This year I realized that in so many ways, I have scarcely begun. The difference this time, is that having orienteered my way around the mountain in a great and unwitting circle– riding out storms and then reveling in the graceful vacuum of their departure, plotting the next day’s course based on a strange mash of signs, principles and self-argument, being nourished by glimpses of colored bird and flower, by moments of heartfelt communion with the vision of a snowy summit– this discovery of my old bivouac site is a reason for laughter.
A yearning that once meant everything to me has been seen through entirely. The punchline is plain to see in the cold ashes of last year’s fire. The once hot embers have mixed with the vastness of night, with the compulsions of day, with wind, mud and rain, and now seedlings of grass are poking through like stars in an underworld sky. I have returned to find this place already taken back from me by the embrace of life’s unshakable ebb and flow. I have a memory of a place that is no longer. It was given for a moment, and has been dancing with the whole of the universe ever since. I danced, too, that night, with everything, and then I too, felt the relationships and pulls of life move through me.
Returning to the start, I realize I have always been there. I realize how carefully I was held in my imagining of everything else. I realize how far I aim to reach, how meaningful each heartfelt feeling truly is, how each one touches every point in the galaxy. Returning to the start, I realize also how filled with notions I was, and remain, and how those notions spun around and flipped over and moved in and through one another all year long, as if responding to a chaotic magnetism. Yet here I am. Back at the ashes of last year’s beginning. Building a new fire.
Walking in a circle isn’t a bad thing. Walking in a sacred circle around our Self is the ceremony of one year. We walk through hopes and fears, through dreams and desires, through choice and consequence. Walking through the doubts and trials of experience is the way we catch a glimpse of what was never at risk, as if our notions must be perturbed by the baton of experience in order to vibrate far enough from their protective posts at the periphery of our world to reveal a glimpse of what was always invulnerable within us, quietly tucked inside. Walking in a great circle through seasons and storms is the only way to understand we carried the entrance to the heart of the mountain with us, inside of us, with every step.
Having moved through such transient experience, only to arrive at the beginning, we see it. Without guilt or blame or shame, we laugh with it. Because we see it without the baggage of what has already been, and perceive what is truly offered, it is a joyous discovery. It… is the truth of us.
How many glimpses does it take, though, before we willingly trade all that we have made for all that is offered? What led me off the trail, into the trees perhaps, in search of some wisp of magic? What fears kept me from walking the next bend, and caused me to set off backcountry on my own, avoiding what I merely thought lay ahead, but was truly always within me?
In A Course of Love Jesus talks about the laws of man and the laws of God, and how our hearts are the cause of experience itself, but our notions– the constructs and beliefs of our minds, which adhere to either the laws of man or the laws of God– determine their felt character. The thought system to which we adhere defines the boundaries of our experience. The thought system to which we adhere defines what is for each of us, real.
Thus, what is needed to eclipse suffering is an experience of the reality of the thought system of truth. For with this experience we would at last discover, and accept, the solid ground on which we have always stood, knowing it not. No more circling, looking for signs. No more wondering if it could be, or have been, another way. No more uncertainty and doubt, as our notions are flipped up, down and around by the weather of circumstance. Only truth.
Getting beyond a thought system can be harrowing work. We may wander around the mountain a few times, returning to the beginning. With each return, however, we see the gifts that have accrued in our pack: the gift of seeing what our allegiance to a particular thought system has brought us. I see now how frequently I was pulled into dilemmas of thought this year: how I compared my experience to others, how certain I was at times that I would be more fulfilled through certain accomplishments, how my thoughts provoked me into feeling wronged or on the outside of what I deserved, how the laws of man demanded that I take particular types of action against another, how the laws of man goad us into feeling we are not living if we’re not risking it all for something, how the laws of man provoke us into moving swiftly to protect an advantage, an insight, or a dream, how the laws of man compel us to protect and defend– in short, how the laws of man insist we must always be on the look-out, always vigilant, always seeking for the moment or achievement that will make us into something true, to protect against that which could destroy us. Neither concern is meaningful within the thought system of truth.
The beginning is a point, a marker, and each time I return to it from one wild goose chase or another, I have the chance to remain. I have the chance to sit with the fire for a little while, to remember after a few long nights of thoughtless detoxification how to hear its whispers, how to commune with every point in space at once. I have a chance to remain, and keep the embers hot, and make a place for friends to gather. For I know that in the end, the experience that shatters the past somehow involves a fresh vision of everyone, a sharing back and forth of the truth, like the passing of a cup of living waters. None of our responses to the laws of man matter, or make us who we are in the least. Compassion is knowing no one is who they think they are, or are trying to be or not be.
When we remain by the fire, others show up. They literally materialize out of the night. They were already there, waiting. In the laws of God, our secret realities merge, and one by one we realize we’ve all been circling back to the same fire, looking for one another, looking for the only reality that matters, for the spark we find alive in each of us. It is not that the laws of man limit the actions we would take in this world– that the world would be a better place if we were all fit for a Nike commercial– but that the laws of man blind us to one another, blind us to the certainty that can only be found in the reality flowing through every single heart.