From time to time, I find myself in another world. This is a paradox because everything is different and also the same. The effect is one of removing dark glasses I hadn't realized I was wearing. What had been shrouded in gloom and vagary becomes luminous and detailed. Arriving there is like passing through a wardrobe into Narnia, except Narnia is here.
This other world feels like what is meant by Paradise. I always want to be there, and I am ceaselessly seeking the way. Most attempts lead to dead-ends, and sometimes a way opens. I know that other world is where my heart is, and my heart is always calling me there.
What follows is an attempt to identify some of the signs, efforts, and conditions that seem to lead to that larger world by repeating a phrase in the mode of inquiry.
I inhabit a larger world when I notice things. I notice the shape and texture of objects, their provenance even, and I notice the space between objects. It is as though this larger world is actually three-dimensional, while the usual experience is a software-interpolated simulacrum of space.
I inhabit a larger world when I really see the faces of other people. I hear a person's voice. I notice the color of her eyes and the lively consciousness behind her eyes. In this other world, I am curious about the state of others, what is at work in them, what is unfolding in their being, and even if I've beheld the person a thousand times, I see her as though for the first time.
I inhabit a larger world when I drink in impressions and feel sated. I am nourished by contact with sight, hearing, breath, body, that continuously flow into my consciousness. This contact invites my heart to respond and find implicit meaning. In such moments, I feel full to overflowing, wealthy with the abundance of each succeeding moment.
I inhabit a larger world when I notice and accept my state precisely as it is, pleasant or unpleasant, joyous or suffering. In the inner state is a whole matrix of information: the tension in my shoulders, the subtle vibration of feeling in my chest, the interest, thoughts, and discernments of my mind. I see that this inner life is continuously morphing, changing like weather, sometimes very fast. There is a drama in this unfolding, like a fast-motion image of the horizon with sun and moon rising and setting, starry night replaced by day, clouds gathering and dispersing and finally revealing spacious open sky.
I inhabit a larger world when I hear the sounds of the world. In this noticing, I hear not only particular sounds like the voice of the person who's speaking, but also ambient sounds like the birds or traffic outside. It all plays together synesthetically like the texture of water flowing over stones. This contextual soundscape reconciles and harmonizes subject and object—myself and the task at hand.
I inhabit a larger world when I don't shrink from suffering. When I feel slighted or ashamed, insulted, or resentful and I am graced to find an opening to be present in the state as it is. I understand the logic of the reaction, the way it tenses and pains my body, the adrenaline it sends coursing through my chest, belly, and solar plexus, and even the ideas about "me" and "mine" that have collided with reality. It is in these moments that I understand I am meant to be a processor of a great suffering, that happens to be mine to process in that moment.
I inhabit a larger world when my opinions seem to be in opposition with the opinions of others, and I recognize that my opinions are simply thoughts. I become light enough to float off the opinion I was clinging to, and free to think or not to think; or to entertain a divergent opinion and try it on like the pair of shoes belonging to the person who holds it. Here the opinion's logic, basis in experience, and combinant emotional state come into focus. I recognize that in that larger world it is impossible to both understand someone and also disagree with him. The feeling that arises in connection with this understanding is compassion.
A sign at the gate of the larger world reads "Nobody allowed here." To the ordinary self, "me", this is a clear dead-end, and "me" continues seeking its Paradise through satisfaction of preferences and desires, self-promotion and aggrandizement, and by manipulating others to get its way.
To a subtler self, the sign "Nobody allowed here" is a clear invitation to enter Paradise. It is an invitation to be Nobody.