Can we open our eyes to the beauty of a heaven that is around us right now?
Part of the the Heart & the Law collection
Dust amazes me – how quickly it settles on everything, how much collects out of air that seems clean and clear. Yet it can be cleaned up, brushed away, and once removed no longer obscures what’s underneath.
What would your world look like if — every time you feared, suffered from, resisted or clung to a person, a relationship, a situation, a memory — your feelings deposited a sooty black residue upon the object of your anxiety? Look around you: what can you see right nearby that would be hidden under layers of this grime? How much of your world is caked with the debris of your fears?
“The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21
What would our world look like if each of us left behind visible evidence of our fear and trouble and suffering, if the dust and ash of difficulty obscured everything around us? Would it look perhaps like a world we know too well, one torn down the lines of race, of creed, of choice of worship? Would it look like the decay of dying factory towns; or the dingy, clanging cacaphony of cities?
Would it feel like the tightness inside when we remember that we haven’t bought a family member their Christmas present yet, and we heap guilt and self-anger upon ourselves? Would it trouble us like the dark shadow of someone we once loved?
When time and distance clear away this debris, we often see the truth of our experiences, our memories – that the changes we once resisted out of attachment or fear taught us wisdom, helped us grow, brought us further along our individual paths. Underneath we see something beautiful – a wish-fulfilling gem, so powerful in its ability to help us, so incomprehensible in ability to transform us, that on first glance we don’t see experience at work in our lives, and so it terrifies us.
There are many misunderstandings of the idea of karma, so I like to explain it as this black residue that collects upon what we fear, a gritty, dark powder that cakes and covers the truth of what’s underneath. As we resist, we see less and less of the original truth, more and more of the fearsome, toxic proof of our fears.
We see it and not what’s underneath and tremble; we see past pain and suffering and feel our tragedy once again… we push these ash-covered gems away from ourselves, adding yet another layer of fear to their horrible shells.
This is the effect of karma: when we refuse to accept reality (just accept – not condone or approve), we bury truth under the ashes of our resistance. And when we see these ashes, rather than choosing to clear them away and see what really lies underneath, we repeat the process, resist and run away, each time thickening the shell between ourselves and reality. So our troubles grow in size and strength over time, and we learn to live in a world of suffering, because reality and truth lie under a fearsome crust of our own creation.
But like dust, karma too can be blown away, chipped off, cleaned and removed. This detritus is only evidence of past fear. Like the remains of a long-dead fire, it can no longer burn; karma is not the proof of pain, but fragments of fear frozen into dust.
So what would our world look like if we chose to clean away all this collected angst, if we chose to see the challenges and experiences of life, everything and everyone around us – not as objects to be feared, but as wish-granting jewels who grant us opportunities to learn and grow and become more true to who we are? What would your world look like if you scrubbed away the dirt of your fear and left only the beauty of pure experience reflecting love and light into every corner of your life?
The Buddha told us to be a lamp unto ourselves; the Bible speaks of the kingdom of heaven as among us, within us. Could it be that we only see suffering in the world because we have smothered it in the ashes of our fear? What happens if we open our eyes, shine our love brightly, without the shadow of resistance, on everything we see? Can we experience everything in our world as if it were new, and still benefit from the wisdom of our experience? Can we open our eyes to the beauty of a heaven that is around us right now?
Unhappiness is our inability to see or accept the truth of our existence. Karma is the waste product of our fear.
And so I have been working with a meditation to help clear away this sooty residue and expose the wonders hidden beneath. Perhaps, with time, I can learn to see these gems for what they are when I first encounter them. Perhaps I will find the awareness to see clearly and avoid obscuring their light with my fear, avoid accumulating karma, see clearly what is.
Settle into a comfortable position for meditation, shake out the body’s tension. Catch your breath, close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply a few times to calm your mind and body. Just breathe. You do this all the time, breathing, and have nothing to prove. You’re just sitting and breathing…
Listen to your heartbeat – is it rapid? Is it slow? Strong? Weak? Just listen, smile, go back to your breath. Imagine each breath is a really good one, the kind that wakes you up, energizes you, fills you with a joyful feeling, gets your blood tingling. Hear the sound of your breath moving through you. Feel it entering your lungs.
Feel the air revitalizing your blood and then feel that renewed energy flowing through your body, bringing well-being and life to every part of you within moments.
Breathe slowly. That’s all you need to do. It doesn’t matter how long you sit, whether you scratch your nose or wriggle. It doesn’t matter if your mind won’t stop coming up with distractions. Just set your intention, sit, and breathe. Love your distractions as if they were entertainment – keeping you from getting bored! And breathe…
And when you feel ready – you will know – choose something in your life that’s frightening to you, something you know has been heavily encrusted with your anxiety, your karma. See it there in front of you, a heavy, cold, gruesome and unidentifiable dark mass. Feel how it weighs upon you, but know that though you fear it, it can no longer do you harm.
If you believe in a God, ask him or her for help. If you’re Buddhist, ask the Bodhisattvas to assist you. If you wish, ask your loved ones (in your mind) to stand with you in this meditation and help you clear away the sludge. Breathe. Ask whomever you wish, anyone or anything you’d like, to help you brush, chisel, chip, cut, sweep your karma from this thing to reveal its true nature.
And by yourself, or with help, keep breathing. Imagine the air you inhale is strength, love, awareness. Imagine your exhale is a pick, a chisel, a broom, whatever works best – and with each exhale clear away a bit more of that caked grime.
Breathe. Exhale, clear away your karma.
Inhale, gain strength and love. The karma, broken apart, blows away in the wind, scattered. It only has power when it collects.
Exhale, begin to see the treasure underneath.
Inhale… smile, feel joyful for the process, feel joyful that you’re here – right now – and have such an amazing chance for growth!
Keep breathing, imagine more and more of your accumulated sooty karma getting cleared away, until the gem, the truth, the actual experience or person or memory or idea underneath is uncovered.
Breathe slowly, wipe off the last of the dust with a soft cloth – is it a person? The cloth tickles them and they giggle with you. Is it a memory? See the warmth, the truth, the good that you couldn’t see before. Is it a relationship? Breathe and let your heart pour out the love it’s been holding back in fear. See the reality you’ve uncovered and smile at it.
This is your unfettered experience, it is a beautiful piece of your life – and you can see it now undarkened, undiminished by the soot of your fears. You see it for what it is. Explore this new vision. Play with it. Seek to understand it.
And keep breathing. inhaling, exhaling, slowly. Each breath is a moment, your breath is the meter of your life.
When you’re ready – you’ll know – let your vision fade away into the background, exhale it all, and go back to the sound of your breath moving through you. Feel the air in your lungs and in your blood filling you with life.
Just sit and breathe. You do this well! You’ve got many years of practice breathing, you can’t mess it up. Just be. Just breathe. Let yourself rise back to the surface… slowly… breathing, open your eyes… slowly…
And smile. Your world’s already brighter.