Be Still: Riding the Waves of the Sea of Fear

Back in September, our house was burglarized. That was the beginning of the feeling of being under siege. Within a few weeks I developed the high-pitched tinnitus I’ve told you about, which is like having an alarm going off 24/7. On Election Day, I took a bad fall on concrete, which caused injuries I’m still dealing with and for a while made me nervous even of walking.

In early January, I saw a new primary care physician for the first time, and it was pretty much the worst experience I’ve had with a medical appointment in my entire life, truly traumatizing. It had nothing to do with “care,” and little to do with “physician,” as the woman was strangely refusing to practice medicine. But it was clear, both from what she said and from her body language, that she had been badly mistreated herself. I had never seen a doctor in such a stressed, terrified state. She was literally trembling, and I don’t mean in the sense of having a neurological condition.

I felt very concerned for this woman*, but outraged that she would think it was remotely OK to treat a patient, or any human being, the way she treated me. More critically, I was being put in danger by her refusal to take my health issue seriously. I sank into a state of complete terror myself.

Just a few days later, our house was broken into and robbed again, this time with a lot of damage. They didn’t get much of any monetary value, but they took the few shreds of a sense of safety we had left.

As soon as I could pull out from the shock and anxiety, I took a look at the big picture as best I could. Perhaps my being mired in fear had helped to attract the burglar? I scanned around my body and the perimeter of the house and found a lot of energetic holes. Big ones. I patched everything up and worked at shifting my attitude and expectations.

If the abusive doctor had been put in my path for a reason, I thought, it was so that I could perceive, yet again, that fear is the fundamental problem.

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One of the things I’ve been doing to keep myself on an even keel is to listen to recordings of Adyashanti, the American Buddhist teacher, which I find both soothing and inspiring. I’m in the midst of an audio course called Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic. The course invites a deeper engagement with the story of Jesus’ life by digging into the metaphorical and mythological aspects of the Gospels, treating the story as story with all its psychological connections, not worrying about whether a given event happened in the physical world exactly as described. This is a bit of a departure for me, since I have spent a lot of time studying the history of early Christianity and trying to understand what did literally happen and what was invented later. I’ve been more involved with the facts, to the extent that they can be known. But I am completely fine with the concept that a story can be true without being something that actually happened.

At times Adyashanti seems a little off the mark to me in this course, but for the most part his interpretations make tremendous sense. He even came up with a way of thinking about the myth of the virgin birth that makes it no longer offensive to me. (More on that in the next post, in case you’re curious.) He emphasizes over and over that Jesus was pointing toward the Divine Nature within all of us. I wish we had all been taught this way to begin with. I don’t think we would fight ourselves or each other as much as we do.

The story that’s most relevant to my theme today is the one where Jesus and his friends are out on the Sea of Galilee in a boat when a terrible storm comes up, one that terrifies even the experienced fishermen among them. The disciples panic, sure they are all going to die, but Jesus is peacefully sleeping in the back of the boat. He knows the storm is nothing to be concerned about. They wake him up, shouting, “Master, we’re going to drown!” Jesus simply says to the storm, “Quiet! Be still!” and everything immediately becomes calm. “Where is your faith?” he asks the men.

Adyashanti riffs on the metaphorical meaning of water, which among other things can symbolize the unconscious. The storm-tossed sea is the myriad unsettled and unsettling things roiling around in the darkness inside all of us. Adyashanti takes this even further, with an idea I wouldn’t have thought of: previously, Jesus had cast the demons who called themselves Legion out of a man and into a herd of pigs, which then threw themselves off a cliff and drowned in a lake. Wait, was that really supposed to be the same body of water which later was the scene of the storm? For now, for the sake of a good parable, let’s just go along with Adyashanti’s device.

The demons are now in the water, lots of them, all loose and ready to make trouble. Think of any demons you can identify in your present moment. Threats to the climate. Yemen, Syria, Venezuela. The Brexit fiasco. MAGA hats. Intolerance. Xenophobia. Burglaries. Murders. Interior demons like self-hatred. [Your issue here.] There are infinite numbers of “demons” that might fill that stormy sea.

But Jesus, as an advanced spiritual master, is not bothered by any of them, because he knows what is truly real and what is delusion. When he says, “Be still,” he speaks with absolute authority, and they instantly obey. The disciples, still in thrall to what appears to be reality, cannot understand this. Can we? Can we bring ourselves to be still?

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The look on your face when your boggle threshold is exceeded.

Meanwhile, Star Trek: Discovery continues its aspirations to create modern mythology. As you may remember, Discovery’s first officer, Saru the Kelpien, is a creature who, being a prey animal, is ruled by fear. Or at least, he was until…

*SPOILER ALERT!!!* If you haven’t yet seen the fourth episode of season 2, and you plan to, stop right here and come back later.

… he has a near-death experience that transforms all of that.

Kelpiens are fast, capable of running around 80 kph. They’re super-smart, or at least Saru is— he has learned 94 languages, and in his youth he was able to figure out technological devices without any training. The main reason the Kelpiens have allowed themselves to be kept as livestock is that they believe that the “Great Balance” demands it. They don’t resist. They don’t even consider the possibility of resistance.

At some point in a Kelpien’s life, he or she undergoes a process called the vahar’ai, which is supposed to signal impending death. At this time, the Kelpien is expected to submit to being taken and slaughtered for food by the Ba’ul. The vahar’ai is extremely painful, so the affected Kelpien presumably looks forward to the end. All this is accepted calmly as the just the way things are; one should not think of trying to change it or having any other kind of life. The village priests reinforce this belief system.

In the recent episode “An Obol for Charon,” the vahar’ai is triggered in Saru by the death throes of a mysterious planet-like entity. Seeing no alternative to death, and in great pain, Saru begs Michael Burnham to cut off his threat ganglia (the sensory organs that warn Kelpiens of danger), which will kill him quickly and end his suffering. Weeping, Michael raises the knife to fulfill his request, but before she can begin to cut, the threat ganglia fall off of their own accord.

And Saru is not only still alive, he is suddenly free of fear, transformed in a way no Kelpien ever realized was possible. He has died to one version of reality and been born to another. He says that he feels his own power.

Which, in reality, he has always had.

How’s that for a metaphor?

Earlier in the day that this episode premiered, I had been contending again with the intersections of love and fear, hope and despair. As had happened when I was introduced to the mycelial network concept, I was given a perfect parable to fit the moment.

(It turns out, two episodes later, that things with the Kelpiens are even more complex, and their power more far-reaching, but I’ll let you watch and find out about that.)

Discovery has brought up yet another image that resonates for me, the “Red Angel.” We don’t know yet what this being really is, or whether it is good, evil, or something less definable. We know that a threat to all life in the galaxy is on the way, and the Red Angel may be connected to it, but so far we have only seen the mysterious entity acting to save people, a lot of them, including Michael Burnham. (*Extra spoiler*: As of the sixth episode of the season, we have evidence that the Angel is a humanoid using advanced technology, not a spiritual being.)

The neon-like pictures of the Red Angel reminded me of something or someone I saw years ago, when my mother-in-law was in the hospital after her stroke. While I was doing energy work for her, a vision of a glowing blue being, like a neon outline of a woman in flowing robes, appeared before my eyes. It was unusual in its vividness, and because it seemed as if I saw it floating in the room, rather than only in my mind’s eye. The vision went on for a few seconds. The Blue Lady, as I called her, didn’t do anything in particular, but she had a comforting effect.

I’ve wondered if I might have seen the entity or phenomenon that is responsible for the many “BVM” (Blessed Virgin Mary) sightings that have been recorded around the world. Whether or not that is so, I am completely agnostic about the nature or meaning of the Blue Lady. At the time I felt that she was there to help. I would like to think that she is still out there, still available, whatever and whoever she is.

The Red Angel may or may not be meant to convey a similar sense of security, comfort and hope. Fans are speculating intensively. We should get some clarification in a matter of weeks. Meanwhile, I will hold to the hope— I should say faith, but I have so much trouble with that word— that Someone has our backs as we navigate the murky waters of this dark and confusing time.

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Not long ago we had an alarm system installed in our home. We’re still getting used to it. I understand that, although it is called a “security system,” it cannot really create security or safety. It can’t stop anyone from entering our home; it can only make them extremely uncomfortable and discourage them from staying. True security can’t be found that way. It has to be gained from understanding what is real and what is not.

I’m working on it.

 

 

*Something is even more horribly wrong with our broken system than I had realized. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do to help support our MDs so that they can better support patients, and I have a few ideas, but haven’t found the path to put them into practice yet. Your thoughts on this matter are welcome.

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Filed under mythology and metaphor, psychology, spirituality

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