How up for grabs it all turns out to be: that enduring impression of a self, having substance and boundary, requiring vigilance, deserving of respect and maybe even that vaunted thing, self-esteem.
Blown to smithereens, the wind tossing it about like dust, and why does it feel so good? The startling clear view of how made-up the whole thing was! How does the shocking revelation of this manage to bring relief and delight? Why the conspicuous absence of alarm, in light of what once seemed so real, so very precious?
It seems to be because the contrast between how it feels now and how it felt before is so profound. However attuned you might have been to self-inflicted suffering, you simply had no idea of the extent of it, ignorant of the depth of the pain you’d grown used to . . . until it has all stopped. However astutely you may have observed your mind’s manipulations and their impact on well-being, the truth is, a person really has no idea how heavy (and taxing) the whole thing is until after the wind lifts it and transforms it into air.
However astutely you may have observed your mind’s manipulations and their impact on well-being, a person really has no idea how heavy (and taxing) the whole thing is until after the wind lifts it and transforms it into air.
No idea. How very humbling it all turns out to be. How overwhelming the wash of gratitude!
Oh, not everyone is instantly overcome by relief and joy, in the face of radical disappearance. There’s the occasional account of fear in the midst of the dissolution, a person’s worry they’ve lost their mind. (Precisely! Though not the mind so much as its compelling contents.) It usually settles down after a bit.
Maybe it helps if such a person can rest from the effort to re-establish something like moorings. Disorientation comes with the territory. Good to be patient. It takes a little while for an ordinary human being, accustomed to a certain way, to get comfortable in free-fall.
To picture the movement horizontally rather than vertically, water rather than air . . . It may take some time to adjust to the feel of being tumbled along in onrushing water. Life has always been flowing water. Only now, with resistance and identity unwound, the feeling is of being the river.
It’s not the loss of the familiar supporting structures that causes the alarm so much as the response to the shocking change: the fruitless struggle to get bearings, or at least to understand what’s going on, or even to find words or ideas to contain it.
It helps to recognize that it’s the fast-receding person (and the grasping mind) that’s registering alarm at what’s happening. Panic in the face of destruction: it’s natural, given the situation. Just ask yourself this: What is it that’s observing this whole thing occurring? What is it that can notice the panic without actually feeling it?
Anyhow, the undoing may occur in as many varied forms as there are individual humans. Good not to have expectations, or to be bewildered if one picture doesn’t appear to match up with another.
* * * * *
Once a person stops grasping for shore line to cling to, and the river is allowed to take completely over, the apparent shore recedes from view. (It was only ever a mental image, in any case.) There just isn’t anything else besides the rushing motion that has turned out to be the only real thing.
Only, how come life feels so still, moment to moment? That’s what happens when your rate of speed and the speed of life become one, at last allowed to be fully in sync. (Note how we don’t perceive the motion of ever-spinning Earth, going along for the ride the way we do.) The body has deeply registered the utter brevity of each moment, the ceaseless doing-and-undoing. There is no more sense of movement, no self-in-the-act-of-living (let alone self “at the mercy of life”). Life neither enhances nor diminishes you, as once you supposed. No, you are life. This moment of it.
That’s all you are: the now. What happened to that cherished self you always thought you were? Remember how heavy it was? How did you ever bear it for so long? (Never mind how did everybody around you endure the way you inflicted it on them.)
Such a relief.
* * * * *
When awareness backs up to take in the big view, enough to observe how everything is in constant flux, there can form the mental image of movement, the appearance of a before and an after, of fleetingness — but only when awareness takes the big view. Mental images are handy, after all, for planning purposes, scheduling and so on. There’s a practical usefulness to be able to locate “nows” in a mental context, moments and dates having a perceived order. Anticipation and recall can have a function (even a pleasure), once you know better than to equate mental pictures with reality.
Yet in the actual experienced moment, when you’re really and truly there, here — not in your head but in the sensory immediacy of body-and-surroundings, utterly alive, attuned, nothing filtered through the mind or familiar structures of who you are or how life is supposed to be — in that mode (which has become the only one there is), all is utterly still. Even as there is the remote recognition that (yes) this will last but a heartbeat. It’s always been the case, but now you know it. The cells of your body get this in a way your mind once mistakenly supposed it got it.
That spiritual mind, I mean — the one that imagined it understood this whole thing.
You are no longer hauling, into this moment and then the next (and the next), the horrendous burden of the person you always thought you were. Nor do you miss that person (though you may feel an enormous tenderness toward who you used to be). You’re simply absorbed in the amazement of the immediate, which you’re no longer at any distance from.
Yet here is the miracle: in the stark absence of the old familiar self, the mind in quietude, something is aware of the whole thing happening.
You stand before a mirror: there appears the same body, face, hair. Awareness senses itself residing within, moving as you move. The mind continues to function, able to recall how life was before, to detect change. Awareness notices the mind in its pondering, its attempt to fathom, to account for the observed difference.
Awareness knows better than to try to fathom.