Knock on your inner door...
I sat and watched two butterflies trace and re-trace their lazy loops above the green edge of the river bank. The river was wide and fast, like time forever flowing by and forever new. The sound of bells clanging caught my attention and I looked intently to the other side of the river to find its source. There I saw first only a few and then many cows, slowly walking along the path by the river, each with a bell hung around its neck. As they gathered to turn away from the river on their route home, the chorus of their bells grew to a grand crescendo. A gentle sense of wonder and gratitude began to rise in my heart and suddenly I was there, alive to a different reality. I was aware of myself and of the moment unfolding before me. How clear and simple the distinction was in that state.
“O the joy of my soul leaning poised on itself, receiving identity through materials and loving them, My soul vibrated back to me from them, from sight, hearing, touch, reason, articulation, comparison, memory, and the like, The real life of my senses and flesh transcending my senses and flesh, My body done with materials, my sight done with my material eyes, Proved to me this day beyond cavil that it is not my material eyes which finally see...”
Strange that I hadn’t noticed when my world contracted to a pair of butterflies. Strange how easily we overlook the magnitude of the shift from our normal waking state to presence. There is an overwhelming tendency within us to reduce this delicate, internal radiance to something ordinary. The momentum of our day-to-day activity produces a levelling effect that dulls our sense of valuation for that heightened state. We find ourselves carried along by the rushing currents of life—our fears, illnesses, and obligations; the need for money and the agitation of wanting; the getting or not getting—these things distract us from our deepest aspirations.
“To be present is glorious. . . . But we so lightly forget what our laughing neighbour will neither confirm nor envy. Into the visible we want to raise it, when even the most visible joy only can disclose itself to us when we have transformed it within. Nowhere, my love, can there be World but within us.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies, “The Seventh Elegy”
“Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place With beauty’s treasure, ere it be self-killed.”
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 6
I was lucky that my moment of presence was evoked by the rustic charm and beauty of the scene before me. Yet, even more fortunately, presence can be produced not only by beauty but also by suffering. Perhaps you, too, have looked on as a loved one was lowered into the grave, and you glimpsed the pure secret of reality. Time and appearances dropped away and for a moment the veil was lifted. No one would wish for such things, and yet our lives are interwoven with tragedies, irritations, and emotional pain: this friction gives the heart of our longing for the Beloved its opportunity to rise against the passions of despair, anger, resentment, desire, and ardent self-interest we find churning in our breast, and so be propelled toward the clarity and peace of love.
“Find the alchemy of love and be transformed into gold.”
“There is a basket of fresh bread on your head, and yet you go door to door asking for crusts.
Knock on your own inner door. No other. Sloshing knee-deep in fresh river water, yet you keep wanting a drink from other people’s water bags. Water is everywhere around you, but you see only the barriers that keep you from water.”
Is it possible to invoke awareness intentionally, rather than wait for a situation that provides it? Is it possible to be present more often? To knock on our inner door every day, a few times a day, every hour, every minute, with each breath? Yes. Esoteric schools have existed in every era to teach those who wish to learn how to be present to their own lives. Simply by being born we inherit the right to be present. Every person’s life is enriched by moments of presence—whether he or she is aware of them or not, whether he or she values them or not. Yet there are some of us who long for presence so deeply that we want to work actively to experience it.
“People in schools have the privilege of making effort in the right place—for the deity within, one’s own presence.”
Robert Earl Burton