Walking down Cecil Street on my way to work this morning, my mind is scattered like old newspapers in the September wind. Still asleep, I spill out over the familiar neighborhood, forgetting who and where I am. Suddenly unannounced, like a surprise phone call from my mother, there is a subtle shift in my awareness, like a door that has opened slightly, revealing a small strand of light. Magically, an inner space appears. From here, I watch thoughts roar past and, paying no attention to them, they dissolve into a white canvas.
“In the world but not of it,” I think to myself, and like a drunken magician that pulls away the tablecloth and all the dishes crash onto the floor, the awareness disappears.
I spend the majority of my life being continually swept along by the natural current of both outer and inner circumstances. I call this my life. If I am lucky enough, I remember to make an effort to go against this current. As the river of life rushes past, taking me along with it, I try to grab onto a branch to avoid being swept out to sea. For a moment I realize that I am not just this whirling world of mind. There is something else here and maybe, for a few seconds, I am not entirely lost.
All spiritual teachings speak of an inner quiet or silence. How can I simply observe whatever is taking place in and around me without manipulating anything. Can I find a place in myself from where I am able to observe from, like Christopher Isherwood said when he describes that he is, “a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.”
Pictured: Rhys Logan, Starry Sky, Washington, September 18, 2010 courtesy of National Geographic.