Our average living (if not “normal”) is guided by emotions and intellect, by pleasure and pain, by the habitual self…what’s it like to let the love inherent in our natural well-being guide us in daily aware living?
About 30 years ago, at a time when I was poised to begin a decades long search for the truth, I went to my new company dentist for a final check-up before I embarked on what was to be the first leg of my spiritual “journey.” I was nearing 40, newly remarried, and leaving the trajectory of a life and “successful” career which today I’d characterize as a life direction that was endlessly seeking and therefore, never finding.
The misfired launch and arc of my life on the planet then was filled with a deep sense of missing; it was an altogether misguided and mistaken venture driven by a complex set of missed-understandings. So when that day in 1985 finally dawned, and the first of a series of relaunches got underway, I was, above all my confusion and concerns, deeply relieved.
Relieved from the pain of success – that is, the pain of always needing to be successful and never…quite…achieving it. Finally, after a long struggle, I was beginning to embrace the joy of failing! And to vaguely grasp a Zen truth I came to see only much later: “Failure is the means to success.”
Certainly, my life story to date was one of failed relationships, failed businesses and, above all, failed expectations (my own and others.) Happiness had eluded me successfully, and I was finally compelled to step out of my traditional search mode into a New Beginning…somewhere in Europe. This desperate need for dramatic change was fueled by my search for answers to some newly emerging Really Big Questions…RBQ’s like “what is going on here?” and “what is the real truth here?” RBQ’s that followed me everywhere close as my elbow; wherever I went in Italy, England, France and Greece, these questions were there; whatever I did travelling, writing and working, these questions were there. Indeed, I was relentlessly driven by this mysterious inner urging to find answers that not only would, but must, make sense and bring rest to my life. Answers which I thought I’d find there – anywhere but here.
The peace of a refugee
I rode my bike to the dentist the day I resigned (we’d already planned to take a year off to live somewhere cheaply in Europe, and had just given our respective corporate bosses due notice; we’d sold off our Toronto house, cars and most of our possessions, stored a few “irreplaceable” things and were now, like refugees, reduced to two suitcases) The new, young dentist was probing around my mouth, his assistant was smiling sweetly, and he was dictating to her a long series of future treatments when I announced that in four short weeks I was leaving it all and moving to Europe. Stunned and dismayed, he stopped, stood back and silently pondered.
Then, stooping back over me, prodding with his tools and his tongue, he said: “You’re an executive with a really great job! I don’t get it…why would you leave it all now?” His fear and condemnation hovered like the question, a few inches from my face. The blue eyes looked stern, the breath shallow, and the mouth, firm and fixed, as he worked away. And you know, I wanted, but didn’t have, a reasonable answer to his question at the time; all I knew was that I had to – absolutely had to – move on. And I knew that, for him and for most of humanity, no reason would ever be reason enough to justify my bailing out.
All I could say then was “I don’t know why really, all I know is I’ve been looking down too long.” He stalled, then stopped the probing, fell silent, stood up and back, handed his tool firmly to his assistant with instructions to carry on, and promptly left the room deeply puzzled and it seemed, shaken. Perhaps he was wondering what lay ahead for him as he began his long career in dentistry.
A willingness to wonder.
That little story has served its purpose, so let’s leave it there and fast forward to 2013, to the real relevance that we know is always and only, here and now.
The morning fog is lifting; the washing machine is humming, the fire is flickering and my tea is warming as I tune in to the theme of this moment – wonder. I’m constantly filled with wonder at how life can move us – if we’re willing to listen and be moved, often painfully – to see through to the bottom of things. Of course, the willingness to see is all! If we’re really willing (but not willful) life takes us by the hand, like Dante’s Virgil, and leads us through our minds’ ideas and ideals about it, to the at times rocky, but always sublime, shore of reality. It’s amazing how spirit moves us from initial glimpses of reality to seeing the thing itself. It’s a wonder we ever wake up, but we do, thanks to grace! And that seeing of what is, is the first and essential aspect of awakening; what seems to follow is the expression of, and the living in, being.
Wisdom in Being.
Wisdom-in-being is not about achieving or acquiring, or even “knowing,”anything. Indeed, we discover that what we think we know produces and shapes what we humans call our “experience.” And once we really groc that we’re living a mind-manufactured pseudo-reality, the veil is lifted – often, as in my case, in a flash – and we can never go back. We abandon all knowledge as partial, incomplete, limited and limiting, in favor of living life fully and spontaneously in the unknown truth of this moment as it is. And that not-knowing is essential to aware living; that being free of a “Me” who experiences only what its already conditioned and programmed to know, opens us up wonderfully wide.
We are free to live daily in affectionate awareness; to practically purr with the joy of pure, spontaneous, me-less experiencing. To dwell in an underlying peace that always remains – like the deep, rhythmic drone notes in Indian music – while life swirls and hurls whatever it may. There’s voluptuousness, a profound sensuality and aliveness that is the very nature of self and life. And of course, throughout this entire engagement, there’s practical, functional knowing and doing – dishes still get washed, body and relationships all get attended to, and I can conduct my business and find my way to the airport on time…usually!
Still, there’s practically no reasoning going on in my head these days. In aware living, there’s no need to have a plan or agenda or even think much – no operational need to have a reason for doing what life does beautifully all by itself (with or without my co-operation.) So the being bit seems to be all about not doing, not impeding the flow of where life wants to go. In truth, we feel our way, moving from next to next, as it presents itself. And that can be a little perplexing at times!
Living in unfamiliar terrain
In the interest of clarity, let’s turn to a recurring metaphor in my writing – the bicycle. Everyday, aware living is indeed, like riding the 10 speed bike I had back in the day: it – like our life – goes up, down and over smooth and bumpy highways and byways, suddenly twisting, then again, gradually turning; occasionally it takes us to glimpses of new vistas, but mostly, normally, we travel around this world in sensually familiar, if not routine and rhythmic, ways. That’s also part of the regular grind in daily aware living. In truth, some days may be unremarkable, but they’re always dense with experiencing. And other times – who’s to know when? – we get thrown almost over the handle-bars! The regular flow gets re-directed, we come to a surprisingly steep dive in the road and we’re hard pressed to hang on for the ride! When that happens – when the winds suddenly make waves on the surface of our being – there’s almost always, a continuing willingness to let go of control, of gripping the handle bar.
That action is not a reaction; it’s founded on a very simple recognition that there actually is no personal entity called James or Jane, to have control over life and its mysterious happenings. I say “almost” here because in fact we never know what may happen, and, in any event, we need not guess what this provident restaurant called Life is going to serve up today! In fact, we live more and more in harmony as we rest in a being that leans into now – into whatever’s going down!