calm down, the guidance I received kept repeating the same message:
There is nothing to fear.
This is what I believe happened: I had been resisting my deepest fears and using creativity as defence against the darkness. I hadn’t overcome my nihilism and my death wish – I’d buried it. When I declared my intention to open to my highest good, the truth had to come out. I had to face it.
So my death wish took form, moved in next door and threatened to kill me!
I was able to relive the fears of my past within a larger context and finally learn to let them go. The chaos and destruction weren’t happening because I’d done something wrong – far from it. It was happening because I was seeing through the illusion. I’d entered the dark night of the spirit and was having trouble integrating nonbeing into my life.
In fear of my own power and light, the ego lashed out to keep me from growing. My shadow rose up and tried to stop the light burning it into steam and dust.
Ian wasn’t my enemy, we were both scared – and scarred. We both felt powerless. He was one of the most frightened people I’ve ever met. To get a sense of power and control he starts fights, winds people up and causes problems. It’s the only way he can feel powerful and have an effect on other people. They can’t ignore him if he’s threatening them. It stops him disappearing and being insignificant.
Me? I’m a classic neurotic. When someone attacks me I assume it’s my fault. It takes an enormous ego to take responsibility for the world’s problems!
This experience was a wake-up call to stop pandering to the fears of my smaller self and open to the larger reality that I know is my true nature. Ultimately, it’s about radical acceptance and faith. I had to learn the difference between my death wish and surrender to nonbeing in oneness with Life.
Dying to Live
I’ve had a death wish for as long as I can remember. It goes like this: I should never have been born. I don’t deserve to exist. How can I be happy or good? I’m a piece of shit. If I let go and let the universe put me where I belong, I’ll end up face down in the dirt with all the other losers and useless bastards. I’m nothing – how can I be Buddha?
When my life exploded into chaos it triggered all my worst fears. Everything seemed to be saying that I was a failure. If I surrendered, as my deeper Self was directing me to do, I would end up dead in a ditch with a knife in my back. I would lose everything.
This is deluded. It confuses nonbeing with the death wish, and was why I was creating defensively and why my spiritual practice had stalled. I was seeing nonbeing as a kind of nihilism, a withdrawal from life and a denial of everything I love and care about.
But that’s not what surrender into nonbeing means. Surrender isn’t a denial of life. It’s the only way you can live fully. If you don’t surrender the ego you’re locked inside the contraction of believing you’re separate from life. How can you live fully from that position? It’s impossible.
I also kept thinking of surrender as being submission to something outside myself, an authority figure like God or somesuch. But that’s not right either. You’re surrendering to your deeper Self, which is within. It’s your own Awareness – which is emptiness and so pervades everything. All you’re doing is surrendering to the present moment. You’re saying yes to reality and opening to it, whatever it may bring – not at some unforeseen point in the future, but right now.
(Aside: yes, I know God, Awareness, and emptiness are really the same ‘thing’, but calling it ‘God’ makes me polarise it in my head and I get confused. It’s bad conditioning, what comes of growing up in a deluded culture with clunky language.)
It makes no sense for me to think: if I surrender I’ll end up in the gutter. Why would I? In this moment, right here and now, there’s no way that could happen. This endless circling of the problem, the excuses and evasions, are all ego tricks to keep me in chains. It’s just conditioning. These thoughts aren’t true and they never have been.
I’ve been running in circles my whole life. My ego and its evil twin, my shadow, locked in battle, rolling around on the floor with their hands at each others’ throats, screeching. I’m sick of it.
And it’s so undignified 😉
I need to embrace nonbeing not because I want to die or because I hate life and don’t want to be here. I need to embrace nonbeing because that’s the only true and full expression of a genuine love of life. I want to be free because I love life and want to live. I want to be more conscious, more joyful, more alive.
This is what my highest good means and why I had to be hit full force by what I was denying. Much of what I encountered came out of my personal shadow, but the worst of it was something else. It was so extreme because my desire to step into the light triggered a powerful archetype that lurks in the psyche ready to pounce on anyone foolish enough to evolve.
The Predator is one of the biggest obstacles on the spiritual path. It’s a part of the psyche that doesn’t want to be conscious and it tends to be constellated when you’re on the verge of a breakthrough. He functions as a threshold guardian, ready to strike anyone not ready to move forward.
I wasn’t ready.
I am now…
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Image: Double Helix