English Philosopher, Herbert Spencer coined the well known phrase “Survival of the fittest,” after he read Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. The concept paralleled some of his economic theories with certain of Darwin’s biological ones.
Subsequently, Darwin used it as a synonym for “natural selection,” his theory, which outlines that there is consistent preservation and evolution of organisms that are better adapted to live in a changing environment.
Darwin was readily aware that it is adaptability in the face of change, often under adverse conditions that leads to the evolution of species. We, as human beings, along with everything else in the universe, are in the eternal flow of evolution.
Not only are we evolving biologically, but we are also undergoing spiritual evolution. Whether consciously or not, we inexorably make our way from the darkness and limitations of the illusion of the material “reality” into the Light ofAll That Is, often referred to as Christ or Buddha Consciousness, or the “I Am Presence.”
We continually become involved in the material plane, the realm of polarity or contrast with each incarnation, often facing adversity in the process of restoring balance to the energies we set in motion in other lifetimes.
If we are on a conscious path, we will eventually take stock of what our nets have pulled in, throwing back what will not nourish our souls. When we understand that what we reel in is determined by that with which we have baited our hooks; the Law of Cause and Effect or Karma will no longer be a mystery, and will ultimately empower us to live the joyful, abundant, fulfilling lives that are our birthright.
Our spiritual evolutionary process may at times strike us as harsh, as we appear to meet obstruction after obstruction on our path toward illumination. Yet, this is all necessary, and as it should be. A diamond, radiant in the sun’s light, begins as nothing more than a black lump of anthracite or coal that has been exposed to tremendous pressure in the darkness of the earth.
It is only through the process of restoring balance that our souls evolve. It may prove at times very challenging, but ultimately what we undergo or endure will bring us closer to an awareness that we are the cause of all that we experience, and are not merely at the mercy of forces beyond our control. We eventually come to view what was, at first, perceived as struggle, pain, or hardship as a form of grace that carries us across the abyss into a new more expansive state of consciousness.
I had an exceptional set of experiences during the last week that brought these truths into clearer focus for me, and ultimately led me to change the thrust of this reflection, even now adapting to a new set of circumstances. This is evolution in action…and you thought it took millions of years…
As I drove east, on a recent glorious sun drenched afternoon, over the undulating ribbon of Old Seneca Turnpike in Marcellus, I noticed a tiny chartreuse grasshopper glued to my windshield. I had no idea how long it had been there, but I imagined it had hopped aboard back at the artist’s studio from which I came in Skaneateles a half a dozen or so miles back.
Earlier, I was parked under a canopy of trees, amidst a profusion of color and texture that are my friend’s gardens. This little insect very likely, was making its way from the shade of the fern bed toward a patch of sun pouring down through the overhang of beech, maple and oak. My car, an interloper in this pastoral haven, was a temporary way station on its journey toward the light.
The grasshopper, emerging from the darkness of the dense ground cover toward the pool of sun to which it was instinctively drawn, took the path that seemed to be the most direct, landing smack dab on my car. Little did it know that it had just signed on for the ride of its life!
As I considered this intrepid traveler perched precariously on the wind-screen of my Toyota, I couldn’t help recall a statement printed on one of my son’s T-shirts, which reads, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” I was immediately flooded with a profound sense of recognition and compassion for this wind blown little bug.
As I observed the tiny creature, I found myself rather conflicted. I was thoroughly intrigued by its display of strength and determination, as it faced the onslaught, like a beautifully carved figurehead on a clipper ship sailing directly into the wind. Yet, at the same time I thought, “I should really pull over and remove the poor thing, before it gets blown off and crushed in the oncoming traffic,” but something made me resist.
You might think it was a perverse desire to see the bug suffer. But that is far from the case. I was in awe of this amazing insect. It displayed a humbling and heroic show of courage and nobility in the midst of such tremendous adversity. I was rooting for it the entire way, wanting to see it surmount the forces beset against it. I wanted it to succeed, to be carried far beyond the limited confines of its point of departure.
I would periodically peel my eyes from the road to peek on the condition of my passenger. During one such stolen glance, something struck me as unusual about my miniature stow-away. Something didn’t seem quite right; something was out of balance. On closer inspection, I made a startling discovery; the grasshopper was missing its left hind leg.
Now if you know anything about grasshoppers, you are well aware that it is primarily their powerful back legs that propel them forward, up to distances 20 times their own body length. Without a pair of back legs, this little fellow would be relegated to a rather restricted world-view. It wasn’t going to make it very far afield on its own.
Just like this grasshopper, we are often deterred from expanding our own horizons by the physical limitations of our bodies, or the restrictive belief systems and concepts we cling to so tightly. Off balance, we can find ourselves going around in circles, only able to turn left, when what we really want to do is move forward.
Yet, even with its seeming limitation, now plunged into a situation it clearly hadn’t planned for, it was adept at riding the current, able to withstand the force of the oncoming wind, all the while remaining completely poised and unperturbed, in the face of such hardship.
What I found utterly fascinating was watching how this grasshopper behaved under these extraordinary circumstances. It could easily have jumped off at a number of points, during our excursion from Skaneateles to my destination, The Spring in Fayetteville some 20 miles away. Yet it remained fixed and focused, like a guided missile honing in on its intended target.
Occasionally, I would see the grasshopper attempt to alter its orientation. Several times it began to turn its body so the whole side flank was exposed to the on rush of air. Buffeted more heavily by the crushing current in this position, it quickly readjusted to meet the onslaught head on, its little antennae blowing like pennants in the powerful breeze.
So often, in our own lives, we find ourselves in this same predicament, set on a particular course, only to be redirected by some unforeseen circumstance. We typically view such a disruption as an impediment to our progress, and turn away from it. But if we look with broader perspective, and face the challenge directly, withstanding the urge to bail, bolt or throw ourselves overboard, we will come to the awareness that this perceived obstacle has ultimately propelled us farther along the path in our evolutionary process than had this seemingly undesired event never occurred.
When such incidents arise, we may find ourselves falling into the “Why me?” mode, bemoaning our state and railing at a co-worker, family member, the Universe, or God for having done this to us. This kind of thinking places us in the realm of “Victim Consciousness” and renders us impotent. We, in fact, are the creators and arbiters of our own lives, and therefore responsible for all that we experience. As divine sparks of divinity, beings of Light, we are actually always in a position of omnipotence.
If we can look at our situation from a more expansive viewpoint, we will come to understand that this seeming accident of fate, the car wreck, the lay-off from work, or the breakup of a relationship was not an arbitrary hit from the Universe, or some sick, sadistic punishment from God, but an ingenious creation of our own design, a means for our own salvation.
When we have become stuck or complacent in our patterns of thought or behavior, our souls get to work magnetically drawing to us the perfect antidote to our spiritual stupor. We continually manifest a pattern until it is brought into balance, until there is atonement, otherwise pronounced at-one-ment.
These moments of elemental disruption can capsize us, leaving us clutching for something of substance to hold onto. If we struggle, we can quickly be pulled into the undertow. Very often, instead of rising above the currents churning around us, and drifting on the surface toward safety, we thrash about, stretching and straining to free ourselves from the clutches of old outmoded habits and concepts.
Though floating peacefully in the direction we care to go would be an infinitely more pleasant experience, the challenge of trying to keep our heads above water amidst the tempest does have its benefits.
These twists and turns of fate that seem to come out of nowhere are like tidal waves that launch us into a new dimension of consciousness. We are picked up out of our complacency, and deposited somewhere entirely new, our cloak of ignorance torn from us, leaving us raw and bare. Yet through this torrential initiation, everything that keeps us bound to the ego is stripped away, until we wake up from the dream of separation, cleansed of all our illusions, and remember that we are God.
So you might say I was “playing God,” taking that little bug, against its will, to a place it never intended to go. I say that bug was playing God. It chose to take that ride, consciously or not. I did not lash it to the mast. Undoubtedly, we served each other that day. We became partners in the eternal Cosmic Dance of cause and effect.
I piloted it beyond the limitations of it’s own physical form and current experience, and it expanded my spiritual horizons by bravely enacting lessons that I needed to learn for my own evolutionary process.
As I placed my leggy little teacher in the grass, awash with the afternoon light, at the base of a gnarly old willow, I expressed gratitude for the shared experience, and the new insights I had received from this accidental tourist, hoping his hopping would continue to propel him forward on his evolutionary path.
The following day, those lessons became even more clearly defined for me. I was in yet another studio, modeling for a sculpture of Dr. Mary Walker, a woman who, ironically, faced tremendous adversity in her lifetime, and met it with grace and dignity.
She was born in Oswego NY in 1832. In 1855 she was the only woman in her graduating class at Syracuse Medical College, embarking on a bold career path for a woman of the 19th century.
She had a clear vision of what she wanted to accomplish and would not be deterred. She might have taken the easy path, but had she done so, she never would have risen to the heights of her own potential.
Subject to ridicule throughout her life, for her views and behavior, Mary was an outspoken proponent of women’s rights and dress reform. She eschewed the corset, wore pants under her knee length skirts, and in her later years, opted for full men’s attire, and cut off her waist length hair, as to better serve her needs as a physician. She had long since stopped adhering to what society had dictated proper for a woman of her era.
She went on to serve, amidst great opposition, as a physician during the Civil War, and was even held for a time as a prisoner by the Confederacy. She remains the only woman ever to receive the Congressional Metal of Honor for dedicated service to her country.
A woman advanced beyond her time, Mary Walker used the adversity she faced as a means to create profound change in the social structure of 19th century society.
While I stood on the platform in my cobalt blue, silk antebellum costume, replete with wool trousers and feathered hat, I heard a furious sound coming from one of the high placed windows in the northwest corner of the sun soaked studio.
I looked up to see an enormous insect hurling itself against the glass pane trying to make its way out into the light. It was hard to discern what kind of bug it was from my vantage point. All I knew was it was big and appeared to be very frustrated.
There would be a frenzy of activity, wings beating frantically against the glass, and then nothing. A moment later the flurry would begin again. The silences soon became more and more frequent, as if the insect was giving up, resigned to its condition, locked away from the light that it so desperately sought. I was relieved when I was able to take a break, as I wanted to ease the creature’s burden, and release it from its invisible cage.
I took the broom I was using to support my arm, which in the final sculpture would eventually be resting on a podium, and held it out to what I discovered was a beautiful electric blue dragonfly.
At first it resisted my offer of assistance. It continued to heave itself against the window, like a ship continually being dashed against the rocks. It finally released, and grabbed hold of the bristles of the makeshift lifeboat I floated in its direction.
It clung there delicately, dazed from its battle trying to breach the wall of glass. I pivoted around and held the broom toward the vast opening of the garage door on the eastern wall. As soon as it caught a glimpse of the wide expanse of light it lifted off and flew to its freedom.
Though our challenges in the process of our spiritual evolution are of our own creation, it doesn’t mean we necessarily need to go through them alone. It is especially useful to accept assistance when we are too beaten down by the struggle, or too blinded to our own condition to see the way out.
Just as we attract to us the bitter but necessary antidotes to our spiritual ailments, we also draw forth those angels of mercy who can assist us in our healing. If we continually resist the hand that would pull us to safety, we will eventually drown in the teacup of our own ego.
There is a wonderful story that illustrates this point very cleverly:
A state trooper in a Jeep knocks on a man's door and tells him to evacuate due to a pending flood; the man says "God will save me." A few hours later the water is rushing through the man's first story, and the coast guard pulls up to his second floor window in a boat, but he sends them away, saying "God will save me." A little later, the man is on his roof, with floodwaters ravaging his house. A helicopter flies over and dangles a ladder, but the man waves it off. The man is swept away and drowns, and when he gets to heaven, he angrily confronts God with "why didn't you do anything to save me." God says "I didn't do anything? I sent you a jeep, a boat and a helicopter."
When faced with adversity, remember that your soul is responsible for creating this crucible to burn off the dross and leave the pure metal that can be fashioned into a boat that will sail you home. Should you find yourself in troubled waters, don’t be afraid to reach out to the hands that would carry you to safety.
The Grace of God comes in many forms, often appearing as hardship and loss. But during those times of struggle, others come to lift us out of the fray and carry us to dry land, where we again can take up the path that leads us to the higher ground of illumination.