“And they lived happily ever after.”
Little did I know when I heard those words in my youth that this story conclusion actually set me up for a lifetime of separation. Let me explain.
When I was born, I was at one with the entire universe. Then, as an infant, my somebody training began; “this is your nose; these are your ears.” – you know the drill; eyes and ears and mouth and nose, head, shoulders, knees and toes. A little at a time I learned about me, that I was unique and that I was separate from my surroundings.
Then my dualistic training began; I learned about light-dark, tall-short, cold-hot, good-bad, on-off, up-down, win-lose, love-hate or indifference, etc. These concepts expanded as I grew; Broncos-Bucs, Republican-Democrat, Christian -Jew, American-Russian, gay-straight, Buddhist-Hindu, etc.
The church actually set the stage for promoting self-centered arrogance with deep separation; “I’m sure glad I will be going to heaven instead of where those heathens are going.” “Our religion is superior to all the others.” “We are the chosen ones.”
I began to notice things that didn’t make sense. The dynamic of duality just forced people to take sides. This tendency to find opposition didn’t resemble the message Jesus wanted us to get. As I grew, I was on the lookout for something outside the church that made sense. I was influenced by the concept of Zen, read the teachings of Carlos Castaneda and became immersed in the power of now.
Fortunately, grace intervened. I was set upon a simple path and found a practical relationship with God. I found an easy to understand spiritual foundation through Alcoholics Anonymous. This is the basis upon which I built my ability to appreciate my surroundings. I learned to relate instead of compare. Gratitude became priority.
This year Covid interrupted our regular routine of service to Harley-Davidson clientele. When the dust settled and we were given the go-ahead, tragedy occurred. While enroute to our first pinstriping engagement in Maryland our RV caught fire and burned to the ground. While attempting to put out the fire, I sustained burns on my arms and hands. Our lives changed in an instant. We lost everything.
Instead of arriving to assume my role as pinstripe artist at my first Harley store, I had to deal with the insurance system, heal my injuries, duke it out with a selfish Wrecker company, buy new clothes, console my partner and start to rebuild. Candyse had it worse, we had packed everything for our summer on the road. She lost everything. A mind in shock wondered; why me? My usual zeal was gone. I felt like giving up.
From this devastating low point, when the initial shock began to wear off, I slowly entered into the five stages of grief. At one point I was angry enough at God to want to fire his ass. Fortunately, I confided with a spiritual friend who talked me down from the edge.
This episode coincided with the insanity produced worldwide in response to a tragic death in Minnesota. I watched in disbelief the response that varied from looting and destruction to peaceful demonstrations of encouragement and empathy.
From a vantage point in my grief, I began to wonder about the source of the variety of behavior produced by people around the world. I realized that each person’s cocktail of dualistic thinking was unique. Because each person has a different duality paradigm, their perception of the same event yielded different meanings.
I realized the ego was a major player here too. The ego just wants to be right. That means the ego often has to use a flexible moral value system in order to maintain the conclusion (or illusion) of being right.
This explains why the president can make one statement and half the listeners give him an ovation and the other half are appalled – and they heard the same statement.
I had an epiphany. I realized there was no up-side to complaining about the behavior of anyone. My complaining was a product of my ego in conflict with the truth. By not taking sides I could enter into acceptance for the way things are. This was my portal into the next level of spiritual maturity.
While I inventoried our material losses due to the fire, I began to become aware of my relationship with things. In my grief I wondered if my attachment with things would also have a growth curve. I did some research.
I found out that many people who went through major trauma had dramatic realizations that changed their lives. Ten-year olds who went through cancer emerged with an attitude that did not compare with other ten-year olds. Combat veterans who experienced near death often maintained an admirable attitude for the rest of their lives. And the elderly with their share of challenges either suffer in decline or rise graciously into the next echelon of spiritual understanding and maturity. I realized there was something significant in front of me the result of going through this tragedy. I had an opportunity to get bitter or better.
I am already familiar with the victim mentality; nope – no self-pity for me. I also didn’t want to get caught up in passing judgment, the propagation of opinion or the creation of fantasy scenarios in an effort to explain the unexplainable. A mind that wants to pigeon-hole and compartmentalize everything into categories is actually an attempt at control and involves twisting the truth. There is arrogance in needing to know.
I was hungry for an upgrade. I wanted more of the peace and serenity tasted in sobriety. I would have to let go of the duality of the right-wrong, us-them, true-false, being in control paradigm.
To stop doing this dualistic tug-of-war requires mindfulness. This is not a contest but a doorway into integration and freedom. I must retrain my mind to seek balance and develop unitive consciousness.
I must balance knowing with not knowing and not needing to know as the portal through which to enter into contemplative awareness. The space around not having to know allows a place for inspiration, intuition and unity with the moment to occur. Those who don’t make any claims as to what is right or wrong have access to the light.
I realized there is nothing to fight about; there’s nothing to prove. This whole experience on earth is a dance – a dynamic flow of attraction and grace and our mission is to awaken the inner contemplative mentality.
Plus, when we grant mutuality, oneness and dignity to everything in our universe, we are never alone again. Plus, there is freedom in using a non-duality mindset. We are restored to the place from which we came at birth. I find peace and acceptance that everything is just the way it is supposed to be.
I invite you to re-enter your life, discard dualistic thinking, start anew and create new possibilities for finding harmony with the universe. I invite you to start your new story now.
Open your heart and mind and recite with me; “once upon a time”