There’s been a lot of mountains and valleys in my life, but I keep smilin’. Billy Martin.
To be honest, I have my doubts about going in this direction in the second half of this story. I am not one to tell anyone else what to do. Too often, I have seen sensations I was sure of go out of style. As I grew older, the chance to learn through the experiences of others … reading about what went on in their minds, was valuable information to me. In the early days, it was a chance to think new thoughts, see things in a different way. As I grew older, I looked for confirmation … validation of a manifesting, invisible world. Once I was sure that there is an emerging dimension out there, just beyond our regular senses, the challenge became what to do about it. Again, I turned to words. So here we go.
God is everywhere, all the time. This book is about how I know that.
I learned to look inward by looking outward first. That’s what this trip has done for me. Expanded my reflections. Images linger, but don’t remain without being called something. After-effects. Impressions. Echoes of direct experience. Words that are meant to describe the outside world actually create the world on the inside. All words can do is point. I am here, now. In between both.
I learned to be separate, in order to operate. The only tools I have to create an inner world are copies of those I have learned to use on things. It’s hard to keep it all in order, especially over a lifetime, when the scenery changes so much. Some of us, eventually, want to learn our way back. That’s all that Heaven is. Lack of separation.
The journey really has been on the inside all along. I wanted a reminder of the larger sense of life. That’s what the Northwest did for me. As a child, I was led into agreement with this world of apparent opposites, in order to see with a scale, to count and measure things, naming things to keep them the same. The counting and measuring is an agreed-upon illusion, to take care of business, dealing with others. Naming things works for a while. As long as everyone agrees to pretend. Having retired, I wanted to get away from that. Only I can know how I got here. Only I can find the way to open that habit-ridden, automatic self and climb out.
I can only picture life by what I have seen. Artists can create a vision. I have seen how, but it is not easy for me. Some smart people learn to do it with mathematics, which is way beyond me. For others, life is music. If you live on the range in Wyoming, you see life differently than a resident of New York. What you have available to think with is different. I found that on the road in the Northwest. Merging into the vastness and power of Nature, in its’ cycles of millions of years, had showed me my place. The bigger identity I felt, wrapped up in that landscape, took my breath away. I was a small version of something very big.
For moments, here and there on the journey, the inside seemed to be the outside. I was what I was looking at. For an instant, there was experience without an observer. In a flash, I could see how such moments cannot be remembered. There was nothing to point to. There was nowhere to go. It wasn’t useful, in terms of getting anything done. An experience impossible to remember. So there is Heaven on earth. Now what?
While I was out in these open spaces, it was all about the light. I spent hours waiting for the sun to rise or for the earth to roll into the right place. It seemed like Nature breathed in during the day and breathed out at night. The darkness is as essential to the process as the light. The key to enduring the darkness is to remember the light is there, on the other side. In my mind, I can see it. One is part of the other. There can be no such thing as light all the time.
As I write this, I am on my way back up to Canada. We are planning a reunion of old friends near Vancouver in July. I spent the first part of this year at the Oasis RV park, just south of Palm Springs, spelling out Part One. This year, instead of seeking something, I feel like I am taking something with me. A point of view. The travelling … seeing something new every day … keeps this process alive.
Inside, where Time is not an issue, I see mountains I climbed … the main one being raising two great kids … and mountains I avoided … I never finished my Master’s degree. I see valleys, deep gorges, like my first divorce. I have felt long, lovely days when sunny fields stretched on forever. Navigating this internal landscape has everything to do with how you look at it. And, eventually, who is looking.
That my body was a tiny speck in the universe didn’t matter. I saw that mind is much bigger than what I thought of as me. I saw my place in the scheme of things. The way lay before me. No less than a grain of sand or a leaf on a branch. No more than a day in the sun. Something inside is shifting. As if I am moving forward with time, instead of standing outside of it, counting. Things aren’t so much about what was and what will be. Each moment falls under a magnifying glass.
In Zen class, I learned from Thich Thien An that each of us lives in a bubble (he pronounced it ‘berble’). Penetrating that bubble happens rarely. The key is to find resonance with other bubbles and hopefully, the Big Bubble. Resonance does not know time or distance. In the end, as the brain recognizes, it’s all about patterns. A mess of incomplete bits and pieces can’t relate to anything and can’t get anything done. That’s a pattern all its own.
I saw how, when I skip a step or compromise in a process, I am making a pattern through which I will experience the world. I grew up in a world of short-cuts. Not the way to actually get anywhere. As my wife Nancy often reminded me, “If you’re going to wash the dishes, wash the fucking dishes.”
I was always fascinated by that place beyond words. Growing up, I remember watching Olympic champions on TV when asked to describe their feelings, saying that there were no words, literally speechless. I wondered early on what that was all about. Seemed like an experience worth pursuing. I believe we were once all of one mind, before we got serious about taking the world apart. There was a time when there was no ‘I’ or ‘me’. Anything that came after “I am …” was just made up. Love is a reminder.
The way to opening up begins with seeing how you and I punctuate experience.