Thursday, June 4, 2015
A thoughtful excerpt from "After the Ecstasy, The Laundry. How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path" by Jack Kornfield
I'm reading After the Ecstasy, The Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path by Jack Kornfield. Basically the book illustrates the lives of people from spiritual leaders to those who obtained a certain enlightenment. They come back to their daily lives and find that applying principles that they learned through retreats or long periods of meditations, mindfulness, etc. is rather difficult and after reaching such stages there is much upkeep and continuous upkeep that is required. It's easy to be mindful in the mountains studying among monks, but navigating through traffic, work, and family can be challenging.
At any rate, I'm reading this book I came across a particular excerpt that really struck a chord with me and stood out for many reasons. I felt that it resonated with today's society, especially with social media, internet tough guys, and how fast judgments are made, even by our own news media(something that I will eventually address as well). Without further explanation I want to share this excerpt with you. It can be found on page 244-246 of this book, which I highly recommend as it is a great read!
...One man, a military officer who was studying meditation in a class for stress reduction, recently found this out at the supermarket. It was a crowded evening, the lines were long, and the woman carrying a child in front of him had just one item but would not get into the express line. The officer, whose habit was impatience, began to get annoyed with her. it got worse when she got to the checkout stand and she and the clerk started cooing over the baby. The woman even handed the child to the clerk.
He began to tense up, his anger building at the thought of how selfish she was. But because he had just come from his class, he noticed what he was doing to himself and began to breathe more softly and relax. He even noticed that it was a cute baby. By the time he got to the clerk he had let go enough to say, "That was a cute boy". "Oh, thank you. That was my baby," she replied. "You see, my husband was in the air force but he died last year in a plane crash. Now my mother takes care of my boy and brings him in once a day so I can see him."
We judge each other so quickly, yet know so little about what another carries in his or her heart...
A close friend, the psychiatrist and consciousness researcher Stan Grof, tells a story of one such teaching that took place soon after he arrived in the United States. Through his work at Johns Hopkins Medical School, Stan met with a psychiatrist of Native American origin, who offered to arrange a visit for Stan and several other staff members to his traditional peyote circle in Kansas.
When they arrive they were drive far out onto the plains to meet the Road Chief, the elder who runs the ceremonies for the Native American Church. Although the chief had previously agreed to include the visitors, the other Indians who saw these white men balked, and it took a good deal of persuasion to allow this unusual participation. The history of anti-Indian prejudice, the monumental losses of Indian culture, the genocide at the hands of white people were still painful, but because the Johns Hopkins doctors had come a long distance, they were finally permitted to join the circle. Still, one man clung stubbornly to his anger at the white men who had come to "steal" this last Indian treasure, their spiritual gold. All through the nightlong ceremony, his mood only amplified by the peyote and drumming, this angry man sat silently, glaring at Stan, who sat opposite him in the circle. By morning he had not softened, even after a whole night of prayers. It seemed as if this was how it would end- in an angry standoff.
Finally, on the last round of blessings, the host psychiatrist thanked the tribe for being willing to include these white healers in their midst, especially Stan, who was living in exile because the Communists were preventing his return to his native Czechoslovakia. All at once the angry man's face changed. He leapt to his feet, crossed the fire, and fell into Stan's lap sobbing. For many minutes he hugged Stand and the others nearby, apologizing for his misguided hatred.
As he wept, his story poured out. He had flown a bomber in the air force during World War II. In the last weeks of the war, as the Nazis withdrew, his plane had bombed and unnecessarily destroyed Pilsen, one of Czechoslovakia's most beautiful cities, even though Czechoslovakia had been anti- Nazi and forcibly occupied by Germany.
Now the tables had turned. Not only did Stan and the Czechs never steal Indian land, but he, a Patowatame Indian, had helped destroy Stan's homeland. He was the perpetrator and Stan's people were the victims. This realization was more than he could bear. He kept embracing Stan, begging forgiveness, apologizing for his behavior during the sacred ceremony. Then he paused to say what he had learned: "I see now that there can be no hope for the world if we carry hatred for deeds committed by our ancestors. I know now you are not my enemies but my brothers. All that happened long ago was in the time of our ancestors. Who knows- at that time I might have been on the other side. We are all children of the Great Spirit. Our Mother Earth is in trouble, and if we do not work together we will die". (Kornfield, Jack. After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path pg245-246. Bantam Books 2000.