I heard a great line: “I understand God about as much as my dog understands my credit card.”
That’s right. Yet it doesn’t matter how well we understand God or spirit or the presence within. Understanding is not possible. It’s also not necessary.
What matters is how we experience the presence of spirit – whatever spirit is. That experience is real and it can have an astonishing impact on our lives.
How we experience spirit is individual. It’s like learning your body. You step here, but not there. You lift here, and you release there. You lean toward this, and you lean away from that.
Some spiritual practices nourish. Some leave you hungrier still. And it changes over time.
Some spiritual practices always help, year in and year out. In this effort, we are not really learning anything about spirit. We’re learning about ourselves and how we connect to spirit.
That’s all that matters. In time, we become more efficient in the process. We learn how to drop a fruitless effort quickly. We learn how to recognize what works. We gain a taste for what effectively brings us to awareness.
After walking in the desert endlessly, we come to streams and forests and gentle pastures. The effort teaches us an understanding of how we connect. With practice, it comes easily. At first, however, that notion seems ludicrous.
Your wound is like the purposeful flaw in Native American pottery – it’s there to let spirit in. We all need to heal through life. It’s in the healing we connect with spirit. Spirit reaches us through the wound.
I used to believe that addiction was a form of wounding, that we hurt ourselves and others through addiction. That’s true. But it’s also true that the wound was there before the addiction. The addiction was our way of trying to cope with our wounds. At first, it works. Then of course it doesn’t. Things get worse and soon we’re struggling with greater wounds. When we get sober, we find we still need to heal the original wound.
What is that original wound? Does it come simply from being alive on Earth? We don’t know. Over time, we come to be aware that something within us is broken. The cure is our connection with spirit. Many of us discover this simple truth after trying everything else to ease the pain.
Many of us come to feel gratitude for the discomfort that so vividly prompted our attention to healing. This is good. Our spiritual journey begins as we try to heal the wound.
Reading books and blogs on spirituality, listening to talks, watching YouTube videos, all of it brings calm and reminds me to pay attention to the soft hum in my chest and arms.
It doesn’t bring wisdom.
Stepping into spiritual writing and discussion draws me closer to a place within and gives me ways to express what’s inside.
If I’m not careful, I can go years without any awareness of the language within.
Some time ago, I attended a spiritual talk with a friend. Afterwards I asked what she had learned. “I didn’t learn anything,” she replied. “I didn’t expect to.”
“Then why did you go?”
“I need to be reminded.”
I need to be reminded as well. When I put myself into the stream of spiritual language, I am reminded of the presence and I awake yet again to the guidance inside.
For me, access to the wisdom within requires continual reminders, and I am grateful for each one.
When we get these feelings of spiritual connectedness, when it seems we are one with all that’s around us, even at one with our own lives, maybe we’re seeing a crack into the next world. Or the in-between world where spirit breathes for a moment before we enter a new earth with new skin.
Or maybe the world is spiritual in its essence and the connectedness is a brief view of what is actually true.
We wake up with needs, we wake up with pain, we wake up and choose to see the connectedness behind the pain and need. We wake up and see the need and pain of others and our own troubles subside. We attend to the needs and pain of others and the connectedness seeps in and the needs and pain drift away.
And what world is here before us?
Trees and houses and moons and clouds and dogs and wind and water. Is our pain among these?
Is our connectedness elsewhere or is it mixed into the world before us? Is our connectedness taste and skin and smells and the weight of air? Is our connectedness relief from this world, a reminder that our mammal life is just a moment along a curve of outrageous beauty?
For now, I am here among so many people, alive in the exquisite presence of love that doesn’t even know it’s love.
The awakening is a wave traveling miles of ocean to reach your shore. It was born to greet you, long on the days of near despair. It comes to remind you that life is inexhaustible. A deep sigh that empties your lungs.
This is the beach where children collect sea glass and soft driftwood that toss in the sand and foam. This is your life now, surprised by how much is left. You thought the sand was running out, but it was brimming with colors that had not yet announced themselves.
This new land has turned its love to you. These are not the skies of your youth, with their bland promise and abrupt discouragement. These are not the streets that seemed to reject you in their very essence. You never thought your skin could be accepted by the world, so you hid your skin away.
Can this possibly be that same world? You see that it is now made of new substance, warm to the touch. You can taste it from a distance; you can taste it on your lips. It sings a sustained nourishment.
The awakening wave has moved back out to sea, but you have been touched by a love and cannot turn dark. Darkness has lost its grip and dissipated. Light now the fabric of your being.
When night comes, the sky goes purple and the woods come to life. You are welcome here finally, right in the middle of your life. Even your bones feel the deep hum. Stand tall into this new air. You are everything the world has hoped.
When you awoke this time, something new looked outward through your eyes. You have not seen this world before. This awareness has not yet become familiar. You count the stars to make sure you are home. And you are home, even though the stars look different. This is a new home. The decay around the edges is ripe now, offering the green-chile scent of a rich harvest.
The language is the same – families, pairings in love, the cycle of newborns, the enemies over the hill, the endless insistence that this is the one true reality. It goes into the bone and sticks. It drives us into the ground.
But you can see now. You can see through your self into the world as it connects back. It bends to your view, and you bend back to let the whole thing inside. Worlds upon worlds build up and break through. You are a moment in the tension that is giving way.
The touch of your finger to your thumb holds eternity. You live in the soft buzz of that warmth. No love can go further – this is the love that opens skin. Above you there is so much more, and you’ve anticipated every step – like cool water and the healing of a long winter.
You are at one here. You have found a way to touch the world. The suffering may not be gone, but it is no longer yours. It belongs to the years that are drifting backwards. Out here in the sun, everything is revealed – your past is reconciled, and your future is rushing into the present.
You have never been so present.
When the struggle comes to an end, the suffering lifts. You are not who you thought you were. You thought you were caught here in the world. You thought the world had dominion over you. You believed there was such a thing as dominion.
The sky is more blue than you ever thought possible. Blue like a taste. Blue like a thin film you can walk through.
You thought you were close to solving the problem, but the problem is not here. There were so many answers that seemed to be surrounding you, but they have flown off like feathers, delicate and light. They don’t need you today.
You thought you were something. You thought you were nothing. You found that everything is not enough. You found that nothing is too hard to bear. Then you watched your self float off like shiny dust.
There is a song that has been singing you for a thousand years. Now that your self is drifting, you can hear it once again. It is awake in the taste of the air that turns blue and disappears.
Night and day merge as night grows darker and the day vanishes. You were only here for a moment, but it lasted centuries.
You have spent your entire life in the now and you have everything to show for it. Everything can fit in the now. Nothing can fit anywhere else.
Soon you will lose the sense of falling. You will smell the damp leaves that warm and become your nourishment – until you need no nourishment. You will fill up and disappear.
My God it’s great to be alive.