The View from Above

I don’t know if it’s because I have lived through breast cancer or through multiple decades on Earth, but I see the world differently now. When you face a serious diagnosis, identification with the smaller concerns of the individual self begins to slip away. And what seemed so important at 20 falls to the wayside later in life. I have written previously about living as soul more than identity now. Open heart space instead of crowded mental highways. That’s as close as I can come to expressing the change. Different experiences engage me. I rise at dawn, meditate, do yoga, and write. I listen to the music of morning birdsong and nighttime crickets. I take long walks in Nature and find that my awareness deepens as I walk wordlessly in the stillness there. (“Be still and know you are God.”)

Don’t get me wrong—I love my friends and family and all the varied parts of my life, past and present. It’s just different now. Often I feel immersed in a kind of expansive consciousness, and anything less powerful and compelling seems only a passing distraction. I know that every moment on Earth is precious, and I appreciate that with all my heart. Yet, part of me is sitting out among the stars seeing the entire cosmos beyond time and space. From that place, there is a letting go of doing into just being. Witnessing life and allowing it to flow with and through me, without attachment or judgment.

Is this the course our lives take, from birth to death? A continuous gradual awakening to a loving awareness that spans all dimensions? Perhaps we are each experiencing this in our own unique way. Some of us speak of it, some don’t. Some of us move forward excitedly; others hold back. It doesn’t matter. We will all reach the same “place” eventually, perfectly, and no clock is measuring our progress. It is the soul’s journey, beyond time and space.

I used to be frightened of flying, terrified that the plane would crash, and I would die. Now I feel more like I am being transported on angel wings when I fly, given a secret glimpse into a world of clouds and light that some think of as heaven. Maybe it is. Actually, maybe everything we experience, however we label it, is heaven because there is nothing else. Infinite consciousness experiencing itself, on Earth and in the skies. When we die, we realize that everything is one magical dream, ours and God’s.

Too far out or intangible? Well, that’s the view from above—everything blends seamlessly into everything else. We humans like to separate and delineate, but it’s only a mind game to entertain us while we’re here. As we depart this dimension, we see every boundary dissolve into oneness, and we realize that we came to Earth for exactly that experience.

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.

Hope, Love, and the Web of Life

“I don’t know about hope, but I know about love…. Our job is to learn to love.”
—Robin Wall Kimmerer

In this time of heartbreaking political tumult and ecological grief, where do we turn for wisdom or comfort? For a reason to continue, in spite of how the world looks? This past weekend, I had the great honor and blessing of attending a program with Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass. She is a botanist, professor, member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and beyond all else, a wise and caring soul. Repeatedly, during those three days, she asked the question: What does Mother Earth ask of us? Not what can we get, but what can we give? We are living in a time of shifting focus: from taking to giving, from self to community. Earth herself teaches reciprocity and connection. This is our heritage and our guidepost, if we pay attention, if we drop the cloak of self-centeredness and don the cloth of humility.

We are One, we Earth beings. All of us, plant, animal, human, bird, insect, stone, soil. Our lives and our destiny are interconnected. The web of life that holds us can be torn, but it can also be mended. Mother Earth is a gentle and forgiving presence in our lives; she is also a fierce protector of all of life. We cannot continue to destroy the environment and our living connections to one another. So many of our hearts are filled with grief now, for the visible and invisible ways the planet appears to be falling apart. “Grief is the measure of our love,” Robin said. “We can be the rain on one another’s grief and dryness.”

Her words carried such poignancy and power because she has dedicated her life to Earth wisdom, and she is also a descendant of those who walked the Trail of Tears, which forced native nations to leave their homelands and walk endless miles to reservations (in her family’s case, from Wisconsin to Kansas to Oklahoma). All ties to their specific sacred place on Mother Earth were broken. The grief of that severance continues to this day as indigenous peoples work to regain their ancestral lands. Earth herself was violated by similar cruelty as colonists took what they wanted from the land. We inherit that terrible history and are living with the consequences, that lack of reciprocity between human and human, between humans and Earth.

Reciprocity arises from love, and in spite of the violence that has torn, and continues to tear, the world asunder, love persists. When all hope is lost, love persists. When grief breaks our hearts, love persists. Love and grief together can heal the brokenness. Whether or not we believe that healing is possible, our job is to love. We came here at this specific time, on this specific planet, to be the love that persists, in spite of everything. Injustice and inhumanity exist, but so do compassion and kindness.

We are at a choice point in our tattered past, unsettling present, and uncertain future. We can choose despair, or we can choose love. Ask yourself, “What does Mother Earth ask of me?” As I stood on a wooded hillside at dusk in Western Massachusetts this weekend, listening to the sweet song of the wood thrush, I heard the answer in my heart: Remember your place in the web of life; choose love.

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.

Soul Presence

The world is changing so fast we can hardly keep track of it. Reports on what is or isn’t happening clash with one another on a daily basis, both in the media and among those we know. “Reality” as a perceivable, agreed-upon entity no longer exists, if it ever did (the emperor’s clothes have disappeared). Time as we knew it has also ceased to exist. So how do we navigate this seemingly chaotic and uncertain path before us? One clue is that it is no longer a place for human identities (names, family roles, job descriptions). What lies ahead is completely unknown and can only be approached as a spiritual mystery and soul adventure.

We are moving ever more rapidly into the time of Soul Presence. It’s been a long time coming. And I don’t just mean since the flower children of the 60s called out the Age of Aquarius. I mean millennia. Thousands and thousands of years in the making, with incarnation after incarnation of spiritual seekers and masters moving forward and shining an ever-brighter light. Today we have finally reached the era of collective enlightenment. No more gurus, priests, leaders, or authorities of any kind. It is dawning on each of us that we carry the wisdom and light inside us. God is within, not sitting on a distant throne issuing orders. God and soul are one. We living beings on a living planet are One.

When we awaken fully to that oneness, our separate identities and polarized world views will dissolve. Our souls will emerge in full presence and meet with loving-kindness and compassion, instead of the competitiveness and self-centeredness that formed our old personalities. The harshness of ego gives way to the softness of soul. Fear of survival and the illusion of control are replaced with trust in a perfectly designed divine unfolding. That is why so much is falling away and there is no longer truth or time. We have no idea what is ahead, but more and more we can see a light shining, from within us and from the Earth herself. “We are stardust; we are golden,” Joni Mitchell wrote so many years ago. And the flowering garden of light in our future is being born from that golden stardust that makes up our souls.

When you begin to align completely with your soul, you see and live with God vision because there is no longer a perceived separation. God/dess and Soul are one experience. Within you arises a growing commitment to peace, love, and generosity of spirit. The self apart from other no longer exists. We replaces I. Heaven and Earth come together in our consciousness and in our experiences. Heartening to think of, but how do we live it in the days ahead? Imagine it and it becomes real.

What would such a world look like to you? How would you live without an identity—neither parent nor child, employee or boss, one gender or another, one opinion or its opposite? What would life on Earth be like without rigid parameters but only fluid Presence? This is where we came from; the soul emerged from this dynamic place of pure being and unconditional love. This is the divine vision for humanity, actually for the entire cosmos. And beneath all the arguing voices and warring factions on the planet, this is what exists now. We’ve never really been separate from one another or from our Source. It was an illusion we lived out for the experience of individual karma before returning to oneness. God came to Earth as each of us to immerse itself in all the possible variations of consciousness. How else could we then know the ecstatic coming together that is oneness of Spirit? At the soul level, we were aware of the greater overview or design, but as separate incarnated personalities, we’ve been finding our way for millennia. And now is the homecoming.

So look around you and let go of everything you’ve known before. Forget the past and live in the present moment. The soul only knows Now. Within that is infinite possibility. Presence without limitation. “Eternity in an hour” and “Infinity in the palm of your hand” (William Blake). God vision, which lies at the heart of everything in the universe. The wise words “Let go and let God” were repeated again and again for a reason. We are finally hearing them clearly. When you surrender completely, there is nothing else. Soul Presence. Remembered paradise.