Life may be available in a simpler form. It sounds like stating the obvious, but we genuinely don’t believe this. But, there is no implicit quality in life that demands that it be as complicated as the way we are currently living it. When the only acceptable answer to ‘how are you?’, is ‘busy’; we know we have a problem on our hands. To be overexerted, stressed, so tired, is now a too common way our value within society seems to be demonstrated.
Confused as it may seem, we may actively want, moreover need, to make life difficult. It lends us an easy purpose and a multitude of objectives to keep us occupied whilst delaying the need to look at the actual current state of our life – as it is – in the present moment. This is always a painful and frightening surprise, however, charmed our life may appear. These, fortunately brief, times when we are most ourselves, characterised by a resounding emptiness, present a terrifying vision of our inconsequential and fairly imminent resolution. So not having a moment to reflect, as deeply fatiguing and restless a state as we have engineered, can seem infinitely preferable than being faced with this apparently irresolvable vision of impending calamity.
From this most basic existential fear and its resultant wilful exile of us from ourselves, comes the inexorable search for excuses to justify expending the kind of energy we are compelled to, for our incessant distraction. Creating tasks in order to experience a momentary relief in their fulfillment, we gradually forget our identity out of the underlying sense of confusion and terror bestowed upon as at birth.
Unfortunately, knowing the hand we had in this process, we are burdened with the further employment of relentlessly demonstrating the reality of the fiction we unknowingly created. Proving integrity of character, we secretly know to have been self-authored, a story of our own creation. So, again, our need for complexity may also be a kind of subterfuge, a distraction against the nagging sense we will be discovered, or worse, discover ourselves, as fraudulent. To willingly look into what might remain after this un-masking, to voluntarily enter into this absence in order to rescue a meaning, or state of being that is beyond question, is the occupation of those embarked on the spiritual path.
But, for most, keeping up appearances is everything. We have strayed so far from a natural state of being when we mistakenly stumble upon stillness or silence, we face a turmoil that feels irreconcilable. Becoming ‘socialised’ in modern-terms means being stripped of, starved and stranded from, the true meaning of ‘The Annunciation’ – our sacred inner-connection. Instead, we inherit the birthright of emotional vagrancy, a shiftless moving from ill-considered aim to aim. Home being an alien and hostile place to return, we, unconsciously as it may be, elect homelessness.
However, that this itself; this lack of peace or rest, is painful, is obvious to all.
It’s been this way as far back as we as a society can cast our eyes and still recognise ourselves. The myth of the Fall of Adam and Original Sin was our first answer through Absolution. More recently, we’ve sought resolution in notions of inherent-rights or equality; politically, and now socially too. Now, furthermore, along with modern psychology and even chemical intervention, we continue throwing everything we can at this fundamental sense of lack that seems to form the very bedrock of our being.
Meanwhile, it festers, growing cancer-like within; the one place we dare not look. complicit in remaining distracted with what is outside, we guarantee that the vital, yet tumultuous confrontation with our inner-space will always be avoided.
Still, the suggestion, of nothingness, the unknown and impersonal, we do, more than dimly intuit. On ceasing our interminable creation of roles to play, public and private, with their resultant obligations and dearly held beliefs; we stumble upon a state that feels intolerable, even momentarily. In this way, even though this persistent ‘busyness’ will cost us our lives, leaving us with nothing to show anyway, we would rather remain distracted. Better keep putting off considering the inevitable and hope, instead, somehow for clemency on our dying breath. Indeed, unless we are uniquely gifted with unimaginable courage (and it does, rarely, happen; once in each age, it seems), we haven’t any other worldly-choices available.
However, there is an alternative conclusion, fully adequate, a gift passed down through the ages, this is Grace; though it’s more pragmatic and methodical, even mundane in nature, than conventionally presented. We, daily, quietly and unobtrusively, must go about gathering the necessary tools to build strength; again you could call this Faith; the life-raft that ensures we don’t capsize when navigating the immensity of the vision, we, inevitably must encounter.
This resides in the quality of the natural sense of our own goodness. Of course, we mostly arbitrarily have been attempting to conjure this out of the chaos of our birth onwards, except in this project we have necessarily divided and split various aspects, unwanted, from our very being. In the true sense, there is absolute integration, no second, constant self-reflective look over our shoulder. This is the meaning of one-without-a-second. Or when Jesus said ‘I am’.
However, instead of this most simplest of propositions, we keep chasing the ideals promised by our misleading notions of time. Of a future that will never emerge into reality, incessantly focussed on detail, where the memory of the past precipitates a structure of hopes and desires to consistently obscure the sacred present-ness we imperatively need to enter into. Here is found the very fabric of our being, currently abandoned and neglected, scarcely maintained as a dark room we but inhabit fleetingly.
In the meantime, we remain preoccupied with building a whole number of irrelevant rooms outside of us. Occupied with the turrets, follies and flourishes, we only to incarcerate ourselves, a semi-comfortable prisoner in a castle of our own making. Captive in the limited, moreover, fake roles we have constructed, this is so profoundly less than of which we are capable. When finally perceived, it’s accompanied by such a deep sense of sadness. So ridiculously sad the wasted lives ‘full of toil and fury, signifying nothing’’ (Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’), when, in fact, the tools are there to make habitable the only place, our inner-space, that is actually ours.
True, the instruments passed down for the job need careful honing and calibration to make them our own. From the raw material of basic principles, we must forge our particular resolution. This reasons the importance of practise, to fit the general tools for the specific job at hand: to take ownership of them and thus make them our own. Finally, to perceive the wholeness in emptiness and the emptiness in fullness. As the Indian scripture Shanti mantra of Isha Upanishad says
Om Puurnnam-Adah Puurnnam-Idam Puurnnaat-Purnnam-Udacyate
Puurnnasya Puurnnam-Aadaaya Puurnnam-Eva-Avashissyate ||
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||
(This is full, that is full when the full is taken from the full, still, fullness remains)
Between the chaos of manifest energy from which our form arises and the rigidity of turgid matter in which we culminate there is the third quality of matter and energy consciously united. We can call this Atman or The Holy Ghost, the method is the same and the need for practise is foremost.
To submerge ourselves in ritual, the suspended look, when there is nothing in between us and that Self to obscure. Having eroded, or temporarily put aside, the bulwark we made through possessions, family, friends, and so many perfunctory views and ideals, we gradually lose ourselves, becoming the very ritual or practise itself.
Indeed, it costs us all of what we mistakenly took as hope, of ourselves, as T.S Eliot wrote in The Four Quartets ‘it costs, no less than everything’.
Infinitely more valuable, however, than to be ensconced in cosy fantasies, a somnambulistic complacency towards a future that never arrives, justification and reason for it all that will never be felt. The re-alignment to a vital ‘imminence’, at first, is a lot harsher. Coming out into the glaring sunlight, blinking, and wishing to return to play with the shadows in our cave until our eyes gradually get accustomed.
The only thing we need to reach this simplicity is, until tolerable in its gradual revelation, a parameter around the simplicity which is our only true – primeval – inheritance, the empty space inside us. This Is practise, the way, the path. Now very differently defined; in the freedom of ever-changing possibility, liberated from the tyranny of the material birth encompassing our nothingness, and our insidious slide into the absence of ourselves in direct experience lies the third-possibility.
A most majestic ownership of this emptiness now transformed; finally resplendent in its adequacy, sufficiency: I-Am. Of what is each individuals journey to discover.