The mind can be a buzzing midge, or a reckless bull, but it is always susceptible to ambush. You’ve been devoured, I’m sure. The midge enters the flame with a spark. Likewise, when the bull glimpses mountains beyond the rustle of the cape, the ruse is up. He rests on his belly like a puppy. There is no going back.
Heart, mind and body, all together, are inexplicable. Try to list the possible states and before you reach the end you will exhaust every resource there is, even thought itself, but you will not run out of you. Instead, you will be back at the beginning—before you were named—and like the day you drove twenty miles through full sun in waves of shifting cars, embodying only the music, you will wonder how points connect.
I shut off the vacuum. Beyond the window are grass and trees and sky, brought to color by the sun, but motionless. Every blade of grass is reckless inside, but I cannot see it. Sometimes the land is still like this. Other times it is violent. A whipping mixture. The same is true of us. Of our minds. Our whirligig consciousness. The vacuum has put me up to this somehow. The harmonics, the blade pass frequency, the branding, the simple presence of frozen thought. Standing straight—once I get there—is a relief after hunching over these seat cushions for the last ten minutes, pulling dust from its pores. Where was I beforehand? I forgot myself, I realize. But I was not forgotten.
We are vulnerable to goodness in ways we seldom comprehend. We all can be ambushed.
If meditation has taught me anything, it is the delicate nature of perception. The way thought dissolves, disappears, reforms. The way feeling moves into the body and garners attention. With one subtle nudge, the pattern shifts. Turn a thought inside out and the organs will respond. My first time in a sweat lodge I was frightened. The steam was so hot I thought my throat would burn. I couldn’t make myself breathe. What I’ve never understood: which of us was the “I”, and which the “myself”? Being too much in your head leaves you in pieces like that. Carrying too many shells.
A few lodges later, I was fine. The difference was trust.
There was always this thing about ceremony: everything seemed perfectly normal until I went back to the world beyond—to the highway, the grocery store, the television, the post office. Then I could tell: something inexplicable happened. I merged into traffic, but only part of me saw it. Another part flickered. There was a hole in my attention. A vulnerability. I’m not usually like this. Part of me is still flying. Some people know immediately when a part of them is flying and some people like me don’t realize it until later, when they find a piece has gone missing. Around ceremony—around the sacred—there was always the feeling I’d catch up to it later. Always the feeling of being a novice. Until I understood this, I wondered if anything was even happening. If I had the ability to even sense it.
Then it came. A week later. A month. The now eventually finds us all. The meanwhile is manufactured.
When I’m attentive for long enough, just breathing, I catch it—that moment when I wasn’t not me, but when I wasn’t only me either. The sky peered through me; it borrowed my eyes. It’s a mistake to think the mind has a boundary. It’s a mistake to think the day will never come when we offer only Light.
I love this Steve Reich composition because just when you hitch a ride on one rhythm it dissolves, and you find yourself emerging from a new one. Memory alone can tell you this—can illumine such changes. The truth is we are never not transforming. We are never other than transformed. The mind pitter-patters, or gallops, or becomes an ensemble of gliding swallows. In an instant we are surely curved flight. And then it comes. A shadow spreads across the floor, a puddle of absence to distract us while the silences align, and the next largest space bids us enter.
We can’t remember what led us here.
But there’s no need: this is the place we’ve never left.