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.

Continuous Conscious Connection

You and I are always connected to the Source of all living energy in the universe. The thing is we forget that connection is always with us. Humans have given it many names to remind themselves throughout the course of their existence on Earth (God, Goddess, Divinity, etc.), but then they become distracted by the details of daily life, and conscious memory slips away. This amnesia makes everything more difficult because on some level we feel untethered and lost. We think we are alone in the cosmos, without purpose or support. This is not true, but how do we find our way back to the deep-seated knowing that lives within? How do we recognize divine Presence in every moment, in everything we experience?

Traditionally, religion played that role. People regularly attended temples or churches to pray and feel connected to something greater. Today, a more free-flowing, eclectic spirituality seems to be arising. People are seeking experiences beyond the parameters of what has defined human-divine connection in the past. Still, the essence of what is being sought is a profound ongoing awareness of something sacred in our lives. In our hearts, we know it exists; we are just trying to access that elusive memory.

Currently, we are living through a time of Remembering, of coming into continuous conscious awareness of the sacred within, which spiritual teachers throughout the ages have pointed to with such certainty and unwavering vision. It is humanity’s time to fully awaken to this inner/outer experience that will individually and collectively guide us through life. But how does this occur? How do we access connection intentionally?

Meditation, prayer, or immersion in ancient teachings can spark connection to God/dess, when this becomes an ongoing practice. Consistency is key; some call it devotion. There are many other conduits to that connection to universal consciousness. One of the most powerful and direct is Nature. Walking daily in natural surroundings, such as a local park or a nature sanctuary, can keep the door to the Divine wide open. Birdsong, flowers blooming, tree branches dancing in the wind, or the drama of the sky and clouds are Nature’s way of keeping us awake and connected to something beyond the daily distractions that occupy our minds. The natural world fills the heart and soul with joy, love, and Presence. Over time, this feeling becomes continuous, a conscious part of who you are.

Personally, I find that I rely on all of these reminders. It is so easy to forget in our busy world full of conflicting personal and global dramas. Eventually I make my way to the deeper truth that only love is real. It is the living thread beneath everything in the multiverse, and it holds humanity together with a powerful vibration living at the core of our being. You yourself hold the reminder within you. You can’t lose it because it is what gives you life. The light within you can become clouded over or temporarily forgotten through the years, but it is never lost.

At this moment in time, the cloudiness is clearing. Each of us is gradually awakening to ongoing awareness of the dynamic tapestry of connection that we are one with. Every time you look up at the blue sky or into the eyes of a loved one, you wake up more fully. With every conscious breath you take, connection is present. It is a process that can’t be stopped because it is our divine destiny as humans on this Earth. We came here to awaken and fully remember who we are and where we came from. Continuous awareness of connection is on the horizon. With each sunrise, we see more clearly and love more deeply. And we step more fully into consciously living as our souls.

I Am That

The Ham-sa (or So-ham) mantra has been used by yogis and meditators for centuries to align with the breath—inhalation and exhalation—and experience divine connection, or Presence. One translation of the Sanskrit syllables is “I Am That,” meaning: all that is, or the universe. The repetition of these sacred sounds centers meditators in the stillness within and connects them to universal consciousness. With consistent daily practice (sitting or walking), an individual can increase awareness of both inner and outer Presence, ultimately discovering that they are one and the same.

At least that has been my experience in recent years, particularly in the past few months. As I moved through treatment for breast cancer, my spiritual practice deepened, and I felt a dropping away of personal identity into expansive soul awareness beyond the physical form. “I Am That,” or just “I Am,” expresses this as closely as language can. Infinite spaciousness in which there is only being without boundaries of any kind. As the weeks of post-treatment passed, I felt even more space opening up, extending out beyond me and this planet to endless galaxies with no fixed point or place within time/space. I look at the sun and the sky that surrounds it and know that I am all that I see or perceive. And more. 

I believe this is the life journey for each of us. At birth, we individuate in human form on Earth and then over the course of a lifetime we move gradually to a less defined identity which then disappears entirely at death. We return to the formless universal consciousness from which we came. If we are fortunate, we may experience some of this vast awareness before we die—through spiritual exploration or unexpected life events. Whatever our individual life course, we eventually reunite in collective beingness as we transition from this world to the next. The sharp edges of fear about death can soften as the years pass and we are prepared for that transition, which is not an end but a doorway to expansion beyond the physical body.

“I Am That” awareness comes to me most vividly in Nature. When I gaze up into the branches of a giant oak tree stretching to the sky, I sense the living wisdom of an ancient being. When a great blue heron spreads its wings and takes flight, I feel awe, watching it seamlessly navigate both Heaven and Earth. When, on a cold March day, I hear a cardinal’s spring song, I experience the joyful vibration of new beginnings. With each breath, I inhale Source energy, and everywhere I look, I see a loving Intelligence reflected in the world. Some call it the Divine Mother’s love, taking physical form around and within us.

We all are part of that love. In fact, another way of saying “I Am That” is “I Am Love.” Everything in the universe embodies shining loving Presence, more and more visibly when we let go of our identities and rest in the peace and stillness of the natural world. However you come to discover the vastness of the cosmos and the spirit within you, your heart will open so fully that you will recognize Love in all you see. Truly, there is nothing but That.
 

Why Am I Here?

You may ask yourself this from time to time. Not just in reference to a particular place but also here on Earth, in this life. The answer to both is the same: Love. You are here to love—every person, event, experience, and complicated nuance in your life. Why? Because love is who you are at your core; you were born out of love, human and divine, and to express it is part of the human and planetary design. It is as natural as breathing, and as essential to life. Love is woven into the fabric of everything, and it is renewed and enlivened by our expressing it on a daily basis. Without that living manifestation of our core essence, we and the planet would shrivel and die.

Sometimes the path of purpose can be hidden, seemingly impossible to find, but it’s really quite simple. We aren’t here to make lots of money or a name for ourselves, to accumulate possessions or stocks and bonds. Those are distractions, side events that eventually we see through and move on from. The human course is not necessarily self-evident, but gradually our life experiences awaken us to who we really are at the soul level. We finally see the truth that George Bailey did in the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life: No one is a failure who has friends, and kindness and generosity made him the “richest man in town.” Without his presence, no one else in his life would have fully lived who they came here to be. Same with each of us. You affect many more people than you know.

You came to this Earth to speak your truth, to be your unique soul-self in the world. Not everyone will hear you. Not everyone will see you. And that is fine. Those who are meant to cross paths with you do so. There is a divine orchestration taking place in which we each meet whom we are destined to meet at just the right moment, and together we sing in harmony the musical notes of our connection. Our songs, individual and collective, are part of our awakening to the presence within each and all of us. We are actually awakening to Spirit itself, whose voice is ageless and limitless.

So, at those times when you feel lost or uncertain, take a deep breath and remember that everything is happening for a reason. Your purpose lives in the fiber of your being, and you breathe it into the world with every breath. In the moments in which you are most compassionate, empathic, and peaceful, it glows like gold and touches the hearts of all those around you. Your purpose is God’s purpose. Your reason for being is life’s reason for being: to manifest love and shine that light within your life. Together we all become one greater light on Earth and fulfill our common purpose: to embody loving-kindness in our human form. That is why you are here, why we all are here.