The evenings draw in closer, the darkness growing as we make our way towards the winter solstice. It is a time for deep thought, reflection and understanding – thinking and understanding so deeply you are hardly doing it at all. In the darkness our minds are much less distracted by visual stimulation. We can explore the darkness both within and without, as well as the great mystery of the unknown.
In Zen Buddhism, along the Eightfold Path we learn about Right Mind. At this time of year, I apply it when journeying ever closer towards the rebirth of the light. It is in the darkness that the mind is truly explored. It is in the darkness that the world outside is truly confronted. It is in the darkness where we find the greatest mystery of all.
Right Mind requires an understanding of the self, in order to see that the self is really not all that important. First we must learn about our reactions to the world – how we relate to it, what is automatic and what is intentional. By studying our selves and studying our navels, we look deep within to see where we might be able to work on living in full awareness of our actions in our daily lives. If we have an understanding that we instantly react to the person on the social networking site who criticises us, we can then work on that so that there isn’t attachment to it. We learn that we don’t even have to react – that it is within our power as to how we behave. When our co-worker in the office won’t help us even when we ask for it, we learn not to instantly react and let it ruin our day. We simply get on with the job at hand, perhaps asking for help elsewhere.
We are not owed anything. Learning this lesson can be of great value in our own spiritual awakening. People do not have to act as we would wish them to. Not everyone has to agree with us. People will have different opinions. We don’t have to comment, criticise or even give it second thought if we do not wish to. Our emotions, our passions should be the spark of inspiration. They should not be the raging inferno that takes over.
By looking deep within to see how our passions and emotions play through our daily lives, we come to an understanding of them. We cannot ever develop a relationship with anything, be it person, tree, mountain or deity without first understanding them to a certain degree. We often do not understand ourselves, to our detriment. Why do we behave the way we do? How can we live more intentionally?
Through daily meditation we can come to a greater awareness of our selves. Once we have attained that awareness, it is best to let it go.
You may ask – why spend all that time learning about our selves, only to let it go?
If we are constantly looking inwards, we will neglect to look outwards. Druidry and much of modern day Paganism are at the risk of becoming too self-involved, too inwardly focused. Five words remind me of this on a daily basis. It’s not all about you.
We can become so self-absorbed in looking at our navels that the world passes us by. There is so much out there that we need to become aware of, just as previously there was so much inside that we needed to be aware of. Once we have achieved a level of competency in knowing ourselves, the best thing we could do is to lose that sense of self in order to understand the bigger picture.
This dropping of the ego, this letting go is not an annihilation of the self. It is not negation. It is immersion, integration – utterly being. It shows us the boundaries between the worlds, between us and other humans, between us as the natural environment. It also shows us that these boundaries are simply illusion. We are all just energy.
We can then begin to explore the greatest mystery of all, within the nurturing darkness – that of not knowing. After learning to understand our selves and the world, we lose understanding as well, realising that we really do not know very much at all. In such a vast landscape, both inner and outer, how can we truly know anything at all? Often in Zen this is referred to as Mu, or nothing. In the not knowing we are open to everything, our minds not being closed off. The great mystery of not knowing is where the true potential lies. In not knowing, we are free.
Deep within the darkness, the journey continues.