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Transparency

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  (I Cor. 13:12)

I awoke one night some years ago and realized it wasn't "me" who was awake.  I touched my face, my chest, my neck, to make sure there was indeed someone there.  However, I had lost all sense of an inside or an outside to my body.  There was no separation between my body and the bed I was lying in or my wife lying next to me in the dark or the sounds of the night.  Thoughts came to mind without seeming to belong to anyone.  Beneath the thoughts, beneath the breathing, in the place I might once have considered the center of my being, there appeared to be nothing at all.  It briefly occurred to me that I should be afraid, but there was not enough "me" at that point to entertain fearful thoughts.  There was only vast relief at being rid of me. 

This sense of being unoccupied persisted for several days.  There was no longer anything to strive for; I was content to be carried along by the currents of life.  My heart opened up to embrace every circumstance.  I discovered when you surrender completely to what is, life comes together in a seamless whole.  Everything is clear; everything is meaningful.  Every conversation, every newspaper headline, every advertising jingle seems to come from a single source.  You feel yourself guided effortlessly along from moment to moment.

This feeling did not last.  Opening your heart to every circumstance in life can be exhausting.  There were times I felt as if my heart were breaking, and at other times I noticed a dull ache.  I began to get a little spooked.  After a few days I decided this was all getting to be a bit much.  I lay down for a nap on a Sunday afternoon, hoping that when I awoke I would be more like my old self.  I was.  There was still a warm glow to everything.  But apart from a certain lightness, a certain transparency, a heightened sense of things, I was able to go about my business much as I had before.

In the weeks and months that followed, my self would come and go without explanation.  Losing your self, I discovered, is not the same as losing your car keys.  With your car keys, you at least know what you are looking for.  When your self goes missing, there is nothing you can point to.  Outwardly, everything remains the same.  There is still a living, breathing being who answers when his name is called.  There are still thoughts and feelings; they just don't appear to belong to anyone.

At first I concluded the self must be an illusion, but if so, it was an unusually persistent one.  I now think the self has many of the same properties as glass.  Glass appears to be a solid but in fact is a highly viscous fluid.  Instead of a tight latticework molecular structure characteristic of most solids, glass is made up of loosely spaced atoms that are permeable to light.  Similarly, the self appears to have the fixed characteristics of a solid but in reality is highly fluid.  If it is allowed to flow freely, you can see right through it. 

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