It is 10/10/10 and I’m about to begin an attempt to fulfill a promise. In my explanation of why NoBullDharma.com I said that I wanted “to explore how far we can go in simplifying our decidedly complex lives”. I’m not sure what those words mean to you, but to me that amounts to an outrageous promise: to understand and explain how we can come to a place of indestructible peace, joy and happiness. WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?! In the past couple of years I’ve fractured my right calcaneus (don’t ever do this), survived surgery on the heel, had a heart attack, prostate cancer plus surgery (by a da Vinci Robot no less) and suffered the deepest chronic depression I’ve ever experienced, not to mention having over the years lost my mentor, both parents and numerous other essential people in my life. Surprisingly, I now find myself free of anxiety and fear, and constantly filled with the joy of life. Several times a day when I feel the slightest hint of worry, or when I realize that I’ve signed myself up for about 48 hours of work in every 24 hour period, I lift my eyes from my work, my vision expands to include everything around me, I smile and think “Oh right. I forgot. All life is a joy and there’s absolutely nothing to worry about”. So what in the world is going on? I believe I’m beginning to understand this but it’s nearly impossible to put into words. All I can say is that I am discovering a fundamental goodness that is in every human being, a richness that has often been described as Pure Gold, or as the clarity and indestructible quality of a Diamond. I like the metaphor of pure gold. It’s been estimated that all the gold that has ever been mined would form a cube only about 66 feet on a side. But if it were as plentiful as iron it would still be very useful. It does not corrode and is highly conductive of heat and electricity. It is so malleable that it can be pounded by hand into sheets a few millionths of an inch thick – gold leaf. As a bonus it is beautiful to look at.
There is a reason that words fail us, a catch-22, a conundrum. Any word we use only contains meaning if our listener or reader already knows what the meaning is. The words “airplane”, “symphony” or “strawberry” only have meaning if we already know what airplanes, symphonies and strawberries are. When we come to matters of spirituality, the words we use (including “spirituality”) are so infused with associations, half truths and misunderstandings – different for each one of us – that talking or writing about them seems almost hopeless. And if it drives you nuts when there’s too much New Age talk about “Peace Joy and Happiness”, I’m right with you, but I’ll address that in some future Clue. So what is the point of my using words which only have meaning if you already know the meaning? The point is that when it comes to this fundamental goodness and clarity, each one of us already does know it but we have simply forgotten. And the forgetting is perhaps worse than ever with all the distractions and confusions of life in the 21st Century replete with cynics – and I can out-cynic the best of them! Since I’m looking to express something that can’t possibly be pinned down and where words seem so inadequate, I’ve decided that all I can do is to find clues and post them here as best I may.
It turns out that our task is not to learn anything new but to be reminded of something we’ve forgotten. Each one of us must have, at least once in our lives, experienced a moment of peace, joy, contentment, happiness – whatever you want to call it – in which time ceased and there was no place to go, nothing to do, nothing to fear and no one to answer to. For me, one of these was lying in a hammock in the screened in porch of my Grandfather’s cabin overlooking Warner’s Lake in upstate New York, listening to the cool breeze whistling through the screens. When I look at this memory with precision, I realize that what I am remembering most is not the hammock or the blue sky or the sound of the wind, but the state of being completely awake – completely connected with that fundamental goodness, that Pure Gold. These flashbacks come in many forms and frequently consist of some insignificant act of kindness quickly tossed into the background of memory. In all my efforts to build a career, raise a family, learn to play the cello, build kayaks and paddle them, and a million other activities, it never occurred to me that these seemingly insignificant moments might be important clues to the path toward enlightenment, the search for meaning in life we have been struggling with for thousands of years. And I am just beginning to realize that the wisdom of ancient sages and mystics is available to all of us and is more and more being proven by hard science.
The path is not easy. It is strewn with debris and can often be disturbing and painful. But we will never know what might be found along the path without taking the first step. On this path the first step need be nothing more than to keep in mind that this Pure Gold, the indestructible Diamond in the heart, that Fundamental Goodness within each of us, is closer than the tip of our nose and that there are countless others eager to help us remember what we have forgotten. But I should warn you that when we do remember, we are in danger of bursting into a fit of laughter when we see the trick we have played on ourselves.
Next Clue: The Story of Aaliyah