Tuesday, December 4, 2007

In the middle of life

This afternoon, as I left the office to get lunch, I saw how immersed I am in the immediate moment.

This immediate moment is what there is; things that will happen later, such as my trip into the city tonight to attend my group meeting, aren't real yet; they haven't happened.

As such, I find myself in the middle of life.

At the beginning of life, in our experience, we are in the middle of life. As we grow old through life, we are always in the middle of life. And even as we approach our death, the only place that we can do it from is from the middle of our life.

There isn't anywhere else to be.

The middle of our life is this present moment; it is after the past, and before the future, so we are always in the middle, no matter where we are and no matter what we are doing. And it is this immediate, saturated experience of inhabiting this middle place within life that may become more interesting to us as we study our self.

The middle of life is completely unexpected. It appears to be familiar, because our associative parts create an artificial accountability for the arriving impressions. The fact that none of them have actually ever happened before is glossed over. We actually have no idea of what will happen next in any moment; the whole thing we call life is a safari into the unknown in every single second.

Sometimes a big shock will come along and open us up to the present and we see that things right here are pretty good, but that is unusual. We tend to spend most of our time imagining that something that happens later will be better than this. So we miss all the important stuff of the immediate moment, dismissing it as boring or trivial.

On that note, my wife reported some rather shocking news last night about a man we know who is a sculptor. He does beautiful bronze work.

While he was in France on vacation recently, someone broke into his house in Vermont and stole about 80% of the last 25 years worth of his work. Because there are foundries in the area, it's suspected that all of his sculptures were melted down so that some "individual without a conscience" could stuff someone else's dollars in their pocket.

It was a terrible blow; being an artist myself, I can attest to the fact that he probably felt like a large portion of his life was chopped down and burned. Nonetheless, he is a man with the true soul of an artist, at least as far as we understand these things, and today, he was marveling at the open sky and the dramatic windy weather blowing through the Northeast, exclaiming to Neal, "what a beautiful day it is!"

The shock opened his heart. Right now, he understands that it's not about the stuff; it's all about the comprehension of this magnificent experience we call life... hell, the bastards may be able to take away his bronze, but they can't take away the weather.

It reminds me of the moment years ago when, after I lost my wife, my family, all my money, and my house in my divorce, I stood outside one night in the midst of Georgia wheatfields and looked up at clouds scudding across the moon. I realized at that moment that no matter what life took away from me, until life itself was taken, I would still be able to breathe the air and to see the clouds.

No one could take that away from me.

The very next day I lost my job. But when I went outside, the clouds in the sky were still there, and I was alive. This is how we survive; by knowing that we live, we breathe, that we find ourselves in the middle of this thing called life, which is a cause for celebration--even in the midst of collapse--if we are in touch with our soul.

This morning, I was reading further in the chapter of the Shobogenzo entitled, "Samadhi as Experience of the Self." (Same source as cited in yesterday's post.)

On page 30, Dogen imparts the following:

"To preach Dharma and to listen to Dharma with our [whole] body at each moment in our [whole] life at each moment is to hear Dharma in every age, and is to listen again in the present age to Dharma that was authentically transmitted to us in the past. We are born in Dharma, and we die in Dharma, and so, having received the authentic transmission of the Dharma while in the whole universe in ten directions, we listen to it in our [whole] life at each moment and practice it with our [whole] body at each moment."

Dogen is pointing here at the fact that we exist within this truth called the middle of our life. The wholeness of experience of life encompasses "the whole universe in ten directions."

"Because we can realize our whole life at each moment in Dharma and make our whole body at each moment into Dharma, we bring together both single molecules and the universal order and let them experienced Dharma."

Here we are reminded that we are indeed in the middle; we are a bridge between heaven and earth, a bridge between levels. We learn to engage in the sensation of our molecular Being and connect it to a much greater sense; to close the gap between molecules and the cosmos, our consciousness is required. Dogen's explanation of a higher level of awareness as encompassing both levels below and levels above recapitulates Gurdjieff's words to Ouspensky on the same matter in "In Search of the Miraculous."

So here we are... in the middle of life...

Just doing our job.

It's not so bad, really.

May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.

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