“Though the bamboo forest is dense, water flows through it freely.”
~ Zen Proverb
Within the density of being intimate with what is heavy, lies an understanding of nutrients—that within releasing ourselves amongst the grindings of an apparent impasse, looms the prospect of a simple and profound transformation.
Traveling through our darkest inner stretches along the journey allows us to reclaim the scope of our inner territory, and so, we step more fully into the experience that is with us now. Life moves during darkness too, in the same way that it flows when we are walking with the light and this realization alone is enough to alter our being in the world.
The rule that our afflictions, however intense, do not change vastness even when we are convinced that the world is falling apart—and it usually isn’t—opens us to remain present through the ceaseless waves. The cream colored couch is still cream though it may be stained, and the sun rises and sets as it normally does, filling in the morning hours with sorbet colored skies and plunging into the sea in the evening.
Coming to terms with density, we look up to see the stars at night—Andromeda spinning through its two hundred million year cycle and the owl landing softly, silently in the redwood grove. It takes time, but when we come out of the seemingly impenetrable darkness of our lives after paying our respects to the neglected, we find that life flows through density freely and that the ways of the great background that holds our little foregrounds remains unchanged; vastness remains vastness, and the driving current of manifestation remains the current. Though some point to political races or reaching the highest rungs of a career ladder, this touching of the background during our darkest times is what I think of as freedom—claiming our inner territory within to be with the reality that encapsulates us.
Wading through darkness and density and coming out onto a new shoreline, the lightness becomes that much more palpable and fresh. Breezes billow and voluminous clouds catch and radiate the afternoon’s deepening hues, caressing our hearts and melting down any notions that we are somehow separate from the life that surrounds us.
An old Japanese Zen poet and teacher described his experience of opening and connection like this:
“The temple bell stops but I still hear the sound coming out of the flowers.”
Stepping through what is dark and relinquishing control to be with what presents itself within the mind and the world brings out the stark brilliance of life—the one that isn’t in books or the imagery of Zen poets, but the one that is here, within the direct moment-to-moment experience of our lives.
The emphatic quality of “thusness” that surrounds objects and emanates from their empty core as Buddha referred to it, breaks down our walls to reveal a luscious reverence for the moment. Like biting into a dripping watermelon on a sweltering mid-summer evening or leaping into a clear mountainside watering hole, the vibrant manifestations of life take us in and we, seeing the world with new eyes and an opening mind, smile at the natural mysticism of it all.
Entering the darkness of the unknown and claiming our inner regions is a deep part of the journey, a process that plays out time and again over the course of our lives.
Spiritually speaking, our human mind is the doorway to life. How open we are to the rawness of the moment determines our relationship with reality and the unknown wilderness we move through. As we descend, clear out the past and sit more deeply with the present, the awesomeness of the background comes to claim us and we are more ready and able to allow this fundamental switch to take place.
You might feel one day that the encroaching fog line sustains you, and that the reverberating sounds of chirps and cars is all part of a ceaseless orchestra. Unpeeling our layers of ego, the overarching background nourishes us through the days and the nights we encounter.
Editor: Brianna Bemel
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