When I was in high school, back in the late 1960’s, I was a bright young man, full of hope and promise – class president, student council president, president of my church youth group, co-salutatorian of my graduating class, a good singer. OK, I was depressed. I know that now looking back, but I was working so hard on persona, trying to figure out and be who I thought “I” was or should be that I had no concept of the reality – which at that time was a pretty scared and depressed young man yearning to break out of and let go of so many things.
I was busy busy willing my way forward. And, while I didn’t know it, I was struggling and fighting my way toward a spirituality of willingness. It was a long fight, something like a 35-year engagement with an oxymoron, this battle of willing (an action verb) my way to willingness (a state of being).
It’s a necessary struggle, this discovery of individuation. And it involves picking up and wearing so many masks – a little like Adam and Eve trying on clothes in the Garden of Eden, eyes opening to the discovery and awareness of themselves. It’s a path of necessary loneliness, a path that, without fail, for every human, leads us out of the garden.
We learn something of our gifts, certainly. But we struggle and fumble with how to use them. The fight continues just as long as we wield those gifts for the purpose of creating our particular place in the world, as long as we struggle with willing our way toward being something or other. Eventually the path leads to destinations of numbness, delusion or brokenness. We settle into a numb acceptance of a rather meaningless life and go through the motions for the duration. Or we achieve something of material grandeur and success and delude ourselves with the image of power and status that we have created in our comparison to the others around us. If we are lucky, we, like Jacob, see the angel in our path and engage a fight that we (our self-created image) will ultimately lose, a shattering of the mask, a wounding sufficient to make us want to give up the fight, a wounding that heals us all the way to willingness.
But when we are broken, oh, when we are broken, it hurts like hell, it hurts like birth. We may be angry about the pain. We may be bitter about the loss. We grieve the fight, we bemoan the years of struggle and, if we are fortunate, we exhaust ourselves to a place of rest. We resign ourselves to the passage, to second birth.
Birth, the actual process, is something that happens to us. Even if, as some believe, we choose a particular birth – whether by will or by karma – the actual passage, once it is engaged, is a movement of power and transformation that is beyond our particular control.
The image that comes to me is the bud of a flower. We are clamped tight in protection, thinking that is all we are and all we have. We resist change. We resist birth. But one day we are torn, the husk is ripped and pushed aside. We lose our grip, we give up and the beauty begins to emerge.
When we give up the hold of individuation, when we give up our will to dominate others and to protect our separation, the surprise is that we gain Ourselves. The only thing we lose is the fight of isolation, our fear of personal annihilation. We learn that we are indeed something, that we are a necessary, useful and beautiful part of an unfolding grandeur beyond our imagination. We are all that we are created to be. Instead of the struggle to will, we flow in the beauty of being willing, to be the flower that we are, to offer that beauty in the urging forward of creation.
It’s like that, this path from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, all the way to the Tree of Life.
© Two Trees in the Garden. Share what is useful. Please quote the source.