You are going to die. Something will kill you. Disease, an accident. A virus, cancer, a heart attack out of the blue. Something unexpected. Something that could never have been predicted.
Yes, sooner or later, and you cannot know when, you are going to die. Even if you have a healthy immune system now, even if you believe that you are safe and protected by angelic forces, and loved by the whole Universe and One with it, you are going to die. And your loved ones are going to die. Your mother, your father. Your partner. Your best friends. Your children. The people you love. The ones you cannot live without. The ones who annoy you, bore you, anger you, make you smile. None shall escape the laws of impermanence and change. None shall escape the charnel ground.
And as the Buddha himself said, everything is on fire. Death saturates life. And this is not a mistake – this is the Way, and this has always been the Way.
From one perspective, this is utterly depressing and “negative” news! It breaks your heart, it really does, when you take it all in – I mean really take it all in. The utter fragility of life. The way things we love – relationships, plans, careers, certainties – change or disappear without warning. Our utter inability to hold on to anything at all. The illusion of security. The total groundlessness at the heart of all things.
It all seems so unfair, from one perspective, this impermanence. It can’t really be true, can it?
It must be one big conspiracy, right?
We don’t even have reincarnation, “other dimensions” or “future lives” to hold onto, for there is no way of absolutely knowing that these things are real. We may have invented them all, these futures, we may have dreamed and projected them all in the infinite cinema of our minds in our search for ground in a groundless Presence, in our quest to know what cannot be known, in our attempt to comfort our anxious hearts, looking for answers in an uncomfortably unknowable universe and for safety in a place that often feels so unsafe.
If you really let impermanence – and its lover, not-knowing – penetrate your deepest psychic defences, you will weep for months, maybe years, non-stop. You will not be able to breathe sometimes for the grief. But you will breathe, and the grief will humble you and open your heart like nothing else. The grief will awaken you and bring you kicking and screaming back to the true ground… of this present moment.
The grief will crack you open to love, it really will.
You will know less than ever before, all your most cherished certainties and beliefs will have collapsed, but you will feel more alive than ever before.
And you will realise:
The utterly ‘tragic aspect’ of existence – the unshakeable impermanence of all that we hold dear, our utter lack of control in the face of the vastness, the horror and the darkness and the fragility of things, the sickness and the misfortunes we suffer, are not mistakes, not punishments, not illusions – and not some dark conspiracy by malevolent and shadowy external forces. The ‘shadow’ itself – the pain, the ache, the yearning and the despair of the soul – is part of life itself, natural and real and as important as the ‘light’ and the ‘joy’ and the ‘hope’.
And perhaps this devastating truth is harder to swallow than any conspiracy theory.
Let me say it again: Pain and loss are inevitable, and death and inexplicable tragedy and seemingly random suffering permeates life, and this basic truth of our existence is utterly disturbing and even terrifying, as every newborn baby senses as it enters this world without protection, screaming for its God.
But, when you finally face it, face the terror itself, face the darkness, face the loss, face the shadow, it will heal you. The path to rebirth leads through the unbearable hell of crucifixion.
Awakening is not a joke, friends. It is the crumbling of all that you believe in.
Oedipus had to stab out his own eyes before he could begin to mend, spiritually-speaking.
Easier to cling to some conspiracy narrative, right? To believe that “dark and alien forces” are actually working against us, sending sickness and misfortune and death, the murder of kings and queens, the failure of crops, pestilence and despair, terrible thoughts and feelings, and dark impulses.
Easier to believe that all the horrors on this planet are an “illusion” or “maya”, that darkness isn’t really real and there is only light and love and bliss, and all the disasters and wars and genocides and accidents and viruses are simply “fake news”.
Easier to believe that we manifested our illness or misfortune through the Law of Attraction, through negative vibrations, or through some sin in a past life.
Easier to believe in a world of good versus evil, light versus dark, heaven versus hell, “them” versus “us”.
Easier to believe that the current pandemic isn’t real, and people aren’t really dying, and it’s face masks and quarantine that are really making us sick, not some out-of-control organism that the human immune system does not yet understand.
Easier to believe that ultimately we are being “controlled” and “manipulated”, and unseen forces are plotting against us and we are being kept from the “actual truth”. That the devil – the shadowy one, Lord of the Underworld and his demonic helpers – puts thoughts into our minds, and badness into our hearts, and makes us do things against our true nature. That human civilisation is really controlled by aliens, the reptilian elite, the Illuminati, the deep state. That we live in a simulated reality, that multi-dimensional beings are playing us like puppets, that the world is controlled by the Jews, the Rothschilds, the gays, the liberals, the communists, the freemasons, the “fake media”, by Bill Gates or George Soros, by some powerful, secretive, covert group carrying out wicked plots…
… and that those who don’t realise these obvious truths are blind, ignorant and pathetic “sheeples”.
The mind is always, always looking for some ultimate ‘powerful enemy’ to blame and rail against, for someone or something to scapegoat for its misfortune and loss, for some explanation for terrifying and inexplicable events, for some solution to the tragic aspect of being alive.
I believe there is a strong link between trauma – especially sexual abuse, and enmeshment, which is emotional-sexual abuse – and our need to explain away our bodily feelings of unsafety, fear and groundlessness using ultra-simplistic narratives of “control” and “them versus us”. By blaming some demon or shadowy “covert group” and obsessing over some terrible plot against all that we hold dear, we can ultimately avoid… well, ourselves.
Where there is a basic sense of unsafety in the nervous system, our root narrative will inevitably be one of paranoia, persecution and distrust:
“The world is basically unsafe… Dark forces are working against us…. There is an evil plot afoot and no safety anywhere…. Don’t believe anything you hear to the contrary… There is no safe ground…”
You can see how these narratives are basically an expression of – and an unconscious attempt to ‘solve’ – the problem of our unhealed personal and inter-generational trauma, to protect the unprotected places in our psyche. Conspiracy theories help us make sense of a world that seems out of control. They help us feel more powerful and “certain” when we really feel utterly powerless inside, and help us explain, albeit in a very simplistic and childish fashion, why bad things happen. They help us impose order in a chaotic universe, and help make sense and meaning out of seemingly senseless and meaningless suffering. They divert attention from our own terrible pain and loneliness, and ultimately distract us from the unfathomable ‘mysterium tremendum’ of existence itself.
Conspiracy theories, ironically, distract us from… the truth.
If our boundaries and basic human rights were violated as children, and nobody listened to us or believed us or held us in empathy, then to this day it may still feel like there is a conspiracy or “plot” against us, and that no adult is trustable or has good intentions, and nobody can be believed, not even the world experts. Why should we “conform”? We shall not be controlled or told what to do! The nervous system does not forget the rage and the grief and the out-of-control feelings of the abandoned child…
Oh, God bless our vulnerable hearts! I am not judging anyone here at all, or condemning anyone for believing what they believe. God knows, we need to believe what we believe in order to feel safe, to calm our anxiety, to avoid confronting deep-seated bodily feelings from childhood. The nature of trauma is that it makes us run away from ourselves, and split from ourselves, and the mind and its elaborate stories is the best place to run.
Easier to cling to disembodied conspiracy narratives than to have to face the absolutely DEVASTATING truth of our embodied existence. Easier to engage in black-and-white, good-and-evil thinking and blame than to do the more complex, nuanced, subtle – and frankly terrifying – work of healing, of facing our deepest fears, of grieving out our lost childhood, of digesting the terrible truth of impermanence and death and inevitable loss, of entering the charnel ground with open eyes.
Yes, there are people in this world who have forgotten their true nature.
Yes, there are people who, in their despair, crave money, and power, and control. Yes, there are people who, through self-abandonment and their own unhealed trauma, hurt and abuse others.
And of course, we must speak up and confront the terrible injustices and human rights violations in this world.
But here is the most radical, shocking, and ultimately liberating truth of all, if you can handle it:
There is no conspiracy.
Originally posted on https://www.facebook.com/LifeWithoutACentre/
For more information about Jeff Foster and his work visit his website: www.lifewithoutacentre.com