Now People Just Get Prettier

The world can seem inhospitable, or the world can seem a beautiful place that is getting more beautiful yet. The difference, of course, is perception.

In his song, “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” Bob Dylan sings:

Now the rainman gave me two cures,
Then he said, ‘Jump right in.’
The one was Texas medicine
The other was just railroad gin.
And like a fool I mixed them,
And it strangled up my mind.
And now people just get uglier
And I have no sense of time.

For many years, I could relate perfectly to Dylan’s words. My mind was quite strangled up, and indeed, I had no sense of time. In that negative view, I thought I had a clear understanding of the world. I thought life was “nasty, brutish and short,” as Thomas Hobbs described it in 1651. I also believed spirituality was an intellectual fantasy. And I was drinking quite a lot.

Much has changed in my life since then. I’ve come to believe the world is charged with spirituality. I now believe the very molecules of reality are spiritual. This change didn’t happen because I was influenced by a book or by a teacher, but simply because I started to see that it was true. It became self-evident, just as waking from a dream makes the events of the dream intrinsically unreal.

Books and teachers have since supported what I see, and they offer ways to articulate what came to me through a crisis. I suppose my new view could also be seen like an intellectual fantasy. And I do expect I will wake up from this round of consciousness as well.

In the meantime, people just get prettier and everything seems so well timed.


It’s Gonna Take a Miracle

D.H. Lawrence said just the fact we’re here is a miracle. I believe everything in this world is miraculous. Walt Whitman agrees: “To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle. Every cubic inch of space is a miracle.”

Sometimes a miracle doesn’t even seem like a miracle, but it changes your life. I went through a health crisis that left me believing it was a miracle that I’m still in this world.

A Course in Miracles states that miracles are normal occurrences. If miracles are not happening, that means something’s wrong.

Sumner Davenport asserted that thinking positively is not sufficient to bring real change. For that it takes a miracle. “Positive thinking by itself does not work. Your embodied vision, partnered with vibrant thinking, harmonized with active listening, and supported with your conscious action, will clear the path for your miracles.”

Phillips Brooks believes that we ourselves are the miracle: “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle.”

According to Saint Augustine, we’re in a land where miracles are natural phenomena: “Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.”

Maybe a miracle is simply a reminder the substance of our world is divine. Dwight Longenecker said, “Maybe miracles are given not to prove anything, but simply to remind us that the physical world is not so solid and real and dependable as we think.”

It takes Buddha to say it so simply: “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”


Spirit Looking Through My Eyes

As time passes it becomes clear that I am seeing the world as spirit. The “me” looking out through my eyes has changed.

For many years, I invested myself in a world that didn’t seem like spirit at all. I tried to fit into the world, to make my way, to find love and love others, to be a good partner, a caring dad, to learn the workings of the world and help where I could. Those intentions were fine. I cherished them.

But the insecurity of falling short over and over was unbearable. And we cannot help but fall short.

The insecurity brought dread and self-loathing. I tried to sooth those painful feelings with alcohol. It worked for a while, but alcohol only works for a while. Then it quits working. After that, it produces its own dread and self-loathing.

I tried to wrestle peace out of the darkness of a world without spirit. A fool’s errand. There is no peace in darkness. I fell further and further behind in my goal of being a decent person.

Thank heavens a crash came. The crash was inevitable. It was my health. And surprisingly, it came with an overwhelming feeling of relief and a final, “OK, I give up.”

Surrender was all I had left, but I had no idea that surrender was a door, the only door. My surrender was followed quickly by healing. It was surrender and healing, over and over, day after day.

Once I was back on my feet – a bit wobbly – it was clear I had become a different creature. Something else was looking out through my eyes. And the world I saw had become a spiritual place. Now I know that it had been spiritual all along. My eyes were finally seeing the truth.

A friend observed that my spiritual awakening was not intentional. Indeed it was not. It came through a life-threatening health crisis. Nor can I credit myself for my recovery. Recovery came through medical science and sustained sobriety. I can’t even credit myself for the sobriety. When I awoke into this new world, all desire for mind-altering substances was gone.

So I can’t say follow my path. Please don’t. But I can say, the world is a spiritual place to the eyes that look out through me to the world. It’s a spiritual place for you as well.

Awake and the World is New

Sometimes we rouse from sleep slowly, grab a cup of coffee and nurse it quietly on a cool spring morning as the sun warms our skin. Other times, we jump out of bed and dash at the day, waking at full speed. Spiritual awakenings are no different. They can come as a gradual unfolding of light and understanding, or they can feel like a jolting breakthrough that disrupts everything.

I love the gentle percolation of the slow awakening. Years might go by gently on a soft plateau – a pastoral spirituality. I also love the thrill of getting rocketed from slumber.

There is a third way. Instead of a progression or journey from sleep to wakefulness, we might experience a different form of waking, where suddenly everything changes in the blink of an eye. There is no sensation of travel. It’s like a light gets switched on suddenly. Darkness goes away in an instant.

We travel a great distance from the old world to a fresh new world with no sense of movement. This has happened a few times in my life.

One day the world has a particular texture with specific challenges and pressures. The next day, the very nature of reality has shifted. The old physics no longer apply. We have become a new creature. We have to learn how to walk again, learn how to be in relationships again We have to discover who our friends are and who our family members are.

This sudden change is not isolating. I’ve found myself quickly surrounded by new friends or old friends who are now different, glowing in new light. Family members once distant are suddenly close. The world becomes warm and welcoming where it was once full of tension and difficulties.

I don’t know whether I changed or the world changed. But it was clear there was no going back, and the world had taken on a bright sheen that glowed down below the surface of everything.

Transformation Now

Or at least years from now.

Spiritual transformation happens slowly, and then all of a sudden. We might walk the path of spirituality for years before experiencing an out-of-nowhere change.

I have participated in many spiritual groups – book reading groups, meditation groups, “A Course in Miracles” groups. Many of my fellow members have been unsure of their spirituality. They learn the vocabulary but they don’t experience a personal change or a spiritual breakthrough. I watch people work at it for years, sincerely, and still they experience no discernable transformation. Things in their lives may improve slightly, but there is no dramatic psychic change.

Transformation makes its own plans and moves at its own speed. If the student is patient and determined, the transformation will occur and life will change — dramatically. It may come gradually with a glow or a hum. Or it may come suddenly in an instant when the very fabric of reality changes, and in the distance, you begin to hear voices singing.

When my children were young, we would catch tadpoles and bring them home to watch their transformation. They changed slowly. First a couple small stubs for back legs appeared. Those legs would slowly grow larger. Later, the front legs would appear. Even when the tadpole had four tiny legs, it still used its strong tail for swimming. But gradually the tail was absorbed by the body. Then one day, with its tail nearly gone, the frog would crawl out of the water and onto land.

The gradual transformation suddenly produced a new creature. The tiny frog would sit on the shore in its new skin, with their new lungs pumping air, and it wouldn’t move. This little creature seemed stunned by the sudden change. After a day or two, the frog would begin to crawl around in search of insects, its new nourishment.

Spiritual transformation is similar. We develop slowly, gaining metaphysical arms and legs so we can function as transformed creatures. But our lives may seem essentially the same for years. Then suddenly, we become the new creature, breathing new air with young new lungs. Seemingly out of nowhere, we are on to a new life, seeking new nourishment.

Spiritual evolution takes years. During those years, growth can seem so slow it’s imperceptible. But change does occur, and one day, we suddenly realize we are a new creature stepping into a new world.