Chris Renzo, Guest Writer
To not recognize the darkest aspects of our way of life disables us from being the greatness that we are. To claim we are wise and spiritual without acknowledging the darkest aspects of who we are is superficial. This does not mean we should dwell in the darkness. Rather it’s a call to the conscious to not allow the acknowledgment of divinity to distract us from the aspects of society that are destructive and inhumane. In modern America we have conversations about spirituality yet all the while we ignore the suffering everywhere around us. This is not only superficial, but it actually diminishes the execution of our inherent spiritual power.
It’s the “11th hour” and as I write this 200 species go extinct daily on our planet. That is 10,000 times more than the natural extinction rate. If we do not acknowledge this and act now we lose any future hope of co-inhabiting this planet.
Last week I had the privilege to see Marianne Williamson speak at an event at UC Berkeley. It was a symposium about changing the world through introspection and social action. I admit, I went into the event skeptical. I had been very frustrated with the field of “spirituality” for quite some time now. I’ve seen spirituality influences people to see the light of love without pushing them to go deeply into the darkness of, what Marianne calls, our “shadow side.” Going deeply into the shadow side does not mean that we focus on self-pity and guilt, but, rather that we acknowledge how things really are, have compassion for the world, and do something about it.
It is this compassion that we need to hone in on and develop if we are going be truly “spiritual.” Dealing with our “shadow side” means taking responsibility. Developing compassion may not come easy. It may have us on our knees in profound sadness when we actually see the shape of the world as it is. True spirituality has us, facing, not ignoring the desperation of a homeless person begging, the dangerous geo-engineering of our atmosphere, or the inherent brutality of our industrial way of life. True spirituality has us feel all of this deeply, even if hurts like hell.
Ken Wilber states that “the more awakened we become the more we realize both the perfection of Saṃsāra, [the infinite and unalterable aspect of divinity within us and all things,] and the pain of our relative world.” To me, this is the essence of an evolved spirituality, for we do not lose ourselves completely in the recognition of ultimate reality, but, we maintain a sensitivity to everything and we seek to undue the injustice and suffering of our world. It would mean that to see someone starving brings you compassionate pain, yet, all the while maintaining that this person whom is suffering is as divine and eternal as you are. It is a type of awakening that acknowledges the suffering of others as your own suffering.
Over 10 years ago there was a study done in East Africa assessing depression in chimpanzees. To sum it up, they found that on average, 10% of the chimpanzees in the wild showed signs of depression. These “depressed” chimps stationed themselves on the perimeter of their troop and seemed very socially disengaged, hyper-vigilant, and didn’t sleep well. The study had anthropologists remove the depressed chimps. And what happened after was staggering. A year later after the removal the entire troop had died. It was hypothesized that the depressed chimps were an “early warning system” for the troop. The “depressed” chimps where the ones who sounded alarms for the troop to warn them of situations of peril and decay. So without a warning system, without the most sensitive ones among them, the troop had succumbed to the dangers of their environment.
Humans are very similar to chimpanzees in this regard, yet, we deal with those most sensitive among us by ignoring them, prescribing them drugs that suppress their emotions, and by viewing them as “diseased,” “irrational,” or “weak.” Depression is endemic to modern culture and has been drastically rising. Eight times more young adults meet the criteria for major depression and anxiety disorders than they did only 50 years ago. The depressed and idealistic are the most sensitive among us and if we fail to see depression and idealism as a warning sign that our way of life is not working, then we are repressing our own emotions and allowing self-destruction a chance to prevail.
To me the occupy wall st movement was one of the most collectively spiritual events of the last decade. At its core it was a place where people could gather to stand up to our destructive way of life. The movement is not over, and will never be, for it has changed the way people talk about modern culture. Those who demonstrated at Occupy are some of the most sensitive and empathic people of our human troop. These people boldly stood up to the fact that we are slaves to an elite and to the military industrial complex that is destroying our world and our people in the name of greed and endless arbitrary profit.
As in the chimpanzee troop, if we suppress and repress the most sensitive among us, we destroy our own warning system. However, I sense a general malaise brewing in our consciousness, that may be a sign that their warning is being heard by many of us. All too often we distract ourselves from this feeling because we feel helpless to do anything about, but, I argue that we must go deeply into this feeling and let it motivate us if we are going to turn this all around. The power structure of the elite, that has commercialized all life, while doing irreparable damage to the Earth, must be overthrown, by witnessing the seeds of greed and fear in ourselves. The system must be drastically changed, and the slavery of people both psychologically and economically must end if we are to actually survive and thrive.
Marianne Williamson reminds us that, “our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” My interpretation of her powerful words is that we are frightened to “be” this light, because, in order to do so, we must stand up to the darkness in our lives while being compassionately aware of everything. Within our light is where our responsibility exists. We fear this because we fear to be the people we actually need to become to restore peace and harmony. We fear that fact we have to stand in the darkness in order to see the light.
I feel we must all make a deep promise from the bottom of our souls to heed this call. We cannot turn away from this. Spirituality is becoming aware of the darkness around us and within us, then taking responsibility to turn that darkness into the light of love, so that we may live up to our highest calling.
Are we afraid to be who we are? Are we afraid to break free from this way of life and to create something different… to create a world that exists of light, love, compassion, and unity? Are we afraid to feel the type of tremendous empathy for life that has us on our knees, in tears praying for revival?
The reality is that we are all in some way co-dependent on each other, and therefore, our existence intrinsically depends on cooperation. Ignoring this fact maintains our fear and greed motivated existence, yet fully acknowledging this truth will have us compassionately feeling the pain of the world and of others. In this feeling we will be forced to stand up to the darkness within us, as well as that within the power elite. If we do not heed this call we will not be capable of fulfilling our great destiny.
It is the 11th hour. It is now… or never… Let us be brave, let us be vocal, let us wake up, and let us end the corruption and greed for the sake of justice, peace, and love.
I have faith that we can overcome the greatest challenges that face humanity today, because, I feel an arising compassion in all of your hearts. We are moving into an era where repression will no longer be possible. This is the era of acknowledging the great responsibility inherent in our awakening spirituality.
About the Author
Christopher Renzo is a life coach and writer who specializes in helping others get in touch with their source of inner power and confidence to create a more harmonious life. He has been working with clients in a professional manner since 2009 and has been helping people with his intuitive gifts ever since he was a teenager. He holds the notion that once people understand the root of their troubles from a psychological and spiritual perspective, they can break free from the conditions that bound them to a life of discontent. Born and raised in the New York Metropolitan area, Christopher now resides in Berkeley, California. Please visit his excellent blog, Keen Awareness.
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