The Human Quest, Jan-Feb 2000, page 14.
"A Garlic Clove, For Example, On A Thursday Morning"
This morning, the way I turned a garlic clove while slicing it, suddenly filled me with a thrill, as if the vast exuberance of life itself resided in the tiny motion. For the brevity of one single instant I was replete with meaning and newness -- made like a child again in awe and wonder. Then -- even as I was still reeling from the flash -- it was gone. The instant had passed. I was back to just slicing a garlic clove.
Such unexpected explosions of joy and truth as can punctuate our smallest act provide a hint of what this business is all about of maintaining a daily spiritual practice like meditation, tai chi or yoga. After several years, we begin to get glimpses. An awareness grows and one day we are startled to notice one tiny instant in a way that does it some measure of justice.
A little hole, a rip, a tear, punctuates the veil we have drawn between us and the world and that shields us from its ever-present and scintillating truth and beauty. A bit of light gets through -- light always there but that we don't see; are not open to receive because of the veil we cover ourselves with.
Is it any wonder, when we begin to have these first experiences, that we want to rip the whole damn veil down? When we see for ourselves what real magic each tiny instant can have, we don't need anything more to get our thrills. The simplest, the most basic little thing does fine -- more than suffices -- a garlic clove, for example, on a Thursday morning.
The value of simple living and a modest livelihood is this, that it brings us closer to the possibility of realizing what is true. Getting rid of so many superfluities makes it easier to experience what is real and what isn't. The truth jumps out at us, stares us in the face, the moment we quit giving ourselves over to lesser considerations.
We don't seek these epiphanies. They seek us. We don't know what to make of them. They inform us instead what to make of everything else. We don't need to extend them. They extend us, outside of time into eternal being -- even if only for an instant.
What's amazing isn't that we can experience this sort of thing. Look into the face of any small child. It is a human trait -- this beauteous attunement to delight in the ordinary. The amazing thing, really, is that it could ever vanish -- that life could ever go as flat as it has. We buy into this, we buy into that -- never imagining that the capacity to experience joy itself could ever be bargained away. We make ourselves poor by trying to get so much.
Joy is so much stronger and so much more authentically resplendent when it doesn't require some flashy or trendy or expensive external pretext. It comes on anyway without one. It will seize anything as sufficient cause. This magic cannot be bought. It cannot be sold. It's not for sale. No wonder so much of our economy is blind to it. In this sense, a large part of the economy is not real. It does not recognize the value of what is primary, everywhere available. Indeed, it bargains this away for things that don't matter.
We only have to vanish for an instant as we know ourselves, to be overwhelmed by a much larger truth. We feel so much more alive when those parts of us that don't matter just slough off, slide away somewhere for a split second, and leave us free and unencumbered -- open to feel what and who we really are.
The veil that separates us from reality is our conditioning. When that which we are conditioned to limit ourselves to escapes of its own accord for just the wink of an eye, then we feel not a lessening, not a constriction of self, but an explosion -- a magnanimous widening into vastness. All things are our being and for an instant we can happen to experience, by some wonder we will certainly never understand, what and who we really are.
Because of the many tiny experiences like this one with the garlic and different from it that strike intermittently like sparks week in and week out, we are made more real. It's not that we possess anything, or have got something. No. It's not like that. It's inching closer and closer to the wonder that right here, right now, the rarest of miracles is revealing itself to us.
We become permeable, more and more, to delight.