Ignorance is at the root of an awful lot of the ills of our world.
April 9, 2018
The other day I had a cranio-sacral session with Kate-Louise. Her hands were listening intently and very quietly to the stories held in my body. Her hands showed her where my life-force was flowing freely and where she needed to guide my body to release its restrictions.
My body felt so grateful. ‘Aah’, it sighed in relief, ‘here is someone who speaks the language of an expansive perception of consciousness’. Kate-Louise’s hands are one example of a consciousness revolution that is occurring globally, like spores being released into the wind to infiltrate the collective consciousness. Kate Louise’s hands couldn’t have listened into the unconscious stories in my body if she hadn’t connected to them directly through her open heart and if her heart wasn’t tuned into her intuition and her wisdom. She was not only attentively present, and aware of the physical layers of tension in my body, and of the emotional baggage that caused the tension, but she listened deeper still; to the subtle flow of life itself – that belonged not only to me, but also to our interaction and to the air between us and beyond. Kate-Louise reminds me that the dissolution of ignorance comes, not solely from the expansion of information that happened with the internet, but from expanding beyond the limitations of our present level of consciousness.
This subtler level of awareness is a potential solution to the war with ignorance. Many of us know that although the expansion of information has the potential to raise awareness, it can feel hopelessly ineffective in the face of our global challenges. However, the subtle expansion of awareness beneath the information has the power to change the way people think and act.
Expansion of awareness is closely aligned with emotional well being, although it operates way beyond emotional well-being; at a deeper, more subtle level of our perception. If the experience of emotional well-being were plotted on a graph it might look like an inverted triangle. Emotional well-being leaves the previous levels behind as it progresses through the stages. Expansion of awareness includes all the levels beneath it, and nothing is left behind or considered less than the whole experience.
We are living in the Kali Yuga; our world is dark and depressing, and we've all experienced hopelessness for ourselves, our loneliness, our partners, our children, the world. Hopelessness, shame, apathy and depression are very constricted feelings. They belong at the bottom of the inverted triangle. If I’m feeling depressed, life has no colour and I have no capacity to engage with the world. My faculty for interaction is severely limited. Imperfection is the new rock'n'roll however. If I'm rolling around at rock-bottom I have huge potential for expansion. The further back down into this pit I am drawn, like an arrow on a bow string, the further I have the potential to shoot into expanded states of consciousness.
If I move into a slightly less constricted space, perhaps I might be an angry, gun-toting racist, with a crew cut. I might drink beer and interact well enough with those who think like me, but it’s unlikely that I could easily see the perspective of those people who threaten me. This level of emotional health is more dangerous than hopelessness, and the negativity that is finding expression here, could be directed inwardly towards myself, or outwardly, towards the world. Despite its negativity, it is nevertheless, more expanded than hopelessness.
Moving up the expansion ladder, if I’m developing the courage to face my fears, I am expanding beyond my previous, more limited experiences. The word courage stems from couer, which means heart in French. I become more inclusive, and am willing to engage in negotiations with others. At this level of emotional well-being, I am like the mother who does not shrink from her child’s pain, or the brave woman who trudges through a dark night of the soul, knowing that that is her only task.
More expansive still, I reach a place of wisdom, where I have the integrity to speak out about injustice, and to say “No”, to cruelty, bigotry and corruption.
Thanissara is helping to change the world for the better, not because she writes as a spiritual activist, but because she writes with a vulnerable, open heart that does not close down in the face of the suffering she engages with fully on a daily basis, and her words weep for the world. Because she is open to her feelings and the suffering of others, she writes from an expanded state of consciousness.
She is a strong leader with a fiery integrity that stands up for the oppressed. I’m not sure how she managed for twelve years in a Buddhist monastery, where women were mightily down-trodden. I imagine that when she was a nun, she would have bent the rules that didn’t make sense to her. She is spunky, with intelligent eyes and a dry, subversive sense of humour. I love her impish lack of respect for authority that blends curiously well with her ability to listen deeply to my problems. I also love that in these times of massive global ignorance, she writes books and articles about our need to stand up and speak out.
The difference between her words and those of many other activists is subtle, and is dependent on her state of mind as she is engaged in the act of writing. The language that emerges from her expanded perception of the problems, is a powerful weapon. Like the language spoken by Kate-Louise's hands, it is inclusive, and although this may be expressed through her words and actions, the agent of change in itself, does not speak in words, but rather through the energy behind the words.
Thanissara writes that, ‘It is an act of resistance to love in the face of hate.
It is an act of hope to say we remember another way, we know, we will live, we will work, sing, dance, vote, hope, laugh, embody another way - the way of ethics, rule of just law, the abiding by fair and full democracy, the fearlessness of speaking out with open hearts, clear minds, and embodied connection.
It is an act of love to not generate divisive consciousness.’
My heart is touched not by her words in themselves, but by the quality of her attention that lies beneath the words; that kind of subtle awareness truly has the power to change the world because it wakes us up from our unconscious behaviour.
Zen poet Ryokan once said, 'O, that my monk's robes were wide enough to gather up all the people in this floating world.'
If I were to find myself right at the top of the inverted triangle of emotional well-being, I would be residing in a place of love, compassion, joy and serenity. This place is not exclusive. Like Ryokan, it contains all the depression and hopelessness and anger. It is beyond the triangle altogether. It is a place where we can hold it all, and not dismiss the suffering, or the depression, that we are all feeling in these times. There we would be one with our environment, and our perception would be vastly expanded. We would feel all feelings, both negative and positive, more intensely. Colours would be more vivid. Our sense of smell would be enhanced. An enlightened being is simply more alive. And more perceptive. They are so expansive that other people’s negativity has no place to attach to them, it simply flows right through them, so that they can respond appropriately to every nuanced interaction with others.
If there is hope to be felt in these trying times, it glimmers out of the subtle places that underlie all the emotional experiences we humans are subject to. And it is waking people up like popcorn.