What would happen if, in the midst of our everyday lives, we suddenly had a lightbulb moment of how incredibly rich and beautiful and amazing our lives are? We’re so often caught up in our heads about what we need to get done or who needs to be taken care of or what we think we need otherwise we’ll fail miserably. But what if we could zoom out of our everyday perspective and really see what was going on?
Recently, I decided to set aside some time every morning to write, in longhand, according to a method called Morning Pages developed by Julia Cameron (of The Artist’s Way fame). First thing in the morning, sit down to write (in longhand) on three 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper. Just to get your thoughts out of your head, and who knows, perhaps discover some little gem hidden among the words in the same way I might discover a lost earring caught in the fringe of a rug.
After several days of putting pen to paper, I realized I was just fine without having an idea of what I wanted to write about. I had begun writing with the annoying assumption that I had nothing to say, that this was just a brain dump to clear my mind. It was that, but I made an amazing discovery. I learned that all I needed to do was start and an idea (at least one!) would make itself known.
How amazing! I didn’t need to know in advance what the outcome was going to be. All I had to do was point myself in a direct and begin and the way would make itself known.
For someone who’s a recovering perfectionist and former believer in figuring-everything-out-in-advance, this realization was transformative. This writing project showed me that I had everything I needed (or would need to find) in order to accomplish whatever I set out to accomplish, and not just with writing. Yes, it was important to know approximately what I wanted the end result to be, but I didn’t need to plan everything out in advance or know every step that needed to be taken. And this meant I could go into every task I set for myself in a relaxed and open way rather than believing I needed to anticipate every next step.
A few days ago, I went from being on relatively automatic pilot as I was writing and suddenly something shifted in my awareness and I saw my hand moving along the paper, holding a pen from which blue ink emerged and formed words. It was no longer something I was taking for granted, that of course my hand was moving along holding a pen. I was struck with what a miracle it is that humans can write. And that humans can think! And that we have the capacity to learn language and somehow, we can take words and make scratches on paper and that language is made visible. Albert Einstein’s words popped into my head:
“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Everything is a miracle! And how often, out of habit, I don’t see it. For long periods of each day I take my life for granted.There’s a vague sort of gratitude in the background but in those moments where something happens and I see what I actually have in my life, I’m floored. If I were to stop every time I saw something that appears as if by magic and yet is actually the result of the efforts of so many other people and forces in nature, I’d probably remain indefinitely in a blissful stupor. As I look around my room, there is nothing here that isn’t a result of some one or some thing that has contributed to it’s existence. Not a single thing. Paper, pen, light bulb, calculator, book, cup of tea, computer, shoes, you name it. Everything came from somewhere or someone else.
Einstein goes on to say that we live in a world that’s a kind of optical delusion, created by a level of consciousness that makes it appear as though our experience is separate from the rest of the Universe. He refers to this level of consciousness as a prison that keeps us locked into our personal desires within what we perceive as our immediate and limited circumstances. We’re unable to see that we’re part of a whole; part of the whole Universe, in fact. And the Universe is one big miracle.
What I see as our saving grace is the fact that our level of consciousness can and does change. It happens all the time, frequently without our having done anything specific to make it happen. Take that morning a few days ago. I was literally stopped in the middle of a sentence (or what I assumed would be a sentence) when I noticed words appearing on the page. I saw them, almost as if for the first time! I saw the deep blue color of the ink, the slant of the writing, the lined notebook paper with its three punched holes and thin red line suggesting I confine my writing to a certain part of the page. I saw my fingers with their painted red fingernails and felt the weight of the pen, remembering how once I read that to make good calligraphy, one should hold the pen as lightly as if holding a butterfly.
We can play a part in changing our level of consciousness, simply by being willing. And this willingness can change our perspective on our entire lives. We don’t even have to stop what we’re doing to have this happen. I was just chugging along, writing on the page and suddenly, from “out of the blue” something happened. Gratitude happened, too; not a forced effort because I was “supposed to”. That intervention of wonder, of delight, of amazement that happens when we're open and willing (but not forcing) makes it possible for that Moment of Awareness to occur. We get a glimpse of a world of unspeakable mystery and beauty that we live in all the time, made possible by a forcer much grander and wiser than our pea brains can fathom. And yet, our minds are penetrated by a single thought. Look! What is! It’s happening to us and through us (and for us, as Byron Katie would say)! We cannot not be a part of it. Your hand cannot be a part of your body. Your thoughts cannot appear without your consciousness. It’s staggering and commonplace all at the same time.
What do we do with that understanding? We can let the light that’s graced us shine through in whatever we do, whoever we’re with, wherever we are. There's no cost whatsoever and the benefits are huge.