It’s a force of nature, the largeness of whatever it is that opens a person to possibility beyond how things have been so far. The expanding sense of self, the softening, the falling apart of the familiar. It’s so clear we’re not in charge of this process. Someone intent on evolution sometimes wants to climb on the thing like it’s a horse, and attempt to direct it, drive it on. As if one could manage the unfathomable. The so-called spiritual journey.
When it’s more like wind. Suddenly it comes up and puts you at its mercy. It has its way with you. You can run for cover, or else you can stand in the open, let it knock you over, ruin your put-together self.
It’s not just that it isn’t in your control. It’s the mystery of it, the thing you didn’t see coming. The apparent reason for an upheaval, or things suddenly — unaccountably — getting easy. Wanting to get the lesson of something that’s happened, but not sure what it is. Always we want to be certain, to understand, to direct. Be able to hide. Protect our fragile selves. We want to be able to name a thing good or unfortunate. Mystery is intolerable. The unresolved. The unanswerable question.
* * * * *
Live! Really live. To live is to notice, feel, smell — to move, and feel that you are moving. It is a primarily physical thing, living. Feeling in the body what is alive there, just now. Not just neutral physical sensation but whatever the heart may be doing, in the felt presence of life.
We take refuge in the mind’s way. The price of doing this is spectacular. The price is not to have lived.
To not live is to climb inside the mind, to occupy its account of things as if that were life itself. As if opinion or label were a worthy placeholder for the thing it is about. The thing itself is missed.
We are afraid of life, of deep feeling, because it sometimes hurts. Life being full of uncertainty and disappointment and brevity. So we take refuge in the mind’s way of accounting, of revenge, escape, consolation. The price of doing this is spectacular. The price is not to have lived — to see, when it’s about to be over, that you missed it. You didn’t get enough of life itself.
But if you really live, each little morsel is plenty. Even when it hurts, which it sometimes will.
To see the difference between life itself and what the mind makes of it — this awareness is wildly liberating. The mind, having its propensities, will do what it cannot help doing. But you needn’t climb into its elaborate production as if it were the set of a play in which you are starring. The less you willingly enter into its rendition of reality, the less it will compel.
Meanwhile, life is always here, in spite of the mind. Your body continues. It feels things. The sound of the stream persists, and the color of the room, of the sky. The taste in your mouth. Tiredness, hunger. The feel of the fabric against your skin. That person saying something to you. The bird flying past. It’s not as though there isn’t any other place but thought to put attention. Attention being precious. How else can we tell we’re here, but by paying attention to our here-ness, to what’s right here in front of us, to what we’re doing just now?
* * * * *
How things get simpler all the time. Every day, it seems. A noticeable difference, one week more so than the one before. Things falling away, falling off, as though there were a cliff.
The stillness the overwhelming thing. Morning, night. In between. During sleep. The less there is to do, outwardly speaking, the more it takes over. Amazement attends it. Amazing it continues to grow more lush. Sweet. Like the honeysuckle. Enough to make a person woozy.
So simple. Everything so simple.
It says, Be with me. Constantly. In the stirring of the eggs, the fastening of the collar around the cat’s soft neck. In the ringing of the telephone, the steering of the car. In the car lights shining on the owl in the black night.
The particulars are trivial, irrelevant. It’s everywhere, always. Murmuring, shimmering. Alive. Holding me in its arms, traveling along the inside of my blood vessels.
I couldn’t look away from it if I tried.
I don’t try.
I wouldn’t mind if today were my last day. But if it turns out there are lots more years of this, or even days, how lovely that will be.
* * * * *
I might not have expected this, but it’s undeniable that repeatedly I have been washed, as by a wave, in the sense that this force of nature is benign. Is, I mean, love itself in motion. This is a physical sensation that comes over me, and has, for some time. The vivid sense that something unfathomable means us well. Some vast existential tenderness.
This impression is not something that lives in the mind. It’s not a hope, or a fond belief in goodness, or in God. It’s a feeling in the body, a something coming over me, something nearly overwhelming. I don’t know what to make of it. I know better than to try to account for it. When it comes, soaking me as a warm wave would, in its immediate wake is a felt recognition, an acknowledgment. Gratitude, you could say. And then, sometimes, a wondering: how did this come to be in my awareness, and why? But these are questions I know better than to indulge. They are the wondering of a mere person, with a mind that cannot go beyond itself. So the mind rests. And the head, unable to help itself, bows.Jan Frazier