One Spirit

Imagine one living Spirit eternally creating, sustaining, and enfolding the whole universe, from the most distant star to the tiniest grain of sand on Planet Earth. Imagine that all beings, animate and inanimate, all creatures—insects, birds, fish, mammals, and humans—are part of this One Spirit, surrounded by it, imbued with it. Imagine that the essence of this Spirit is Love.

What happens when we acknowledge this Oneness, this Love, as being our source?

In 1972, I took a three-month-long, spiritual training in San Francisco. One afternoon, our teacher sent us out to walk the streets of the city. We were directed to look deeply at each person we met as we inwardly chanted the mantra, “I am humanity.” It was an unforgettable experience. Recently, while sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, forty-four years after my experience in San Francisco, I found myself making superficial judgements of the others waiting with me. (No wonder he has knee problems, he’s so overweight. She’d look a lot better with less makeup, etc.) Then the mantra came back to me. “I am humanity.” Such a shift! Judgements evaporated. I felt I could see into the heart of each person and was pierced with the realization of our oneness, washed with Love.

I believe our wars would end if we could only remember that we are one.

Out of this Wholeness, each creature emerges unique, holding its own vibration, its own blend of colors in the infinite rainbow of Oneness. It is a paradox. We are one and also unique.

Cynthia Bourgeault, in her beautiful little book, The Wisdom Way of Knowing, uses the metaphor that we are like instruments in an orchestra. She writes, “I am sounded through by the music, and in that sounding, in harmonic resonance with all the other instruments, is revealed both my irreplaceable uniqueness and my inescapable belonging.”

During a difficult time in my life, I was on retreat, longing for death to end my distress. A woman in my support group at the retreat put a poem in my mailbox that called me back:

“You may think the world does not need  you,

But it does.

For you are unique like no one who has ever been before or will come again.

No one can say your piece, speak your voice

Or smile your smile, or shine your light.

No one can take your place, for it is yours alone to fill.images-1

And if you are not there to shine your light,

Who knows how many travelers will lose their way

As they pass by your empty place in the darkness.”

Anonymous

We may not know who depends on our light. We may even forget that we have a light to shine. I have come to believe that we are all called to a life purpose, an ulada as the Elirians call it, and that all our uladas are part of the Oneness, entwined in ways we may not realize.

Showing up to shine our light can sometimes be difficult, but if we can remember our oneness with all that is, we will be nourished and sustained by the Love that is the essence of the One Spirit.

Opening Into The Light

Writing “Stories About Death” recently got me thinking about my own personal story. What do I think, have faith in, about what will happen to me when I die?

“Think” is of the mind, “have faith in” is of the heart. I do not believe that the mind can help us much with such a question. It is a poor tool for relating to the infinite.

What does my heart tell me?

I do not fear dying, although I have some trepidation about what might lead up to it.

I feel quite sure my spirit will not die with my body, that I will go on in some way.

I cannot credit the concept of hell, an eternal inferno torturing the lost forever. In all my years of searching, praying, meditation, what I have learned with certainty—if anything can be certain—it is that God is Love.

Being burned is excruciating pain. If we are burned in our human bodies, we either recover or we die. One way or the other, it is over. That the Love I know as God could inflict that level of pain on any of Its creatures for eternity is unthinkable to me. Such a concept can only be the projection onto God of the worst of human perversity, a tool used by earthly authorities to control through fear.

There is hell enough on Earth. Daniel, the minister in my novel The Purest Gold, realizes at last, after almost destroying his family over his concerns about salvation, that hell is being cut off from God and that it is not God but we ourselves that create such separation. The minister in the novel Gillead, says, “If you want to inform yourself as to the nature of hell, don’t hold your hand in the candle flame. Just ponder the meanest, most desolate place in your soul.”

In spite of my regrets about the many failings in my life, I do not fear going to hell when I die. I’ve already been there, and Love has lifted me out.

Some years ago, I had a recurring image in meditation of a ocean of Light, ecstasy that made me weep, color, flow, music of the spheres, a limitless sea, and I a bubble within it. What greater heaven could there be than bursting and becoming One with such beauty?

But perhaps I am not ready. Reincarnation seems a likely hypothesis for me. I have had what seemed to be memories of other lifetimes, strong and clear, echoing within me in a way that felt that they must be true. My almost-finished novel, The Purest Gold, is based on such a memory. And off and on throughout my life I have met strangers that I felt I knew, knew really well, though I had never encountered them before in this lifetime.

Who knows? I have a vivid imagination. After all, I’m a novelist. I could have made it  up. But it doesn’t feel that way.

I like the idea of reincarnation because now that I’m old, I’m finally figuring out so much that I wish I had known earlier when I was a young wife, a young mother, and later, when I was an impatient, busy, middle-aged woman caring for my mother. I have hope all this learning might bear fruit, that I might have another chance, that in some way I can carry the hard-won wisdom of this lifetime forward, that little by little I may become a clearer channel.

The only sad part of the reincarnation story is that it may take me many lifetimes.   Perhaps it will take a long time before the walls of my bubble become thin enough to burst and free me into the ocean of light.

But I trust. I have faith that the Love, the Light, that continuously creates, enfolds, and enlivens me and all creation, will hold me still when my body dies.

As I washed the dishes this evening, I found myself humming a chant we used to sing in the sweat lodge—

“We all come from One,

And unto One we shall return,

Like a ray of light

Returning to the sun,

Like a stream flowing back,

To the ocean.”

The Path Toward Death

Aging is happening all our lives from the time we are twenty-something, but there comes a time when it accelerates, a point— only we ourselves can say at what chronological age— when we realize we are in the last stage of our lives and we are really going to die.

Such a time came to me about a year ago. I was troubled by free-floating anxiety. When I went to my therapist and we sorted together, I realized that most of my anxiety was about my body. She said, “It’s okay. You’re seventy-nine. You’re in transition toward death.”

A shocking statement, but it was a relief. Of course my body would have to break down, else, short of sudden violence, how could I die?

For the last year I have been living into the understanding that I am in that transition, although it may take ten or even fifteen years. It is a shift in focus. I walk my path in a new way, open to what is unfolding, rather than being fixed on how I think it should be. Because at any moment—

Of course it is true that at any time of life that moment may come. Death always walks beside us. When we are young we really don’t believe that, but as we grow older death comes closer.

My doctor said to me once when I was complaining about fatigue, “Give thanks for what you can do and rest when you’re tired.” Wise words.

Flower Petals On The Path Toward Death

One of the gifts of aging, though it may not seem so, is that we do need to rest, slow down, and these quiet times give us an opportunity to go inward.

Clara writes, after she is old again, “The frequent rests I needed during the day, stretched out on my bed under the silver blanket, gave me time to return to those ineffable processes that had been interrupted for a year—dreaming, musing, sorting the experiences of my life as the old do, laying flower petals on the path toward death.”

For me, there is a sense of urgency now, not about what I must do, but about what I want to become before I die. Time is running out, and, although I’ve lived a rich, full life, I am only now getting down under all my busyness to grasp what is important. Not much time left to learn to love as I have always wanted to love. Not much longer to court the light and clear away the debris that keeps it from shining though me.

It’s true, there are a few things I would like to complete. I’d like to see the novels I’ve started finished and published. It would be good to clear out all those possessions I no longer need that still clutter my closets, basement, and garage. But those things are not important really. If they don’t get done, it doesn’t really matter.

The love and the light are what matters.