The Demon, the Monk and the Fool: In My Secret Life
Every person should carry in one pocket a slip of paper reading ‘I am but dust and ashes’ and in the other, a slip of paper reading 'For me the world was made.'~ The Talmud
I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but it was somewhere in my early twenties. I was in New York City and the big old boot o’ life came crushing into my stomach.
I thought I knew what I was doing at the time. I had decided to leave my corporate life behind -- cushy well-paid job in the big fancy high-rise at the high power law firm -- to try and change the world. I figured with my talent, vision and dreams I’d do just fine. So I jumped...
There was no net (and no parachute).
I didn’t have a dime of savings, but I figured if I believed in myself and persevered hard enough (and spoke high truth to power), the universe would provide.
And it sure did: A lifetime’s worth of bloody-knuckle sandwiches... ;)
One drunken night in the depths of darkness, I carved the symbol of anarchy into my upper arm with a knife. It was a symbol of endurance and strength in the face of all that was backwards in the world. Somehow it made sense to me at the time.
And like the backwards world I lived in, the symbol was carved upside down too. It was the ultimate defiance.
This was me fighting my demons.
Flash forward a year later, I’m sitting in India with monks and holy men, diving into the infinite bliss of who I truly am. By a small miracle I’ve been dragged out of the bowels of New York, and for once in my life, hunched in a corner of the ashram of my satguru in South India, I finally feel like I've found my home.
But in my heart I battle with this truth, because a lingering notion tells me I have to “be somebody” in the world -- to make something of myself -- to do something worthwhile with this small precious life.
This life of peaceful immersion into the sacred, mixed with joyful explorations of truth and love and peace. This was a great life. But it wasn’t mine. I knew there was more. I could feel it coming...
The Wild Card
The Fool is the wild card in the Tarot. Numbered 0 in the major arcana, he represents the ultimate state of possibility and contradiction that we live in -- residing somewhere in-between the glorious unfathomable Absolute and the folly of this fragile, relative human existence. The zero encompasses all that is, and the infinite possibilities of all that could be. Out of this manifests all. [more info]
In many ways, this interpretation of the Fool represents me the most. In my secret life, I reside somewhere in-between worlds.
Sometimes I find myself floating effortlessly through the cosmos, and other times buried deep in the depths of my soul. With my feet planted firmly on the ground I battle with ghosts and demons and dance with angels (perhaps all the while sharing a drink with friends at the pub...).
In conversation, it gives me an amazing ability to perceive things about you that often no-one in the world -- not even yourself -- is able to see. Other times it shows me things that are almost unbearable to witness.
Those visions humble me, and bring me back to the monk’s place -- the place of ashes and dust.
If you listen closely -- through the dust -- the wind carries messages for you.
We all have aspects of the light and dark within us. It’s what we make of these aspects, and most importantly -- what we choose to act upon, that defines us.
Like the faint marks of the upside down anarchy sign still visible on my arm, the shadows of our past stay with us....
In retrospect, everything that happened to me back in those days was for a reason. I learned that when you go out with fists raised to fight the powers that be, you better be ready for the universe to kick back -- it’s just one of the laws of nature. And it made me a lot tougher.
When you stand by your truth, no matter how painful the process, love always carries you through to victory in the end.
My fists are still raised, but with love and light and compassion for myself and the world. That’s my commitment to this life. The demon, the monk and the fool are all still there as faint shadows of me, but I’ve long committed to working for the forces of light and good in the world, and that defines me more than anything.
That’s why in 2004, in New York City, over the knife-marks of my anarchy sign, I tattooed the symbol of Om -- the unifying all-encompassing force of existence -- on my arm. It strengthens and symbolizes my commitment to the path of the highest truth.
For as long as I live, that tattoo will be there on my arm, to remind me of my truth. Is that really necessary? Probably not, but I do like it. :)
Have you ever made a commitment to your truth like that? Do you use any signposts to remind you of your commitment? What brings you back to the remembrance?
That commitment is everything. It carries you forward, through mud, sorrow, glory, dust and ashes.
It makes you a harness to the Flow.
This is just one of a series of articles in which I explore the many faces of Flow. Subscribe here to be notified of the next installments: