I was lying alone on the huge sofa in the living room of my boss. He was overseas doing what Shamans do and I was taking care of his house and looking after the business. I had built a fire in the huge hearth and, as he had no television, had been listening to Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. The CD had finished some time before and night had fallen but I had been too busy staring at the theatre of fire to notice. It was so quiet. I became gradually, dreamily aware of a strange sensation growing within me. It was unfamiliar and yet not entirely so. I felt calm in a way that I had never experienced before and yet I knew this place or at least, I did once. This vast stillness expanded inside me until I knew only peace, only safety. I felt as if I were lying below the surface of a fast moving river. The surface of the river was covered in dead trees, leaves, debris from the banks and fields around it and I had a strong sense of knowing that life was like that debris. Lifes troubles, struggles and woes were like the flotsam that floats on the surface of the water but our truest nature, our deepest self was like the current that moves strongly but slowly beneath the surface. I knew in that moment that no matter what my life held, no matter what unhappiness I felt pulling at my heart and mind, if I could just remember this feeling of being held safely in the strong, slow pull of the deeper current of my life, all would be well. It was as if a voice had spoken to me from deep within that silence and stillness and said simply,’This is truth. Remember it.’
I’ll never forget that experience because it is a place I long to revisit. I had never before and, even more sadly, have never since, felt that peace, that simple reassuring stillness in which I lay that night. Maybe I have simply never been that still since. I know that I am someone who finds it hard to be quiet, I move almost as ceaselessly as I talk. Even when my body is still, my mind is burrowing into ideas, issues and problems like a fat childs hand into a candy jar. I never really stop. Hell, most of the time I never even slow down. I throw myself into bed at night like a big man might throw a dodgy hitcher out of his still moving car. There is no stillness apparent. Yet I know it’s there – not even out of reach just out of mind. And, even more frustratingly, I can often feel it hovering on the edge of my consciousness whispering to me, ‘Slow down, be present and feel the hard edges of life melting away. Just flow on down stream.’
What was most magical of all about that night was the ease in which I found myself there. There were no months spent meditating, no soul-grating suffering in order to achieve a place of mindfulness which comes before peace, no tearing apart of the fabric of my reality in order that I might find ‘truth’. There had been nothing out of the ordinary happening in my busy life except coming to terms with the ending of yet another unsuitable relationship and my tussling with the feelings that accompanied that. If anything, that should have really kept me way off centre and far away from any experience of peace. And yet, doesn’t Rumi talk about that ‘broken open place’ within us and how through simply being with that experience, that rawness of spirit, we might reach God. Certainly, I have learned more about myself when I have been split apart by life, alone and sorrowing into the darkness, than I have by attending any number of workshops designed to enlighten me. All I know is that despite myself, my never ending mind chatter, my ceaselss, restless spirit – I attained a state of grace that night and felt safer in my life than I had ever felt before. There was a feeling of inexplicable happiness that accompanied it all. Not the jump for joy, wave fist in the air type of happiness like one might find on a tv commercial for tampons, it was like the smile of the Mona Lisa – mysterious, yet no less heart expanding.
I think it must have been listening to Oriah Mountain Dreamers ‘The Call’ again that brought it to mind again. The idea of surrendering oneself to the stillness and the silence at the heart of life. Of actively listening but without trying. Of becoming with all that ‘trying’ to change. In this place of grace I am loved and accepted, exactly as I am, with all my armour on, with my head a mess and my heart jagged and sore. I didn’t have to be anything other than myself and I got there by being just that – me. The challenge is in remembering to be present IN the present. In remembering that ‘doing’ often prevents us from ‘being’ and in following the thread of our breath, in and out, until we find ourselves lost in the beauty of an open fire and, ultimately, found again.
May stillness fall softly into your hearts like snow and stay there long enough for you to make snow angels.