use your illusion

There is a good number of dichotomies that are discussed in yoga philosophy – effort and surrender, which I wrote about quite a bit last year; matter and spirit (prakrti and purusa); self and Self. One of my teachers talks a lot about concealment and revelation. She’s been talking about it for years, actually, but I never really heard what she was saying (maybe because a lot of her discussion has had to do with our innate divinity, which is not an idea that resonates with me). Well, I’ve been giving more thought to this duality over the past few days. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been absolutely certain that something (usually wretched) was going to happen; I’d read the tea leaves, and all the signs pointed to calamity. Yet almost invariably, at the moment when concealment is replaced by revelation, my worst fears don’t come to pass. There’s always some crucial element of moderation that I fail to see or which I dismiss. “The worst things in my life never happened.” I think Mark Twain said that.

What do we do when we can’t see what’s coming next? When the horse blinders are on and we’re hurtling down the track, hell bent on an uncertain fate? It’s no secret that I aim for the bottom and assume the worst. Hell, even when I can see that everything’s going to be alright, half the time I still assume that I must be missing something, and everything will go south in the end.

As effort and surrender deal with action, concealment and revelation are attributes of perception. It’s a subtler schism, easier to overlook, and harder to talk about. I’m curious about the role that faith plays here. Part of me chafes at the use of that word, with its suggestion of showy displays of religiosity. But devoid of those unpleasant connotations, faith is simply a belief that is not supported by evidence. It does not have to mean a belief that flies in the face of evidence. What we believe when we have no reason to believe one thing over another says a lot about who we are. So what do my beliefs say about me? And what would it mean to believe something else – something less apocalyptic? Why is that such a struggle for me?

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