“We are spiritual beings having a human experience”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Lately I’ve been pondering the seeming contradiction between being already perfect as I am, and setting heartfelt intentions looking forward to being an improved me. How can those two things co-exist? I’ve found the metaphor of the cross really helpful in grappling with this. Understanding that my ‘life situation’ (as Eckhart Tolle refers to it) is the horizontal plane. Visualise a cross with everything left of the intersection being the past and everything to the right being the future and our ‘life situation’ being the stream that runs horizontally along this axis. It is very easy to think that that’s all there is and to just be perpetually running on this plane, a linear progression through time from birth through to death. But, is there something else? What of the vertical axis? What is there when we interrupt that continuous stream, take a pause. When it is not past and not future? Isn’t it just really passive to accept things as they are rather than driving for change, improvement?
The present moment as a place to rest
In mindfulness we teach that the present moment is the place to rest our attention to find peace and relief from stress, anxiety and any other unpleasant experience that we need respite from. The here and now – where it all happens! Think about it. It has been ‘now’, when absolutely everything that has ever happened, has happened. Lots of things will happen tomorrow, but it will be ‘now’ when they do. Kinda does your head in doesn’t it? And, to the conceptual mind, it just doesn’t make any sense. However, once you start to recognise this, giving the past or the future any credence (other than recognising the past as a memory that did happen, but isn’t happening now, and the future as a fantasy that may or may not happen) is a complete waste of this one precious moment we live in.
The vertical plane
When we touch the vertical plane, the present moment, we’re really in touch with life – not just the story of our life situation that continually sees the future through the lens of what has happened in the past. The actual life force that sustains you, animates you. If you stop, you can feel into it. That quiet hum of the force that sustains you, so quiet that it’s very easy to miss or completely take for granted and not notice at all. A kind of no-thing-ness like the space in a room that fills the room and makes it what it is. Not an object, but a presence.
When we start to know the vertical plane, as well as the horizontal, it can guide and inform us. It’s the place within us that is unchanged by all of the movements of life. It is where our dreams and aspirations spring from to become manifest in this world. There are lots of words to describe feeling into the vertical stream; heart space, life force, presence, peace that passes understanding. All of these words are just pointers, so you can choose the pointer that works for you. The pointer doesn’t matter. Knowing yourself as ‘this’ (as well as your ‘life situation’) does.
Feeling into our heartfelt desire
In iRest® we offer various ways to touch this. One of them is feeling into our heartfelt desire; the things we love, our unique contribution, what motivates us, what drives us. It comes from the inside. On the horizontal plane of our ‘life situation’ we are running on our conditioning, whether it’s from our family or culture or from some other past that has left an impression that we can’t access any memory of. We tend to overlay the past onto the future; worrying, planning, regretting, remembering. Our ‘life situation’ is real enough, but it exists in concepts, concepts that we’ve used to navigate life to this point.
In meditation or mindfulness we are wanting to access what is beyond concepts, beyond our conditioning. We can find a pathway that works for us. The breath, the sensations in the inner body, the sense perceptions are all doorways. When we stay with any of these we step out of the horizontal plane and open ourselves to the vertical. The more we practice, the more easily we can feel from that source of life and discover how life wants to live through us in our ‘life situation’.
In the vertical plane, the here and now, everything is already complete and whole and untouched by the vicissitudes of life. It is always here supporting us. It has always been here, but it is in the noticing that we can really invite that freedom into our life – consciously referring to the timeless within the stream of our time-bound life.
We are both, the timeless and the time-bound expression of life
We are both, the timeless and the time-bound expression of life. The horizontal plane, our ‘life situation’ – which begins at birth and ends when we die – is where we get to create, to bring in what comes from the vertical into the world of form. Our response to the present moment is where we can change our future. It is our point of power. We can’t access it if we’re lost in our thoughts about the past and the future and missing what is here. Memories and plans are useful reference points, but neither of them are where we can transform our lives.
When we feel into our heart’s deepest longing or explore our sense of purpose we are enquiring into our timeless nature to see how it wants to be expressed in our ‘life situation’. Life is always changing and through this enquiry we get to influence the ongoing changes from what is beyond our conditioning, beyond what we already know. In the present we can bring something new and unique into the world. Our very own unique expression of life. We touch into what is already perfect within us to allow it to shine through in our lives and benefit the lives of others.
There is really only one moment
If you consider that there is really only one moment (it is always now) and what is in it is always changing. We want those changes to be informed by our peace and wholeness and bring it into being, rather some recurring pattern that we can’t escape from. The Course in Miracles calls this ‘the Holy Instant’. So that our ‘life situation’ can be the beautiful creative stream that we want it to be and we can live our lives to our fullest potential rather than being limited by our conditioning, what we have known or experienced or are yet to resolve.
Time and space are our opportunity to really come to know the fullness of who we are even though, we are already that. We can use time as a doorway into the timeless and let it shine into the world.
This poem from Steve Taylor sums it up nicely:
There’s more to this than you realize.
You’re part of a project that’s too vast for you to comprehend.
The impulses that guide your life
Don’t come from you, but through you –
You’re a channel, not the source.
But the impulses aren’t flowing through you clearly –
You’ve let the channel become obstructed by you self-doubt and fear.
So the force has been diluted, the message has been distorted,
and the river that should be rushing through you
is a halting, stuttering stream.
But this project is too important to interfere with.
There’s too much at stake to stand in its way –
to be distracted by your own fears and desires
to be afraid of failure or wary of success
to worry about looking foolish or losing face
to wonder who’s watching you and what they might be thinking
and be discouraged if no one seems to be watching at all
or frustrated if they don’t seem to understand.
It’s enough to do what you’re meant to do
to express what you’re meant to express
without evaluating your effect
or considering results or reactions.
There’s too much at stake for you to become
anything less than who you were meant to be,
to leave the smallest part of your potential unfulfilled
or the smallest piece of your message unsaid.
This is the time to be fearless
so that the force can flow through you freely.
This is the time to be empty
so that the source can fill you completely.
This is the time to step aside
and let the project unfold through you.