You Are Your Only Problem
You are there to catch yourself when you fall. You have to believe it to know that it is so. When you are on the edge of the abyss, hanging onto the cliff side with bleeding fingertips, dangling at the end of your rope, despairing, having lost all hope and at the point of the end of it all, it is only your idea of how things ought to be that is slipping away. You are only being asked to change your mind about what is important. And, who is asking you to do that? YOU are! When you have run out of options, then you have to trust yourself to yourself. To The One Who Knows. You are never alone. You always have exactly what you need at every point in your life. You just don’t have what you wish you had. Things just aren’t what you want them to be. That’s your only problem. Make your peace with that and let your Self lead you along the way, and you’ll have it made.
The inner world is more important than the outer world. The only value of the outer world is its place of expression for the inner world. The inner world is to be incarnated, birthed, made visible, tangible, actual and real in the outer world. If we aren’t doing that, we are dead, or dying and soon to be dead. Of course, we aren’t doing that because we are distracted by the lights of Gay Paree, and think the outer world is the living end.
We think the Outer world is where life is to be found—in the lights and action of Gay Paree—and neglect the Inner world, which connects us with life, and is life, and live draped with beautiful rags, wearing glass beads, admiring ourselves in our silver mirrors, oblivious to the death that would point us to the path of life if we could only wake up and know how dead we are. Death is the path to life to those who realize they are dead. And, it is only death to those who think they are alive.
Life is conditional upon the inner work that is necessary to connect us to life, bring us to life and enable us to be alive in the outer world of normal, apparent, reality. Outer calls forth inner which blesses outer, and all things are complete, and one. But, in order for that to be the case, we have to do our inner work.
We have to reestablish our connection with the inner world by learning the language of soul—image, metaphor, dream, symbol, symptom—and bringing soul to life in our lives, living to incarnate soul, to give it concrete, tangible existence. Soul work is the work we do to bring soul to life in our lives.
Carl Jung says we have to find the image tucked away in our experiences. What has become of the dragons and monsters, the demons and ogres? The path? The journey? The magic? We don’t live magical lives, lives that are attuned to the inner world because we think it’s all about concrete and steel, and what you see is what you get. We have forgotten that there is more to life than meets the eye. In order to recover the sense of “more than eyes can see,” we have to rekindle our imagination and curiosity, and see the outer world with the “inner eye.” We have to live with a foot in each world and know which world is home.
We also have to connect our experience of the spontaneous images that arise in our minds with our experience of the concrete world of tangible reality—making the experience of the mental images concrete and tangible in the outer world of daily experience. What does it mean that I dream of snakes? How does the image of the snake connect with my lived experience? How do I translate the image of the snake into the tangible world of concrete and steel? Where are, who are, the snakes (dragons) in my daily life? It is the work of consciousness to make the connections, to find the meaning, and live with a foot in both worlds.
As it turns out, I hate snakes. Whenever I encounter a snake in a dream, I, the dreaming dreamer, say in the dream to whomever is in charge of production, “You know I hate snake! I’m going to always hate snakes, and you keep throwing snakes at me!” I hear the producer laughing. The dream is indicative of my waking world in which I encounter an endless stream of things I hate: trips to the dentist, to the auto repair shop, income tax preparation, balancing the check book… You have your list, you know what I’m talking about. The snakes at night are the hated list by day. The dream producer seems to be saying, “Get used to it. Get over it. Take doing what you hate in stride. Life is full of stuff like that.” Image becomes reality. Another snake dream underscores the truth of the way it is, invites me to accept it, live around it, and get on with my life, with doing the things that bring me to life, the things that I am here to do, in and around the snakes, the things that must also be done.
Inner prepares us for Outer, for life in the world of normal, apparent reality, offering images which reflect and shape experience, enabling us to live in the external world as those on a mission from the internal world. The mission is to bring forth who we are in spite of the context and circumstances of our lives. The mission is to be alive in a world that is not always conducive to life. Life is an inner reality to be brought forth in the world of physical experience.
Two things here. One is that the physical experience of life is not the only experience of life. Life is experienced on more than the physical level. Life is expressed physically, in the world of outer reality, but it does not EXIST physically! Physical existence is not the only form of existence! The inner world connects us with another world—who knows how many worlds there are—and life is the source of all worlds. This is a switch from the normal way of perceiving reality, which scratches its head and ponders the origin of life, as though life is produced by the physical universe. Reverse that train of thought. The physical universe is produced by life as a means of expression of life, of experiencing life. It is one of the ways life exists.
From the standpoint of this view, an end of life, of LIFE, is out of the question. Life is the foundational reality, the absolute, the given. If you are going to believe in anything believe in life beyond life, on-going, unending, eternal, beautifully, wonderfully, mysteriously, real. Life is not bound to the physical expression/experience of life. When physical existence ends, life continues. It only takes being a little bit alive to know this is so, and we are here to be alive in the time of our living. Being alive is exactly the work of soul, the work of bringing ourselves forth in the world of normal, apparent reality.
The second thing is that this past week I made my annual spring pilgrimage to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For three days, I walked among the flowers and alongside the streams with camera in hand honoring the rebirth of the world. This year, my wanderings took me to the Ephraim and Minerva “Nervy” Bales place in the Roaring Fork region of the Smokies. Ephraim and Nervy raised 9 children in a two room log house, and one of the rooms was a kitchen. They farmed about 30 acres of four inches of low grade topsoil covering granite rocks and boulders from 1890 to 1930. Think about bringing soul forth under those conditions. Think about bringing soul—yourself—to life there, then. Well, we’ve had it worse for thousands of years, and a large portion of the world’s population has it worse today.
In spite of that, life finds a way. We can count on life. And, we can join life in the work of finding a way by getting out of the way, by standing aside, by not interfering with life by imposing our judgment, evaluation, commentary—by keeping our terms and conditions and expectations from adding to life’s burden. We are here to assist life, to help bring life to life, not to impose more restrictions and limits. Even hope gets in the way when we misunderstand hope and think it is “for” something, or “that” something will happen or not happen. “I hope the Cubs will win the World Series,” is not hope. Hope is what water has when it finds its way to the sea no matter what obstacles it encounters along its path. Hope is the hard-headed, resolute, determination to find a way, when there appears to be no way, when there IS no way. Hope is life at its best, which we trivialize by hoping it doesn’t rain on our day off.
The challenge is the same in every time and place: Honor the inner world and be alive in the time and place of our living. Bring soul forth. Do what is ours to do, what we came to do, what we are here for. And that is not to achieve some great work in the world of outer reality, but to unfold what is within, to bring forth the inner into the outer, to express what is ours to express, to exhibit what is ours to exhibit, to make known what is ours to make known, namely who we are, who we are capable of being. “What I do is me,” says Gerard Manly Hopkins, “for that I came.” In order to know what that is, we have to attend the inner world, learn its language, and assist the unfolding of what is within.
To attend the Inner World, we have to feel the feelings stored there, and honor their place in our lives as we find ways to express them appropriately and consciously. Inner work is not intellectual. It is experiential. It can be wrenching. Like dying. The dead have to die if they are to come to life and be alive. It is easier to remain dead. And so, we have to do what is hard and bring soul forth in the time and place of our living, assisting Inner in the work of transforming Outer, and saving the world.