We go through hell searching for God-the Ultimate Truth. We scavenge through churches, synagogues, study halls, temples, and mosques. We travel abroad, leaning on walls, meditating on mountains, and ceaselessly praying in chapels. We are relentless in encountering The Infinite. Yet, every sincere man knows God eludes him. Not because He isn’t there, but because in the final analysis God dwells in the last place man cares to search- within himself.
I have to admit I was never a fan of Mac Miller. But there was something about his recent passing that impacted me. I guess, in some way, Mac Miller was a semblance, a representation of all the young men and women I had come to know over the past 13 years who had also fallen to the grips of addiction and as result went spiraling down to the harrowing end of an overdose. Like the young rapper, many of the people I came across had artistic dispositions, possessed a unique way of looking at the world, and always expressed themselves via creative means of music and art. Sometimes, they sang songs, poems, or played musical instruments in between therapeutic sessions. Sometimes, I’d watch in amazement as the words rhythmically escaped their mouths, cigarette hanging out of the side of their lips, their tattooed arms bearing the faded healing needle marks flaying about with the sounds of the music. These souls who I had come to know were soon gone, victims of drug dependency. I could still remember the songs, the poems, the debates, the drawings many of them left behind. It is this art, somehow clearly unfinished, that leaves behind a sense of bitterness and sorrow. I can remember rationalizing their deaths as “a part of the disease” in the many community vigils… later, having to pull my car over succumbed by the crushing reality: Addiction is powerful…indiscriminate, and it takes the lives of young men and women who possess great potential.
It has been through these individuals that I’ve confirmed there is something creative and divine about the addict. The addict lives an expressive life, in a state of constant desperation to reunite with a greater reality- unfortunately, many times, the connection is an erroneous one, sought artificially through a substance. Many addicts die in their relentless pursuit to be whole again, to be reunified with their source and relieved of their separateness. Mac Miller and the 350 souls that die daily from drug related deaths in the US alone should remind us all that money, fame, and achievement alone does not grant us wholeness and that the ultimate source of fulfillment must be sought after to make recovery possible.
The traumatized psyche of a child contains a silver lining. With time, love, and treatment, as the child enters adulthood, he or she with great skill and finesse will have an exceptional capacity of reaching high transcendental states through meditation or prayer. These wounded souls have acquired this ability through the mechanism of dissociation- a detachment of psychological and environmental surroundings used to protect itself against further trauma. Since meditation also requires a practice of detaching from the ego or thinking mind, these children would have already experienced and understood what most of us seek…less outside distractions and a more intimate connection with our internal world. Perhaps, a further look into this matter will initiate a shift in which children who have been damaged by trauma can be made into “little Buddhas.”
I love two boys dearly. One of them I had to leave behind in order to give the other a better life. One is a lighthearted, inquisitive, and affectionate soul. The other, while quite loving, can be rebellious, fearful, self-destructive, hyper vigilant, and unstable. One is my son. The other my inner child. I stood at a turning point where most men find themselves who are able to reflect and take inventory of personal defects and impediments to growth. There I found all the hindrances and shortcomings embodied in my inner psychological youth. It was here in the personification of my inner child that all sources of irrational beliefs lived. I had to make a decision to part ways with the boy I had intimately known for decades.
The boy within men must be outgrown, tamed, or carefully integrated into adulthood if we are to properly function in the world. However, when most men find themselves stuck at a crossroad, repeating destructive patterns, or unable to realize their full potential, most times they will find a restless inner child consuming and sabotaging their present realities. The boy in us may manifest himself in the form of seeking power and control, general mistrust, and a debilitating apprehension to take on new challenges. Many times, the boy will not adhere to manipulative tactics of persuasion or compromise. The boy is adamant in getting what it wants and unless effectively confronted will destroy the man he inhabits. In this case, the inner child must be subdued, bound, and given up for the liberation of a man’s psychological imprisonment. It is no wonder that biblical stories such as “the binding of Issac” or the crucifixion of Christ resonate well with many of us. A man must sacrifice faulty beliefs and dysfunctional familial patterns before he can receive the “blessing.” Subconsciously, we understand that the most primitive and infantile aspects of our psyche must be (or at least one must be willing to) put to rest. However, the stark difference lies in the fact that our inner child will not comply and lie quietly as Isaac or the Christian Messiah. The binding, giving up, and the mourning of the inner boy (false and destructive beliefs) is a necessary process, a journey by which we eventually reach complete psychological and spiritual manhood.
Before you ask what’s wrong around you in any given situation, take the daring task of examining yourself, your beliefs, your values, your greatest fears and worries…We often find that these are the causes of most of our troubles. The process of sincerely changing is like surgery. You must go deep into yourself-beneath bone and marrow-and find those ideas that have been slowly eroding away at the possibility of reaching what you want to achieve. The greatest victory is in keeping these invalid beliefs in plain sight and be fearlessly willing to battle them on a daily basis. This is the path of awakening.
What makes anything beautiful, what gives it life, is the experience it has had. We stare at a certain painting and become mesmerized by something unexplainable-there is an emotion, a life, a story that it has lived. This is the essence of all things worthwhile. They are neither fabricated or desired. Instead, these are the things that preserve us and provides a deeper connection to ourselves and the world around us. To be fully in the moment entails a full participation and realization of the experience. Experiencing moments where we are submerged in what’s occurring is the lifeblood of humanity. A bellyaching laugh, a melancholic embrace, a joyful victory, an attentive posture-all provide the opportunity to make the most of our lives.
Without the experience of participating in the moment, we lose an essential part of ourselves-a missing part that becomes excruciating to live with. Before we turn to medicine to alleviate our instabilities and sorrows, let’s ask ourselves how much are we participating in the joy of living, and how much are we avoiding it through diluted means of connecting? An emoji can never take the place of seeing a beautiful face smile. An “lol” cannot doesn’t come close to shared laughter around a table of friends. And words types across a screen can never replace an invaluable embrace of a loved one in distress. What makes anything beautiful is the loyal commitment to strive to engage in life as much as possible.
Inside every person is the built in desire for salvation. This need is two-fold: we want to save and be saved. Children and adults long to encounter or become the heroes of society. We look deep within and ponder the possibilities of saving those in great need, and we await to be relieved of our problems-to a time where our troubles will all make sense. But rarely is the meaning of heroes, salvation, and reconciliation ever explained. We entertain, fantasize, and pray of attaining qualities of heroship but when the process of attaining begins to happen, we give it up. This is because the character building of usefulness doesn’t come in light and power- it comes in struggles and suffering. It comes in understanding the human condition and being able to navigate through the negative aspects of life and the mind. A person who doesn’t understand the map of insanity…of depravity, cannot save a lost soul trapped in the trenches of the underworld. Both would be lost and consumed by the darkness. A person that wishes to be used effectively must understand that his reward is in rescuing others, but the price is knowing first hand the atrocities that imprison them.
If you’re struggling with something too deep to express, have you considered you may be in a process of preparation to one day help a few or perhaps many people? Remember, the greatest heroes in history were not those with crowns but carried wounds for the sake of being used in a purposeful way.
All things fall apart. And all things can fall into place. It all changes when we wake up, when we recognize our reality is happening to us and that this reality must be lived out responsibly. “It’s a game, a joke, a role” we may say, but the game (life) continues. Our happiness is not determined by manipulating the order of the game, our happiness is determined by our level of awareness and harmony we align with its laws. Your role in the game may be one of success or one of lack, but spite of that, your existence validates you are an essential player. You have been welcomed into the game with a key role to play. Your awareness of this fact helps you strategize and play the game more effectively. A realization dawns on us: the game is ours and everything in it is happening for us. Reality- the game- is much sweeter when we have finally awakened to it.
I remember as a child before going to sleep, I’d turn the lights off and dash straight for the bed. I’d strain my eyes open, desperately seeking light- that minute of waiting felt like an eternity. I’d initially feel a sense of dread staring into the nothingness of the air, nothing could be seen beyond the opaqueness of the night. In that minute I’d think, “there is nothing, I am nothing.” I was small, consumed by a great void. This terrorized me. But as the minute passed, the darkness faded. Small rays of light dispersed through the room and I’d begin to see. I could see myself. I was put together. I wasn’t so small after all. I could look at my surroundings…my hands, and smile. The wonderful realization about this process was coming to understand later that no matter how dark I had perceived my surroundings to be, the light was always there, waiting for me to grasp it. I just had to hold on and patiently trust it would show up.
On a psychological and emotional level, we lose precious souls because it becomes too dark within. A moment of despair can feel like an eternity where light never comes. We desperately look around. We become restless. We feel small. We say we’re nothing or nothing matters. But the night is only temporary, it was only a reaction to a sudden change we needed to adjust to. The light is coming. It has come. You are awake… you look at yourself. You’re not so small. As a matter of fact, you’re pretty f****** beautiful. You love yourself more, and best of all, you’ve learned to love the night.
Often, in times of solitude and reflection I think about past impactful events of my career as a counselor. My mind wanders through the corridors of a crisis unit where the majority of our patients had a history of multiple suicide attempts. There were people there who had experienced the worst kinds of acts-abuse on every level, witnessing first hand tragic losses of close friends and family, and sudden abrupt life changes such as financial loss and divorce. Many of the people I encountered possessed a common characteristic- they were immobilized by their pain and were unable to focus on anything outside of the now prevailing emptiness that pervaded their lives. Any forms of therapeutic interventions or words of encouragement were lost in the void. One thing I came to understand: depression at its peak can paralyze a person, both on the physical and cognitive levels. Remedying emptiness and difficulty then requires more than persuasion of changing perspective or acquiring tools to cope- it requires a journey further into the experience of despair where light is found through, not away, from the problem.
Healing takes place when we are able to sit with reality as it is. When pain is immense it produces a numbness that a person may not even be aware of how they are feeling. A process of uncovering emotions through validation and recognition of feelings provides us with a sense of belonging and security. Identifying feelings gives a person the ability of observing their lives from a higher perspective. The act of observing provides a space between experiencing pain and “paralysis” where finding ways to persevere becomes possible. The sufferer finds freedom in understanding that although they are in emotional pain, they are also capable of observing and becoming participants of their own experience. People gradually move away from the all consuming thought “I’m in pain” to “I am aware, this is happening to me.”
Difficulties can be the means by which we discard what matters most. All one needs to ask to reach an effective conclusion is “what is this difficulty teaching me?” Perhaps the things we placed so much time and value on really didn’t hold any weight in our crisis. Sometimes, it takes a significant life event to learn that our time and energy was spent on falsehoods that contributed greatly to the nagging pangs of emptiness. The moments of crisis are the opportunities by which we get in contact with reality- we discard the fake and commit our lives to what is true. This is evident in people who have experienced and overcome crisis. They emanate authenticity and have a zero tolerance for anything that portrays hypocrisy and deception. These people have learned the principle of impermanence- that things and people are unpredictable and fleeting. In this, there is great freedom.
It is sometimes a game changer when we realize that tragedy is tragedy only when it manifests itself in our lives. However, tragedy occurs daily. I cannot think of a single individual who has not experienced the death of a loved one or not experienced a loss of some kind. Pain and emptiness may initially draw us more inwardly, but can also give us the chance to notice that difficulty and feelings of emptiness are universal. On some level, we have all experienced a loss and many have been able to overcome the resulting darkness and go on to live healthy and productive lives. If we occasionally gaze our eyes outwardly during crisis, we’ll find the comfort in knowing that we are not alone in our suffering and we will eventually get through it.