Let’s face it, life can be hard.
You can spend years building a business, a strong reputation. You can master the skills related to your mission… then the market shifts and your industry disappears in 6 months.
You can have the most beautiful relationship one can dream for.. then one day, they tell you, after years “This is over. I want to see other people. We’re not a good fit anymore.”
Even if that never happens, it is still going to end one day. One of you will die first.
In your life you’ll watch every loved one get hurt, get sick, fail, face betrayal, and die. These same things will happen to you.
No one gets through life untouched by tragedy. Sometimes you can do everything right and things still fall through. More likely you’ll make mistakes. A mountain of them. A study has found found that over 60% of our actions, choices, and decisions don’t work out. It’s part of the process.
Things can become so stacked against you that there seems to be no way out. It’s easy for hopelessness to set in. “Why bother?” “Why try?” “Is it even worth it? Worth all of this?”
Growth is the only guarantee that things will improve. Even if the situations stay the same, you can learn to manage them more effectively. Growth is the only promise that life will get better, simply because you will be better.
So let’s tackle the hardship of life, one step at a time.
Bad things happen. Many people will talk around it, pretend it’s not true, but when they occur they will experience them as bad. As undesirable.
“Life doesn’t happen to us, it happens for us.” ~Tony Robbins
“Each hardship carries within it the seed of equivalent benefit.” ~ Napoleon Hill
“You can turn your scars into stars.” ~ Dr. Maxwell Maltz
“Each challenge in life is merely preparing you for a brighter future.” ~ Unknown
“These are all just lessons.” ~Common phrase
Each of these quotes offers us a promise of better days.
Many people will preach about it. They’ll be certain that they believe it. They’ll give seminars about it, write books talking about faith, quoting the Book of Job, or the Quran in daily life.
When their child gets hit with a car, when their business collapses, when their Mom has cancer, when they have to pick food from the dumpster outside of the Chinese restaurant let’s see how much they believe it.
Regardless of affirmations, anchors, or shifts in focus, our actions will tell us how deeply rooted is our belief system.
Right now let’s begin to distinguish some terms. Darkness has a particular meaning when I use it.
Darkness is that sense of hopelessness, brokenness, feeling helpless, out of options, permanently crushed, shattered, destroyed. Too weak to make a difference. Stomped flat. Subjugated by a permanent limitation or situation. Not believing there are possibilities, options, or a way. So dark that you don’t even want to hear about opportunities for improvement because it could only be a lie.
To me this is the worst feeling in the world. It’s my lifelong mission to eradicate it.
I don’t mind hardship, difficulty, pain. I don’t mind suffering. The old adage that “Hard times make good men.” and “the best of people have had the worst of times” rings true for me. At an existential level I don’t have a problem with difficulty.
But when difficulty has no meaning, is just permanent, enduring suffering from which there is no escape, I can’t abide by that. It’s the illusion of Darkness that I am after. Not the hardships themselves.
Let me tell you a story…
My first teacher taught “To live is to suffer. To die is to be born again and suffer.” and “There is no point in life. All you can do is become strong enough that others can’t fuck with you. Maybe one day we’ll become strong enough to kill God.”
It was very culty, except for the fact that we were too small in number to be considered a proper cult. I was an apprentice under a black magician. I wouldn’t have believed him. I was skeptical. But were it not for the fact that he did many things that I had only heard of in fantasy books, I would have left.
He taught me about the end of the world. It would be a merging of the Earth and the “Realms.” This event, Armageddon would occur 3 times. 13 chapters to each war, 33 waves to each chapter. All back to back. It would essentially be an lengthy process of increasingly horrible shit, wars, torture, every level of destruction imaginable, and the last one standing gets to shape the new direction of how things would restart.
In order to have the opportunity to get stronger, to confront Darkness, to protect my loved ones, I agreed to join my first teacher. Then I felt I could become empowered and educated enough to play a role in this, and maybe, just maybe, shape the direction of reality’s future.
All I did was weird occult shit, practice martial arts, and bide my time. Anything was worth the cost, no matter how heartbreaking. I would be pursued by enemies. I should push my girlfriend away so she’s safe. One day the government might lie and say I was the enemy, and the only way I would live would be if my parents would turn me in. So I angrily, hatefully awaited the day when that possibility came. You know what I was prepared to do. I had to survive.
Forsaken by fate, life was not meant for me. My task was set once I accepted the blood of the ancients. I just acted like a normal person as much as I could, as a mask, even though I couldn’t look at anyone without running through scenarios of their death in my head.
To avoid fighting I just did whatever other people wanted, regardless of my opinion. Happiness wasn’t meant for me. I had snapped, and harmed people I only wanted to protect several times. I took this as a sign to stay the fuck away from people, and await the end of days. Each war, natural disaster, bit of corruption, I took as a sign that the pressure was building up between realms, and eventually the barrier couldn’t sustain it, and the merger would begin.
Such were the costs I was willing to pay to confront darkness.
Fortunately this only lasted a few years, and in 2003 I began my apprenticeship under a much wiser, more compassionate Buddhist Master. This continued for 14 years.
It was here that I began to learn about the next term I’ll introduce you to. Non-Darkness which was the fundamental teaching during my apprenticeship.
There are events that are so far beyond what we’ve adapted to and are willing to accept that we can only perceive them as awful.
When a woman desires to have a child all of her life, and the Doctor tells her it’s impossible, she’s crushed. The framework for what is required for fulfillment cannot embrace this reality. It’s psychological destruction. The most fundamental beliefs about what matters in life come crashing down. Nothing else matters.
An Olympic athlete identifies themselves as physically powerful, strong, a champion. Then a car crash happens leaving them crippled from the waist down. Suddenly the main thing that life is about disappears. Life has no meaning, no value, no hope.
These are examples of what was called “Terrible Dharma.” Dharma being basically your path of evolution, or the wisdom you gain from the experience of walking that path, depending on context. When we call it “Terrible” that means that something has occurred that is more real than any mental conditioning. You cannot go back to being who you were, no matter how you fight. You can never brainwash yourself into believing what you once did. Sometimes it was a structure that everything else was based around. That being the case, you question life, reality, don’t know what is real anymore.
There are moments on your path when it’s possible that your most fundamental beliefs can be destroyed by an event, or even worse, you’ll discover that what you wanted doesn’t actually exist.
Until you reach the point of Non-Darkness concerning this, you’ll experience everything as only awful.
What is Non-Darkness?
First let’s define what it is NOT.
-It is not shifting your focus to see “what’s great about this?”
-It is not lying to yourself and saying everything is ok.
-It’s not denial of what you feel or what is going on
-It’s not hypnosis leading you to change the meaning
-It’s not giving the event an empowering meaning
-It’s not conditioning yourself to see things a different way.
Non-Darkness is when you arrive at a stage of clarity regarding the event that you see it divinely, the problem is obsolete. You cannot see any issue with it. Even the events that you have found most atrocious before are now beautiful and perfect manifestations of divine love. You are conscious of what was unconscious and see the reality of the situation once it is stripped of association and bias.
Non-Darkness is practiced by many different traditions.
Thich Naht Hahn calls the practice of working to arrive at that point “deep looking” or Vipassana.
Eckhart Tolle might refer to “observing the mind, or the pain body” as part of this process.
Dr. David R Hawkins taught “Letting Go.”
In my training we called it “Emotional Integration.” The 4th level of Integration is when we arrive at Non-Darkness.
It’s a process of being conscious with present moment attention, and directing it at a pain, a topic, an unknown, and observing it. As you do, more information will begin to reveal itself. Eventually you’ll see it with such clarity that not only is the pain gone, not only is it replaced with an equivalent of bliss, deep peace, not only do you understand it, but the idea that something was EVER wrong becomes obsolete.
During my apprenticeship many other things were covered. However this was the fundamental teaching. Simply repeating the revelation in words would be inadequate to transmit the experience. It is the untying of the current framework, presuppositions, beliefs that gives rise to the wisdom in a rather organic process.
In my view, this is where evolution begins. When you get to this 4th level of Integration, this state of Non-Darkness with 1% of your experience, you are essentially 1% awake, or 1% a Buddha. For that much of what was unconscious is now clearly seen.
You can learn management skills to master your emotion, time, energy, finances. You can be very disciplined and always do what you set out to do. You can be very successful, be an expert at seeing things positively. You can train to be very present, and loving. You can read many books and have great understanding of mechanics of things. You can be an excellent leader, an effective communicator. You can get into a state of flow at will and operate at peak performance. Your self-image can be world class. These are all valuable, essential, important. I teach them all. But your evolution is determined by how you awaken.
Let’s conclude this by going into one final area in our exploration of what lurks inside.
This is what Jung called “Shadow Integration.”
According to Carl Jung, your shadow is a dark side of your personality. Biologically, we are made to do many things that society (often rightly) frowns upon. Millions of years of evolutionary data have encoded into our genes and collective psyche a profound sense of self importance, a willingness to fight, kill, steal resources, dominate, anything to survive and secure optimal footing in life.
When we want to pretend we’re sweet innocent baby deer, we are naive to not only the world around us, but a great deal of power locked inside of us. When we first begin to be exposed to our inner desires to hurt and kill our enemies, to dominate, to breed regardless of opinions, to have all the resources for ourselves, we can judge this. We can hate ourselves, and think we’re bad. But you’re not alone. That’s how we’re made.
These forces, fortunately, are rarely required to be engaged in modern life. While each shooting is a tragedy, it’s better than your city being enveloped in all out war every few years, having 2/3’s of the men wiped out and unknown percentage of women and children claimed as salves and concubines. This was the reality of human life for most of existence. Let’s still work to improve.
Jung argued that until you come face to face with your shadow and begin to incorporate it into your life, you really had no idea who you are, or what you’re capable of. If you can’t get to that place inside that would not only fight to kill as a last resort, but would love it, and conquering your enemies, taking the spoils, having what you want. We are merely not in an environment or culture that honors and reinforces these tendencies. (Rightfully so.) Yet these things are a part of you.
When you cannot get in touch with your meaner parts, you can easily be pushed around by those who can.
When you can align these forces inside with your ambitions they will actually drive your evolution, your personal growth, rather than fight it.
The conflict we have with our shadow on the path of personal development often comes when we believe that we must ignore, shut down, punish, and subjugate these things. Pretend they’re not there.
But in such cases you’re merely in a repressed state, waiting for a trigger to blow out and express these things we were in such denial of.
A good example of this is when there is a school shooting. So many warm and loving people can more quickly find a place where they would become monstrous, and do great harm to the perpetrators. These are times when people begin to get in touch with their shadow.
I don’t encourage you to be mean, or violent. I don’t ask you to explore these depths, particularly if you hate yourself, if your mood fluctuates, if you lash out.
I do believe that at certain points in your path it’s wise and profoundly rewarding to begin to get in touch with these primal forces in your life, allow yourself to feel it’s power. Naturally you’ll start to gain more fortitude in other areas of your life, in a more harmonious sort of way, rather than with explosions of wrath that tend to come from repressing this power.
If these sorts of things interest you, please get in touch and we can give you suggestions for how to advance.