THE END OF MY LIFE, AND THE BEGINNING OF LIFE AS ITSELF
Like most people, I used to meet life with fear. However seemingly loved I was in my relationships or however seemingly successful I was in my academic career, I carried a gaping hole of emptiness like a hungry ghost that demanded to be filled with something. This “something” was sometimes food or pretty dresses, and at other times it was the accumulation of knowledge (initially scientific knowledge and later on spiritual knowledge) or the sense of hope that came from reading self-help books. Of course, none of that alleviated the inner discomfort and eventually it became so unbearable that I wanted to die. I believed it was a physical death that would solve the problem of my human existence, and I attempted suicide several times.
It took me many years to acknowledge that the cause of my pain was the unloved feelings I had buried under a mountain of denial. Rage, shame, hurt, grief ... they were all knocking on the door of my heart but for a long time I refused to listen, preferring to take refuge in the ivory tower of my mind. Eventually the dam had to break and my perfectly constructed inner (and outer) world fell apart. It was the beginning of a long journey of unraveling identity, welcoming all feelings, and opening to the aliveness of the present moment.
Many years later, on one ordinary day, an existential void — an unfathomable aloneness — arose from deep within and filled me with an overwhelming terror. By grace or by luck — or perhaps it was all the previous years of dancing on the edges of surrender — I didn’t do what I usually did when faced with an unbearable feeling of abandonment or powerlessness. I didn’t employ any mental acrobatics to avoid the impending sense of doom. I didn’t clamber for a way out: I simply stayed exactly where I was.
In that instant of my mind standing still, I felt myself reduced to an infinitesimal pin-prick in the vastness of existence. And right there — in the midst of the abject horror of an inevitable annihilation of my self (the “me” I thought myself to be) — I vanished into an eternal nothingness. Unexpectedly, this emptiness revealed itself to be the same as an alive fullness, and when I regained my senses in the next instant, I found that all resistance had fallen away — I had fallen into the infinite openness of this moment. It was the end of “my life” and the beginning of life as it is. Just this. Life as itself.
From that moment on, there has been an inner silence — an openness that meets both sky and clouds equally and allows a deep listening to what is essential.
This deep listening is available to you, too, in the midst of your ordinary life — whatever your circumstances and wherever you are on your personal journey of spiritual unfoldment. It is available to you when meet this moment with curiosity instead of conclusion, when you welcome your feelings into the softness of your heart, and when you slow down enough to allow silent awareness to reveal itself to you.
The dissolution of the tight knot of ego doesn’t necessarily happen in one fell swoop. It is more likely to be a gradual process of unfoldment — a weaving in and out of the open spaciousness of being and an often indiscernible erosion of resistance to what is. Your journey of awakening is unique and is unlikely to look like mine — there is no path but the path you are walking. But wherever you are on this path and whatever your circumstances, in every moment the freedom of openness is available. And the personal and global crises we experience in today’s world offer a potent opportunity to turn our allegiance from the war with reality to the silent awareness that is always here.
I invite you to fall open, even when your world is falling apart.
(from the book "Falling Open in a World Falling Apart")