Stillness Dance

Demons seep through the cracks in bricks
as mortar slowly crumbles and falls.
Tombstones topple and corpses rise to
shriek in silence; smile, just smile.

Unseelie, goblins, bogies, dance upon
age-old earthen mounds, those hollow
hills in which twitch dreaming bones,
in bronze bedecked; smile, just smile.

The trees around glow with spectre
lamps and Will-o-Wisps delighting in
the dissolution of those who seek
treasures unearned; smile, just smile.

The world dissolves into tortuous Hells
to the sound of crazed laughter from
the minds of those now suffering the first
melted living-lie; smile, just smile.

All these bow and bathe, with milk
of shattered falsehood, the heatless flame
which stands firm and upright deepest in
your innermost peace as you smile, just smile.

Emotional Challenges in Spiritual Life

My depression — “melancholia”, when I’m feeling poetic — is worst when I deny the place it holds in my life. This is not peculiar to me, nor to the experience of depression. What we today call, illogically, “positive” emotions are at their best when we know that they are passing, and their “negative” counterparts are at their worst when we try to grasp at “peace” or “happiness”.

This is not yet another lecture on that old chestnut that life is only sweet because of death’s bitterness, however true this may be. It is not so much to say that darkness lets us recognize light, but that darkness is an ontologically necessary attenuation of light. When we try to separate life’s experiences according to “positive” and “negative”, we are slicing away the nuance which makes those experiences, relative as they are, in any way meaningful. Though it may not be especially fun at the time, I have come to value those spans of depression as the invigorating chill breeze of late winter, or the fallow period which encourages growth by its very (seeming) emptiness.

Religion is seen, today, as so much unnecessarily rigid discipline, while “spirituality” is thought to be freedom and bliss. But, in reality, the belief in such a shallow freedom to do, say, think, or feel anything is only a delusion; more, it is a delusion which leads inevitably either to violent inner repression of “negativity”, or to disappointment and a deep sense of failure as the house of cards falls from the slightest shift of circumstance. Such a spirituality lacks the tension necessary to achieve anything lasting or meaningful. It is devoid of the sort of relational framework which demands humility and challenges our all-too-natural narcissism.

The challenges and inner conflicts of religious life will stir up a mess of hidden fantasies, unresolved emotions, combative impulses, and muddy thoughts; a reflecting pool is not clean if all the dirt has merely settled to the bottom, and is not thus peaceful because it is stagnant. I have heard it pithily put that, “If meditation and Yoga only relax you, you’re doing something wrong.”

This is not to say that all mental and emotional states are “right”, but that they all have meaning and context. It is thus better to be honestly and sincerely aggressive than to “fake peace” and be passive-aggressive. It is only by being honest about anger, frustration, sadness, grief, hopelessness, and so on, that we can ever sublimate them in the stream of kundalinī-śakti or “spiritual energy.” Denial, like wallowing, passion, and pride, is just a form of grasping.

This is part of why the Bible, Mahābhārata, and other scriptures, contain such challenging passages of war, betrayal, human frailty, dismay, loss, and murder. If a spiritual approach does not confront us with our own shadow and force us to look deeply, examine, analyze, synthesize, and find meaning, we can never come to the stage of making peace. Any claim of peace before that process has exhausted itself is just another lie we tell ourselves.

Paradoxically, we have to abandon the notion that we can do it all by our own power in order to find ourselves infused with the power necessary in reaching the goal. Then, it is a matter of giving up the notion of the goal! “Self-power” and “other-power” are not different, except we make them so by misperception; and, to know the End, we must stand at the Beginning.

Joining the Hindu Community: My Saiva Name

You all may have noticed a name change on my profile: Purnacandra Sivarupa. This is my chosen Saiva name. I’m not going to force everybody to switch to using it all at once (at least not the folks I know in person!), but I’d appreciate it if my friends at least started to accustom themselves to it. I’ll be happy to let anybody know exact pronunciation when convenient. And, yes, I will be making this legal. I’m going to give it a bit of a “feeling-out”, to make sure that it seems to fit where I’m at. If, as with English names, “Purnacandra” is a bit long for common address, and you feel the need to shorten it, “Candra” is my preferred “nickname”, as that is the deity name at the heart of it. (“C” in Sanskrit is pronounced like “ch” in English.)

“Purnachandra” means “Full Moon”; “Sivarupa” means “form of Siva”. The name took a lot of time for me to decide upon, after much research, prayer, and meditation, and is very meaningful to me in this current place along my spiritual journey. Thanks, everybody, for being patient with the process. Aum Santih Santih Santih