'A Winding Road... Deerfield, MA'
When all turmoil, agitation and ugliness disappears, a new climate reveals itself as peace and equilibrium of the soul. Beauty, as a state of pure harmony, brightness and joy without cause envelop our being, creating a new mentality.
*Ilie Cioara. The Wondrous Journey.
* * *
November 2018 - Georgetown Island, Maine
When traveling from the far southeast USA, Florida, to the far northeast USA, Maine, six weeks ago, a moment of Beauty arose, powerfully. The passage of three days from High Springs to Georgetown Island included 1,362.8 miles and twenty plus hours, mostly along the eastern coast and I-95. And oft I had no sense of where I was on this that proved to be a sacred pilgrimage.
And for those who have welcomed and recognized them as they are, they know such experiences remain unnamed and live inside us, eternally, in time. These revelations are reverberations of Oneness, here-and-now. One never is moved through such an unveiling without being changed thereby. And these arise spontaneously, being free of manipulation. Context, however, can provide the stage-setting for the arising of a scene with Grace.
In my over-loaded 2004 Ford Ranger, moving along the highway on the second day of the trip up, an embodied sense of Joy arose. This did not have any precise location in the body, being pervasive, and felt inside and outside. The intimacy was too intimate to be found within or without.
I seemed to be moving along in time and outside time. However, this was not happiness as emotion arising from a pleasant happening; this was deeper, closer. I could not point to a cause of it. The whole context - Brian, truck, road, sky, thought, feeling... - was moving together. I was taken out of 'my' ordinary frame of reference, being with no one, being nowhere. This seemed like what the Buddhists mean by Emptiness: everything arises together, so nothing is independent; this arises with that arising.
In looking back, the voyage was like an extended religious rite. For such ceremonies are intended to remove one from the sense of a separate self located in time and place. Here, there is no everlasting, for there is no time.
Indeed, most of the trip, I had only a vague sense of location. The second night, after about 14 hours of travel, I stopped at a hotel. I did not even know what state I was in. I asked a woman assigning a room to me for the state I was now in. She said, "Maryland." Well, there I was, surprisingly, in Maryland for the first time in my life.
Over those days, I felt contentment in traveling without the felt-sense of needing to know the location. All the senses were focused but relaxed, like in awareness meditation, in the zone, so to speak. This contentment remained as I drove through Washington, DC, at night, bumper-to-bumper. I was exhausted and unable to do anything due to the congested, fast-moving traffic, but keep moving in the apparently right direction. I had never been to Washington, and this night was not sure I was in Washington. Finally, I found out through a sign pointing directions to a bridge I knew was near the White House. Otherwise, I would have left Washington not knowing it was Washington.
I picked up the phone to call a friend in Florida, to share what was happening on this mysterious, wonderful pilgrimage northward. Awareness arose of a need not to move away from this intimacy, to remain in it fully. To report this would mean to move away from it. I placed the phone down. If I needed to share about this, I could do so later; still, it would only be a report and an inept one at that.
Remembrance of deciding to rest in the Beauty happening has arisen to me over the last weeks. That moment lives on.
What is of Grace changes us through our allowing ourselves to remain near Life in its self-unveiling. We marinate in Its quiet, majestic Aloneness. In this, we are intimate with all things, seen and unseen. For there is only one intimacy: Life.
* * *
Easton, ME - November 2020
One of the blessings of meditation and living with awareness is the gift to commune intimately with the moment - the only moment we will ever be invited to be intimate with. Meditation is about intimacy.
A contemplative life is like my trip to Maine. I was blissfully lost and found that to be adventurous. Life is like that. - We none know where we are. And do we really know who or what we are? We think we do. - What begins as an act of courage - to say "Yes" to Life - becomes an adventure. We may have started a spiritual path to create a life we wanted, some mythic life; we find out our life has always been a great adventure.
Every day we face the question, "Can I keep my heart open?" Keeping an open heart is being intimate with Life, not trying to sneak off into an imaginary byway. Then, we become more comfortable, over time, with this arising of Life. We come to see Life is not happening somewhere out there; we are Life happening. We are happening with the trees, the skies, the streams,the snowflakes, the thunder, the tears, the sadness, the birth, the death, the warring, the peacemaking... It all belongs, for it happens - even farts and burps and hiccups, and, yes, sometimes in meditation.
* * *
I recall being glad I had never flatulated out loud when giving a message in a church. I had made it into my 40s, about 30 years after beginning in ministry, and avoided such. I had spoken hundreds of times before congregations. I had managed to keep the farts quiet. One Sunday morning, facing the people and in the middle of the message, a loud one erupted from my buttocks. What could I do? I went on talking as though nothing had happened, keeping a not-guilty look on my face. I knew it was heard. I was guilty of being human. Breaking wind belonged as much as I did in the adventure. I was interested to see how the people would respond to this. Everyone acted as I, like a fart is a fart, and Life has been welcoming farts for eons, so we do, too.
* * *
We may have ecstatic experiences like I had on the move to Maine. Yet, those may be few. We do not seek those times. Life, in its every-day attire, is welcome, and it is enough for us. Just to breathe is special.
And the times of ecstatic experience remind us we walk on holy ground. They challenge us to sanctify ourselves, also, so others can witness we are truly manifestations not merely of our egos but are epiphanies of the Holy One.
* * *
*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on mystical traditions, especially Christian and Sufi, with extensive notes on the teachings and imagery in the poetry.