courage in pain or adversity
Last post I spoke on spiritual integrity. This time I will speak on fortitude.
Do we show courage during this time of adversity? Do you show courage in your pain?
Spiritual fortitude for me is having the courage to go within while in pain or adversity, and dig deeper for truth. Not staying stuck in illusion.
When I think of courage, I think of David.
I went to see the statue of David in Florence a few years ago. What struck me was the expression on his face. He is facing the giant Goliath. His face is calm, focused and trusting. In his expression he is saying, I know what I must face. I trust in what I must do. I know who I am. I trust God. He is the face of spiritual fortitude.
Many of us, if faced with a giant would run in fear. Many more of us would never bring ourselves to the place where we face Goliath. And many more would look at the giant with doubt oozing from our eyes, trembling in our boots, not trusting what we must face or in the truth of who we are and what we must do.
I have yet to see a literal giant on my spiritual path, but I have seen many other obstacles- all stemming from within. Sometimes I resist; fight and scream- refusing to face them. Other times I might run and hide. But mostly I try to look at what is within and defeat it with truth, persistence and strength. Often it is difficult to do without judgement, but by the time I get to the end of the fight I understand the nature of the beast and become gentle with myself and notice the inner obstacle is there to support my evolution and to enhance my spiritual fortitude.
So what are some of the inner obstacles I speak of? Here’s a hard pill to swallow. We are selfish. Of course it isn’t our only attribute, for we have many, but at the root of all our sufferings is self-focus. I used to be called selfish, and I hated it. I couldn’t think of anything worse to be called, but it is this beast that shows its face time and time again, often disguising itself, (perhaps in martyrdom and doing the ‘right’ thing) and it always causes suffering.
The selfishness goes deep, and unconsciously we fear if we don’t think about ourselves constantly we will lose ourselves, which means we will not exist. And what can be worse than this?
I remember coming home after a meditation retreat beginning to plan a party for my daughter’s birthday. I was going over the list of all the people that would be there so I could get an idea of how much food to prepare. In making my list, I noticed I had thought of everyone but myself. When I realized this fully, I panicked. Where am I, I thought, if I am not thinking about me? Who am I, if I am not thinking about me? Do I exist? Panic.
Because of this we are always, and usually unconsciously, thinking about ourselves.
What am I feeling? What am I thinking? What will I be wearing? Do I look okay, or am I fat? Does he like me? Why do they look at me funny? What will I do if I don’t get that job? How will he treat me if I lose weight? What will happen to me if I go broke? And on and on and on and on……
If you believe in past lives, imagine how long the thread of I, I, I, I, I, I, I is? Even when we are doing for someone else, we are probably thinking about ourselves.
For instance my mother was once gave me money. I know there is a part in her, as there is in all of us, which gave selflessly. However that part is deep within the part which gave selfishly to appease her own guilt and to expect something in return. In her case my love, recognition and forgiveness. Money of course could not buy these things. Even now as she lives in our home, she expects recognition for all that she does, and will pout or even sleep in her car if she does not receive it. Does this not sound like suffering?
How about in a work situation when someone we work with is talking about us behind our backs. We immediately begin to think about ourselves and how we feel attacked and dishonored. We may want to take revenge. We may start to withdraw and want to quit. We may start to gossip about them. Does this not cause suffering?
In my own life; the minute I focus on myself, is the precise minute I lose, and not only do I lose but so does everyone else. If I think I am the one who does everything in my household, I become bitter and angry. If I think I have to control someone’s behavior so I can feel better- does this not sound like suffering?
Selfishness is the giant we must face, and are facing a little bit at a time, whether we are aware of it or not. However becoming aware of the giant is a good first step. Remember with David; he looked right into the beast he was to defeat. He did not have an elaborate scheme or weapon. He had a sling shot and some simple stones. It was of course not the sling shot or the stones which defeated the giant. It was his fortitude.
This is the part which lies beneath all the selfish clutter we accumulate time and time again.
I began this post to say we are selfish, and yes it is true, but it is not our truth. It is not our essence. It is simply where many of us are right now. Selfishness is our teacher, which brings us to the real truth of our essence- we are divine- not just me, not just I- but Divine.
Where are the giants in your life? Or better yet- start small. Look for the elves; the little mischevious energies such as jealousy, self-pity and regular everyday annoyances. What bothers you? What makes you crazy? Who makes you crazy? (Sarah Palin at the moment for me) What inside of you is allowing such discomfort, and investigate. Looking at such things is not about blame and shame. It’s about spiritual empowerment because when we know what the giants and/or the elves are we can face them, and like David take them out with our simple stones; the gifts of self-awareness and spiritual fortitude.