Recently, I dreamed of watching myself – seated in a gold-framed box hanging in outer space, tethered by a thread to something out of sight. Hanging from my left shoulder blade was a long, folded angel wing – and in my arms, I was cradling the other (severed) wing. There was a pietà quality to the scene, like a parent holding a wounded child.
There was also a feeling of being in limbo. As if I were between worlds, trying to make one work without losing contact with the other – and sometimes grieving the experience.
It makes sense, because I often feel like I don’t belong here and this isn’t home. It seems to be true for a lot of people, as they’ll tell you they don’t fit in and this experience feels foreign. As if, as newborns, our first thought was, “Whoa! What was I thinking? And how do I operate this clumsy overcoat?!”
My spiritual teacher used to say, “We’re in this world, but we’re not of it. So act as if everything is important, while knowing that nothing is.”
A few years ago, I had an epiphanal-type vision. I looked to my right, and standing shoulder to shoulder, beginning with my own, was a line of golden not-to-be-messed-with angels, stretching out to the horizon. Then I looked to my left and saw more of them, stretching to the other horizon. A personal angelic army – and I was certain that we all have one.
And still, there’s validity in that broken angel wing when living life on earth, because it’s often tough here. It’s easy to look around and perceive that the world is a mess and can’t be saved. That integrity and caring have diminished to the point that humanity is devolving. That the state of the environment is frightening. And that corruption, violence, poverty and disease have become our norm.
Relevant in my own life right now, I have six grandchildren – the first died at birth, and two are on the spectrum with a third being tested for it. If autism is hereditary, I’d like to blame my ex. But since I didn’t begin initiating speech until I was six, it would more likely be me. So what do I do with this guilt? And this grief?
To self-soothe, I turn to something else my teacher told me. Arcane wisdom explains the experience of life on earth this way.
When we enter this material universe, we take on a body to experience the laws of this planet and to learn the lessons that it offers. And as long as our spirits are housed in these bodies, the nature that rules this planet will be a factor in our experience.
There are three specific aspects of the earthly nature that most effect humans. First, is the experience of the life and death cycle, which includes growing as a result of the death of other things, creating a grand recycling system. Earth renews itself continuously by cleaning up its waste, making the earthworm one of the planet’s most useful beings. Second is the desire to express sexually and to reproduce, because whatever is capable of dying is driven to continue, through procreation. And third is the ability to express feelings, thoughts and emotions, which include so-called negative expressions such as anxiety, resentment, anger, jealousy, greed, competitiveness, hurt and hate. These are the foremost aspects of the earthly nature, and as long as we’re in these bodies, our expression of these will be normal and natural.
What my teacher’s saying here is that we should get off our own backs for expressing in these earthly ways. And we should also stop judging and condemning each other for it.
Behaving according to the earthly nature is a consequence of living on this planet. And those of us who resist that part of ourselves while we’re here will wrestle needlessly and unsuccessfully – especially if we try to understand it through a religious context, believing that we’re supposed to behave in a morally good way. If we try to discipline our minds and our bodies, into a forced obedience to rules and codes of behavior that are contrary to our natural desires, yearnings and appetites, we’ll end up with restrained, inhibited, explosive human beings. Religions produce them, society produces them and families produce them. When we try to control our natural yearnings and instincts by force of will – by saying, “I’ll make myself behave so that I can fit into society and meet the criteria of religions and laws” – we fight against our natural will. So it’s important to accept all the aspects of this earthly nature within us.
Fortunately, there’s an alternative way to express. He goes on to explain another nature that’s closer to home.
What’s most important to know about this earthly nature is that, outside this plane, humans wouldn’t experience it. And we need to know that there’s another nature that is not of this earth. And as soon as we take the earthly one off, like an uncomfortable piece of clothing, the other nature takes charge.
This other nature is an everlasting, sustaining, creative consciousness. It doesn’t grow through the death of other things. It has no natural instinct to kill and eat, to cause death and recycle life. And it has no appetite for reproduction, because that which doesn’t die doesn’t need to reproduce. It can only create and expand. It’s archetypal, and it’s the original, intrinsic nature of humans.
When we apply this personally, the obvious question arises: “Who’s in charge? Which one of these two natures is driving me, by making the decisions in my life?”
There’s a continuous battle raging between these two natures within every person existing on this planet. That’s where the real battles of life are being fought. The bumps and scars occurring on the surface are outward manifestations that reflect the inner struggle to regain control of this earthly nature that has grown seemingly insurmountable.
So how can we recognize when we’re expressing this earthly nature?
It’s a force that sometimes dreads, fears, worries, judges, condemns, hates, and becomes discouraged, depressed and hopeless. When we talk with that force, we feel bad, the opposite of all right. And whatever makes us hurt, or makes us feel guilty, or makes us fearful, doesn’t enliven us. It makes us less alive. Then the earthly nature is the one determining whether we’re happy with life or afraid of life.
When we choose to experience life according to the dictates of others, letting others determine how we should feel, think and act, we also give them the right to hurt us, to make us angry or sad, even the right to make us happy. And eventually, we forget how to make those decisions for ourselves. Then the earthly nature inside us uses our senses and appetites to rule over our thoughts and actions, determining whether we can be happy, joyous and alive. And whatever gives us a reason to express anything other than total love to ourselves, to other living beings, to mother earth and to our source of life creates hell for us on earth.
So how do we take back charge of our lives? How do I let go my guilt and grief, and all the other stuff that mucks up my thoughts and feelings, and affects my perspective of myself and life?
All we have to do is become conscious, which is what enlightenment is. We become conscious by admitting whatever we’re doing. And this is most important – by naming our action and calling it what it is, what we’re doing will change.
We can’t stop doing what we don’t know we’re doing, but we can change anything that we’re willing to name.
Then we’ll no longer say, “Eventually, I’ll learn to manage my emotions better, but right now it hurts my feelings when you say that. I’ll get around to learning how to communicate better, but for now, what you’re doing is making me mad.” If anyone’s words and actions can still create negative feelings in us, and cause us to express without love, who’s in charge?
As we exist in these physical bodies, it’s appropriate for us to experience our nature in all its aspects, including our feelings and emotions, yearnings and desires, hates and fears. It’s all right for all of that to exist. However, it’s inappropriate for us to believe that the nature of our body and our expression here on earth, is our only, or true, nature.
There’s a divine nature in humans. And that divine nature wants it to matter that we were alive, beyond attending to the creature comforts of our bodies. There’s something in us that wants to make a magnificent contribution to the world. And it will require going beyond behaving according to expectation, beyond conformity and submission – beyond following society’s rules and perhaps becoming a religiously and morally good person. Letting our divine nature rule means being extraordinary. It means being alive – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It means discovering and expressing our innate desire to love and be loved.
In order to remember and express our true nature, we need to accept all the beastly parts inside us, including our perceived faults and failings – which is perhaps why my angel was cradling the severed wing.
There are two ways to effectively relate to the earthly nature. Become completely happy with experiencing and expressing it. Revel in emotional outbursts and a lascivious, gluttonous lifestyle. Do it all and have a ball! Or, allow those beastly aspects to be approached gently with confidence and reassurance, and to be accepted, loved and appreciated by the highest part of ourselves, by that part of us that loves naturally. And at the same time, let the warm, beautiful, loving parts of our nature that we want to encourage be nourished, robustly and regularly.
All humans have within them an everlasting, sustaining, creative consciousness that is original and intrinsic. And in every moment, it’s possible to allow that part to come forward, as we accept and love all the various parts of ourselves, no matter how we’ve struggled thus far and no matter what a mess we believe we’ve made of our lives. If we do that, if we let our true self come forward, the spirit of love, which is the source of life, will be in charge.
Our true nature is alive and well within us. And as a decider, it’s our choice whether to give that nature control of determining our thoughts and actions. And it’s a decision we face in every moment. A utopian world of peace and plenty is not a fantasy, a metaphor, religious folly or something that may occur in a far-off heaven. Living in a new world right now may be as simple as choosing against pain, suffering, hurt and fear – and choosing for joy, love and life.
My teacher finished this explanation by saying that the earthworms and angels are cheering us on. It takes a massive belief in our innate goodness and our guaranteed well-being to shake off the dust of this earthly experience. We can do it though – not out of fear or worry, but with a voice of confidence and a heart of peace – because it’s our true nature to be extraordinary.
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