Shine one corner

  • Dražen Pramod Šivak
  • 08. 04. 2020


photo: sean knight


„We say – to shine one corner of the world, that is enough. Not the whole world. Just let it be clear where you are.“

Shunryu Suzuki


Until recently many of us regularly attended retreats; not a large number of people, but for those that did the understanding that they need time outside the usual everyday routine was important.

Everyday life has become complex. It happened that with the development of the Internet and social networking we began to lose the space of learning how to be with oneself. Through an online illusion of contact, being sucked into unnecessary information, and constantly lagging behind new demands, we missed developing this contact with ourselves. We bought into an image of ourselves which left us dependent on the reactions of others for our sense of who we are. In this way our neurosis covered the fear beneath these self-images; that we will be disappointed with who is there when we look at ourselves through our inner mirror. This fear then took disguise in our addiction to endless inner and outer activity.


What happens when suddenly this outer activity is limited? What do we find when we are forced into a situation which mimics the limitation of our previously held images and illusionary freedoms?


People in the West who went to retreats voluntarily, (in the East this soul hygiene exists in a somewhat different context) paid with money and time, and they experienced this as expensive currency; knowing that they get an increasingly rare opportunity to ask themselves: who am I, actually? 

When we gain the courage to experience this rearrangement of values brought to us by this state of emergency, we may well discover that the things we invest huge amounts of our energy in do not respond to values we truly care about. Losing contact with ourselves we also lose contact with our true needs, now replaced with artificial and imposed needs that require literally all of our energy and never really quench our thirst.



photo: Gerd Altmann


There is a big difference between saying yes to this radical turn in a voluntary way or a forced way. In the imposed situation we have no structure or adequate technique accompanying and supporting us as in retreats; and there is no experienced person facilitating the process. The main difference is in our conscious decision to face what we are experiencing now, and what comes next. Many of us today are not ready to face the repression which emerges; our fears, compulsive behavior, outbursts, addictions, aggression and panic, low spirit.  In short...  things that are very different from our self-image. In meditation retreats these things, which are possible, are considered ‘blessings in disguise’ as they show us the way to a deeper connection with ourselves, and where to focus our attention.


And there lies our opportunity. Instead of making our home into a live tv-studio or panicking looking for new activities, the same attention could be transferred to ourselves. This is how we learn to be intimate with ourselves.


Intimacy with oneself and freedom are interconnected because when we experience our inner moments step by step we become aware of our mechanical and predictable functioning, which becomes a doorway to discovering true freedom!

We realize this superficial layer we considered real was actually just a learned and well trained mechanism. We will need patience and compassion. Peeling off that layer that was developed from early childhood means questioning our self-image, which in turn can make us feel insecure, exposed and vulnerable. This mechanical way of functioning that was part of our survival in family and society is now between us and our inner reality. The chance we have now, to see who we are underneath that layer, may awaken the courage and determination we need to move through this painful part of the path.


photo: Sami M'Rad


Beneath that layer there is a possibility for us to become the center of our life, instead of our surroundings. We no longer need to take our personal history of hurts and disappointments as the truth about ourselves. 

Freedom is born out of awareness of loyalty to our self-image based on that personal history which we took as our true selves, that enabled us to blame circumstances and others. Even today, by putting reasons for our suffering outside of ourselves, we avoid responsibility and in this way we continue walking the vicious circle of our own prison. And when we stop bowing down to our personal history's altar, we are in the Unknown. Through it we are guided by consciousness, entering each new moment with freshness and openness.

Then we can discover our own strength even though we always saw ourselves as weak. We can discover that our heart can accommodate much more than we thought. We can discover we are grateful for this opportunity, although it seems to be a paradox in this time bringing with it so much suffering.

Anyway, we will stop demanding others to change so we can change. We will stop projecting that the planet is seeking revenge, and we will stop being part of the follower’s mentality.

We will live moment to moment, getting to know ourselves with patience and benevolence, like when we watch a child take its first steps, or a puppy discovering the world. We won't make big goals, talk of big changes waiting for humanity, which has had regular wake-up opportunities through global catastrophes and wars. It seems we keep forgetting the tendency of a human mind to forget.

We will just turn to our corner of the world and shine it.