Topic 9 – Expanding the Playing Field
I’ve been known to say that the course toward freedom requires that we work two ends to the middle. The one end is where we’ve spent the first eight topics: coming to know what we falsely believe to be us. The other end is opening to an awareness of what is actually true about us. Our challenge to finding another way to “be” on this planet earth is not one of lack, but obstruction. We already are that creature we sense in our deepest yearnings. We already are conscious, creative, spontaneous and intimately interconnected with all we call Life, yet free from attachments.
Just for the heck of it, during the next few minutes entertain this premise: There is only Life, a force that is everywhere existent, expressing in trillions of manifest forms. What would this mean for you? You already know. You have already spent short (very short) periods of time immersed in moments of utter astonishment, moments so beautiful or joyful or integral, so deeply interconnected that they pulled your attention away from your mundane chatter, causing your personal sense of you to disappear, and there you stood untethered, whole and connected with the world: watching the antics of a toddler, or rapt in the glory of a sunset, captured by the joyfulness of your dog at play, held in the stare of a lover, or having written the perfect sentence. We never forget these moments, because they are the truth of our nature; it’s like meeting up with a dear and old friend. We never forget the Truth.
Yes, our experiences with the truth of us are fleeting and infrequent, but only because no one told us what was happening there; no one encouraged us to choose to place our attention there so we could become aware of the difference between Reality and what we’ve substituted for it—a life lived as our story. Again, I call on the heart and mind of a poet to help us sense this difference. In “Five A.M. in the Pinewoods,” Mary Oliver shares one of those experiences. She relates how two does (as in deer) wander almost to her side while she sits there in awe. She concludes:
This is a poem about the world
that is ours, or could be.
one of then—I swear it!—
would have come into my arms.
But the other stamped sharp
hoof in the pine needles
like the tap of sanity,
and they went off together
through the trees.
When I woke I was alone.
I was thinking:
so this is how you swim inward,
so this is how you flow outward,
so this is how you pray.
The reason we do not live in this state of Reality is again a product of our worldview. To maintain the sense of the self we’ve been conditioned to believe we are, to keep our story alive, requires constant focus on it, constant attention. And the way we accomplish that is by running an on-going, almost never ending conversation in our minds. That’s why I said at the outset of this topic, our challenge is not lack but obstruction. We are here existent with all we need to live peaceful, harmonious, whole lives, but we hide that fact from ourselves with all the effort it takes to maintain this false sense of ourselves, as we chatter away endlessly. We actually live the majority of our lives inside our own heads, while standing in the midst of Reality – the one that haunts us with its dreams of ease, love and joy.
The awful irony is one second after melting into some vast scenario of wonder and beauty, we are back fighting to be right, fighting for this parody of a human being—the one that answers to our name. We truly do need to understand our false nature and our true one. In my experience, it’s the opportunity offered to us human beings living on this planet. A hundred times a day, we have an occasion to practice separating the false from the real. It’s not like we have to don robes and find ourselves a cave. We come to a new awareness by having this comparison of false and true all around us, for our minds operate through that dichotomy.
Contradiction is the key we’ve been given to unlock this door we live behind. A thousand times a day, we experience ourselves and others engaged in saying one thing while doing another; espousing what they believe while doing the opposite, yet rarely noticing. It was the contradiction that caught my attention years ago, not my own of course, but all those other foolish souls around me. It was so bizarre that I thought, “What is this craziness?” And so my journey began and became more urgent when I finally allowed myself to realize, I too was one of those fools. It’s time on this planet to find a new way. So let’s get back to deepening our understanding of “both ends” to allow the middle way to become more apparent. Topic 10 – The Moment won’t take us to it, as we’re already in it. But it will help us begin to see why that is so, more clearly.