In August 1977, I crossed the threshold, the portal to an intense liberation.
Since that time I had never encountered a story that showed me I am one of many to have been smelted in a furnace of the heart and to have survived the ordeal of refinement by burning. I surely am not alone!
Since that time, I have described only to certain close friends how, over a few days and nights, the layers of self peeled away in pain and incomprehension.
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I remember walking along Exhibition Road, London and instead of the usual bland, blanked off faces of people walking past me, I became acutely aware of reading the reality of each person’s spirit in the expression on every face.
I saw many were contorted and consumed by loathing.
I saw some who were almost completely lacking in hope.
Some were intensely unhappy, as if their next facial expression was to be The Scream, ‘that’ painting by Edvard Munch. Very possibly I was visualising my own projections.
The old assumptions began to drop away from me, as if recent ghosts of my own identity were drifting off, abandoning me in ones and twos.
The assumptions of who I am are like those straight and rooted tracks on which I automatically rely for my next blink, step, next thought, next breath. I and all of us do depend on lifetime timeline assumptions without giving them a second thought. We never call them into question, unless we perceive extreme danger from an external threat or sudden inescapable challenge.
Whatever it was that had begun to move, my self-belief was evaporating, and I found myself left with fewer and fewer safe assumptions about who I was.
My friends who are my familiar friends inside of me were hurrying away somewhere else, not staying to see what happens next.
In quite a short time, as if I had no power to control the processes my spirit was undergoing, I shed my few and flimsy onion-skin layers of self-belief, until I reached a point of maximum intimacy, where the core of my being lay exposed like a small pool of white-hot molten metal resting in the base of an unmovable immutable crucible. It was painful, like active nettle-stings, but it was endurable.
I was drawn to rural isolation as the best and least threatening setting in which to preserve what I had left of me. I had no clues, no map to follow in this descent.
I bought rail and ferry tickets to Cork. I asked for bus timetables at the central London Bord Fáilte. I set out with a rigid metal frame grey canvas rucksack.
I travelled from London to County Tipperary, Ireland for a summer holiday. I knew very well I couldn’t escape from myself. But I came to rural Ireland to find a green of peace in August, because I had become afraid for my sanity. I presumed something was going to happen to me. It seemed important to give my undistracted attention to whatever it was going to be.
My next memory is of getting off the bus at the quiet stop called Cahir Cross. I walked along a reassuringly peaceful road, and I checked in to my family run guesthouse.
For safety, or rather, for self-preservation, I stayed indoors. I sat in my B&B room. I remember a pot of tea and a kindness of biscuits. I was as unprotected, fragile, brittle, as a soft bodied insect.
If I should step outside, or if I were to add to my sensory input in howsoever small a way, I might go off the edge like an untethered astronaut – lost in a mild but unending emptiness.
With a new morning, a brightly sunlit summer morning, stasis came.
Here was a still point where nothing more could happen to me. I was at the bottom of the descent, but I was not finished off.
The pain was no longer inside of me. It was not there. I remember silence.
I weep today and every time, as I recall the beauty of that silence. This silence was brand new. It was much louder inside than outside.
Silence indescribable, solid to the timid touch, had replaced pain and the frequent cramping presence of adrenaline.
I could breathe again. I could hear my breathing. I looked outwards. The yellow corn was growing gold and ripely in the small square field beyond the house. The field of gold glowed unpretentiously just outside my window. No wind moved the corn stalks baking under the blue sky.
Every ear of corn still stands there, warm in the midday heat and unmoving in my mind’s eye.
I felt an amazing, delicate, intense pleasure at seeing my host family around me, simply and quietly going about their day. I hardly dared move in case this most ordinary sweetness should crackle and dissolve.
My host family’s silent, but tangible normality was my personal reassurance. Their wordless presence was as loud as if I were being publicly baptised at the centre of a crowd.
I was filled with a soft bliss, like a person drinking after a long thirst.
The words of my drink were these:
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” [Julian of Norwich]
One thing I knew with great certainty and I would forever carry with me, that however long I live, whatever the severity of the test, I would always be able to survive.
And so I packed my rucksack to return home to the world of work and to continue with a new relationship which would culminate two years later in marriage, a new home and a family.
My awakened heart burns golden consuming nothing – in sickness and in health – from the centre to the outermost edge.
And this is the mantra I composed to celebrate the awakening:
🐣The unexpected quiet trumpet call that awakens me to the stasis of bliss🕊️
As a boy, I was for a while an avid reader of sci-fi comics. They contained individual short stories. I willingly gave myself up to be lost in them.
I always remember how one particular ‘Alien’ described itself. This being, stranded on our planet Earth, said of itself I am “An Entity without Identity”.
The predicament of this creature from Outer Space has always beckoned to me. Whatever quality, whatever identity was attributed or assigned to it, that was what it instantly became!
A child passed by in the park, found what he said was a ball. On that instant, to his alien chagrin, this voyager from the great beyond became a rubber ball and the child began to play with it.
The child met an older man in the same park, who explained that the interior of a star contains matter at such extreme high density that a ball like the boy was holding could weigh as much as a battleship.
All at once, it was so! Crowds of people flocked to the park to see it and to try to move it.
Luckily for this unhappy stranded cosmic traveller, after several misadventures arising out of mismatched identities, someone with compassion and advanced gifts of logic got it back on its galactic journey again by assigning to it a cleverly constructed sequence of identities.
My fascination with this story was an example of my early attraction to the expression of myself as fluid impermanence, fully filled with and indeed intuitively comprised of the potential of possibilty. It is a concept with which I was later to find stimulating parallels in Zen.
So when someone sees me for example as “full of surprises”, in a trice, this is in truth my core persona…
If I am to some “open, creative and full of life”, all at once this is the truth of me. I do not change. I am what I see is mirrored by those who take me into their momentary gaze.
For the time of being, in an identity made solely of vulnerability, everything is possible. It is all true EveryNow. Nothing is excluded. Until the next trumpet call!
The physical universe has its own natural dignity in the general order of existence. That dignity deserves its own respect.
Reality is apparent through the detection of its magnificent spectrum of wavelengths.
Where reality ends and something else begins, possibly connected with quantum reality, or to do with the threshold of an important and blindingly beautiful stasis, is also a boundary which we are privileged to inhabit.
Nothing is black and white. Light is infinitely graduated.
So too Love.
Everything is just how it is. I come back again and again to realising that the Way of Being of whatever we attend to is entire and sufficient to itself. It is enough.
Everything is always perpetually and without exception enough.
This appreciation of Sufficiency is an expression of the way the universe loves its own witnessers. This is a love that holds and contains those gigantic primal energies science has been showing to us.
This is also the love which living organisms draw upon to go freely about their business of survival and reproduction.
The universe pours its love into all living entities, animate, inanimate, with sentience or not. It is a love which is an unending flow mirrored between the witnessers and the witnessed in equal and opposite union.
I think of this pervasive love as being like cycles of cause and effect on all possible dimensional scales and at every energy level.
There is a quality to this flow of love which is both innate and radiantly distributive, or outgoing. If this love can sense itself, it is the embodiment of a tranquility with no end.
Here is my picture of this tranquility. From those distant times in every galaxy when rocky objects began to orbit parent stars, their solid surfaces remain in a millennial continuum.
Throughout the universe there are rocky surfaces, unknown and unknowable, unconsidered and untouched by human artifact.
These rocks have no eyes to see, but their nobility is not blind.
This nobility has always existed as a starkly naked imperturbable virginity. It sings an unsung song of purest silence. As yet, not one tear has fallen on these hard places. This is the silence of an eternal home, whose roof and walls are set all about with stars that burn and shine.
The potent awareness of intense love is self sustaining. It enters my heart like perpetual motion, eternally safe! Intense love quenches every last residue of fear.
I sometimes like to call it EveryNow.
There is a final resting place for the restless mind. That place is a place of no-location. It is where safety is unconstrained by and unconcerned by time. It is a flowing source of giving. It is a not-there which is available instantly, whenever we as individuals need it.
Though we clearly feel it as being unboundaried, without limit, when our awareness is directed towards it, its quality of unconditional giving is always specific to our own heart at any given moment. Here we glimpse the uninterrupted, incorruptible unity in which everything, time, matter and energy, has its belonging.