As you know, sitting in (a meditation retreat) hour after hour, day after day, one of the things we are learning is that our persona – this person that we would like to be, and would like to present to others – it comes and goes. It’s actually not that solid. And we learn to actually sit in a way where we’re not constantly rehearsing our inner narrative all the time. We can actually, periodically, have a moment of silence inside. And that ability to be in a place where the ego narrative isn’t reaffirming itself, is an incredible capacity. It means that we no longer have to put all our energy and attention into constantly maintaining ‘me’ all the time. It makes us relax. It makes us realize that, ‘OK I’m me, I’m doing it, I’m confident, I’m great,’ and then there are other moments when there’s nothing going on at all, there’s no ‘me,’ and then there can be other moments when I can be the prisoner in the dungeon.
And until those prisoners, which are ourselves – our former and present selves, formerly they were conscious and now they’re unconscious, controlling a lot of our behavior and tying up our awareness, until we can be them, we can’t see them. And until we see them and be them, we can’t give them their voice. This is the hero’s journey. Shamanism has a lot of outer things – there’s a kind of outer shamanism. But this is the inner shamanism. This is the hero’s journey into the darkness. And when we let go of our daylight adult personality, our persona, then we descend into the darkness and we become the tormented, the damned. It is dismemberment and death of our adult person. And when we do that, time after time after time sitting (in meditation) here, and going through all of these experiences, all of a sudden, fresh air begins to waft through those dungeons and torture chambers.
And the prisoners begin to wake up. And we begin to develop a relationship with them through seeing them, being them, and giving them their voice. Color begins to come into their faces. And they begin to breathe again. And they begin to become companions, strangely enough. And they remind us that they’re with us, and that we need to meet them over and over and help them. It’s a long process, but the prison doors have been thrown open, and the damned have been redeemed to life. And things begin to change. And our adult person becomes so much softer, and so much more tender about the whole thing, so much more sympathetic to how it is to be human, and more understanding of everybody, and the ongoing jostling that we do as humans, and rubbing against each other and bouncing off each other and having problems with each other, and being activated by each other becomes not an unwanted and condemned part of our life, but it becomes a morass that is a turgid with life. It’s a muddy bog that is filled with life that is about to bloom.
When we begin to see this very strange thing, that after we have been down in the dungeons, and we return, something is different in us. It’s the strangest thing. … When we return to the surface, after going through what we go through here, it’s different. We're more alive, more open, and feel inspiration that we didn’t know we had. And so what can I say? What can you say?
And that’s our process. We are rescuing, from the depths, sentient beings because … when you’re down in the dungeon, and you’re freeing some pitiful soul, who’s been chained to the wall forever, you are freeing that soul throughout the world, you’re freeing a part of yourself. And in freeing a part of yourself, you’re freeing a part of everybody else. It’s a strange concept… saving all sentient beings at this moment. And that’s how it works with us, and that’s what we’re doing. It’s world work when we make these heroic journeys into our own darkness, and are willing to open ourselves and expose ourselves to suffering that for most adult people, unless it’s forced on them by overwhelming trauma, they would not do it.
Nobody does it. We haven’t done it. We have to have a special lineage that drops us into the dungeons. And we have to do a special meditation practice, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, year after year, we have to really go at great lengths, in order to arrive in the deepest dungeons of our being, and to be able to do the work there.
So I don’t want this to get too dark. I want to emphasize something you know very well also, that every time we come through it, so to speak, we’re a new person. There’s a new birth. And what we’re experiencing is a transformation in our basic existential condition. We have really, truly become a new being, on every level down to our cells. Every time we come through it, that’s what happens, and we can feel it. And we feel the lightness, we feel the openness, we feel the beauty of the world in a new way. We feel a tenderness for our brothers and sisters who are going through the same journey. We feel love, and we feel a kind of courage and capacity growing within us that we can do this work. We can do this. We can free the prisoners. And then, we sign up for our next retreat.”
Reggie Ray - Freeing the Prisoner - January 2, 2016