“It’s life’s illusions I recall,
I really don’t know life at all.”
(“Clouds” by Judy Collins)
For some of us who are earnestly exploring our real self-nature, the fading of another year is a good time to listen to the bells, and not just the Christmas variety! And so I offer this soft ringing reminder of both our mortality and our immortality – like a bicycle bell we hear tinkling behind us that’s catching up to us as we walk quietly along a foggy path. It’s a gentle but insistent bell-ringing that some of us may faintly or clearly hear; it’s about love and fire and the passing nature of time.
Ah, Time. It catches up to us, doesn’t it? And it’s always perceived “as through a glass, darkly.” whether its focused on a past or a future scenario. We’ve invented this thing called ‘time’ with our memory and yet we know so little about it. Of course, we recognize chronological time – the measured miles in our days that add up to a lifetime. But what we’re referring to here is psychological time – the conditioned ideas we have about a past and a future.
For us, aware or unaware, time is stored in our mind as fragments of memory. Indeed, time-in-memory is accumulated like fire logs – we stack them but rarely burn them. Like Marcel Proust, in his Remembrance of Time Passed, we collect various and assorted details both delightful and frightful, and spend almost our entire lives living in this shaded room of our mind that’s furnished with them.
All this seems so natural and normal – to “love and cherish” our memories like fine, hand-painted fragments of bone china stored in a dusty corner cabinet called our brain! That is, until we hear that other bell – the fire bell! We often don’t hear the fire bell when it’s miles away, and when we do, we think: “surely, it’s not the bell that tolls for me!” That is, until Time comes up close and personal – then we hear it!
Fires in Time bring us inexorably to the Timeless.
That’s the beauty of Time; we get to see how Time changes all our questions. They get much more precise, much more pointed. Or at least not so point-less. We make room for those larger questions like: “What is life really all about?” And the question-behind-the–questioner – “who am I …really?”
Time, like fire, has a way of clarifying our questions, of restoring the fundamentals. Relationships, careers, money – even health, fade and fall constantly away. And sooner or later, in the life which we think is personally ours to have and to hold, we reluctantly come to grips with the slippery nature of Time.
The Great Unknowing.
Oddly enough, that coming to grips happens when we let go. We let go of knowing. We let go of ever having known. And we come into a clear place we’ll call Unknowing. From there, we see that life has never been about a separate and distinct, mind-discribed Me and You, but about the one living spirit that we are -that flowing with life has its own knowing. A knowing we may call alert “being” or “awareness”.
With our interior windows open and the curtains drawn back, we come into seeing with a new, unfiltered light; we see that almost all our life we have been locked in the pleasure/pain cycle. And that our imagined fears and desires arise from our assumed need to make choices and decisions; to command and contol and thereby avoid disapointing outcomes. While all the while we know (if we’re truthful) that we do not know. And that fierce love-fire can be devastating (but always loving, if not always graceful!)
And that’s when we step (along with poet Walt Whitman) into the Unknown:
What is known I strip away,
I launch all men and women forward with me into the Unknown.
The clock indicates the moment – but what does eternity indicate?…
…All forces have been steadily employed to complete and delight me,
Now, on this spot I stand with my robust soul…
Old age superbly rising! O welcome, ineffable grace of dying days!
So while the smoke from the fire still hangs in the air, this new, familiar but strange awareness, emerges. Call it God or Spirit, Consciousness or Buddha – whatever you like. These days, I like to call it “Love”.
Love is a constant parting.
Love is not something we learn, achieve or arrive at in time, like some kind of destination. Love is not static; it is an action – a loving that is a movement in time but not of time. To be in “love” we allow the transformation of a personal self-will into an impersonal and intimate willingness – a leaning into whatever life presents exactly as it is presented.
This constant Love has no possessions. No jeweled memories and favored expectations.
Indeed, this Love has no investment whatsoever in outcomes; it is a constant offering-up and letting-go…NOW…a constant dropping-off of thoughts and feelings trucked in by past experience that would otherwise be stored in stale memories.
A Changed relationship to reality.
“The way leads through yourself and beyond yourself…Once you have touched the real within your own being, you will find me discribing what for you is the nearest and the dearest.” ( Nisargadatta Maharaj)
The agent of all this is our affectionate yet impersonal self nature – not your personal intention, or some form of directed spiritual attention. We simply open up and allow love. We let it happen by letting our personal ideas and ideals slip away into irrelevance. We settle willingly into Source, into Self. Like the old Chinese proverb “a tree will fall the way it leans”, we open to love by leaning into loving. In truth, in time, we’re all destined to fall into love. Indeed, love has always been our destiny. It is love – even in our darkest hour, that reveals what we’re looking for:
Ring the bells that can still be rung,
Forget your sacred offerings.
There’s a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in. (Leonard Cohen)
And here’s another singing bell:
I hear bells ringing that no one has shaken,
inside “love” there is more joy than we know of,
rain pours down, although the sky is clear of clouds,
there are whole rivers of light…– (Kibir)
A certain Knowing.
We may go “beyond” the unknown, beyond what we can “know,” to a certain “knowing”. This knowing is not conceptual or even experiential. It is a knowing that all is well. That our nature is goodness. That the universe coheres; that we are this knowing, this diamensionless, spaciously empty and abundantly full, existence. Being.
There’s knowing in aware living. We abide in this exquisite knowing moment-to-moment. It’s a knowing that has no needs, including the need to “know” by believing what we think is true. We no longer rely exclusively on our six senses to tell us what’s actually happening. In truth, this knowing cannot tell you or anyone what it is. All it does is watch, compassionately, knowingly.
Could this knowing be love? Indeed, that really rings a bell!
LOVE AND ENJOY THIS MERRY MOMENT!