To be alive in our cosmos is astonishing.
Yet somehow we are able to grow blind to this, our most primeval fact. Somehow the thrill, some would say the terror, of existence, being itself, is papered over with concerns about grocery lists, elections and gossip.
All of what is referred to as spirituality begins and ends right here:
It is astonishing to be alive.
To take a breath, to exhale a breath – this is the primal act of worship, this an endless source of gratitude and wonder though only to a breathing being still sensitive to the mystery in the mundane.
The Open Secret
To be human is to know this. It arises from our existential configuration with this odd form of awareness. Aware of ourselves, aware of other, aware that self strikes us as other in our innermost innermostness, aware self and other is impossible as the final word of whatever it is “reality” might “really” be. Touch this ultimate mystery and one is simultaneously high as a kite and more rooted than a mountain. Every cloud more beautiful than even Rembrandt or Van Gogh, every dew drop more vividly glistening than a thousand cut diamonds yet the ultimate depth of wise experience is seen in the soft spoken words of an elderly couple, “don’t forget your coat dear” or a soft caress of a mother as she gazes at her newborn or, if the eye of wisdom is really open, even in the kind word exchanged between strangers on an elevator.
Stranger and stranger.
We all know this.
It is unspoken because ultimately unspeakable, but impossible to ignore for all that.
The depth of the cosmos gazes out from the black pools of our eyes, the eyes of a million forms, all sentient beings. The wisdom that wholly satisfies all longing is closer than our next breath – and we all know it.
Though we pretend we do not.
We pretend human life is all about jobs and shopping or even our romances and heroics. In the quiet we know better. In the quiet of finding our way to sleep, the quiet of just gazing in awe when thoughts trip over themselves until they finally stumble, fall and take a little rest.
Of course the secret is protected. That’s how we keep it secret, insist on keeping it secret.
It is guarded by terror.
We participate, and we influence, and we interact
But we do not control
And since reality, whatever that ultimately is, includes everything every moment changingly impermanent we fear not being in control. We have mistaken ourselves for something that can be hurt, harmed, lost, destroyed, blinded, alone, ignored, crushed, tortured, raped and killed. In our terror we forget we are awareness, pure in its simplicity, perfect in its compassion.
In our fear we pretend to be a self and hope in vain to get some final control over our experience of the moment. But we are not a self, though we are not less than a self either. We are a mystery
Our roots are in energy
And empty space
Our home, the universe in all her majesty
As silly earth children of the starry mother we are free to play in the fields of our imagination. Creating conceptual webs of abstract labels, distancing ourselves from the fleshy experience of action and energy. Eden.
You know in a way we have it backwards. Our bodies are not solid, they are really much more like thoughts (and this terrifies us, making it so hard to see what is so obvious) and our thoughts are really much more solid, like the things we seem to perceive.
Pretending to be a solid, unchanging self we incarnate our nightmare. Born of fear it becomes a truly fearful thing. This self, were it ultimately real, would suffer. Heartbreak, death – the horrors of existence would be unbearable for awareness. Oblivion would be our only hope and recourse. This conception of self provides a target for every arrow of outrageous fortune; it wakes into a universe of pain and endless, unbearable suffering.
There is an end of suffering.
This the Buddha taught. The same teaching is in every lovers’ embrace, in every mind relaxing into sleep, in every human being not actively committing suicide or running around stark raving mad.
Because at the end, we all know.
There is no second death. That self never existed in the first place.
It is our open secret.
It is what makes it so difficult to grow out of childhood and into adulthood, capable of functioning with some degree of grace and equipoise, busy with the events of daily life. The young look and seeing our blindness and self-destruction and cruelty they want to yell – yell with all their soul –
But their desperate effort is met with a condescending smile, a certain twitch of the lips, a sideways glance and it is already too late because the child has already absorbed a million little riddles and for all of them there really is an answer, they just haven’t heard it in their own hearts, the answer is
the open secret.
That which is un-conscious is not as “un” as it might seem. That which is awake and that which is asleep is not as different as they might seem. That which is alive and that which is dead are not as different as we pretend they are.
And we know all this.
We have been here a very, very long “time.” What’s a few billion years among friends? You can remember if you want to.
Wanna share a secret?