Existence, I think, ought to come down to something much simpler than what I try to make it.
There is this wish for special results; and it takes me away from the results that already exist. In a certain sense, the entire set of objects, events, circumstances, and conditions around me are the special results already; and if I form a right relationship to them, I see this. The results are comprehensive and include me.
“We are all in this together,” I can say to myself — without words, mind you, but only my attention. “Here we are together. We are.” There is something in this fact, as it arises with an awareness, that erases the assumptions, the expectations, and the demands I make both on myself and the world.
I think this idea of wishing for special results is what prevents me from seeing special results. The wish itself already presumes that the special results are here; that the grace isn’t here, the work isn’t here, the effort isn’t here. The wish says “None of what I care about is here yet, but if I work harder, I can get there.” If I am already in the midst of what is glorious and necessary, but I think that what is glorious and necessary must be elsewhere, well, isn’t that the essence of delusion?
Spending my time around so many others that have the same wish for special results that I do, along with the constant conversation about how one can get them this way or that way, what they feel like and look like, how they ought to be, how it is impossible to have that experience very often, and so on, I get the impression that we are dismissing the extraordinary value of ordinary life. It is our relationship to life that transforms — that and that alone. That relationship begins from within and is an inner transformation in which the relationship of myself to myself changes. It’s only there that anything changes in relationship to the outer world; and so if there were a special result — which, once again, I am questioning here — it would be within me, and it wouldn’t even be that special. It would just consist of a normalization of the organic work of the body, the mind, and the feeling.
This weekend, I’ve been reflecting about the moment when the Virgin Mary touched me back in 2001 while I was in Rome.
For some reason, it has never occurred to me before that I was taking photographs with a digital camera at that time (I was an early adopter, and this particular camera was a Sony that — can you believe it ?— took pictures on 3 ½ inch floppy disks.)
I went back to the photographs and found the series I took during the morning when I walked past the Vatican and Mary initiated me. I discovered that it took place on May 4, 2001 between 10:47 and 10:53 AM — it’s possible to trace it with that degree of accuracy because, even in those early days, the camera put a timestamp on the pictures, and one can tell from the photos just where I was, and at what times.
This is of interest to me primarily because it represents a real anniversary — the anniversary of my birthday, the day I was actually born and lived for the first time.
Nothing outside of me changed in the least; neither then, or later, when the initiation went through a progressive series of intensifications. The outside world and all of those photographs retained consistency: nothing was different.
But inside me, everything was.
It still is. And there have been over 17 years of permutations and transformations since then.
One thing that has stayed the same is that I see, so often, that everything is already a special condition.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.