One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.
It was not until my early twenties that I realized that my father was prejudiced with a certain animosity toward the Germans. He was french, was born right before WWII, suffered real hardship during the war, the shame of occupation and his aunt was sent away for two years by the Gestapo to two concentration camps, when a jealous neighbor ratted her out for hiding american parachutists that had landed near her house. My great-aunt was in the underground Resistance movement and was twice recipient of the Legion of Honor for services rendered to her country.
I couldn’t help but admire my father for not transferring his wounds to us. In the spirit of reconstruction that permeated my scholar education in France, I was raised to understand how the foundation for a unified Europe was laid out in the spirit of reconciliation between France and Germany, which had been in conflict on and off for so long. We were never recipients of any resentment, never heard harsh language against the Germans, we never witnessed discussions. The generation of my parents did not discuss that kind of things: they were too busy building a life and a legacy. But it is a testimony to my father’s conscious desire to live life in a little bit of elegance that he didn’t dwell in the small-mindedness of entertaining grudges, as understandable as they might have been. In truth my father was the embodiment of justice and balance.
Why do you live in that box: It’s not even yours!
It was around the year 1993 and I was at University in the South of Spain. Back then I was stunned to witness recurrent heated discussions among fellow students, that were imbued with the resentments of the Spanish Civil War which dated from 1936. Most students that I met entertained a vocabulary and aggressive reactions to the politics of that time that had been passed on to them by their parents and grandparents. I found that atavistic thinking incredibly backward and couldn’t help but notice the contrast with my own upbringing in that subject matter. I wondered then how different my life would have turned out if I had been raised in such a narrow mindset. I would ask my roommates: “why do you live in that box? It doesn’t even belong to you! Imagine if I spent all day talking about the Nazis. I’ve never even met one!”
On the Spanish side of my family I had never heard anything about those conflicts either, and it was also at that time that I learned about which side of the civil war had caught my mother’s family in -and therefore shaped people’s ideology forever. And I could see that so clearly: that in the end it was the same people and same circumstances on one side or the other. It was just human beings that killed one another for ideals that each thought were more important. A civil war really is the worst kind of war. In many ways it is still going on and politicians use those conditionings to keep people divided, which is to their benefit.
The symbol of the pyramid can become a wonderful metaphor to understand how to make sense of all this. Joseph Campbell explained how at the bottom of the pyramid we are subjected to the small-minded urges of the ego and we are on one side at any given time. However at the top of the pyramid is where the eye of God opens and we can have a much broader perspective on our experience, inspired by the awareness of a Big Picture. There, at the top, is where we can be a beacon of light and truly contribute to our environment -and ultimately to All That Is. My father’s way of being was divinely inspired -knowingly or unknowingly. He could have been stuck at the bottom of the pyramid and conditioned his children for the rest of their lives. Instead he had aspirations and was pulled by the desire to build and to be better. And so it is, at any given time, that we can become entangled in the strifes of life at the bottom, or decide to go up and be inspired to be better. To understand that is what makes us take tiny steps forward: those are the things that change the world, instead of perpetuating turmoil and pain. I could have been raised in that hatred, at the bottom, and remain stuck there. Instead that almost imperceptible gesture from my parents allowed for growth in my life -it opened a door.
And we need to understand that this is what we are here for: to evolve, to grow, to be better. And growth doesn’t come from hatred. There is another level than our small worries, our small mind. It doesn’t mean we don’t fall into the traps. I do -all the time. But being my own observer is what spiritual awakening is about. It’s not about writing a check to a charity of my choice, in selective compassion. It’s about being aware that I can choose to make decisions that will serve both me and All That Is. That is spiritual awareness, it is the inspired voice within that knows to ask: what would God do?
In the ordinary ways of every day life I try to keep in mind the image of the pyramid. During a traffic situation, I was once being reprimanded for allowing another driver to “bulldoze” me, stepping on my newly-acquired boundaries. However I had to explain to the person in the passenger seat that my boundaries were not important if they were only going to sustain the turmoil that was going on. I could have stood my ground, and become the bully myself, perpetuating the bottleneck. Instead I decided to set my ego aside and allow for the whole mess to dissolve. It was up to me and I made the decision that was best both for me and all of us. That’s what the pyramid stands for.
Be the light
At the top I can be a little beacon of light, exercise the big mind and learn my lessons when faced with my mirrors. At the top there is no separation. At the bottom I am stuck in the struggles of the small mind, blaming and accusing others and perpetuating that cycle. At the bottom I don’t see that when I point the finger at someone, God is telling me to point it to myself instead, and learn something. To exercise “Viveka”, a Sanskrit word for “discernment”, is to be aware of the pyramid and decide where I want to stand when I make a decision. But this doesn’t mean that I discard the bottom. The whole point, in my opinion, of this new spiritual era that we are entering, is to understand that we are to consolidate all. It’s the awareness of all sides that is at the core of our next impulse, of the upcoming evolution. And in fact without the awareness of the bottom of the pyramid we couldn’t understand the impulse we get from standing at the top.
At the top of the pyramid there is no cause and effect, because they are already linked. When I look down I become aware that it’s all about what is visible and invisible. And so at the top things become visible that were not visible before. And up there is where God reminds me of what humility is about. We are each just one little ant, one grain of sand, one drop in the ocean. And at the top of the pyramid we can see the oneness and immensity of what we are -all of us together. We have the greatness in us but we are just one small part in that moment in time. And sometimes life is overwhelming and we can’t climb up to the top and we are at the bottom, fighting each for our side. But really, as long as we are in the physical body we are subjected to the overwhelming nature of this reality -and that’s ok. Awareness comes and goes as we go through the wheel of life. Everything has a function…
As a collective we are now meant to learn to dance in both worlds, to know to go up the pyramid, get a new perspective and then go down and be better. Because we are not meant to be always at the top or always at the bottom. We are meant to be aware of both perspectives, to reconcile them and expand our understanding: it’s not about escaping anywhere. That is how we move toward love. For love is not an emotion: it’s an understanding. And enlightenment doesn’t mean that I don’t experience pain or even suffering: it’s that I know I can transcend them, if only for a fleeting moment, and realize that they have the function to keep me growing. But I still experience them and in fact I am meant to. As I like to say, let’s “Om” our way back down to Earth, because enlightenment for those of us in a human body is not a destination: it’s a muse, an inspiration. For me it’s the light that illuminates the way to the top of the pyramid if I decide to climb up.
I don’t aspire to enlightenment: I’m inspired by it.
🙂 Marina CB – Be brave, be free