The answer to that depends on what we mean by “I.” During a good portion of my day, I’m very aware of “me,” the human being who was born a few decades ago, who had particular childhood and adult experiences. A good deal of the time, those experiences seem very personal and overwhelmingly real. “Of course they’re real,” I think.
But there are times when I’m not looking out through the eyes of “me.” There are times when the notion of “me” seems to have little charge. I’m surprised sometimes at how easy it would be to let go of it, to let it fall back into the energy of unrealized potential – or whatever energy goo our lives fall back into when they are behind us altogether.
When I was a teenager and later a young adult, I fealt threatened by the notion of having my life wash out like a rain drop into the ocean. I feared that would be obliteration – the death that some see as simply the lights going out.
Now, when I consider the idea of my life washing out into the ocean, it seems a blessed relief. The personal “me” is useful. It’s a tool. The experiences in our lives – in any one of our lives – are rich and colorful. But less and less do I see them as personal. My life is all our lives. I don’t own it, I don’t hold it, I simply use it.
Some say the “me” doesn’t exist, that it’s an illusion. Oh, it exists all right, but you don’t have to identify it as who you are. Who I am has moved on, or has always been beyond. I’m not sure. But I know the lights can’t go out on the who I experience now.
You reach a point in life when you don’t want to waste any more time. Time begins to seem precious. Time becomes a limited quantity that can slip away forever with hardly any notice, until years have passed, decades have come and gone. You look in the mirror and – wow – time has passed you by, leaving its scars or gravity and worry. And you haven’t written that novel, you haven’t trained for that marathon, you haven’t even unpacked all the boxes from your last move.
And that’s fear talking.
You can always count on fear to try and snatch the moment away – and the moment is what you have. It’s all you have. It’s all you need.
You have the moment if you choose to accept it. The moment is eternity. The moment is now. Right now. You can bring it into focus by changing your breathing. Slow down your breathing. Let the air all the way out. Let it back in slowly. And be where you are.
It doesn’t matter where you are. In traffic. In your dentist’s waiting room. On hold during a call that’s going to make all the difference. There is only one thing that can make all the difference, and that’s to experience . . . what is called so many things . . . oneness, holiness, centeredness . . . being whole.
It doesn’t matter if you feel broken. We all feel broken in so many ways. Some say that spirit enters our wounds. But spirit doesn’t have to enter us. We are made of spirit. There is nothing else to make us from.
We lack only one thing – the awareness of spirit within . . . and spirit without. It is ours as we choose to have it. This moment is all you need to be one with spirit. Breathing in, breathing out. Right here in this moment that holds all of the time you could ever need.
The lyric, “When we awake we will remember everything,” comes from the chorus of “When we awake” by Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson of the Band. The song is about a boy going to his grandfather for wisdom. The song doesn’t explain exactly what the line means, but it has remained in my head for decades.
That thought, “When we awake we will remember everything,” seemed true to me on some level I didn’t understand when I heard it as a teenager. The idea has haunted me through the years in a very encouraging and hopeful way. In the very core of my presence here, I believed it.
While reading spiritual texts – anything from the Upanishads and the Way of Life to Eckhart Tolle and A Course in Miracles – I’ve experienced a remembering rather than learning. I get an overwhelming feeling of recollection when reading spiritual texts.
Over the years, I’ve come to believe we already know who we are. We already know our oneness with each other, so the process of spiritual learning, of coming to consciousness and being part of spirit, is a process of recollecting. Our spirituality is a path of coming home.
When we awake, we will remember everything. We will remember who we belong to. We will understand that we have never been alone. Even in the depths of seeming isolation, we are one with spirit and always have been. When we awake, we will remember everything.
“I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”
In the lyrics from “I am the Walrus,” John Lennon reveals an intuitive vision of connectedness. He may have discovered many of his spiritual ideas through traditional Eastern books, but his approach to this wisdom was intuitive. He had a knack for picking the right ancient spiritual words and placing them in the perfect context for his culture.
The fact that he placed these messages in popular music is particularly amazing – and he did it within the most popular band of his generation.
It’s no accident these words – and so many others by Lennon – happened during his particular time in history. Western civilization needed a jolt of raw spirituality. The spiritual teachings Lennon used may have come from the East, but he presented them without the traditional context of Hinduism or Buddhism or Taoism. The spiritual wisdom he shared was unencumbered by religion.
As Beatles fans listened to Lennon’s quotes from Eastern religion, the ideas sounded brand new. This would be like a Buddhist hearing the words of Jesus without knowing anything about Christian tradition. The message would be raw and radical. The interpretation would be intuitive rather than structured.
Lennon put snippets of wisdom into a number of his songs. He used passages from the Tibetan Book of the Dead as the lyrics for “Tomorrow Never Knows.” He acknowledged that “Imagine” was “virtually the Communist manifesto,” although he added, “I’m not particularly a Communist and I do not belong to any movement.” This is another example of Lennon taking ideas out of the context of their traditional application and giving them fresh life.
Lennon’s approach to his sources was fresh and free from the baggage the tomes had gathered over decades or centuries. He snatched pieces of wisdom from a wide range of traditions and presented them as new to an eager young audience. He discarded the traditions themselves and showed the wisdom in its rawest form.
“I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” It’s very clear. There is no me. There is no you. We are connected. Any separation is an illusion. Coo coo ka choo.