I’m in Scotland now, trekking with my man through my ancestral homeland, playing with nature spirits and exploring the nuances of scotch whisky (ah, for the love of peat!).
It’s a trip in which an everything matters epiphany arrived while dipping my toes into an icy fresh highland river. But first, the back story.
The last two months I’ve been playing editor at elephant journal’s love section, where finding and cultivating new talent turns out to be as intrinsically rewarding as writing my own pieces. It’s odd to discover something new about my personality all these 50 years later–I am a team player and I love to help other artists succeed. For some reason I always imagined this personality to be a soloist. When you no longer really believe the “I” point of view, it seems (at least here) that personality is entirely mutable–but don’t tell an astrologer or Myers-Briggs psychologist that the constellation of traits we assume ourselves to be can rearrange itself into brand new formations. That would mean we are not who we think we are.
But back to the everything matters insight. I was walking up a gentle hill in Brittle Glen on the island of Skye, heading to the “fairy pools” when a download struck. You know, the sort of ah-ha moment that tries to condense after the fact, into words, just so you can vainly attempt to communicate to others an epiphany. Like this attempt.
So here goes. In the land of nothing matters. where an October awakening deposited me, there is a lush detachment that feels like relief. When clattering mind messages that used to bother with right and wrong—and most of all with me and mine—came to a screeching stop, freedom came rushing in. Freedom is the natural consequence of a worry-free, peace-filled quietude. It’s a soaring kind of beingness, one that takes in a birds-eye, if not spaceship view, of reality.
I called it the vastness. My consciousness had expanded into infinite nothingness and it was sort of like seeing the goings on of the people around me from outer space. All the fretting and upsets and concerns of my friends’ lives, the soap-opera drama of mortal existence, was remote–the way cars look like ants from an airplane, the contours of people’s lives were reduced to dot-sized movements in the vast view of a dispersed consciousness. (No wonder I thought at times I’d experienced a stroke–my brain was clearly operating from a different mix of neurotransmitters than usual).
An astute awakened writer friend of mine, Sam Watts, warned me months ago that after an awakening comes an integration. I would say it’s more like breathing than integrating, a diaphragmatic movement of expansion and contraction. If the alchemical maxim is true, as above so below, then all of life hints there is an ebb for every flow, a particle for every wave, an in for every out.
So, ten months later, the nothing matters has become everything matters. And yet, they are the same truth and lead to the same place. Because when nothing matters, there is no room for comparison and conflict, for right and wrong. The same is true of everything matters. But the qualitative experience is that the peace of nothing matters is a different flavor or texture from the peace of everything matters.
Now, I am immersed deeply and vibrantly in the world. I am not above it all, in spaceship vastness but rather inside it all, from a place of delightful intimate engagement. Here, it’s a warm, wet and sensual experience of beingness rather than the initial cool, dry, disembodied version post-awakening. It could be called transcendent versus immanent. But labels don’t tell the truth of it, and never will.
And while the transcendent and immanent are simply sides of the same coin, before awakening, in mystical experiences of the transcendent, I assumed I was the character that moved from the boundaries of my body to the vast still spaciousness. Or in happenings of profound embodiment, tantric sexual moments for instance, I mistakenly thought I was the person who felt the ecstasy. Back then, the illusion was still in place—it was I who suffered sometimes and was free from suffering at others, who was intermittently troubled or blissful.
Now it’s clear I am not the person, I am the movement—from infinite to finite, from vast to microscopic, from ebb to flow. I probably need a poem to capture this truth, a Rumi-style rant. Let me give an ad-lib try (no dress rehearsal here).
I am the animating
force, the wind
that rustles leaves
blows rain inland,
bends the grass and
churns the sea.
I am the breath
You, and Everything
I am that which moves
And yet, is eternally still.
Dancing in one place,
turning in all places
spinning out worlds
twirling in emptiness.
I am the still wind.