“It’s too bad,” says Henderson in Saul Bellow’s ‘Henderson The Rain King, “but suffering is about the only reliable burster of the spirit's sleep. There's a rumour of long standing that love also does it." I would add: age can sometimes do it too. Seventy five years old, I was, before it happened. (See the first two entries in this blog back in 2009.) When the AIDS epidemic erupted here in the UK some decades ago there were moving stories about young men with only a year or two to live discovering too how to live that remaining time with a fullness and richness they had never before known or believed possible. The realisation that life is a vulnerable, fragile business can be a ‘burster of the spirit’s sleep’.
Increasingly however, it seems that people are waking up into reality without the pressure of pain or loss. For whatever reasons they are discovering a way to live which is fully awake. Mostly they do it through meditation and contemplative prayer. Some apparently just .... do it. They don’t wait until something awful happens to them, or until they get old. They just ‘get it’: the truth, I mean, that the only time we have to live is now. They realise that they have been spending far too much time and energy dealing with the past or anticipating the future.
In theory most of us would all agree that it's not a good idea to wait: until things are less pressured, until I can get away on holiday, until I have the space to get around to it, until.... until....
Eckhart Tolle writes, ".... you don't have to wait for your world to shrink or collapse through old age or personal tragedy in order for you to awaken to your inner purpose."
Sometimes I find myself beset by resentment, anxiety, fear and thinking at the same time, ‘I must get home and meditate, then things will be better’. Tolle also reminds us, don’t look for any state other than the one you are in right now. In ‘Stillness Speaks' he records the following dialogue:
Accept what is.
I truly cannot. I’m agitated and angry about this.
Then accept what is.
Accept that I’m agitated and angry? Accept that I cannot accept?
Yes. Bring acceptance into your non-acceptance. Bring surrender into your non-surrender. Then see what happens.