Take a look at this. It appears to be a photograph taken by a photographer standing (or maybe kneeling) inside that house looking through the windows at the sky and ocean at a particular moment in time. But since it’s actually a photograph of a painting created by an artist who was presumably (although not necessarily) standing inside that house at a different moment or moments, within this picture both the consciousness of the photographer and the artist and each of their perspectives and moments are present at once.
I love this photo because it helps me remember to maintain perspective. Sometimes I forget this and become caught up in my own nonsense. I suspect you do too. The photograph of the painting reminds me that suffering binds us up in our own egos, as mine did spectacularly when I was so bereaved over the loss of my son, even now occasionally when I get depressed, mostly over egocentric things like ambition, failure, success, etc. The painting reminds me that even though each of us lives inside our little lives, bound by our egos and our particular place and time, we are all are a part of the sand of a vast universe of which we are absolutely integral and which is also utterly indifferent to us. How do I know this? I’m not a religious person, and in fact I loath so much of religion, feel it’s responsible for much of the trauma that occurs on our planet, and recoil in horror when governments allow or promote faith over science. (I always wonder why would God give humans these big brains with which we could eventually discover, measure, and categorize the universe in scientific ways, and then want us to ignore or discount all we’ve learned in favor of what humans believed by “faith” before there was science. Makes no sense to me.)
And yet, I have actually had several transcendent moments in my life. One occurred when I was writing. I was sitting at my desk working on my third novel, the one that means so much to me, because I believe that writing it, the process of writing it, saved my life after losing my son, yanked me from the prison of my own suffering ego. I was struggling mightily with plot and character, and with the idea that I could never write a novel about a woman recovering from grief over the loss of her son since a woman who loses a child never “recovers.”
Suddenly I felt as if time had slowed to a virtual crawl, almost stopped. I could hear the ticking of the clock, and see every corner of my office and item on my desk, and then all at once I felt as if I had separated from my body, moved beyond my office and my desk, and yet I was simultaneously sitting there, inside my body and my own consciousness, listening to my clock ticking, and also looking at myself from outside my body, from someplace else and everyplace else, and from both inside and outside every other consciousness in the universe that has existed or will exist. A feeling of complete calm and knowing came upon me. It was as if I had transcended the boundary of my own ego and achieved God consciousness. Some might say I was having a breakdown. Maybe I was.
Yet that was the moment when the whole plot of my novel emerged. I had been suffering with grief for years, then suffering to write a novel about that grief for many years after that. The “ghost” of the novel, who is kind of a personification of the psychological process of grief, came to me in that moment of transcendence. The ghost (or demon, really) would pose all the ego-laden questions to the horribly suffering mother that any bereaved mother asks herself, all the questions I had been asking myself for years, the where did I go wrong, what did I do to deserve this, am I going crazy, questions. He would engage her in a kind of review of her life, mock her place in the world, her right to be here, her sanity; he would mock all, just as I had been doing in missing my boy, wondering whose fault it was, and hating myself and everyone else, and the universe that would do such a thing to me, in fact. All grief, all suffering, all of it, is bound up in “I” –the ego. But from that moment on…well, it was as if I was channeling the ghost and his dialogue. It was as if both he and his dialogue had already existed somewhere in the universe, along with everything else that exists, will exist, or has ever existed. It was as if my transcendent moment–and it was only a moment–had allowed me somehow to gain access to him, and this access took me relatively swiftly to the completion of the book. Which vastly decreased my suffering.
When we detach from our suffering egos, we become calm and the path and the way becomes clear.