Friday, August 6, 2010
A Walk Through Eternity
“Eternity is here and now. Right now. As you read these words. It cannot be otherwise.
Eternity is not a very long time, longer than all your memories, longer than you could ever imagine. Eternity is not very slow, something much slower than what we could conceivably endure.
Eternity is not loving or unloving, not hateful or compassionate. Eternity is not reward or punishment.
Eternity is not and cannot be something that will happen someday, something that has happened already.
Eternity cannot happen for to happen something must have a past and a future and eternity can have neither.
Eternity is what is left when past and future are gone.
Eternity can hold no sequences and no trails of cause and effect.
Eternity is complete because it cannot be otherwise.
There is no time to be lost or gained, no time to fulfill lacks or to form wishes. Eternity is simply no time at all.”
I thought of the words on the old book as I stood on the border, looking in. This was not the first time I thought of them. It probably wouldn’t be the last. The words caressed me in ways I didn’t find fully pleasant, something about their implied meaning disturbed me, hurt me somehow, something rose up within me to defend my inherent right to events, my right to chains of causality, my right to the forward motion of time. The something that rose then stayed in my chest, having nowhere to go. And there it lingered and it could only grow as I replayed the words in my mind once again.
There was a great circular labyrinth in front of me and I stood on the edge, right where the narrow path of white stones began. Should I go in? I wondered. Is this the time? The right time? I asked myself in silence. Will there be another opportunity if I were to wait? Will this moment return or will there be another similar enough that it will make no difference?
My mind was clouded with thoughts, tinged with self conscious doubt and human concerns. As I whirled in the middle of pros and cons and other random waves of kinetic brain activity, I felt the moment closing. I felt it moving past me, rushing like a slow inexorable current, slow but definitely moving…drifting through my finger tips as I stood there debating inside my head. The moment was about to move past me like a cold little stream past a heavy rock, unafraid to leave me in its wake on its way to an unknowable destiny, some place where I would never be.
I could feel the three women behind me squirming slightly, their bodies preparing for departure, ready to move up the hill and begin our lunch. Something we had all been waiting for with impatient eagerness. This was not the time for distractions. This was not the time. It shouldn’t be. I felt it passing, all of it. A thread of nothingness on the black current of emptiness, drifting away from me while I stood still, trying to decide. I knew it was leaving now, maybe forever. Soon, even the decision would be gone.
“We may experience Eternity. But this experience won’t be in the past, it wasn’t in the future, it wouldn’t be in our memories of that perfect psychedelic trip into the infinite maelstrom, or that amazing moment of meditation when the walls disappeared and all the people turned transparent like new plastic bags, or that one instant when you and I fell in love and we both knew it as clearly as we knew where we were sitting, as clearly as we knew each other’s names. It won’t, it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be the sudden burst of direct Knowledge that came over you that one day, that one day that we can all vaguely remember. Yes, all of us. It has happened, will happen, would happen to all of us. Every single one of us.
It wouldn’t have been in the future, in that bright final day when I finally accomplished the Great Work and I fused with the True Self that I found standing behind the illusion. It didn’t come when I was finally Awake, fully and beyond mistake, or when I completed my spiritual progress through a thousand lifetimes of abnegation on my way to glorious liberation which came and went before I knew it was happening. It didn’t even come the days before my death, when I finally surrendered, fully and completely, when I finally started to Work. It couldn’t have. It didn’t. It won’t. It can’t.
Our experience of Eternity can only be Now. Now as you read this. Now as you hear this. Now as you think this. As you think it in the words that are here written.”
A small bird chirped at me from a nearby tree. A soft breeze blew wisps of hair across my forehead. Without another thought, without a clear sense of purpose, without a final bout with the constant plague of imagined consequences, my foot suddenly took a step forward. My first step into the labyrinth, my first step onto the path. And as my foot took that step, my mind was completely taken by surprise. It had been left out of the decision. It was being taken for a walk, like a small dog that suddenly realizes what is happening as the door closes behind him and the cold air hits its pudgy hairy face. "Oh, I guess I’m doing this.After all that thinking, I guess I’m just going to do it." I said it to myself where nobody could listen, inside the place where nobody could reach.
My mind was shocked, but willing to go. I looked down at the path directly in front of me, at the narrow bit of dirt outlined in gray stones. I remembered myself. I remembered what to do. My right foot touched lightly upon the path, I felt the soft dry earth beneath me, I felt the heel as it made contact with the ground. Each step slow, each movement deliberate and carefully noted.
“The experience will not be soon,
The experience will not come a moment from now,
Just as it didn’t happen a moment ago.
Just as it didn’t happen before you can remember.
Nearly thirty steps in, my mind started to dart around once again, a reinvigorated ping pong ball bouncing on a fully enclosed spherical table inside my skull. "Was this a good time for this? Will they be mad? Did I mess up the space? This is probably taking too much time! They are all waiting to eat. They are all so hungry. I’m hungry myself. This is the last thing they want just now. To be waiting for me while I slowly move through this little maze of rocks. And now I can’t even see them. I can’t even turn around to try to read the thoughts behind their faces."
And then, a calmer voice, another player in my secret private game of bouncing phrases and flying single words: "You’re doing it now, you can’t turn back, you’re in the middle, you made the decision, something made it, something inside of you…so do it as best as you can.And keep on going. There is no stopping now. There is no stopping."
My hands were swinging, the air drifted through my curled fingers like soft kisses in the momentary resting point of a long uncertain journey, deep in the middle of the night when it seems that such a journey can never end (but it always does.) My left knee bent as my whole body prepared for the next step that was surely about to come. I turned the corners carefully, slowly, watching the ground as the outlined path turned back upon itself, watching it curl back to what I had already left behind, to the path of pale which seemed already so distant.
"This just keeps going!" I thought. I put my attention back on my feet. I felt my arcs stretch with the forward movement of heel to toe. The breeze touched me again and tousled my hair. The path was still there. Curving away ahead of me. Ahead and behind and both at once, blurring into a confusing knot where the future and the past twisted themselves around each other.
“Our language, our imagination, our projections, our world of symbols… they have all conspired to give us an image of Eternity as a really long time, a time so long that it might as well be forever, a time where actions stretch forward into an insistent periodic repetition without friction or decay… Eternity as the white washed heaven of the Christians, the gardens and virgins of the Muslims, the complex Bardo chambers of the Tibetans, the rising cosmic steps of the Gnostics, the monstrous and heroic houses of the witches, the many colored visions of the shamans, the fiery dungeons of the ancient and secret God Pan. All of these may in fact be real (or real enough that we may have the pleasure and pain of experiencing them for a very long time) but they are not the experience of Eternity. If something is happening, then it will stop happening eventually. If something some day stops happening, it will eventually come back. As surely as these words will one day disappear. As surely as these words were always written, long before I seemingly made them appear from nothingness onto a blank white page.”
When I first started on my journey, I had heard the voices of the three women on the outside. I was able to imagine how they saw me, how they might see me, how I may have looked from the distant places that were outside. I imagined their thoughts even if they were only my own projections. They kept talking among themselves and I felt safe in their neglect.
But when I was focusing on my feet, somewhere along the way, their voices had dropped away into a kind of strange silence, their voices which were known and unknown, their voices which were real and imaginary. The space was now profoundly quiet, except for the rustling of nearby leaves and the occasional car tires swishing on the asphalt of the road below. It was me and the labyrinth. Me and the elements. Me and my effort. Me and the path.
“But Eternity cannot begin and cannot end. It is not an extension of time. It is itself outside of time. Time cannot reach out to swallow it. It overcomes time and envelops it like an infinite snake that has transcended all restrictions. We are, you and me, right now, in the midst of Eternity, projecting images of illusory lifetimes onto a never changing Clear Void. And the void itself remains the same, no matter how much the illusion changes.
The longing for the experience of Eternity is a struggle that can never be completed. As long as there is a struggle, the goal has not been reached. But if the goal has not been reached, the struggle cannot end. And so, like Achilles, our work will always be just a hair short of the Eternal Turtle that moves just slightly out of our grasp. Ever so close. Ever so far.”
The rings were getting smaller. I turned corners more and more often until I suddenly reached the center which was both more than and less than I had imagined. In the small round heart was a mosaic stepping stone that had small stones and beads upon it. Signs that others had been here, signs that they wished to be remembered even if I would never know their names or their secret agendas.
I closed my eyes. I saw small sparks of electricity playing on the canvas of my eyelids. I raised my hands out to the sides, opening them wide.I then lifted them high above my head and finally brought both hands together in front of my chest. As if prayer. As if there was something there that would listen.
“In the deepest void within you, behind you eyes, behind your thoughts, behind your emotions, behind your secret wishes and desires, behind your bright nightmares and dark dreams, behind the twisting and gyrating thing that you think of as you without ever thinking about it, behind it all you have Eternity. Right now. Your experience of it relies on your ability to maintain your attention steady, to look inside and not be instantly repelled by the frightfulness of pure untouched Nothingness.”
Oooooommmmmm, the sound was not as pure as it has been, not as pure as it could be. I noticed that fact objectively and I held my attention on the sound and my diaphragm, even as the sound cracked slightly. I pulled my stomach in as my rounded mouth continued with the elongated vibration. I stood in the center, feeling the soft breeze, feeling the sun, hearing the sound of birds, feeling quiet, yet electrified and alive. My ego had fallen and I was overcome with a sense of lightness.
“There is a reason why we are here, why we move through time, why we play our parts in this infinitely complex labyrinth of time and space. There is a reason why things happen, why "we" happen as we are happening right now.
The reason is entrenched in that elusive experience of Eternity. When you enter into the heart of the Labyrinth, the inner circle that never changes, the secret chamber that never started and never can end, where there is no past and no future and no semblance of either… there you will understand the reason. It will be as clear as it ever was, as clear as it ever will be.”
My body turned back. I took a step, I raised my leg firmly like a soldier, placing it firmly on the ground. I took another step, a very short one on the tips of my toes. I slowly walked back through the rings, sometimes emphasizing the movement of my hips like a supermodel, other times walking erect and with a sense of formality. Other steps, I glided loosely as if I was about to grow wings from my back. I alternated between movements, improvising each like a chaotic dance with my attention as the thread of consistency. And the more I played, the more alive I felt. My smile increased the more I played and I shed more of myself upon the soil.
“This has happened a million times before.
This will happen a million times again.
You have experienced Eternity. Directly. And now you are here, in time. And the part of you that recoiled, the part of you that fell, the part of you that opened that door but only slightly, that part that saw the primordial union that cannot be seen, felt or heard, and ran away, afraid that it might have seen too much, afraid that the precious object of desire would never give it the compassionate pleasure of coming to an eventual stop...”
There was nothing else. My past was a distant part of my imagination, the future was never coming. There was only each single step and the thousands of movements which seamlessly created it . The labyrinth and I were playing. We were lovers in union. Dancers intertwined. Actors upon a stage. Beings in a living void.
“…that part of you knows why we perceive Time and why we imagine that there is a past and there is a future.
At the heart, right now, within you and without you, everything is still, quiet and outside of Time, beyond Time, around Time. Here in the innermost chamber we can truly say without any hesitation:
Nothing ever has happened
Nothing ever will happen.