Peaceful Spaciousness

How do you describe emptiness? How do I wrap words around the peaceful space I have been opening to since being diagnosed with breast cancer last August? Language seems inadequate to translate something so vast and limitless. My experience has been one of emptying out, sometimes called “dying unto yourself” in spiritual traditions. The dissolving of past identities, opinions, questions, expectations, fears, hopes, disappointments. All the parts of our selves that we accumulate over a lifetime and don’t even realize we carry around with us. Gradually, day by day, week by week, pieces fell away. No grief was involved; it was a lifting off, a lightening. Space opened up within me. I felt increasingly empty, but with no sense of loss or regret. In many ways, it was like opening the door to my soul, which was a room without walls filled with nothing but light. I observed all this without any particular emotional response. It was just happening, peacefully.

And it continued to happen, weeks past the end of my treatments. The emptiness endures, neither greater nor smaller, just present. I find I have stepped away from busyness—doing, thinking, trying. Being is my home now. I remain quietly in Presence much of the time, often alone in Nature, which is the part of my life that is most essential to me, perhaps because that is where Presence is strongest. The silence in the natural world aligns perfectly with the silence within me, that vast empty spaciousness that human language names God, or Spirit. But emptiness has no words; it just is.

There is an invisibility to this experience. No one sees this empty space within me; no one knows I am there unless I tell them. And resting silently, invisibly, in emptiness is a spiritual practice that brings me home effortlessly to my soul. In my breath, in the wind in the trees, in the song of a sparrow, I connect to consciousness itself, which holds everything and nothing at the same time. My soul embodies that consciousness, and when I live my life aligned with it, I am one with peaceful spaciousness. I am in a form but also beyond it.

This has been our human destiny, throughout the ages. We are born to a physical form but eventually return to formless being as we journey through our lives. Infinite consciousness, Presence, is the seed of all life. It incarnates to have the experience of becoming aware within physical form—and then returns to formlessness. There is an expansion and evolution of Spirit within all of this. We can’t know the meaning or the depth of it because it is unknowable by the human mind. This is the Great Mystery, the soul’s journey through bodily form and its return to a Oneness that encompasses all. You may come to this “empty” awareness through cancer (as I did), or through any life crisis or challenge. Or it may come to you at the last split-second of your life (“life review”). However or whenever, it is meant to fill you and empty you at the same time. It is the essence of all life, death, and eternity.

Why do I write about this if it is indescribable, unknowable? I don’t know (of course). The words arise within my soul. It seems that part of my life’s journey is to share through language what I am experiencing, even when it can’t be completely expressed. Each of us is here to express our unique beingness in the world—through words, through silence, through art, through music, through connection with others or Nature. However we live our lives is exactly what we’re meant to bring to the experience of life on Earth. We came here to embody both humanity and divinity in a vast array of colors and light. Our differences are perfect; our lives are perfect. Within the peaceful spaciousness at the core of All That Is exists a love that we each express in our own way. As you come to awareness of this, you recognize that soulful space in others, in yourself, and in the world.

The Watchmaker and the Mirror

The only thing I remember from a philosophy course I took in college is one philosopher’s reasoning with regard to the existence of God: “A watch implies a watchmaker.” In other words, such a complicated creation as our universe must have been designed by a greater intelligence. It made sense to me, in my beginning years of exploring the meaning of life and whether or not I believed in a God. Looking back, after a lifetime of spiritual exploration, it still seems like a very believable observation. Yet there are so many other frameworks within which to view the universe and its “creator.”

Today, some scientists theorize that the universe doesn’t really exist until we observe it. That is, consciousness precedes reality, not the other way around. This perception aligns with ancient Eastern wisdom going back thousands of years. The watchmaker God/dess, or the Divine Mother, then is consciousness itself, existing within us as our souls. The entire universe, divine presence, and we ourselves are One. We exist within an infinite hall of mirrors, all of them possibilities, which become “real” as we observe or experience them in the Now. As we look into the mirror before us, only the reflection of the present exists; there is no past, future, time or space. When wise spiritual elders tell us that the present moment is all that exists, this is what they mean.

How do we receive this expansive awareness that is flooding into the world as we know it now? What is real? What is God? And who are we in our seemingly transient and mysterious lives? Ultimately, are these questions, or any questions, relevant if everything is One? Oneness dissolves the polarity within which separation (me and other) exists. It seems to me that this is partially what the Great Shift, foretold for centuries, refers to: the end of time, the end of space, the end of “other.” In each moment, there is only the reflection before me—an orchid, an oak tree, a robin singing, the face of a beloved partner or friend. Each of these engenders love in my heart, which is the essence of divine consciousness, also part of that reflection of Now.

What of death and eternity? How do they figure into this “only consciousness exists” scenario? Does this question, and the fear that accompanies it, also fall away if I immerse myself in the infinite presence that is Now? More and more, I am able to answer “yes” if it’s my soul that is looking in the mirror and not my time-based identity. Deep within my awareness I sense that, for each human being, soul and identity will eventually merge, and we will see the life before us with peace and acceptance, not questions. And of course, this is not the future; it is happening now. Because there is nothing else.

So you and I are the watchmaker, the present moment, infinite consciousness. I am you, and vice versa. When we breathe, it is the universe breathing. When we look into the mirror of infinity in the Now, there is no “other,” there is no death. All is one vast limitless expanse of beingness that we have given names and explanations and pinned our fears and uncertainties on. But the truth of this moment is the one image of beauty before me and the love I feel for everything, seen and unseen. This is God or Goddess; this is All That Is.

Expansion, Not Decline

Is your body demanding your attention lately? Are your emotions on edge? Do you feel as if your health is declining, your sense of optimism impaired? You are not alone. Almost everyone I know has been facing some kind of physical issue or challenge over the past year or so, including myself. Breast cancer flipped my daily world view upside-down. Yet, as I gradually learned to experience it with a peaceful, accepting heart, calm arose within me to face whatever I needed to without despair or negativity. My soul guided my body, mind, and feelings throughout. Sometimes we have to pass through depression or emotional upset to reach that overview, but it can happen. This is the challenge of these times we are living through, especially during a global pandemic.

How can we come to see physical pain or illness in a positive rather than negative light? Perhaps by seeing it as a cleansing or clearing of your physical form so that your soul can shine more fully and brightly. These are times of expansion, not decline. We are welcoming the complete embodiment of the soul in our bodies. Physicality is the densest part of you, and it will be the last to transform. The heaviness of form is being overhauled to receive the lightness of formlessness, our natural and eternal state. The key to an easier transition may be to view physical illness or pain as metamorphosis, a path to clarity and fulfilment. You are shedding your identity and your past and walking into a new vision of life and yourself. It may feel intensely challenging, but if you look closely, the doors are opening. No matter what is occurring, your soul chose this life path for your greater evolution. Welcome to the Great Shift on Planet Earth.

This applies not only to physical difficulties but to the overall political/social turmoil in the world. The entire planet is experiencing a cleansing. A new Earth is being born. And birthing pains often accompany such a major event, personally and globally. So hang on: you are not deteriorating; you are expanding. Hard to believe at times, but we are being asked to imagine, and live, this vision of a new fully embodied soul, in our selves and our planet. We incarnated at this time for exactly this. Your physical body and Mother Earth herself are shedding density, welcoming conscious awareness of spirit everywhere. Even what seems to be the worst scenario holds within it a seed of awakening.

There is nothing “wrong” here. Nothing “terminal.” Neither age, diagnosis, nor life events can kill your spirit. Your soul is eternal; consciousness too is eternal.  You as beingness exist beyond time and space, beyond mind and emotions, beyond thoughts and expectations. The world is a temporary landing point for your evolution and expansion. We are all part of the divine unfolding of infinite consciousness. Even if you think things are bad or intolerable, there is something greater occurring beyond human understanding. You are journeying through ascension, not decline. Your soul knows the way. Relax and surrender to the cosmic trip God/dess has orchestrated. When you feel lost or alone, hold in your awareness a vision of our blue planet turning golden and our souls shining brightly in the cosmos. At the soul level, our hands are joined, circling the globe as one energy, one expanding light. In pain, sorrow, or joy, you are always part of this collective life spirit. Look up at the morning sky and recall the words of e.e. cummings:

“This is the sun’s birthday, this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth”

Wild Geese on a Winter’s Day

Often there are very subtle threads that hold us to life and to the belief that everything is ultimately worthwhile. They reveal themselves in sometimes overlooked daily details: the smell of freshly baked bread from the kitchen, the way the sun highlights the red amaryllis on the dining room table, a snatch of song from a neighbor’s apartment. All these make up life’s tapestry and fill us with delight if we are able to fully receive them. They balance out any sadness or dismay about how things are unfolding and uplift us at the most unexpected moments. This is the magic of allowing your life to carry you to the heart of all experience: Heavenly gifts are always arriving.

For me, one day last month, it was the sight and sound of wild Canada geese flying overhead against the blue winter sky as I stepped outside for my afternoon walk. And it was the unexpected sight of 8 to 10 robins in a bare tree, calling excitedly in the January air. Birds always open my heart and awaken me to full consciousness. Their place on this planet is one of such grace and beauty. So many beings and events hold this promise for each of us, in Nature or in our own homes. These are the threads; this is the tapestry of which we too are a part. The words you speak may give someone else hope or solace. Your very presence is a light in the lives of those who love you.

I remind myself of this when the gray days of winter seem endless and I can barely remember spring. Or perhaps it is God who reminds me, who shows me vibrant life (wild geese and cheery robins) even on a cold colorless day. It is the gift we carry with us always. As the French writer Albert Camus so beautifully expressed it, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” Beauty and meaning are etched into our souls. Divine vision skates along the surface of our lives, continuously available for our inspiration and sustenance. The very air we breathe awakens us to the day before us. Our senses greet the ordinary, making it extraordinary.

All this is waiting for you if you allow the doors and windows of your life to remain open, if you allow life to flow in and touch your awareness. In those moments, there is no question about whether life is worthwhile. You are so immersed in the wonders of the present moment that thinking recedes; full-hearted beingness carries you forward through life. This is the best of living, available to each of us, if we so choose. Poet Mary Oliver, wrote a perfect description of this:

“I look; morning to night I am never done with looking.
Looking I mean not standing around, but standing around
as though with your arms open.”

These moments await you and me. Each day is a new miracle to be experienced. The more engaged you become in this way of being, the more all inner queries about purpose, reasons, or outcome fall away. Disappointment disappears, and only celebration remains. This is the life of Spirit, fully embraced and expressed.

Dawn, Dusk, and Midday

Vacillations in how we feel are part of life, particularly now as the planet lives through a pandemic. We have unexpectedly come face to face with potential illness and mortality, as well as the relative shortness of one lifetime. It can shake our emotional foundations. Yet, wherever we are on the timeline of life, most of us gradually reach some kind of resolution. We come to terms with life and death. The wisdom of the ages reaches into our souls and awakens awareness. We realize time is an illusion and if we don’t fully immerse ourselves in “now,” we miss both the mundane and spiritual impacts of life. This is the soul’s journey, right now being played out on a world canvas, as we pass from dawn to dusk and finally see the full illumination of midday (or the “present moment”).

We may not entirely recognize what is happening yet, but the trajectory of the years ahead is the soul’s emergence in the world as full awareness. Within the mystery that is earthly life, each human being comes to that moment of awakening to, acceptance of, and engagement with life “as is.” This particular time in history is showcasing the personal journey on a global scale. In a pandemic, no one escapes or gets out untransformed; same with human life. It may seem dire and perhaps depressing on one level, but from the soul’s viewpoint, there is no real difference between life and death. It is all universal consciousness experiencing itself, beyond time and space. It may take a lifetime to realize this, but it arises within us eventually.

As someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, I have felt a multitude of reactions, from initial panic to inner peace. Peace being the most prevalent and sustaining. Primarily because it arises from my soul. The identity can get caught up in future fears or “what ifs.” The soul is embodied spirit vision; it knows that at the center of all life is a loving peace that transmutes all transitory fear. On the cancer path, through the ups and downs of treatment, I have at times felt weighed down or lost. Yet when another day dawns, my spirits rise again; I am re-centered in the peace at my core, the sun lighting up my solar plexus.

Nature has proven to be my greatest ally as I navigate life day to day. Nature is all-inclusive: dawn, dusk, and midday. When we embrace Nature in its entirety, we recognize that all three experiences are really one, and we are One with Nature. In every moment, beginnings and endings exist—a full spectrum of possibility. A perfect design is unfolding, of which we are part. As I open my eyes each morning, I can see this clearly; my sustaining inner peace makes this possible.

So I learn as I go, as I live the diverse experiences of my life. We all learn this way. And we all end up in the same place, because we all came from the same place: infinite consciousness or beingness. Whatever name you give it, it guides us every step of the way in our lives. It is who we are, and our life experiences teach us this. At the end of each day/night, we feel the full circle within us, the golden light of peace that is always bringing us Home.