If I were writing the script, on Judgment Day we would have to forgive ourselves. And live with what we have done and failed to do throughout forever. I would call it The Reckoning. Or, maybe, Coming Clean. We would have to make it right with ourselves. It would be heaven and it would be hell. Those who manage it would be in heaven. Those who don't would be in hell. Betraying ourselves is the worst kind of betrayal. Those of us who might need more time could start making our peace with ourselves now.
This is called attending the silence, observing the silence, listening to the silence, receiving the silence, reading the silence, being attuned to the silence-- all without engaging the silence, being kidnapped by the silence, being shanghaied by the silence, being hijacked by the silence, being victimized by the silence, being run-over by the silence, etc. Here's how it works: Sit still and be quiet for twenty minutes, once or twice a day, opening yourself to the silence and paying attention to what arises there without succumbing to the experience. Your role is that of an interested observer. Just watch what comes to mind for twenty minutes. Then, process the experience by asking what the scenarios/situations/memories presented and what response did you make, either to them if you were watching yourself respond, or to them as you watched what was unfolding, and what response do you think would be appropriate now. Now connect what occurred/arose during the silence with what is going on presently in your life. In what ways is your real life situation similar to what the silence presented? How are the responses called for by the silence applicable to your real life situation? You can also use this same procedure in working with your nighttime dreams. What comes up in the silence-- either waking or dreaming-- and what response is called for there can be connected to what is going on in your life. You make the connections. You find the relationships. You create the meaning by taking this and relating it to that, in a "Thou Art That, Then Is Now" kind of way. Our dreams and visions and mental wanderings are screens upon which we project meanings that are pertinent to ourselves and to our life situations, much like ink blots or faces/objects/animals we "see" in the clouds or in the constellations. And, in this way, are reflections of things we might explore in ourselves. It is as though ourselves are sending us coded messages through what we see and how we respond to it, either in the silence, or in our actual lived experience. All of our meanings are projections. What we say something "means" is what we say it means, is what it means to us, and our collective meanings are meanings we share because our culture-- the people we run with, admire, respect, adore-- create a perceptive atmosphere in which things are seen in a similar way, and the Yankees are the best team in baseball, or the worst team ever, neither position having anything to do with the actual Yankees, who have nothing to do with the Yankees of fifty years ago or fifty years in the future, but everything to do with us and who we hang with now. Seeing our seeing shows us who we are and how it is with us. What we do about that is up to us. The perennial questions our experience asks of us are, "What response will you make?" and "Why that and not something else instead?" Our life is the answer to both questions. May it reflect our reflections and our intent and purposes, our entire life long.
There is stimulus and response, action and reaction, in an eternal cycle of cause and effect, without beginning or end, with one effect being the cause of the next effect, and action without initiation by some stimulus being hard to imagine. The way we respond to what is happening, influences what happens next. What response shall we make? How do we know? How do we decide? In light of what do we live? How do we determine what needs to happen, when it needs to happen, how it needs to happen? Does thinking about it help, or hamper, enable, or impede? When is spontaneity appropriate and called for, and when is it "knee-jerk" and out of place? What guides our boat on its path through the sea? What are we doing? Anticipation goes a long way, but who can be so savvy as to see what is coming and what should be done about it time after time? We are stuck too often to making our best guess on the run and hoping for the best, then doing what can be done to correct what we just did, time after time. I started making better decisions when I stopped having to make decisions of more import than "What's for lunch?" and "What's for dinner?" I am absolutely brilliant with nothing hanging in the balance or on the line. Give me, "Do I get a haircut today or tomorrow?" and watch me shine.
We stand between the dichotomies and dualities, and reconcile the contradictions and polarities, and make the peace by integrating the opposites and being the one who sees the wholeness hiding within the parts in a "Thou Art That," and a "This, Too. This, Too," kind of way. The Buddhist doctrine of No Duality, creates the very thing it denies. To say, "Not That! This!" is to fashion a duality as we watch. Suffering and an End to Suffering is a ground level duality at the heart of Buddhism. Enlightenment and Illusion is another. Illumination and Unseeing is another. Duality is everywhere, and we make the connections that create oneness, wholeness-- like music creating oneness, wholeness, between two dancers.
I am a firm believer in the Developmental Tasks. Each stage of life comes complete with Developmental Tasks, placed strategically along the way to bring us forth, grow us up some more again, and prepare us for the next round of Tasks at the next level of life. Going to work at the time to go to work teaches us things we could not otherwise be taught. Being married at the time to be married teaches us more things we could not otherwise be taught. Having children at the time to have children does the same thing. Watching the children grow up and leave home and take their place in the world does the same thing. Getting older with all that is implied thereby does the same thing. Approaching death, with the help of sickness and physical ailments, does the same thing. We cannot skip a stage or avoid the tasks and be who we would be by paying full price and riding the entire ride. The stages and the tasks are for us as the Cyclops was for Ulysses. Joseph Campbell said, "It took the Cyclops to bring out the hero in Ulysses." So it is with us and the Developmental Tasks.