"All shall be well,
and all shall be well,
and all manner of things shall be well." Julian of Norwich (1342 – 1416) English Christian mystic
“So long as one is merely on the surface of things, they are always imperfect, unsatisfactory, incomplete. Penetrate into the substance and everything is perfect, complete, whole.”
Philip Kapleau. “The Zen of Living and Dying. A Practical and Spiritual Guide.” Shambhala, 1998.
How do we feel on reading such statements by saints, mystics & other serious meditators / contemplatives? Where do we land on this spectrum?:
confused & lost
completely agree (intellectually, emotionally & physically)
The closer we are to vehement disagreement, the more aversion we have towards some aspects of our life & our selves AND the more craving we experience towards other aspects of our life & our selves. Powerful aversion to all (people, things & situations) that threatens our survival, health, happiness, wealth, status, etc, and craving & clinging to all that guarantees our survival, health, happiness, wealth, status, etc seems absolutely obvious, healthy & reasonable to most of us.
YET, at the same time, we all know at least subconsciously, that our ability to control constant change, aging, sickness & death is an illusion. So most of us, for most if not all our lives, live "merely on the surface of things." We half-pretend (delusion) we can keep our "self" from changing, aging, getting sick & dying, AND at some level, we experience life as hard, cruel & meaningless.
But an interesting change occurs when we stop pouring so much energy into aversion, craving & delusion. We start to experience intimacy with who we really are, everything around us, with all of life. This often happens after we suddenly realize that we only have a very short time to live (trauma-associated growth); following other major traumas ('shipwrecks'); during aboriginal sweat lodge ceremonies, vision quests, & other spiritual practices; insights, 'heart openings' & other mystical experiences during serious meditation practice.
Many of us have experienced more trauma than we may consciously realize. Psychotherapy would greatly help to free us from a prison of PTSD-like reactivity. Relying on spirituality alone when psychotherapy is necessary ('spiritual bypassing') prolongs needless suffering and obstructs spiritual growth.
"On the surface of things," life does suck. But when we "penetrate into the substance," when we become intimate with reality, everything changes.
"You learn about a thing ... by opening yourself wholeheartedly to it. You learn about a thing by loving it." Barbara McClintock - Nobel prize-winning geneticist
"Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough." George Washington Carver
"When we give our hearts to whatever we do, to whatever we experience, or to what is happening around us, without personal agendas or preferences taking over ... the space of awareness, is exactly the same."
Amaro Bikkhu "Small Boat, Great Mountain." 2003 www.amaravati.org/downloads/pdf/SmallBoat.pdf
"All IS well,
and all IS well,
and all manner of things ARE well." Julian of Norwich (modified)