It is Good Friday, and as I woke up, and later when I went for a walk, I stayed with the image of Jesus on the cross.
What comes up for me? What does it mean for me, right now?
The first that comes up is Jesus nailed to the cross. Pinned down. Unable to escape. And that is how it is for all of us. We are unable to escape our experiences, even if we try. It may seem to work for a while. We can distract ourselves. But our experiences are still there, including the ones we try to escape from. Much better, then, to consciously allow experience as it is. To welcome it. Say “yes” to it. Be with it. With heart, compassion, and kindness. This is what we do in choiceless awareness and shikantaza practice. But we can also do it in daily life, throughout the day. I notice an impulse to escape experience. I notice discomfort. And can ask myself can I be with what I am experiencing right now? And in that is an inquiry. What happens when I try to escape experience? What happens when I allow it as is, with kindness?
36Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
– Matthew 26: 36-39
Also, I find that life is a sombering process, in some ways. Healing and maturing is a process of being more aligned with reality. Recognizing fear, hopes, and dreams as projections and finding their qualities and dynamics here now, already in my own life. Finding a richer set of stories about life and myself, and the validity in each of these stories. Questioning and looking into beliefs, finding what is more honest for me than the initial belief. It is a process of becoming more level-headed. More aligned with what is in a conventional sense but also going further.
Jesus on the cross went through a dark night, perhaps a wearing off of beliefs. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34.) And that too is part of life. We all go through dark nights when life show up differently from our shoulds. (And there is also the dark night of the senses when identification with the “me” – our human identity – is worn off. And the dark night of the soul when the identification as an “I” – as an observer and doer – wears off.)
In an alchemical sense, we can also say that he went through the three phases. Nigredo, the darkening. Albedo, the whitening or purification. And rubedo, the fulfillment. And this too is something we all know from our everyday life. Life doesn’t meet our expectations. We digest. And perhaps come out with a little more maturity.
66While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.
“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.
68But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.
69When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 70Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”
71He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
72Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
– Mark 14: 66-72
Peter disowned Jesus. This feels especially personal for me since I am named after Peter. How do I disown? I do it any time I take a story as true. I disown what is more honest for me than the belief. And this takes several expressions. It leads me to disown my responsibility for the choices I make and the actions I take in the world. It leads me to disown how I feel. It leads me to disown uncomfortable parts of my past. It leads me to disown others I have beliefs about, sometimes in a conventional sense, and always by taking my images of them as who they are. It leads me to disown what I would act on if I wasn’t caught up in fear. In each of these cases, I disown Christ – as an image of wholeness and reality.
And then there is perhaps the most beautiful part of Christian Easter story
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
– John 13: 34
We can notice that we and everyone and everything is already loved this way. Existence already allows all there is, as is. This awake no-thing already allows it all as is, including the recognition and lack of recognition of this. Also, we can shift into Big Heart and get a taste of the love that encompasses everything and everyone, as it is. And coming full circle, I can do this in everyday life by allowing experience as is, with heart and kindness.
The New Testament is infinitely rich, and every aspect of it can be understood in infinitely varied ways. I am only aware of a very few of those, but could still keep going indefinitely. This is probably a good place to stop.
Footnote: A common way of looking at the cross is as an intersection of heaven and earth. I notice it is difficult for me to see this, other than in a very intellectual way. It is perhaps because heaven (awake no-thing allowing all things) and earth (the ephemeral appearances which is the play of this awake no-thing) seem so intertwined. They are not two, as they say in Advaita. And they are certainly not vertical or horizontal. There is just awake emptiness in its play of appearances. And that too can be recognized here and now, especially through exploring the sense fields.
Footnote 2: Allowing experience easily co-exists with impulses, plans, and actions for creating change. I can allow whatever I am experiencing right now. And I can also, and often do, plan for taking certain actions in the world. Sometimes, I engage in first one and then the other. Other times, I can notice they are both here simultaneously. I shift into allowing experience, and actions are part of that experience. Looking a little closer, I find that both are already happening. Experience is already allowed, as is, whether I am caught up in resistance to it or not. And impulses, plans, and actions for change already happen – and are already allowed as is, as part of experience. It is good to notice.
- no escape
- pinned down, cannot escape experiences
- nigrdeo, albedo, rubedo
- dark night, wearing off of beliefs
- sombering process – more aligned with reality, growing and waking up