I know that stars are born
only to die
we see the light
of heavenly bodies
long since gone
this also I know:
Your light shines in me
the universe holds no terror
(Gabriel Rosenstock, Uttering Her Name, 2009)
Appearances disappear. There is no getting around this fact. Oblivion is the destiny of every appearance. Maybe it can be stalled a bit by people who make a big splash of some kind, but we will all be equally forgotten at some not too distant point in time. Is this fact depressing or liberating? I've certainly experienced this fact as depressing. From the perspective of great swaths of time, everything seems so pointless and meaningless, at times I have felt the apathy of "nothing really matters in the long run, why bother to care about things that will soon be forgotten?".
What about the second half of the poem, "Your light shines in me/ the universe holds no terror" ? Is there anything other than appearances disappearing and appearing and disappearing? Is there anything other than perpetual transformation and flux? The universe crackles with the dynamic energy of change, but is there anything that doesn't appear and disappear?
The answer to this question is not a fact to be memorized or believed or pondered or mulled over. Reality, the great space of formless being in which everything appears and vanishes, is to be met directly in this moment through silence, not through mental noise.
I dropped Jack at school this morning and did some errands. Driving along the mind was quiet. I once heard Jack Kornfield relate that his teacher one day picked up a cup and asked, "How should you relate to this cup?" After a pause the teacher said, "Relate to this cup as if it is already broken."
For me, this means drop unnecessary worries. Accept impermanence, even celebrate it. Today I imagined the cup as already broken, I imagined a thousand years from now, just a blink of an eye in the cosmic time scale, when there will be virtually no trace whatsoever that I ever existed. Talk about a weight lifted off! There is exhilaration in the furnace of time that burns away every appearance. The essentially illusory nature of separate self-hood is revealed and there is a sense of being unbounded, undefined, undefinable...no longer in need of any self-definition.
This sense of not being encapsulated in a mental definition of self, of not being confined to a million beliefs, doesn't make me feel irresponsible or in any way detached from others. On the contrary, I feel eager to meet this day and my children and whoever shows up in any moment, without all the usual barriers of mind.
Suddenly all my so-called problems seem like just a bunch of judgments in the head, and there's nothing actually wrong with this moment. I'll deal without whatever challenges arise, as Eckhart Tolle points out, but "problem" is just a notion in the head. It's like the chicken - egg mix-up: it seemed that thought solved problems, when in fact it is the other way around. Thought creates the mind-mirage called "problem", and this mind-mirage in turn perpetuates the stream of thought. There is this compulsion to think endlessly about so-called problems. There can still be an appropriate and valuable use of thought to deal with practical, present concerns; but the endless agonizing over past and future is needless thought-activity that produces seeming problems where in fact there is no true problem. I can think of many concrete examples in my own life where I was convinced there was a problem when in fact there was no problem. My first child Chris will soon turn 16, and he was born with an X-linked genetic abnormality that caused brain damage. He is unable to walk or talk. He has needed many surgeries. For years I was convinced this was a problem. Yet now it is impossible for me to see any problem. Where is the problem? Chris is a radiant and joyful human being. He is in fact the most loving person I have ever known in my life. There is no problem, even though thought at one time told the story that there was a problem.
If you have examples in your own life of something that you thought was a problem, but that you then realized was not a problem, feel free to leave a comment to share your shift in perception. Whether you leave a comment or not, thanks for visiting this blog and sharing in this life adventure that we are all part of.
(photo is Hubble Telescope image of The Pleiades)