January 1991. It was around 4 o’clock in the afternoon on day seven of a Vipassana retreat when something happened that would alter my life forever:
A moment, a few moments stringed together, appearing in what seemed to be a gap in time. Moments that changed the course of my life; direction and purpose are clarified and reconfigured. Emerging from stillness, a stillness so deep… I kneel down and drink it; a thirst that has till now not found rest is quenched. Soul cries out a vital yes. Mind discovers peace, finally. Energy tingles in every cell, Light made almost tangible. In these moments Grace offers a glimpse, and a possibility, a possible future, shows itself. This glimpse will fuel my choices from now on hereafter. How can it be that one moment changes everything? That I become a man driven, haunted and endowed by just a few moments? What happened? The experience is stark in its simplicity, the direct transmission of a possible future has no bells attached to it. In its emergence I do know I touch sacred ground. I know it is not about me; I am simply allowed to see, to feel, to intuit…
A 55-minute meditation comes to a close. Silence. Emptiness. I step out into the sunlight, stretch my legs, breath in, feel the blood surge and the body move. Eyes see with an unfamiliar depth of clarity. What I behold is beauty: pollen is afloat in the air, and each and every piece reflects sunlight. What gives inspiration to glitter and fairy dust is here in its natural original state. Beauty is powerful. To truly see it can elevate, can bring us to the meeting of humble witness and ecstatic participant. In this moment of oneness, of touching and tasting Life itself, I am simultaneously hit by the contrasting reality of separation that we all tend to reside in. Bubbles, each of us in our own bubble – seeing the other, bouncing off of each other, but not actually meeting. And as the pollen and the reflected sunlight and I are one, I become keenly aware of pain. Pain in the face of separation. Pain in the realization of how painful we choose to make life.
Can we pierce bubbles with pollen? Can the habitual veil before my eyes remain lifted?
I continue walking along the path. Captivated in the Now; Attunement – at-one-ment. Vitality pulses and grace happens: I ‘see’. Is it in my mind’s eye? My imagination? Do I hear with my heart’s ear? This is what comes to pass:
…A landscape of mountains and meadows, a large generous river flowing lazily, evergreens and gardens… women, men and children are living together, working and playing. Eyes, faces are attentive and alive. Inquisitive and joyous. There is an inherent and natural ease of place and presence.
For a moment I contract and resist what I am witnessing. In doing so it is as if the ‘image’, the ‘film’ loses focus. The atmosphere generated by what I witness, however, is too compelling to abandon. I return.
Contraction melts and I begin to rejoice and become a part of what is happening. There seems to be a definite presence residing over the entire scene. I reach out to touch, it seems so tangible, almost visible. What is it? Like a thin, all-pervading mist or web or glue it is between, over, around and through everyone and everything. I feel it more than see it. Stepping in I experience an immediate shift in my entire being: a level of relaxation, of ‘breathing out’ matched with an equivalent measure of heightened awareness and aliveness. My spine straightens, and I feel a sense of transparency, as if stepping into a new level of integrity and presence. Positive tension, vulnerable willingness. Looking around, greeting others as they pass by, I get the impression that this web, this ‘other’ that is between, around and through us all, is held by this simple shift in myself and everyone. Could it really be this simple? My feet touch the earth, it is all quite natural and normal. Nothing weird or esoteric about this. Yet at the same time my entire sense of everything is completely different. Lifted, connected, in wonder and awe, gratitude, responsibility, embraced – are just a few words to attempt a description.
I sit down and lean against a tree. It is clear to me that if I try to surround and hold this with thoughts and mental understanding alone I will miss the mark. Rather I perceive a clear call to look further, deeper and fuller at what is, and thus allow the “seen” and “experienced” to penetrate and transform my understanding. And so I continue to look…
My focus is drawn to the mist, the web, the ‘atmosphere’ between and amongst all. It is this that is so new, so utterly fascinating and different. We are partaking in something greater than what we are, all put together – and yet we are an intimate part of it. There is an Other. And there are the many individuals. This is the most graceful dance I have ever seen. I do not feel merged to the point of dissolution, not at all, in fact I feel more aware of who I am than ever before. But for once my heightened sense of self is not coming from separation and comparison. It comes from partaking fully with the best I can find to offer in myself. So small, so big. I am invited to the table. Honored and touched to the core in humble gratitude.
A bell rings at the periphery of my attention, and I turn to find where the sound comes from. In doing so I find myself looking at the familiar scene of the Vipassana meditation center grounds, retreat participants are making their way back to the hall for the next meditation. Could it be that only five minutes have passed?
Similar to waking from a very vivid dream I still wear the cloak of what has just come to pass. I am still warm from the experience, clothed in what has been tasted, the blood flowing through my veins transformed. I get up and begin walking toward the meditation hall. Colors, lines and shapes remain so very clear and bright, the pollen reflects the light, the bubble has indeed been pierced by this glorious pollen. I smile in deep gratitude and satisfaction. With a knowing that lies beyond mental or intellectual understanding, I know in my core self that the future has beckoned. I know that I have seen a possible future. And I pray that I will do anything required to facilitate and to partake in this potential.
I spend the remainder of the retreat in contemplation of what has come to pass. My focus is now consumed with ‘We,’ whereas before it had been predominantly about “me”. The vision, as I came to call the experience (for lack of a better word), demanded that WE come together to dance with the Great One, that our small wills surrender to our Grand Will and that in doing so we may align ourselves to and apprehend what wants to emerge on this planet at this time.
I realized that what I had ‘seen’ was the best approximation of what my True Self’s imagination was capable of constructing or witnessing of humanity’s next step at that particular juncture in my personal evolution (after some consideration I called it a leap).
It was a dream come through a seeking vessel, showing a possible painting, one that I could not paint alone, but only together with others. Hmmm, interesting predicament for one used to and comfortable with a high level of independence and personal freedom. Suddenly my life’s path was more intimately interwoven with the rest of humanity than I had ever imagined possible or hoped for.
My thoughts constantly brought me back to Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), the Indian philosopher of the early 20 th Century who had uttered the following words: “If it be true that Spirit is involved in Matter and apparent Nature is secret God, then the manifestation of the divine in himself and the realization of God within and without are the highest and most legitimate aim possible to man upon earth”. His words spoke to my experience. It had indeed felt like an experience of God within and without. I was quite familiar with peak experiences of the God within, but what had struck me so much was the experience of the God without, the materialization of God in physical plane, in people individually, in people relating to earth and most strikingly in the space between people. The tangibility of it and the simplicity of it were a revelation to my soul.
Being quite the practical guy, with a lot of youthful energy and ready for action, I took this dream and translated it with others into what became the next chapter in this tale: