We all need a place of safety to go when the “slings and arrows” of life have gotten to us. Which they will. No one is immune from life’s ups and downs.
In this world we all have things to deal with that sometimes seem overwhelming, even unbearable. This is the inevitable suffering that no one escapes. After all, everything in the world is temporary.
As Jesus said, the rain falls on the just and the unjust.
So, in these painful times of inevitable suffering, where do we go?
Do we just sit in our misery and curse the darkness, blaming others, using our old coping skills (those old denials and distractions which haven’t really worked so well) and remain stuck, feeling sad and angry?
There is another path. There is refuge for the soul, a place of comfort.
This is legitimate suffering, as opposed to useless, unnecessary suffering. Legitimate suffering cannot be avoided. But we have a choice about unnecessary suffering. This is the kind we wield on ourselves.
Everything involves choice, intention as to what we believe is our Source. From whence does our good come from? Do we think we are pretty much self-created? And thus must create our own destiny, without constant help from that which is higher than anything we can think, or solve by ourselves.
That will lead us into loneliness and a sense of isolation, which is unnecessary suffering.
Either we turn to the outer, worldly ways of achieving success, the glitter and glamour of worldly pursuits, or we turn to the warm fires of the soul, which lead us into the darkness, but ultimately into the light that shines so brightly and true. This is the light that cannot be put out.
This is a path that wisdom teachers of the ages all have walked and talked. It is our refuge.
This path is within us right now. It is beyond our intellectual thinking, reasoning, and trying to fix things or people — even ourselves.
There are many way to explore these inner realms. But they all begin by stopping, resting and breathing consciously. This leads us into meditation, reflection, perhaps even taking up our journals and discovering what is really going on within us.
This is the way in and through.
By going within and discovering how we have chosen our ways of meeting life, transformation begins. Then every obstacle becomes a stepping stone into freedom.
By steadfastly meeting our fears, becoming vulnerable and surrendering ego control to the great spiritual mysteries of life, we find solace, relief, and the love that truly satisfies our soul’s deep longing.
When we focus our attention inward we discover all the things we have tried to bury — our fears, traumatic memories that we chose to repress — all the things we tried to run away from.
Here is where we need to breathe our way through, sitting in the presence of that which is higher and greater, our refuge, and know we will be led through these difficult times.
We have the choice to place our faith in our divinity — the place of love within us. This is our Lord — and it is within us. It is beyond ordinary thinking, beyond anything we presently know.
The name “Lord” can be seen as a metaphor standing for whatever we value above all else.
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower that the righteous runneth into it and are saved.” Proverbs 18:10
Will we turn to the Lord that is within us?
We choose how we will suffer. Can we bear the suffering that comes with being human, the pangs of living in a body that will die? Of living in a world in which all things are temporary?
It depends on our view of life. Do we see life as a dead end street, that no matter what we do, we will die — and dying is the end of everything? Do we see life as an endless round of struggles which will eventually overpower us? Do we see ourself as a victim?
Or do we see all our struggles (including fear and death) as doorways into spiritual growth that continually lead us in the direction of freedom and liberation?
There is a saving Presence within us that can never be destroyed or taken from us. It is our essential nature. It is our divinity. God created us in God’s image and likeness.
We find refuge by immersing ourselves in this divine triangle:
1) Living from our Christ/Buddha nature
2) Integration of wisdom teachings
3) Commitment to a spiritual community, or a sangha.
Or as the Buddha says, take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
And we all need help from one another. We cannot do this holy work alone. Even Jesus couldn’t. He had the twelve with him. Buddha had his fellow monks.
That’s why a spiritual community is essential to work with — as well as steadfast devotion to discover and live by what is real and lasting.
Life has many pitfalls. We sometimes walk on slippery, rather treacherous ground, and we need a place of refuge so that we can do this holy work.
As we make a commitment to a true spiritual community we find ourselves embraced in a love that brings freedom, one that never constrains or imprisons us.
It is within your reach! Aim yourself towards spiritual refuge.
The moment to begin is the present one.