At certain times our natural joy is missing, enveloped as it is in sadness, bitterness, recrimination, and despair, it takes a long time to trust that our innate sense of well-being can be found underneath like a shining volcano of light just waiting to be unearthed. It can be seen when we find joy in the smallest thing, but like a small sea creature it scuttles back inside waiting for an opportunity to emerge again. What if I told you that this shining beacon of light is our natural home, coming from our ever present connection to what is. We often find that it is unearthed when we can remove the layers of filth, like a dirty blanket that covers up the shine on an old toy, so too we can become entrenched in habitual thinking patterns and mindstates which obscure this pure awareness. Ploughing down and through the layers of this muck can be time consuming but we have at our fingertips an old magic that has been used for countless centuries. We have to understand that deep in our beings we hold habitual patterns and contractions from past hurts, lost loves, deep losses, trauma, and unresolved sadness and anger, each of which leave a trace of scaring on our bodies, hearts and minds. The end goal of Buddhism, is a total ‘unbinding’ leading to nibbana. Here, the fires are dampened and finally extinguish any of the residual longings and desires which bind to the almost constant states of becoming and lust for life’s sensory pleasures. We each have power to exercise restraint, to calm the habitual tendencies of the mind to reach out and grasp and cling to the things that will inevitably cause us suffering. We have to learn often the hard way, that our constant clinging to that which will inevitably harm us, is the basis for the root of our craving and the cause of our unending search for something new to delight in each time we are caught by some kind of sense object. We are often not aware of our own longings, or aversions and travel endlessly in the direction of that which we think will make us happy only to have it turn around and bite us when it doesn’t live up to our expectations. We almost never take the time to reflect on what will make us truly satisfied, and if we do, we often become embroiled or entangled in some other distraction for long enough that we are pulled off of the path and onto the place of our desire. It is within this that we can learn to find the place that is without longing, where as the buddha put it, that is without fire. When we are patient with the unbinding process we can find a quietness and stillness underneath the waves of emotions and passions, and the stillness can be a useful tool to loosen up the knots of contracted emotional states so that it permeates our whole being until we are infused with a lightness and calmness that does not shift when we are seduced again by more sensory pleasures and mindstates. Taken more seriously it can be used as a ground for strong equanimity and mindfulness and as a source of wholeness for more unbinding to occur.
Betrayal is such a painful emotion, like a stab to the heart, it can feel almost physical. I'm not necessarily talking about the smaller corruptions of friendship, but the big heart wrenching, gut wrenching, not knowing how to deal with it kind of betrayal.
I was reminded earlier of my father. He was a meteorologist in the navy and took part in the atomic bomb testing in the Christmas Islands in the 1950's. He took part in various atmospheric tests from the hydrogen bombs. Based on the ship, for the most part he thought that he was a safe distance from the blasts. They were given assurances that they were. They were told not to watch the blasts themselves, but for the last blast they were all told to go up onto the deck of the ship and to stand with their backs to blast. He said that he could see the blast through the back of head as if he was watching it with his own eyes. He also said that one of the blasts was a 'dirty bomb' meaning that they detonated a bomb which dispersed radioactive material into the surrounding area.
It would be some years before he would be told what the real purpose of the tests was, and even more years before he would find out the real costs. They were told that the fallout from the bombs would be negligible, were encouraged to go onto the islands, some men swam in the water, played football and cricket on the beach and ate the fish they caught from the ships. Despite what the official records say, they were only given the flimsiest of protective clothing, and that was only for the people who were actually sweeping up the radioactive dust that had fallen onto the ships and machinery. It was suggested that in a leaked document many years later, the government deliberately tested the effects of the radioactivity on materials, machinery and men. As the years went by, more and more servicemen became sick with radiation related illnesses, and some of their children developed genetic defects. Eventually my father, an otherwise fit and healthy man in his 60's developed a rare form of Leukaemia, most likely linked to his radiation exposure. Despite the growing numbers of sick servicemen and the leaked documentation, the UK MOD refused to acknowledge errors or pay out compensation. My father had wanted to be in the navy since he was a small boy. He had overcome issue with his legs, worn callipers, and passed all tests so that he could gain admittance. Old photographs show a young lanky teenager in his first uniform and proud later photographs of the pearly white uniforms of a naval officer. Despite the knowledge of the obvious dangers of life as a serviceman, one does not expect the dangers to come from within. Betrayal is the stab in the heart breach of trust we experience when those we love or trust do us harm.
All attempts at equanimity go out of the window if we have not practiced enough to withstand the inevitable blows. These are the big things, the betrayals that tear families apart, that cause such deep seated and bitter resentments that it is as if they are permeating even our bones. It is the stuff that nightmares are made of. We can talk platitudes, we can talk boundaries, we can say that we might never want to speak to that person again, but even this can often just drive an even deeper wedge of hurt and pain into what are already suffering hearts. Antidotes such as forgiveness can help, but often seem to do even more harm if the anger is acute. Working with the pain of betrayal is key, working through and through the layers of anger, hurt and disappointment, while acknowledging that people are human beings, mistakes will be made, errors of judgement, selfishness, stupidity, all of these we too have known. But as we walk this path of awakening we can begin to discern the ever present patterns of life, and begin to see that until we are free, these things will just come around again and again. Renunciation helps, it helps to clear and clarify the way, removes the excess so that we can see the core of the problem. Fundamentally it is our attitude and vision of life that is warped, we don't see clearly and so we don't see how it really is. Betrayal is just part of this, and yet on a very visceral level until we are completely clear, we will still have to do the work of clearing away the emotional debris that is left in it's wake. Heart opening helps, heart meditations aimed at balancing our being, calming meditations to ease through all the feelings of loss and remorse, focusing meditations to bring a sense of ease, peacefulness and poise like a boat caught in a stormy sea, and yet firmly anchored to the shore. We can watch the whirl of life as it passes, not grappling with it, allowing it all to pass by, while we do the real work of becoming free.