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Where Are We Going?
The path disappears into a marshy patch bounded by a copse of trees. In the overgrown tangle at the base of a steeply rising hill, the soft babbling murmur of water rises from a rivulet, draining the waterlogged patch. Shattered clumps of dried switchgrass mark the edges of the pathway, and jutting up from every patch of bare ground, sparkling eruptions of frost crystal sparkle in the early afternoon sun. The chill February wind sweeps across this dun-coloured open stretch, carrying the nostril-tingling scent of fresh snow down from the higher peaks.
Bursting through the low-hanging branches, the path enters the shadowed hush of old forest. Suddenly the green of moss, evergreen shrub and granite boulder wraps the narrowing valley in a cool gentle hug. The silence rises in a sudden and almost deafening acoustic abyss, broken only where the little stream emerges, in its wandering journey between the rocks, into a sparkling trickle or a little pool. Then another, more majestic voice begins to whisper in the distance, then rise gradually into a hum. The skeletal fingers of oak, beech and larch wave patterns on the blue sky as the breeze approaches closer, then fills the entire valley with its humming, whistling exhale. The trees shiver as the whirling gust carries down messages from above the snow line, hinting towards the approach of evening. . . .
A walk in the winter woods has always captivated my senses. I count the snowy strolls I took in my native-born New England as some of the first examples I can recall as being truly “spiritual experiences.” Snow is so clean. So white. So pure. There is nothing in this world so dirty, ugly, or tainted that it cannot be cleansed, purified and liberated by a white blanket of winter. After an evening snow I used to wake up at first light, eager to see the world as a clean, unbroken expanse of purity. There is a magic in the landscape, a fresh innocence that seems to offer the witness another chance . . . another fresh slate to write upon . . . before the unbroken whiteness can be disrupted by tracks and stained by the passing of men.
If there remains a hint of what Eden was like, I believe one can see it in a new snowfall.
Many … MANY years ago, I wrote a short story that tried to express what these fleeting glimpses of Holistic Consciousness meant. At that time, I was still mainly guessing – repeating phrases I had read and etched into my soul, but had yet to fully experience in the light of Truth. And yet, upon rereading it a few weeks ago, I was amazed at how clearly expressed and full of insight the passages were.
The story involves a young man (probably about 20 – my age at the time I wrote it) who is desperately trying to find a short cut to the enlightenment that he has tasted in agonizingly brief but tantalizingly powerful glimpses. After a lot of character development and metaphysical background, the climax arrives when – seated in a silent grove of trees, as the first snowfall of winter drifts down from a darkening sky – a deep calm falls over the young man, and in the sparkling darkness, he encounters a “teacher” who finally agrees to answer his myriad questions.
This Man would preach no sermon without the proper invitation. Yet I could tell that if I asked the right questions, he would have the answers. I was at a loss. Where was I to start?
"This feeling. What I am experiencing . . . this peacefulness and satisfaction . . . What is it?"
It is Life.
"Life? Well, yes. Uhh … I sense that. I mean. . . I have never felt more alive. But what causes this feeling of … of wonder and . . . and joy, and . . . and . . .?"
It is nothing more than Life. It is Life, and Nothing. Nothing is the important part, you see.
What you are experiencing right now is the feeling that Life creates when there is nothing in its way. When there is no obstacle between you and life, Life *IS* Joy. Do you understand?
"No. Not really. I don't think so."
Life is universal. It comes to us in fullness. Unbounded. Unending. Perfect. To be, completely aware of Life's fullness, creates the feelings you describe. The more fully we experience Life, the more we partake of the Joy and Completion that it contains. Each of us is a child of Life's longing for itself. We are born as the heirs to the perfection and unending beauty that Life is. Our inheritance, the gift given us by Life, is our portion of the peace and tranquility and satisfaction that you have just experienced.
"I think I can understand that. At least. . . it expresses how I feel."
Yet Life is always in motion. It never tarries with the past or anticipates the future. It simply is. There are no conditions on it. It is fleeting. It is impermanent.
"But. . . I thought that Life was unending. Eternal. ?"
Eternal, yes. But not permanent. In Life, nothing remains fixed. Everything undergoes change. Life a river, Life is constantly flowing, moving, changing from one form to another. The river is always the same river, yet the water flowing through it is in constant change. Ever new. Ever different. Life is like the river, always the same, but always changing. When we are open enough to Life that we experience every change, every instant, then we experience the fullness of Life's perfection.
Yet it is not Man's way to remain in such a state of unconditional openness. It is our fate, our Original Sin, that we became aware of our impermanence. Man stood naked, unconditioned in the garden of Life. But seeing his impermanence, he chose to follow the path of knowledge and reason. This required him to set arbitrary limits. Define forms. See Life as a set of things and sensations, rather than experiencing it in its fullness.
To live in the Eternal, one must move ever with the current. Never pausing, even for an instant, with one idea, one feeling, one object. Observing his own nature, Man said, 'I am naked.' This is what all your knowledge and logic and reason is: It is the fetter of the universal., It is a way to confine the Infinite in fixed forms and categories. It is Man's decision to ignore the unceasing change and pretend that things, ideas and feelings are permanent. By inventing these forms and molds, Man can study them, understand them, posess them. But all of these forms and creations are merely half-truths. They are limited. They are limiting. When man fills his mind with their forms, he becomes too insulated by thought to experience Life.
"So all of our ideas and thoughts and concepts are wrong?"
No, I have not said that. I merely described the way that we create our world. Each of us chooses our own ideas, our own concepts, our own fears and desires, loves and hatreds. We choose these. Freely. Who is to say which are right and which are wrong? Your thoughts and concepts are as limited as those of anyone else. It is the ultimate freedom of choice, to be able to choose our own ideas and thoughts. We choose on the basis of what they can teach us, what desires they can fulfill
"And we are also free to change them, or to get rid of them altogether?"
Very good. Remember the story of the Pearl of Great Price. When the merchant saw the most precious, the most perfect Pearl, he went out and gave away everything he had.
Not just his house.
Not just his material possessions.
Not just his position, or his pride.
Everything! Every Thing.
And when the merchant had given up ALL but his longing for the Pearl, he was able to have it. Like the merchant, we can have anything we truly want. Nothing is impossible. But if we truly desire the Pearl, we must first give up everything that stands between us and its Perfection. You see? when you gave up everything except your wish for peace and stillness, it descended upon you unbidden. This is the greatest secret of Life.
"So this should be my goal. To lose my concepts and my limitations. To give up everything I possess and experience Life in its unconditional fullness."
No! Once again you are putting words in my mouth. You have experienced peace, and beauty. In the future, you shall seek it, and find it, again. But even peace and beauty are fleeting. Do not assume that the only goal in Life is to abandon thought, concept and limitation. Remember, Mankind CHOSE to abandon paradise. Each of us CHOOSES our limitations. True, we can overcome them, and transcend them. But this striving to overcome -- it is our challenge! Our purpose. Our passion, not our punishment.
That which remains eternally pure and perfect can never understand imperfection. The magnificent triumph of the human spirit is that it chooses the cage of materialism, yet soars free. It accepts the chains of imperfection, yet remains unbound. Only Man can understand the imperfection of Man, yet rejoice in his ultimate perfection.
Do you understand now? Every part of your life -- the whole of your existence -- is something that YOU have chosen. The true challenge is not to cast it away, but to carefully examine each item. Rid yourself of those that trouble your soul, and glory in those that bring you happiness!
You must be open and vulnerable to Life.
Try to be aware of all that you do.
Do not build walls between yourself and the world that you have created.
Live each day in the fullness it would deserve if it were your only day. For this moment is your only reality. Your yesterdays and tomorrows are but dreams and memories. For you. let there be only laughter and rejoicing in the eternal Now.
If there is something you wish to do, give it your all. Be swept up in the joy of doing it.
If you have something to say, say it from the core of your being. Do not prattle endlessly of trivialities.
If you wish to have happiness, spread happiness to others.
If you need friends, be a friend.
Send your light and your love out in an unending torrent. For whatever you give to Life, Life will repay with abundance.
Follow the path towards your own perfection.
Seek to end each day a little farther on than you began it.
Move forward, and never dwell with what is past.
Remember, everyone must find Life in his or her own Way. Be ever true to your own Way, yet ever tolerant of the Ways of others.”
. . . . .
I sat transfixed. It was so clear. So true. So beautiful. Everything fit. Everything made sense. The beauty of what this Man had said seemed to take on a substance of its own. My heart soared.
"Thank you! THANK you for showing me this Truth."
Ha! I already told you, Truth cannot be expressed in words.
"But, what you just told me. It is True. I can tell! You KNOW that these things you say are . . ."
I do not Know anything.
I told you, everyone creates their own explanations and ideas to reflect the mystery that is Life.
These are mine. I made them up.
"You. . .you what?"
I made them up. I do not know if they are True.
I believe them because … I CHOOSE to believe them.
(As the protagonist rails at The Man, and flails between outrage and incomplete understanding, the figure fades into the darkness. The snow ceases to fall, and after an inner argument that runs headlong into logical brick walls at every turn, his mind is overwhelmed ... and all goes black. )
. . . . . and then)
Dawn broke clear and bright over the forests and fields of the silent park. I awoke frozen and half dead. I had not moved. The dawning of a new day made me calm. And still. Despite my frostbitten fingers and toes, I sat motionless. I drank in the wonderful stillness. The refreshing purity. The dazzling wonder of a new snowfall. It was as if I was afraid to move … unwilling to disturb that brilliant purity … that snowy perfection.
For all about me, as far as I could see, lay a pure, unbroken carpet of white. The newly born world lay untouched … Untainted by the passing of human feet.
That is my story. At least for today.
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Most of all, we welcome your feedback, questions, concerns or perspectives on the articles. Each article has a comments section at the bottom. Toss out any inhibitions you might feel and post your own comment/feedback. If this life is indeed a learning experience, then we should view everyone on the planet as a potential teacher. We are here to teach and learn from one another. What you might view as a trivial comment can be the key that unlocks meaning for someone else. As the song goes . . .
Keep a fire for the human race
Let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near
Just as easily it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don't let the uncertainty turn you around
Go on and make a joyful sound
Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive
That you'll never know
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