I’ve been feeling very affected by what has been going on in our country and the world recently, finding myself falling into hopelessness and despair.
And I have had some time to ponder on the state of disillusionment.
I am definitely disillusioned — with certain friends, family members, loved ones, my country and my government. It can feel like the end of the road, time to throw in the towel, because nothing matters anymore. All the recycling, reusing, divesting, boycotting, protesting, call and letter writing, campaigning, and shouting out on Facebook seems to no avail. Evil seems to win out regardless. Doubling down on my own spiritual work can seem pointless and somewhat self-involved. It is tempting to give up, check out, go into a bubble of denial that allows me some semblance of pseudo-peace.
But in spite of all those disturbing feelings, I know better. I have been at the crossroads of disillusionment before. I was devastated and disillusioned when my marriage ended, not knowing who I was or how I could recover from heartbreak and carry on as a single mother. Years later I came to see how my life had become so much more than it ever could have been in that limited relationship. It was a death for sure, but that death bore new life, life I am immensely grateful for. Life I couldn’t have even dreamed of.
I was disillusioned shortly after I joined the Pathwork. I had bought into the fantasy that I had found the perfect community where everyone would be loving, kind, accepting – the perfect chosen family, and life would be rosy from there on out. Until a conflict showed me that we are all imperfectly human, and that if I stick with the messiness, relationships can not only survive conflict, but deepen as a result of coming out the other side. What a gift that disillusionment was for me, because I did stick with it. I didn’t run. I didn’t give up.
I was disillusioned again shortly after entering leadership in the Pathwork. Fantasies die hard, so I had to learn that leaders and Helpers are human too. I had to face that I still have emotional reactions, and that I alone am responsible for them. Another gift – I learned a level of self-responsibility that had eluded me to that point. To see a deeper level of my own creations, while challenging, offered me a freedom I had not known before.
Disillusionment is part of the spiritual journey, and it cannot be sidestepped on the road to bliss. The only way out is through, and if we are willing to grieve the loss of our dreams, illusions and misconceptions, take responsibility for our own actions, and keep putting one foot in front of the other, there is new life on the other side.
I am in the midst of a disillusionment that is personal and collective, and I have a choice. I can submit to the whisperings of hopelessness and despair, or I can listen to those voices and hold them with tender compassion and acceptance, with the faith that spiritual truths and insights do not depend on a certain outcome. In fact, difficult and heartbreaking experiences that shatter our strategies for staying comfortable are often the portal to a deeper spiritual opening. But we must stay present to our feelings and embodied in the moment in order to enter that portal to a new way of seeing and a new way of being.
I do not know if our country and our species will survive this collective Dark Night of the Soul. At present it seems pretty dark. I do not know if we will enter that portal in my lifetime. But I do know that Life will survive. It is bigger than we are. Life is an eternally changing and evolving process more than it is a solid permanent thing. As just one humble part of this magnificent whole, we will cooperate and change with the evolutionary process or not, but Life will go on. Humanity may collapse under the weight of its arrogance and drive for power, but Life does not care. Life does not get disillusioned. It just keeps re-inventing itself without judgment or separation or quest for power.
That doesn’t mean we should stop caring about those who are suffering, or that we would stop hurting when others are hurting. It just means that in order to not drown in the pain of what is happening, we have to have at least one foot on the solid ground of what is bigger than all of this.
So in the midst of all the horror that I feel powerless over, I can stop and look around, and notice that beauty is still here. The sun rises and offers a gorgeous display of color, the mountains and valleys spread out before me with such beauty it moves me to tears, and then I notice the way a tree grows with such dignity and aliveness that is not and cannot be touched by the evil that any one pompous individual or any group of blindly and not so blindly complicit people can destroy.
I suspect that you have also lived through periods of disillusionment, and may be going through another period now as I am. If so — go ahead and cry. Grieve. Rage. Kick and scream and shout out to the heavens. And then get up and choose how you want to contribute to this mysterious, sometimes cruel but always beautiful world that is being born in every moment. Be willing to lose everything you thought you knew and held dear, and trust the darkness to carry you to the light of a new day that you cannot even imagine now. Spiritual masters have navigated this road less traveled for thousands of years, and we can trust it will lead us home.
As for me, my intention is to live more faithfully my prayer to embody love. And to have compassion for the imperfect, inconsistent, stumbling and falling way I strive to reach that ideal.
How about you?
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