I am far away now, but not really. A space apart, a place different, another point along the axis of maya, yet right next to you as always. The only space between us that ever creates division is the space we imagine, which is nothing of course, but it does create this very realistic illusion that someone is lost or gone or unrecognizable. Funny how we can become so unrecognizable yet we are always here with each other.
Years ago, I used to wake up in the middle of the night, and for at least five minutes, I did not recognize my husband. Even after years of marriage, I would look at him in complete confusion and ask, “Why are you in here? Shouldn’t you be sleeping somewhere else?” Slowly it would dawn on me. Some part of my mind, the part that keeps a record of his identity and his previous interactions with me, would come back online, and I would say “oh” and go back to sleep.
This happens with people and places and everything else that can change, except often there is no “oh” at the end. Maya, the transient, is shimmering, the scenery on the screen changing continuously, but the light always gushes from the same living source, and the screen, this very awareness you and I now share like Siamese twins joined at the consciousness, is always the same. Which means that no change of scenery can separate us, and no transformation can alienate us, and eventually you will taste this core of light, even from seemingly far away, inexplicably and without any form to accompany it, and you’ll know the flavor like the seasoning of a hometown dish, and you’ll realize that home is always with you. This moment. This moment has your home in it, and you cannot ever lose it.
I woke up in a motel in Cuba, Missouri, on my drive down to my new home, and for five minutes, I had no idea where I was. I had no reference point either in space or in time. Simply, I was in a room. An unfamiliar room.
That experience used to disturb me. I used to think it was the worst feeling in the world, like being totally lost with nothing to hold onto. But now, I savor it. When you feel most lost, you can easily sense your center, the unchangeable, if you just relax and don’t panic. Don’t scramble around looking for something to pacify the disruption, but don’t sink into the disruption either. Just ease into the unfamiliarity expecting to be held, because you will be. You will fall and never hit any ground, which means you can finally see through the illusion of there being any ground or the need for any ground. It’s like walking through a wall, such magical freedom.
I miss old friends and lovers still residing in the town I left behind. Even the ones who wanted me gone from their senses, I miss. The senses mean so little, although there is an emptiness, like the tingling on the strip of skin where one once wrapped a watch, now conspicuously missing. The android in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data, once explained his experience of grief: “As I experience certain sensory input patterns my mental pathways become accustomed to them. The inputs eventually are anticipated and even ‘missed’ when absent.”
But you don’t need to worry about that. Grief is very gentle when we can sense one another’s continual presence. Even in the deepest letting go, the kind that puts us lightyears apart, my goodness our hearts are right next to each other, exuding love.
On Wednesday night, after much searching, I found a Zen Buddhist sangha in the heart (or buckle, as they say) of the Bible Belt. In a town that boasts one of the highest number of churches per capita, there is only one Buddhist temple, but I only need one. On Monday, a sixteen year old boy approached me in a café, struck up a conversation, and tried to persuade me to accept Jesus as the only way to God. I explained that, in fact, I had “accepted Jesus as my savior” during my teenage years, when I was growing up here, but numerous other life experiences had broadened my perspective. I mentioned that Buddhists often view Jesus as an enlightened teacher. I described personal experiences that changed how I approach this Divine oneness, or rather, how the Divine oneness experiences this “me,” but he dismissed them as imaginary.
“I used to have a problem with masturbation,” he said, “but Jesus helped me with that.” I was reminded of the girl in my high school who attempted suicide, because she couldn’t stop masturbating, and her family condemned her as a sinner and found her a Christian psychotherapist. I met her again years later, and she was cured… of Christian fundamentalism… and still masturbating I am happy to say.
“I seen miracles,” he continued. So have I, I thought, but where to start. He ended the conversation with a familiar refrain, spoken with a southern accent that now mesmerizes me even though I once used it: “Jesus is the way and the light and anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus is going to hell.” I had only been in town for one day and already someone tried to save my soul. Amusing.
I was sad. After that encounter, meeting a group of Buddhists was profoundly consoling. No matter how interconnected we are, we all need kindred spirits like we need the right food in our diet.
I entered the sacred space and sat on a cushion beside ten strangers, my body instantly buzzing. Silence. Nothing else.
Buzzing. Shocks. Opening. Very, very open.
Walking. Very, very slowly.
Someone was pressing into me with some sort of pain, and I realized I needed to give this person permission to let go without guilt. I needed to take the weight of my well being off their shoulders. Or maybe it was my own delusion rising up for resolution. I don’t know. I don’t know that it matters. Either way, the feelings unfolded, and I welcomed them all the same. I spoke to this person in my heart with a scene, a feeling, like an intimacy with or a knowing of the desired state of being and holding to that.
“It’s okay to feel nothing,” I said.
Okay to feel nothing. There are people in my life to whom I have never given that freedom, and it struck me just how essential it was that I grant it to them. The freedom to feel nothing, knowing that feeling nothing for some span of time does not say anything about how much a person loves you or whether they are “still there.”
I gave this person that freedom, wholeheartedly, with exuberant joy, and suddenly big swollen tears were falling into my open hands, and my chest and my solar plexus opened up and unclenched. This was something I had been gripping for awhile, and now it was released, and it felt so good, I just kept crying, except not a muscle in my face tightened or contorted, so these two little rivers of relief just trickled from my eyes and pooled in my palms, and the oddest thing is that this person I let go of was suddenly more visible to me than ever.
Walking. Very, very slowly… open and released. I had just inadvertently or vicariously given that same freedom to myself.
Consider the implications!
Then yesterday, on Thursday in the early afternoon, I was unpacking and hanging paintings and suddenly had to sink to the floor. Someone feeling pain, acute and heavy, like they were missing me but feeling as though they shouldn’t miss me or did not want to miss me, something like that. I couldn’t put a face to it, although I think I know who it was. I sat on the floor hunched over a box and just whispered, lovingly, “Hi.” Later that afternoon, I was struck with that same sadness from that same place and cried with whoever it was, and just said “Hi” as many times as was needed.
If you felt someone grieving for you, and you knew you were right there with them, what would you say to them? What would you send to them?
You would say “Hi, I’m right here,” and send them love. Acquaint yourself with this compulsion. When you grieve for the Divine, the Divine feels it, and in every moment, the whole universe is saying, “Hi, I’m right here,” and sending you love.
A whole cosmos speaking its loving presence to you in every moment! You cannot comprehend how wealthy you are. There are places and people in space and time that are far away, but not really. When this opens into your awareness, it will not matter where you are, who you are, or who you are with… or who you are without. All of it will be like a movie projection on a screen, and the light source will be in you, constant and intimately connected to everything.