When I stepped out of the building in which I work this evening, my head seemed to have been pressed into a perfect, steaming cube– a polished alloy ingot of ordered rectilinear thoughts. You could have bounced a laser off it. My normally fluid mind had been sintered by the heat of prolonged concentration into a dazed ceramic. Even my cells had conformed to the geometric demands of the day’s efforts, having tugged their cytoskeletons into current-conducting Platonic forms.
I got a lot done, but sometimes it can be hard to stop concentrating, to look out into the distance and become non-local when you have a task before you to which you are committed. Something has to give so that a holy thought can shatter the glass your consciousness has become. When it finally comes, however, there is no shattering– just a gentle melting. That is how crystals come undone. Grain by grain they let go of one another, say their good-byes, and flow away. Or are absorbed into the sky.
Now, tonight, piece by piece, I am drifting away like that, slowly emitting a day-long session of mental combustification into the space above me.
* * * * *
Dedicated concentration is what delivers results in the world we seem to occupy. In our world we admire and appreciate those who dedicate themselves to a task and work hard to accomplish it, those who make commitments and keep them, those who provide the type of customer service that gives others that wonderful feeling that their every need will be attended to. Sometimes a lot piles on, however, and trying to live up to the vision of who we want to be can be stressful.
Which parts of this latter experience are truly necessary, and which are caused by the habitual patterns of lack and expectation?
I don’t think the issue is whether or not we should be finding ourselves in these positions of needing to get the harvest in before the season turns—meaning, I’m not suggesting the answer is to just think if life were better we wouldn’t be in these taut positions. Rather, I think this is an issue of what we bring with us inside our bag of meanings to sprinkle upon and add unto the simple living of what is in front of us. Take everything else away, and what remains is the obvious reality that we each serve one another. Of that there can be no doubt. I don’t think it can be otherwise, as every experience or encounter is the arising of relationship. Every moment is an exchange. Every moment is a holy exchange. And then… I bring a little something else to it.
That little bit extra is what gives rise to a polished alloy ingot of thought. That little bit extra is what might happen if it doesn’t go as well as we hope, or doesn’t get done on time, or within the budget. That little bit extra is what we’ll be surely left with if we fail to hit the mark. That little bit extra is the idea of what we should be capable of being, doing, or accomplishing if we were as good, or as capable as we would like to be.
Thankfully, Jesus hits these situations with hickory bats, and they don’t come back. As our hitting instructor, he reminds us in his various instructional videos that there is nothing we need do. Just swing the bat naturally, and leave the rest to me, he says.
Some days I awaken to the sound of my voice telling me there is a lot I need to do before the sun next goes down. It’s a pattern the world teaches us. Jesus also tells us (in A Course in Miracles and again in A Course of Love) that what we must bring to the moment in order to heal is willingness. We have to swing the bat. Willingness, I find, can be an effort to sustain sometimes, but it is not like the effort of bailing the boat at half a bucket an hour slower than the water is entering. That is not willingness, that is futility.
Willingness is not so serious a venture. It is not an effort to sustain one’s tenuous grip on a treacherous slope, but the wherewithal to just let go– to wave good-bye to your dazed ceramic inner life, and flow away into the Peace of the present moment, even as you do the very job you find yourself needing to do.
While Jesus watches wood-grain embossed situations fly out over the grandstands, he sometimes offers words of wisdom. Another gem from A Course of Love is his encouragement of our realizing that we would not be other than we are. We don’t need to take on the pressure of presenting to the world a perfect life. We are Love, with a shape. We are who we are. It’s okay. Next time my consciousness is suitable for conducting experiments in high-energy optics, I’ll try and remember that.