At times, it seems that our lives are moving so fast that we can’t catch our breath. At other times, it can seem that we are stuck, that time is standing still. Yet, past, present, future; birth, life, death; and time itself are all mental concepts, distinctions that we humans invent and superimpose on the world as we try to make sense of it. Beyond the mind’s created parameters is eternity. Occasionally, we touch it with fleeting awareness: In moments of great love or great loss, the mental boundaries fall away, and there is just presence without beginning or end. The deeper we live into life, the more we open to this perception.
Over the course of a lifetime, if we are lucky, there can be a gradual disengagement from the arbitrary cognitive constructs that seem to hold life together but actually keep us from seeing the infinite universe we are part of. Mark Nepo calls this “the realm of light,” in which all else falls away, and we burn brighter. William Blake writes of holding “Infinity in the palm of your hand, and Eternity in an hour.” Poets and mystics help us step over the threshold of the world we perceive as real into a limitless open space of sheer beingness where time passing and time standing still become one.
One night last month, for no particular reason, I thought of my parents and the ages at which they had died: 81 and 94. It gave me pause. I don’t often think of my own age, and I usually perceive the future as open-ended. But, of course, we have no idea how long we have on this Earth. I could live to 100+. Or I could die tomorrow. Thinking of my parents’ deaths made mortality more “real” somehow. I asked myself: In the time left to me, how do I want to live? Or to quote another poet, Mary Oliver: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” A question I have usually answered in the living of it—embracing the full adventure, aware of each precious unrepeatable moment. The answer evolves as I evolve.
Last year, in the midst of a health crisis, I answered that question with a prayer in which I surrendered my separate human identity to something greater: to divine connection, in service to God/dess. That moment of surrender shifted everything for me and continues to, on a daily basis. When I thought of my parents last month, I surrendered again—to the unknown trajectory of my own life and death as a physical form here on Earth. The human ego, or personality self, struggles to survive at all costs, but our souls are eternal. When the personality surrenders to the soul’s greater wisdom, an inner alignment of human and divine takes place. We start to experience life as beautifully orchestrated, beyond time. We step into a flow of living energy that is limitless and multidimensional.
Only the soul sees this greater universal picture. In recent years, I’ve found that there are some experiences that cannot be described, that elude language entirely. They are encounters of the heart and soul that are primordial and timeless. Only in silence are they fully received. When we are present at a birth or a death, when we hold another close to our heart with love, when we experience God’s presence—these are times of wordless immersion in the mystery of life. Time ceases to exist. These are the truest moments of all, when we know that everything is unfolding exactly as it’s meant to. My life, your life, all of life, is of a piece, a miracle that defies description.