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Grief and loss and suffering, even depression and spiritual crisis—the dark nights of the soul—only worsen when we try to ignore or deny or avoid them. The healing journey begins when face them and learn how to work with them. When we stop fighting against our difficulties and find the strength to meet our demons and difficulties head on, we often find that we emerge stronger and more humble and grounded than we were before we experienced them. To survive our difficulties is to become initiated into the fraternity of wisdom.
The real tragedy is when we refuse to acknowledge and respect our own suffering, and instead spread it unconsciously to others. As the Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel has written, “Suffering confers neither privileges nor rights. It all depends on how one uses it. If you use it to increase the anguish of others or yourself, you are degrading, even betraying it. And yet the day will come when we shall understand that suffering can elevate human beings. God help us to bear our suffering well.”
The practices included in A Lamp in the Darkness are not positive thinking, quick fixes, or simplistic self-help strategies to navigate temporary difficult times. The practices here are profound tools for doing the work of the soul. They awaken your inner knowing. If you pay careful attention in the midst of your crises, you will begin to sense a witnessing consciousness, a wise presence inside of you that could be called “the one who knows.” This knowing presence is consciousness itself, present in every moment of your life, even when it feels far away from you. Even in the toughest times of illness and loss, in your deepest depressions and griefs, underneath even your most catastrophic challenges and fears, the one who knows in you remains calm and clear. It already accepts whatever is going on. It sees beyond the immediate situation to something much larger. It knows that whatever change has come—no matter how much of a surprise it is to you—was going to happen. It knows that whatever is, is—whether we accept it or not. The one who knows is even often able to see grim humor in the most difficult situations. And it knows long before we do that the end of our suffering begins when we turn to face our suffering and embrace its truth and healing wisdom.
Loss and betrayal tear open the heart.
Look through this gate
for the wisdom that lies there.
What matters now?
What would the wise ones do now?
But how we can find this “one who knows” in the midst of our most overwhelming difficulties? Go to the mirror. Look at your face. You will see someone who looks older than you looked several years ago, although inside you don’t feel any older. This is because it is only your body that has aged. The timeless awareness through which you see your body is the one who knows. Your body is only a temporary vessel for this awareness. It is a temporary and aging container for the undying consciousness of the one who knows.
|See Jack Kornfield live at the 2013 Wake Up Festival.|