Stacey Lawson

Stacey Lawson

Posted: September 8, 2008 08:55 AM

What It Means To Delete Everything And Start Over

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Today's post is a personal journey. I haven't written in several weeks as I've been in a terrible state - lost, confused, despairing. Raw and vulnerable. Shattered. My only small comfort has been knowing this is a well-worn path. Many mystics have written about the Dark Night of the Soul, the narrow passage tread by those seeking freedom and union with the Divine.

I debated whether to write this post, questioning what value I could really offer from a place of such agony and confusion? Yet, some internal voice prodded me forward. Share the process, share the experience...

These last months have taken me into a depth of spiritual despair previously unimaginable. The experience has been a ruthless stripping away of my false, idealized sense of self. Having studied with a spiritual master for many years, this process is not new, of course...but it has never been this ruthless. This has taken me to ground zero - a massive deconstruction of the remaining image of who "I" am. It has mercilessly dissolved my most cherished beliefs, and shattered every assumption about what I thought was true.

The truth is, no matter how I attempt to project some virtuous image, the conflict of this world is a direct reflection of the qualities within me. One by one, in excruciating succession, these qualities have been paraded out of their safe hiding places -- during interactions with others, in discussions with my teacher, in meditations and dreams -- as if the doors to my inner shadow world have been blown open and all the demons released. I am judgmental and self-righteous. I am petty, jealous and angry. I am all these ugly qualities and many more. One by one, I have resisted, struggled, defended and finally confessed "Yes, I am That," reluctantly finding a place at the table for each of these haggard visitors. "Here you are, my dear, you are no longer excluded but invited as my beloved guest - please come home."

And while perhaps it sounds like a liberating process to face ones demons and invite them back into the heart, each step has been death. My idealized identity, the safe picture of "self" which has shielded me from these shameful aspects, is crumbling into nothingness. There is nothing to hold onto. There is no ground to stand upon. I am DYING. And it is terrifying.

Despite the pain and despair, I have tried to stay alert, watchful. I want to find out what this dying is. I have discovered an enormous burden of sorrow and suffering within me. I want to know if I can be free from this false self and from this sorrow.

As I have hurtled toward oblivion, it has felt like my skin is being pealed off, followed by muscle and tendon and bone until there is nothing left. Everything must die this inevitable death. What is Truth? How can one know the answer unless everything is stripped away? Every veil, every gauze of perception, every conditioned belief.

"Delete everything and start over," suggested a good friend. All my well worn beliefs? Piles of crap. Delete. Everything I thought I knew? Bullshit. Delete. My personality? A bunch of absurd story lines. I have slowly been deleting everything and starting over.

Well, nearly everything...everything except two of my most sacred attachments, my deepest heart longings -- seeking enlightenment (striving for some great liberation), and merging with God (transcending this mortal frame and experiencing union with the Divine). Since childhood these spiritual notions have been the bedrock of my belief. But now I see that, in my seeking, I can never arrive. In the Becoming, I can never Be. These beliefs must go too. My body, mind and soul are wracked with fear and grief. What will remain after my most cherished yearnings are cast away? My chest feels crushed with the pressure of a thousand boulders resting upon it. But in the completeness of my despair, I give up these too. I lay these most sacred treasures down and walk away from them.

Now I sit without God, without enlightenment. I feel dead inside. It is dark here. I wish I could say there is no pain left, but that would be a deception, a denial of What Is. What Is? A soft breeze. The sound of water running, and a helicopter thumping overhead. Warm mid-day sun on my skin. Lots of empty space inside -- a ravaged field with fertile ground, but nothing growing and no delusions about whether it should or ever will.

I am completely and utterly alone. Stripped naked. Raw. Seeing Reality, perhaps for the first time.

Oddly enough, I am reminded of the movie V for Vendetta, in which V tortures Edie mercilessly until she realizes that everything can be stripped away from her except her capacity to love. "Every inch of me will perish - every inch except one...it is small and it is fragile, but it is the only thing in the world worth having." In this realization, she becomes fearless and free.

Today's post is a personal journey. I haven't written in several weeks as I've been in a terrible state - lost, confused, despairing. Raw and vulnerable. Shattered. My only small comfort has been ...
Today's post is a personal journey. I haven't written in several weeks as I've been in a terrible state - lost, confused, despairing. Raw and vulnerable. Shattered. My only small comfort has been ...
 
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- Dap I'm a Fan of Dap 51 fans permalink
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Dear Ms. Lawson,

Growing pains eh? Not to worry you'll be just fine. Better late than never. Agape.

    Favorite     Flag as abusive Posted 11:01 PM on 9/12/2008
- Lauren Cahn - Huffpost Blogger I'm a Fan of Lauren Cahn 30 fans permalink
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Why would you want to put yourself through this? Didn't you have a choice in seeking out such suffering at the hands of a so-called master? When I read things like this, I am reminded of the Indigo Girls song, "Closer to Fine". Mighty truthful lyrics you might want to consider.

    Favorite     Flag as abusive Posted 10:22 PM on 9/09/2008
- loulouj I'm a Fan of loulouj permalink
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I thought delete meant clear out the junk mail.But, StreamSource has given it new meaning.

    Favorite     Flag as abusive Posted 04:38 PM on 9/09/2008
- Badbone I'm a Fan of Badbone 11 fans permalink

“Completely and utterly alone”? Not exactly. You are writing to us, aren’t you? I don’t say that to be mean, merely to suggest that “being stripped of everything” includes an audience.

If you really want to walk away from everything, include the need to elicit comments from your writing. That boost to the ego must be released as well.

    Favorite     Flag as abusive Posted 04:36 PM on 9/09/2008
- Myrell002 I'm a Fan of Myrell002 6 fans permalink

I had everything TAKEN away from me...in a twinkling of an eye.... I wish I had your options :(

What happened? I went to reboot. hardrive crashed.

Signed,

Dead

    Favorite     Flag as abusive Posted 02:52 PM on 9/09/2008
- stevesrant I'm a Fan of stevesrant 8 fans permalink

Strange how we forget our money and possessions when we try to "delete everything." From us comfortably housed and well-fed Americans, such talk always sounds a little melodramatic.

    Favorite     Flag as abusive Posted 09:44 PM on 9/08/2008

Stacey, thank you. Your words have left a profound impression on me. I wish you well in getting through this difficult phase.

    Favorite     Flag as abusive Posted 04:04 PM on 9/08/2008
- bodhialok I'm a Fan of bodhialok permalink

oh, you mean I'm not the only one feeling life as I knew it just a few short weeks ago is hopeless - what I fool I was for thinking the intense schedule of events with my spiritual teacher over the past two or three months would bring only joy and happyness. Thank you for a great post and lunch time contemplation...gn

    Favorite     Flag as abusive Posted 03:59 PM on 9/08/2008
- Riverwolf I'm a Fan of Riverwolf permalink

Thank you for deciding to share what is obviously a painful process, one that opens us up to so much vulnerability. It is scary, having gone through something like this years ago, but it does change eventually. Leaving behind old, worn-out stories can be refreshing, if we can lay aside our fear and step out. The “truth” is, you are still here, regardless of what you feel you have lost. You are alive, living in this moment. Start there and see where it leads. It’s all any of us have anyway.

Seems I’m going through another phase of “loss” myself. It’s amazing how many layers can be peeled back, layers you didn’t know were there or layers you simply took for granted. It’s tempting to want to hold on to all that, but that’s a mistake. Throw your hands wide and leap. No matter how much you feel you’ve lost, there’s more to “you” than you realize.

    Favorite     Flag as abusive Posted 03:05 PM on 9/08/2008
- fairwitness I'm a Fan of fairwitness 35 fans permalink

Please forgive the presumption, but your post elicits the following, in a spirit of commiseration:

The "dark night", yes. You describe it well, and admirably face it.

Consider: What if you did not in fact create "your life"? What if you--the "you" you think you are--cannot change it because that "you" does not really exist except as a persistent mental image wrapped up with a memory-dependent body-feeling?

What if you did not make or control the world, not the body's organic life nor the mind's incessant spin nor the environmental context in which experience happens? And what if the ego--the self of thought and narrative--is also a creation of that mystery? A seemingly real, but, on inspection, merely a relative, aribtrary, contingent, albeit surprisingly persistent narrative. Even disposable, one might say. Then desiring it's absolute safety and perpetuity--or its glorification, enlightenment or ANY specific future condition--would be absurd, no?

Isn't the desire to escape the emptiness, the grief and torment really the realization of the futility and inadedquacy of the conceptualizations and the false narrative of that delusory mind-made-self? Perhaps the ultimate delusion is to think the ego can become other than itself.

But who, exactly, experiences the torments? And who, exactly, would escape? Perhaps it's true that "what you are looking for is what is looking". I think it's possible...and may show the way beyond the suffering you so poignantly describe.

    Favorite     Flag as abusive Posted 11:44 AM on 9/08/2008
- Kalena I'm a Fan of Kalena 5 fans permalink
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Stacey, brave and Interesting post. Thanks.
I've been defragging for some time now, but it never occurred to me to delete...everything.
Think I'll sit with this awhile.
Aloha,
k

    Favorite     Flag as abusive Posted 11:18 AM on 9/08/2008
- StreamSource I'm a Fan of StreamSource 2 fans permalink

Stop thinking...
Observe each pain that comes up - then release it.
Observe each fear and use mind to dissolve it.
Pain and fear are from ego and ego is attacking, but it is not real. You simply forgot.
There is no past, no future.
Remember this and the freedom you seek awaits in the moment.

    Favorite     Flag as abusive Posted 10:12 AM on 9/08/2008
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