A human being is a part of the whole called the “universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in all its beauty. We may or may not be able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security. ~Albert Einstein
Throughout his whole life Einstein never lost his wonder at life and the greatness of the universe. His sense of ‘awe’ stretched from the vastness of time and space to the tiniest particles of matter and non-matter. In all of creation he saw that there was something beyond what the senses could sense. He believed that science and religion would ultimately end up at the same point with respect to the universe and this rather persistent illusion we call reality.
Spirituality, I believe, is that which connects us. The self, my ego, is that which tells me that I am separate. Science may be disintegrating the old images of God as creator but at the same time it is opening our minds to a newer reality of something far greater than ourselves at the centre of all. Exactly what that is? I have no idea. I too have a sense of awe and wonder when I contemplate the the seen and unseen universe of time and space.
I can take a cup of water from the ocean. It has all of the chemical properties of the ocean but it is not the ocean; where are the tides and currents and immense power in this cup of salty water? However, when I pour it back into the ocean it again becomes the ocean. It reintegrates so fully that I can never remove the same cup of water from it no matter how hard I try.
I see Consciousness in the same way. I am a drop of water splashed up from the River of Life. I possess many of the same properties as the river, but I am not the river. I can look around at all the other droplets splashed up at the same time and I can notice differences: different sizes, colours, position. But once my drop falls back down into the water, I become part of the River once more and those differences no longer exist.
I think that is what Einstein is getting at in the above quote. We are more alike than we are different. We imprison ourselves by our beliefs in our separateness rather than free ourselves in the knowledge that we are all the same. Man, woman, child and all of nature are all the creation of Universal Consciousness. It’s a tough concept to grasp, given our world as it is and how we have been taught all of our lives. But just knowing and opening ourselves up to other possibilities, is a step in a new direction. Just working toward a changed perspective is enough to free us from the bondage of self. And that’s a reason to be grateful.
The more I investigate, the more I realize that what we know is only a scratch on the surface of truth, of what Einstein called the “persistent illusion” of reality. When I open myself up to even just the ‘possibility’ of there being something out there greater than myself, I also open myself up to perceiving the wonders that surround us always but that we don’t always notice as we make our busy way through life.
A friend at a meeting this morning talked about going for a hike with his brother to a water fall. The trek was much more arduous than they had expected. When they finally arrived, it because a mystical experience for one of them. As they drew closer they heard the sound becoming more and more intense until the cascade slowly revealed itself through the undergrowth of the trees. My buddy saw how the sun was beaming light down through the trees and the mist rising from the water as it hit the rocks on the way down to a blue pool below. He felt the spray, watched the butterflies and took the whole thing in as a Higher Power moment. For his brother, it was a nice waterfall, but it held nothing of the spiritual aspect. Two people, two points of view of the same experience.
Our experience of anything depends upon our perspective and past experiences. Perhaps it’s my bias, but I believe that those of us who have been through difficult times and are making our way through recovery have to, perhaps, work harder than others to see the beauty of things and the wonders of the people and the world around us. Perhaps it’s because we were so wrapped up in ourselves, our ego and our disease that we couldn’t see it before. Perhaps we’re no different than anyone else. But it is important to take the time to look outside of ourselves to stand in awe and appreciate what is happening around us at any particular time. And even if you don’t wish to attribute what you see or what happened to you to your Higher Power, you can still appreciate the ‘miracle’ of it all.
During this time of year, we tend to see more positive things happening around us because our perspective has changed around the holidays and we expect to see the miracle of Christmas. I believe that these things are always happening around us. Every day there are wonders and sights to behold that will cause us to pause if we look for them. If you want to take the magic of Christmas with you through the whole year, then take this attitude with you. Miracles don’t only happen one day a year, or on 42nd Street in NYC or in Bedford Falls with Jimmy Stewart realizing that he’s the ‘richest man in town’. They around around us all the time. But we have to look for them.
From a sunny and hot Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, (don’t be too jealous), I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! ¡Feliz Navidad!
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
– Shakespeare, Hamlet
I’ve spent a lot of my life wanting and trying to have the ultimate spiritual experience. You know, that mountain top experience where you become one with everything and everything makes perfect sense. A glimpse at the bliss of Seventh Heaven or the special touch of an angel; an experience that would forever alter my existence. It still eludes me.
I know I am not alone. Most of us would like this type of experience that we sometimes read about or have recounted to us. Some gurus tell us that if only we would go to this place, sit this way and chant this ancient saying, it will magically happen to us. If it were true we would all be in a floating bliss. I think the only thing that would help me achieve it would probably give me the munchies, so I’m not going to try that. The thing about those “mountain top experiences” is we don’t live on the mountain top. We have to come down and continue our lives. Gradually the electric current that lit up our minds begins to fade and we long for another ‘fix’ to connect with the Universe.
What I have experienced however, is the spiritual awakening of the educational variety. It’s one that gradually pervades my body, mind and spirit. Through working the twelve steps of recovery I have had a spiritual awakening that we hear about in Step Twelve. It started with the realization that it’s not all about me and continues through living the steps. I am constantly growing in contact with Consciousness, or whatever you wish to call your Higher Power. For me, the steady growth in awareness doesn’t carry with it the need for a regular fill up. The steady drip by drip of awareness allows me to take in what I need in smaller increments so that I can understand and internalize the whole process better.
I’ve learned that the slower I learn things, the deeper it can penetrate and the easier I can incorporate it into my day to day life. It’s like those times when folks make a whole pile of New Year’s Resolutions. Once one goes by the wayside, it’s very easy for the others to slip off as well. But if we make just one that we are truly committed to, then there’s a far better chance that we will create a new habit that will last a lifetime. Slow and steady she goes.
Working drip by drip to increase my awareness I become more aware as well of those around me. What I have learned has to be shared. And in the sharing, my own knowledge deepens further. This is our program, not mine alone. I seek, learn, grow, share with others and then repeat the process.
I’m not saying that I would not welcome being struck by lightening and having a celestial experience. I think it would be pretty neat. But I am not going to feel incomplete if I never have one. If it requires sitting in the lotus position for several months under a bodhi tree in quiet meditation, it definitely won’t ever happen. But the same teachings about body, mind and spirit can still be learned one step at a time. With patience, I believe we can all get to our Nirvana.