So sorry friends, for having let my blog sit stagnant for so long. To be honest though, that is how I felt- stagnant. But, now, I have a burst of creative energy and I am going to use it! To start us out, I’d like to post a paper I wrote for my recent Asian Philosophy class as it outlines the soul learning journey I’ve been on this last several months.
Don’t worry, my New Years Resolution is to write write write! And I am, you just aren’t seeing it yet. I am using my new journal daily and finally, channeling my creative ideas into recognizable forms. Did I mention I’ve decided to change my major to Fine Arts? Yeah, well, it’s not the first change, but I feel good about this one.
I think I need to follow my heart and happiness, not give into societal ideas of success. And so, I dropped the History and Economics classes I was signed up for this Semester and picked up 3D Art Foundations, Ceramics, Survey of American Lit, Social/Political Philosophy and Advanced Yoga. Be prepared to hear of my progress dear friends! There are good things cooking right now!
By Brittany Selle
I was a strange kind of kid growing up. Highly sensitive, especially to emotion, I often saw through people’s true motives and from a very young age often felt “different” and spent much time on my own. My father was not an advocate of organized religion and so I was not allowed to go to church for fear I’d be “brain washed.” My dad had some bad experiences in the Mormon and Catholic churches as a child and these experiences were the foundation of his beliefs. Though he inflicted in me another form of bias, he ultimately meant well. He really wanted my siblings and I to make our own choices about God and even Christ’s message. He held to a lot of Native American spiritualism as well, considering the close bond with my late great grandfather, a Choctaw Indian. So you can imagine I had a strange childhood. I remember long drawn out religious debates on the topic of God and general morality between my dad and his mother. I remember the strange compilation of spiritual stories that were shared with my siblings and I remember our whole family sitting around talking about the chakras and trying to see each other’s auras.
I found friends in trees and stones and bodies of water. They all shared a unique perspective and energy. There was something sacred in them. I preferred their company over that of most human beings. I was fascinated with the unexplained and I remember the first day that I found out there were people who did not believe there was a God. I was baffled! I had never heard of such a thing, and it blew my world open. I felt very, very sad about it. I asked myself, riding home from school on the bus, a mere fourth grader…Is there a God? I paused only a moment before doubt escaped me, as if every part of my insides glowed with light, scaring away the shadows. I just knew. I answered myself…”Of course there is a God.” And I can say that this feeling came not from delusion or fear, or doubt or even imbedded belief. It felt innate. It felt apparent. It unfolded in front of me moment by moment. I told myself, they just didn’t know where to find God, they weren’t looking in the right places.
Since that moment my life has been a spiritual journey. I was the kid in highschool that listened to the Beatles. You wouldn’t catch me listening to anything but music from the
nineteen fifties, sixties or seventies. I was all about the messages I was hearing in these songs, they were how I felt, and I had finally found something with which to identify! That era, the sixties, defined me! It opened me up to Eastern thought! I explored it, but as a kid, never breached the surface, jumping from exciting new topic to exciting new perspective and finding I had a lot to work through before I could fully grasp what I was learning about. I had the best English teacher. He was in disguise, for he was not an English teacher, he was a philosophy teacher who taught me how to ask myself the questions I was trying to put a form to. He used to tell me to “get off the fence Selle!” in attempt to get me to debate and to pick a side. But I always sympathized with both sides, seeing a middle path. When the book Siddhartha was assigned reading, I read it in one night. The Buddhist message resonated within me, and I couldn’t run from it. It called to me.
It wasn’t until five years ago, when my incredibly dear Grandmother died from brain cancer that I started having strange experiences. I was overcome by fear, as if all at once I came to every frightening realization that had ever occurred to me, my entire life. I saw things, I heard things, my dreams were plagued with strange faces and forced me to face the fears I was avidly running from. I woke up in the night to what appeared to be figures standing around my bed. I was terrified. I could not explain what I felt, I was a ball of panic and tension. I was a grown mother of two and couldn’t sleep without my lights on. I got tired of living in fear and so I decided to educate myself. I have spent the last five years learning about intuition, how to develop it and understanding my own intuitive capabilities. I have in fact been very surprised by the realizations and healing that have filled my days since. I have learned to understand a kind of “formula” that works for me in learning to overcome those things that hold me back from understanding my true identity, and the true identity of all things. I am still, and will always be on this quest.
I’ve reached the point now where I have helped many people successfully open to their own intuitive abilities and learn to connect with their inner voice and I could fill pages with the amazing and life changing events that have unfolded in these people’s lives, and in my own. But let me say that when I enrolled in your class this semester I did not realize the impact it would have on my life. It was no crazy coincidence that I was also enrolled in Yoga class in the same semester either. It was like the spiritual teachings I pulled from both my yoga experience and that of Asian Philosophy reinforced and put a label to so much of what I felt to be part of my own, intrinsic sense of spiritual truth. I never felt that there was only one way to God. I just felt that the problem with the Western way of looking at things depended so much on fear based tactics, and processes that preached faith and yet made the church a crutch to lean on, and that bred dishonesty with oneself, hypocrisy and delusion. I wondered why people couldn’t be honest with themselves and accept that maybe there is no right answer. Maybe we don’t know anything.
In five years I have made every effort to be true to this inner voice and to trust myself. I’ve learned a lot about who I am. I have struggled but learned to let go of my attachment to the physical and material. I have learned to accept and embrace the process of death, in the same way I embrace the process of birth. I have realized and recognized a self-identity born of false ideals, ingrained beliefs, attachments, experiences and adopted perceptions. I have learned to address these attachments and crutches head on and I have learned the growth and satisfaction and closeness to God that comes from doing so, despite the pain, and despite the struggle. I have learned to see good and bad as relative and I have, in the process seen the greater picture.
In the beginning of the semester, when we began our talk on Hinduism, you mentioned the quote “Truth is one, but the wise see it many ways.” I identified with this statement! I felt that there were many ways to God, and that each had the right to his own journey. I also enjoyed when we explored Gandhi’s philosophy and how he saw no real benefit in conversion. He encouraged each soul to embark on their own soul learning and to embrace their journey and spiritual inclination. You spoke of All as One, and that in Hinduism when attempting to change one’s self for the better you help the whole of the organic being/universe/creator and all in existence. This resonated with my sense of interconnectedness. I spoke earlier of my true love and connection to nature. The life of these plants and elements are just as valuable and important to me as any living thing. I did not have much knowledge at all about Hinduism before this class, other than what can be gleaned from one viewing of the film Gandhi, and so to feel such resonance excited me! It was very hard to not speak these realizations during class and annoy everyone with my incessant banter on these topics and so I hope you realize that this paper is what I have been waiting for- an opportunity to pull all the things I felt and learned, together, into one comprehensive, understandable format. I have a lot of fragments of thought, all over the board and right now, but this is my attempt to pull them all together.
I found much affirmation of the general sense that I had urging me to pursue further spiritual growth. In the words of the Upanishads: “The wise, realizing through meditation the timeless Self, beyond all perception, hidden in the cave of the heart, leave pain and pleasure far behind. Those who know they are neither body nor mind, but the immemorial Self, the divine principle of existence, find the source of all joy and live in joy abiding.” (Katha Upanishad, pg 49) I have seen great change in myself and others simply by choosing to look in the mirror and be honest with ourselves. Sometimes, we are the mirror for each other, but we have learned now that our journey is our own. We cannot depend on anything outside of ourselves to enforce our delusions, and all it takes is watching them crumble down around us even once, and there really is no turning back. The process of eliminating that which holds us back from seeing our true self is painful and full of brutal honesty, but grows easier when we do not see that there is one “right” and one “wrong” way of doing things. “In the secret cave of the heart, two are seated by life’s fountain. The separate ego drinks of the sweet and bitter stuff, liking the sweet, disliking the bitter, while the supreme Self drinks sweet and bitter neither liking this nor disliking that. The ego gropes in darkness, while the Self lives in light.” (Katha Upanishad, pg 50)
In learning to consciously take note of the ego’s influence on our life, we slowly eliminate that influence when we sense it does not come from the light, but the darkness. When the ego is in full reign, as it is for many, we live in fear and suffering. When we have seen/felt/experienced a moment that is void of that suffering, truly void in oneness and gratitude, we will forever strive for that moment again. Though it’s jumping ahead, this is what I also took from the Zen Buddhist poet Basho when he said: “what is important is to keep our mind high in the world of true understanding, and returning to the world of our daily experience to seek therein the truth of beauty. No matter what we may be doing at a given moment, we must not forget that it has a bearing upon our everlasting self which is poetry.”
That’s it, on the money! To paraphrase what I take from this, I might say he implies that we attempt to uphold an understanding and apply these teachings to our life, and we attempt to emulate that which we understand as truth, and returning to our daily lives, however removed we may grow at times from that “true understanding” or “sudden enlightenment” we continue our quest for the truth of beauty and true identity, void of the projections our “identity” has taken on. From that moment on, we must understand that every action has direct impact on that true identity, which is found in the simplicity of the moment, and we will consistently move, with every effort of our being, to find that moment of enlightenment and truth again.
Just when I was really getting excited about Hinduism and how I felt it gave form and figure to that which I was discovering on my own through intuitive and meditative measures, I was dragged into Buddhism! I mentioned before that I had read the book Siddhartha, but this was years ago and this was before I was out in the world on my own. I loved revisiting the Buddha’s journey and getting a more in depth view of his philosophy and way of life. I took greatly to the Four Nobel Truths: there is suffering; there is a cause for suffering; there is a cessation of suffering; and there is a path out of suffering. When we talked about the three marks of existence (impermanence, no self, suffering) I learned a new lesson. I learned how all of the suffering in my life was that of my own creation. What suffering I experienced was directly related to that which I held as my identity, attachments I held about myself and what it meant to be “me” and fear that every time I reached a point of safety and comfort it would fall away again, and that perhaps I was to blame for that fact. Really, I needed to recognize that I was hanging onto these past ideals about self-identity when I needed instead to realize my true self under the layers and layers of assumed identity. My true self cannot be summed up by a bumper sticker, the clothes I wear, my haircut, my body’s appearance, the objects I own and flaunt. And I realized that, as mentioned in the Upanishad quote above, I was clinging to the “sweet” and cringing at the “bitter.”
That’s something Taoism really taught me as well. I was not willing to let go of the “sweet” and so I clung to it in such a way that when it was gone, and the “bitter” period arose, I did nothing but mourn the absence of the “sweet.” Consider the following quote from the Tao-Te Ching: “There is nothing softer and weaker than water, and yet there is nothing better for attacking hard and strong things. For this reason there is no substitute for it. All the world knows that the weak overcomes the strong and the soft overcomes the hard. But none can practice it.” To me, I took this to mean that water, the most flexible of things, is most effective in overcoming all that is thrown at it, and by moving fluidly, and accepting the change of course and anything that fell in its path, it always overcomes it with a sense of wu-wei. It does not try to overcome it, it simply does. Also, a drop of water may not wear away stone, but thousands together hold the greatest power. This to me, speaks of the interconnection of all things, and the realization we get of this when we act as water acts…fluid to life’s changes and accept impermanence. In accepting that all things are impermanent, I also had to accept that suffering is a part of life.
Suffering is not only a part of life, but is unavoidable until we achieve full and total understanding of our true identity in enlightenment. And our true identity means facing suffering, as the Buddha did. He tried all he knew how to do. He submitted to the Hindu approach and deprived himself. He had lived the life of great indulgence. He sat under the Bodhi tree and faced all that that “haunted” his existence. He approached his fears head on and through a true attempt and desire to achieve relief from the suffering he felt, he was honest and did what it took to overcome these attachments and became enlightened.
In class we also discussed, throughout, yin and yang. We approached the perspectives of both the Indian and Asian view of opposing energies in the universe. I was quite taken by how my understanding of this also took on deeper meaning. When we discussed how it was seen that male and feminine energies not only balance, but complement each other, I started looking at human relationships differently; even my own relationship. I had some understanding of what they said, that too much yin or too much yang created imbalance and in turn created problems. I started applying this mode of thought to all kinds of opposing energies. I looked at conflict differently and when approached with an opposing view point I looked at the situation as holding a lesson for me, a lesson designed to realign me to balance. But this took a strong ability to be honest with myself, for it would be easy to do if I deluded myself into believing that I was always right. Sometimes, I had to admit, in face of pride and ego, that I was wrong and I had to start back at ground zero and ask myself where this false understanding originated, that I might no longer be slave to it.
Throughout the class my pride and ego were consistently bruised. As a person who can be pretty hard on themselves I realized that so many of the ideals I had supported and advertised, I had not truly applied to my life, and so I made an effort to apply them and great positive change has occurred in my life as a result. I look up so much to the teachings of Buddha, Gandhi and those in the Bhagavad-Gita, Chuang Tzu and Hui-Neng that I felt suddenly that hope escaped me. How could I ever, no matter if I devoted a thousand lifetimes, reach the level of understanding these teachers reached? How could I, when I still struggle against my ego day by day, moment by moment? And at just the perfect time, Basho was introduced. I loved hearing about how he experienced these glimpses of truth but still continued to struggle against the self. I identified with some of his pain and hopelessness during the process of detachment from the self, in the words of the Basho handout provided in class “Basho had been casting away his earthly attachments, one by one, in the years preceding the journey, and now he had nothing else to cast away but his own self which was in him as well as around him. He had to cast this self away for otherwise he was not able to restore his true identity.” We are reminded throughout the handout that Basho lived with “one foot in the other world and the other foot in this one.” Hearing of this gave me the realization that all persons who seek this path suffer. That we are presented the enlightened view, but they suffered as we do, and they persevered to achieve the ultimate goal and union of oneness with all things.
It was soon after this experience with Basho that I had another realization in Christ’s teachings. I asked my husband to read me a prayer from the Bible, as it was a faith testing time for me, when we eventually began talking about the passage where Jesus prays to God in fear of his fate, which is to be arrested and ultimately crucified. He weeps in front of God and in him we see fear. But ultimately, we see faith. We see a man who walks into his death because out of it, he sees the truth of all things. Being very unversed in the Bible, I cried when I learned of this, as I realized it was being enforced in me, that all spiritual masters recognize the need to face pain, suffering and fear, in light of the voice that draws them to it in love, for it is only in facing this pain that we can be freed from it.
And so I seek to live in the moment, to let go of a need to control the factors that are out of my control, to surrender to the voice within me, leading me somewhere higher than I am now. I submit myself to the spiritual journey, learning the simple way and choosing to let go of a need to mourn the bitter and celebrate the sweet, but instead to emulate the farmer who, regardless of circumstance, good or bad fortune, responds only with “perhaps.” I yearn to achieve the understanding of the great masters, and remove that which deludes me and clouds my ability to see my true Self, and the truth of beauty. And I have you, Mr. Kaitz, to thank for guiding me a bit further into concepts that have so much more to teach me than I have even touched on. And I have these master’s to thank for embarking on us, this great knowledge and acting as guides leading us to our own understanding of Truth, on our own, very individual journey and soul learning. And the journey has really just begun…