Separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross, gently and with unremitting care.
- The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus
Esteemed Reader of our Magazine:
Watching quietly, anticipating nothing, my body is inert but filled with a peculiar presence. I watch myself typing these words - feel the sensations present in my limbs and trunk, sense the cool air caress the skin of my face and hands. I perceive the impressions of light, and attendant shapes, colors, and values appear on the screen of my mind. I feel the shake and rattle of anvil and stirrup as the vibrations carried in the medium of air address the mechanism that transmits the sense of sound.
Looking further I observe the flow of thought-forms and concepts at work as my mind finds its way to articulate in words this experience of embodiment. And I ("I", in this case, being the one who watches) view the flow of a rarefied current through my chest and solar plexus - even into my throat - that is emotion. It is a bright feeling that is present, one of aliveness responding to the brightness of the day, the clear sky with shreds of vapory cloud gliding at an almost imperceptible pace between horizons.
I remain receptive but unencumbered as each moment delivers a fresh and refreshing cargo of impressions. They arrive. I receive and let go, making space for the new, beginning again to hear the bird song that seems to celebrate the void of silence into which it pours; receiving the impression of a tree, and the leaves showing so many shades of green, each leaf moving independently, but together, the whole tree dancing to the rhythm of the wind, itself in concert with the surrounding forest.
Recognizing a state of poise, I seek sustenance in a full pause, a ceasing of all inner and outer action, that I may go deeper into witnessing the unfolding of the infinite richness of this space/time that constantly renews itself. And I feel its enduring availability: Life is presenting itself to me even when I become absent and retreat into a dream of later or yesterday. And I notice a feeling of gratitude arise for this abundance, which is always present even when I am not. With this comes its concomitant - a fleeting remorse that I am so often absent, that I close my doors of perception and wallow in a private dream of who I am and what it is. But this too is released and replaced with a question: Is there a way to simply be, without any hint of doing?
Listening to sound overlaying a much larger silence, seeing the movement upon a majestic stillness, like small wind-blown waves on the pond's surface, which at its depth is eminently untroubled, I become aware of new connections. I feel a link by gossamer but highly conductive threads between that stillness in myself and the same stillness outside. The threads convey the stuff of relationship. Not abstract relationship, but direct, sensitive relating to the source of all these impressions - to that in the trees and grass, in the pond's water and its extended family of smallish trout, in the big old snapping turtle that pokes his nose out of the water and warms his shell floating near the surface (the same old snapper that I sometimes see crossing the driveway as I hurriedly drive to work - I can tell by his markings); in the woman in the house making lunch, who carries a child in her womb, and in that child, who revealed his name to me last night in a dream; and beyond, in the seething, breathing life of men, animals, and plants that are ever being born, living, dying, and moving over this celestial body; and still further beyond, though attenuated, in the flawless and fierce being that is the sun, and in the moon, the great weight on the pendulum of the earth, who assigns tidal rhythm and the method to humanity's madness.
In this web of relationship I sense another reality - one infinitely more real and more encompassing than the mundane mode of acquisition and effect, with much larger (but encompassing) considerations than any of the preformed realms, including those of politics, economics, or spirituality. And I sense that this is the Reality to be served. Again, a pause.
Life loves Life. It is the unsurpassable will of the universal vital force to be unified, that I conduct in these moments of presence. I (the one in me who watches) become the agent by which Life within the instrument of my body-heart-mind reunites with the Life of the world. This is what it means to serve the larger reality. Truly this is what Yeats meant when he wrote "the only thing God requires of even the highest soul is attention."
But what is there to ensure that this attention will survive into the next moment?
Nothing. There is no guarantee, no laurels upon which to rest. And so I renew the effort, again, and again.
- Jason Stern