photo: Yasunori Tomori
A relationship ends unexpectedly, success turns to failure overnight, a loved one dies, you receive a diagnosis out of the blue, and you suddenly feel a profound groundlessness, a deep uncertainty, the sense that your world is spinning out of control. Nothing feels real anymore. It feels like your life is no longer ‘your’ life, like you’re in some strange kind of impersonal movie, like you don’t know where to turn, or even stand. The future, which once seemed so solid and ‘real’, is now exposed for the lie and the fairy story that it was, and your dreams of ‘tomorrow’ crumble to dust. ‘Tomorrow’ was never going to happen, not in the way you had unconsciously planned, anyway. There are no answers that will satisfy now, no authority to guide you, since nobody can experience your experience for you, and nobody has your answers, and you feel profoundly alone on a single planet spinning in vast and unfathomable space. You feel like crawling back into the womb.
Wonderful! What an invitation this is! Life has not gone wrong, for life cannot go wrong, for all is life, and life is all. Only our dreams and plans ‘about’ life can crumble, but life itself cannot. This present experience, this confusion and cosmic doubt, this heartbreak, is not against life, this IS life, the sacred life of the moment. This is not the ‘wrong’ scene in the movie, this IS the movie, however hard that is to see right now. There is a vast intelligence at work here, an intelligence that breathes us at night, and beats our heart, pumping blood around the body, healing wounds when ‘we’ are not even around to notice or care.
What happens, when, just for a moment, we stop trying to figure it all out, we stop clinging to the old dreams and stop mourning their loss, and we face the raw, broken open reality of things as they are. What happens when, just for a moment, we actually take the radical and unexpected step of saying YES to the uncertainty, the doubt, the confusion, the pain, the heartbreak? What happens we affirm the not-knowing instead of trying to escape it? What happens when we actually turn towards the devastation rather than away from it? What happens when we actually trust the broken-openness of things, and allow the deep intelligence of life to work its magic through the devastation? Can it be okay, just for a moment, to not have the answers, to not have the reference points, to not know anything anymore? Can it be okay, just for a moment, to feel THIS, whatever shape THIS is taking now? And in the midst of the rubble, can we once again breathe, and contact that place within ourselves, that most intimate and familiar place of silence and deep presence? The place that doesn’t need to know and doesn’t care about dreams and doesn’t want any answers? Can we remember that stillness that has secretly always been our best friend? Can we relax into that clarity which has never left? Can we take our stand as that awareness that cannot be destroyed?
Perhaps the cosmic intelligence has not actually abandoned us, and right at the heart of the seeming mess of this moment, there is something that is not involved in the mess at all. We can call it love, or God, or consciousness, or simply Who We Really Are, prior to our dreams of how life should be, of how this moment should look and feel and taste and sound and smell. Perhaps our dreams are there to be broken, and our plans are there to crumble, and our tomorrows are there to dissolve into todays, and perhaps all of this is all a giant invitation to wake up from the dream of separation, to awaken from the mirage of control, and embrace whole-heartedly what is present. Perhaps it is all a call to compassion, to a deep embrace of this universe in all its bliss and pain and bitter-sweet glory. Perhaps we were never really in control of our lives, and perhaps we are constantly invited to remember this, since we constantly forget it. Perhaps suffering is not the enemy at all, and at its core, there is a first-hand, real-time lesson we must all learn, if we are to be truly human, and truly divine. Perhaps breakdown always contains breakthrough. Perhaps suffering is simply a right of passage, not a test or a punishment, nor a signpost to something in the future or past, but a direct pointer to the mystery of existence itself, here and now. Perhaps life cannot go ‘wrong’ at all.
Jeff Foster studied Astrophysics at Cambridge University. In his mid-twenties, after a long period of depression and illness, he became addicted to the idea of ‘spiritual enlightenment’ and embarked on an intensive spiritual quest for the ultimate truth of existence. The spiritual search came crashing down with the clear recognition of the non-dual nature of everything, and the discovery of the extraordinary in the ordinary. In the clarity of this seeing, life became what it always was: intimate, open, loving and spontaneous, and Jeff was left with a deep understanding of the root illusion behind all human suffering, and a love of the present moment.