Monday, September 20, 2010

Being within one's self

It's as though there was a tiny light within.

My life is murky. There are vast expanses of impressions that don't define themselves well; tracts of sleep, with only a dim awareness of the fact that this is it, that I am alive, that every encounter is real, and that 95% of me (probably more) is not here to take things in properly.

But something can change.

It is possible to be within one's self. I see that.

I know that that is true; I understand. I have worked for a long time just to get this small bit of knowledge.

I call it a small bit of knowledge, but it isn't small at all. It's quite possible that I might have gone through my entire life without understanding this. Sometimes I wonder if it is sheer dumb luck that a light bulb got turned on, down here in this basement somewhere.

There is this glimmering; there is contact from something much higher, a life that wants to reach me. Even in the midst of the worst of what happens in ordinary life, I can sense this. It touches me. I appreciate it. It isn't a romance–an imaginary adventure. It isn't sentiment. It doesn't classify itself within any ordinary group of emotions. It is a different kind of energy.

Ultimately, this being within myself is what becomes precious in life. Anything else can happen; I can get money, have sex, eat food, cut myself with a knife by accident while making things in the kitchen–anything else can happen. All of these things involve impressions and sensation, many of them are alluring, but none of them have the value of being within one's self.

To be within one's self to have a different sense of what it is to be.

I suppose that this may sound obscure, or even uninteresting. What does that mean, to be within oneself? What good does it do anyone?

This is a question of gravity, of being within one's life in a different way. Without this sense of being within oneself, one doesn't have a life. There is no real state of Being that can be called the essence of a human being, the genuine property of existing, unless this sense is alive. The taste of it is already transcendental compared to the taste of ordinary things in life.

Transcendence doesn't have to be built out of mountain peaks with nuclear rays of sunshine beaming out of them in all directions. It is made of grains of sand.

Every day, when I wake up, I immediately examine the body, the mind, the breathing, the sensation, to see exactly what is available. This morning, for example, where I was going down the stairs in bare feet in the dark, I put all of my attention in the soles of my feet, to truly sense that touch, to truly live within those feet and see how it was for them to be what spoke, instead of the mind.

It was possible. It's interesting little things like this–which, in their smallness, are utterly glorious–that transform a life. It is an alchemical act to discover one's self within oneself.

This action–a form of living prayer, what we call having an attention, what the Buddhists call mindfulness–can become the whole of my life. It can be the most interesting thing that happens each day, every day, from dawn to dusk. Such days are much longer than one day long. So many impressions become more alive that it feels as though I have lived for a week in such days.

I want to believe, when such things are available, that they can always be available, but I am not that lucky. Or at least, not that disciplined, or fortunate. I can't live forever in some exalted state. I have to take what comes. It is developing an understanding that is willing to nurture what is available that makes a difference. That's where I need to be more active.

It's that good old sense of intimacy. Being close to myself, and staying close to myself. This is necessary within everyday life, within ordinary life. It's much more valuable there–for this work, at least, anyway–than it is when I am sitting in meditation. Life does not want to be cloistered and live in a dark little cell; it wants to live. It wants to express itself within the action of the body, the mind, and the emotions: to inhabit this chosen vehicle, which it embodied in itself in order to manifest.

In order for it to do that, I have to keep this question of living in front of me. So often, it's the case that nothing comes in meditation; nothing can be attained (ah, the irony!) Nothing is available; I seem like a lump of meat. You are familiar with the experience, no?

This isn't a bad thing, when sittings appear to be unproductive. It's a lesson to me; after all, again and again, all of the sacred energy that one can encounter has a wish to be in relationship, not stuffed into a dark little box.

It is the expansion of that energy into this level, through the agency of our own action, that creates a world. Each one of us is responsible for taking part in that, as best we are able.

May the living Light of Christ discover us.

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