It looks like the weather is on the turn, but a few cooler days would be nice right now.
Before I start today's post, I'd like to say a heartfelt thank you to all those people over the last few days who've messaged me about my writing — here and on Tumblr. I'm touched, deeply. It's not so much a case of inspiring me or providing the additional motivational juice to carry on, but it makes me realise that a few words can be helpful and resonate in a way that perhaps I never considered — and that feels right on so many levels.
Today's post is short-ish, albeit I've added at the end (you can skip the rest if you like) another one of my favourite Mary Oliver poems, The Summer Day. It's the last two lines that you're probably familiar with but I thought it would be nice to gift you the whole poem.
The thing is, we know life is precious. It's a gift. It's magical, even though, at times, it doesn't always feel like that, given how often we feel disconnected from true self. In fact, we can be (as is the human condition) pretty nihilistic and suffer from a degree of ennui that's hard to fathom let alone explain. One day we're up — ecstatic; the next day we're down in the basement of our fears. And it hurts. It really hurts. It's like an interminable rollercoaster we can't get off.
In my case, I thought there was an answer or at least a way of avoiding the shit flowing in my direction and only ever wanting the emotionally delicious parts — which seemed fleeting at best. Sadly, I didn't come to my senses and assumed that that would be my fate — forever.
As you may know, something was speaking to me.
In March 2010, I was physically brought to my knees (in front of my wife and kids) and then spent six days in hospital recovering from a subarachnoid haemorrhage and a further six weeks at home, coming to terms with my human frailty. But as I've explained before, this now appears to be the Universe showing me that everything that I'd taken for real was an invention of my mind and one where I'd been conditioned to believe that I was somehow in control. The joke was most definitely on me. Ha bloody ha.
Forgive me dear readers if you've heard this before, but it was reading the Heart Sutra that broke my left-brain, thinking self asunder and, as they say, life was never the same again:
this Body itself is Emptiness
and Emptiness itself is this Body.
This Body is not other than Emptiness
and Emptiness is not other than this Body.
The same is true of Feelings,
Perceptions, Mental Formations,
I then spent the next few years exploring the formless aspect of my life; it was hard. Real hard. There was no ah-ha moment where I suddenly woke up and saw the vibrant aliveness in each day but then again, something profound had shifted where even when I got myself into a deep, dark funk, I didn't stay there for long. The understanding of the non-identification with my thoughts meant I realised that they'd change or deviate without any intervention by yours truly.
Do you see that?
They come; they go. One day they're brilliant in opening your heart to all that life offers; the next day, they're dark, moody, almost death-dealing and life takes on a hue that, in hindsight, is hard to fathom.
Well, as hackneyed as it sounds, . I don't get caught up in the endless, eternally boring stream of thoughts and feel my way into the aliveness of whatever I'm doing: writing, speaking, drinking a cup of coffee, doing my legal thing, washing the dishes or walking the dog. I know, it all sounds quite flat but, actually, letting go of the pretence that it should be anything other than what it is, has been my real awakening. In fact, it's no accident that my meditation practice has changed where I now spend time sitting on an old log just watching the river flow by. It's not arguing with the rocks or trees that interfere or deviate its flow. It flows, freely. If only we'd allow our minds to do likewise. And no, before you ask, this isn't me zoning out or trying to avoid anything. It's just falling into the deliciousness that life offers, even if, at times, it can feel repressive, difficult and outwith the fantasy we've created for ourselves.
In saying these few words, I'm not expecting you to fully understand the import of my awakeness — or whatever label is best to describe my acceptance of the moment — but if you're curious to understand how you might end the endless seeking, you need to be prepared to question everything, particularly what you've taken as read about a life well lived. In the past, as I tried to explain in yesterday's post, I thought that the more effort, grit and willpower I applied to living, the happier I'd be. But it was a mistake — one that nearly cost me my life! Instead, as I've prayed in aid several times on this blog, I should have adopted Osho's wise words:
Be — drop becoming.
I know, it sounds too whimsical. But too many people I meet have a closed hand (or fist) to life. All I'm inviting them and you to consider is what does it mean to open that hand and see the presence and aliveness in an open hand? Can you feel the difference? One is taught, uptight and replete with angst; the other? Well, I'll leave you to think about the full import of that.
In summary, only you can understand you. As tautological as that might sound, my strongest advice is not to read another book, watch another talk or even seek out a guru or teacher — not yet anyway. Instead, you might consider inviting a more beautiful question into your heart — e.g. Who am I? or What is there when there is no (or very little) thinking? But then again, it's far better if you can formulate a question that speaks to you. Don't be too desperate to answer said question. Live in it, fully. And then, perhaps, you might come to see that the answer to Mary Oliver's question about your one, precious life comes to you slowly, gently and in a way that speaks loudest to your heart.
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
— Mary Oliver
If you're able to support my work through patronage then you can either do so via Patreon, buying me a virtual coffee ☕ or go to my website where I've put up a 'support' page. Thank you in advance; even a small amount helps me to continue to write these blogs and maintain my site.