The Magician and the Audience

By Dina Glouberman

I’ve recently gone through a period where I’ve been quite happy, positive and optimistic in the daytime, but quite troubled at night.   I would wake at night, and feel frightened or depressed.

And then I’d start to attack myself for the fact that I ended up in such an unhappy place, because obviously if only I’d done this, this and that then I would be okay. Every night it would take me a couple of hours to get myself to a place where I could sleep again, if indeed I could.

Even worse, I had this sneaking suspicion that the nights were showing me the real state of my life, and that all my daytime attitudes were just bravado.  If the nights were bad, this must prove that I was not all right.

Slowly but surely I learned to take care of that child or that younger me who was so distressed at night. I began to understand that what I needed was a kindness and compassion and comfort, rather than blame.  And as I did this, and as I started also to do my meditations at night to bring myself back to centre, the nights got easier.

I learned that the things I thought about where a kind of spam.  If I was unhappy, I trotted out all the old explanations of what I had done wrong, and they were very old and worn indeed.  At the base of it was some old fairy tale belief that if I had done it all right, then I would be a princess and live happily ever after.

Then, the other night as I brought myself back to centre, I saw, really saw, how distressed I was.  And I really turned in a completely loving way to comforting myself, and telling myself how much I loved myself.  The penny dropped that this was distress from the past, and that I didn’t have to attach a story to what would have made it okay.  There was never going to have been a life in which I had no distress.

The next morning it came to me that the person I am in my waking life is actually the real present me who has gone through a lot of internal changes and transformations and is feeling good and strong.  This is not bravado.

That person I am in my night life is like a child from another time, indeed another world. And I don’t really know what is troubling her, though I can see that when I am stressed by life in some way, this triggers her unhappy feelings more. And no matter how much personal development work I do on myself, I may never know the whole story.  It may not even all have to do with my present lifetime.  It might be remnants from the lives of my parents or ancestors, or even past lives of my own, or racial memories.  Who can really know?

It is as if I have adopted a child, and though I am giving her all I can right now, she is still waking up with nightmares that result from her experience before I knew her.  So although I don’t know what is bothering her, nor is it my fault that she is distressed, it is my love that can care for her now and bring her through

It is hard to express how important this understanding was.  If we go back to the idea of identity, I was no longer identified with my troubled self, but with that larger self who could care for the troubled self.  The troubled self is part of me, but it is the larger self who runs the show.

I now really identify with she who has struggled all her life to become larger, more developed, more in touch with herself, more loving, and honest and true.  I have succeeded to some great extent though not totally and I can be proud of that. If there are pockets of distress, this is a reminder that I am human.  It hurts to be human and it is human to hurt.

I am reminded of my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh saying,” We all have a Buddha nature.  To be a Buddha is not to be somewhere in the sky perfect.  To be a Buddha you have to be human.”

So in a sense what I had come to was that I was going to identify with my Buddha nature, and be compassionate toward my human hurt. And in so doing it was as if I expanded a few meters and was now a larger being,

I was now like one of those Russian dolls with the round bottom that no matter how you pushed it around, it still came upright.  I had found a way to be stable in the midst of challenge and change.

I also contained within me a whole series of smaller dolls.  And if I but had eyes to see them, perhaps there were a whole series of larger dolls around me which were my potential beings waiting for me to expand into them.

So once again I am amazed at how transformative it is to see where we place our notion of who we are.  As long as I identified with the smaller part of me, that regressive part that woke me at night, I was always ready to blame myself for being in such bad shape.  But as soon as I identified with my largest part, then everything fell into place, and I realized how strong I was, and how much potential I had to take care of the vulnerable me, and to grow even stronger in time.

This is not the first time I have been woken up by difficult feelings. I am reminded of a time when I and my husband had two young children, a centre in Greece, and we also were moving house and starting a new centre. I also had a full time job, clients and weekend personal development groups.

I was so challenged by what I had to do that one day I had what I thought was a brilliant insight : There only needs to be two of me and that will solve my problem!  I even went so far as to investigate cloning, only to realize that you needed to start very tiny as a clone. Mad as I was, even I had to give up.

There wasn’t time for cloning.  I had to change my life or my attitudes.

And I kept thinking and thinking: Why am I in this situation?  What am I needing to learn to handle it?   And finally I got this understanding:

There is a magician inside me that is managing to do all these things.  The magician knows the trick of doing it, and has practiced enough to be perfect.  But the audience, that doesn’t understand what magic tricks are, can’t believe that what the magician claims to be able to do is possible.

It was the audience that was waking me at night worried.

It seems as if in my life, there is always either an audience that is doubtful of the magician’s skills, or a child who is still going through past pains, or just some part of me that is in trouble.  The one who doubts, suffers, and fears is more alive at night, but can appear at any time in the day too.

But there is also always that magician.

I could choose to identify with either the magician or with the sufferer.  Either way I might wake up at night. But if I am identified with the magician I will use my power and love to put myself back to sleep, and if I am identified with the sufferer I will drive myself into a frenzy with self attack.

Preparing for changes in our lives makes all this more urgent. In times when we will all be really challenged in life, as we will be if major change hits us, the choice will become more and more stark.

We are likely to be more fearful, more frightened, more worried and doubtful on one level. Yet the magician will become more and more resourceful at the same time.  There is nothing like a crisis to bring out our magical powers.

Which one will we trust to run the show?

Not much contest there.  I choose the magician.  And you?

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved