There are few times in life where I have been aware of myself in life, as life, and not as myself observing life. Some people refer to them as peak experiences or moments of insights—a glimpse of everything as perfection and myself as a part of that perfection.
But they have been far too rare and only “glimpses.” I have never experienced those moments by seeking after them, but have merely “found” myself in one. As a child, they came while walking in the woods or just sitting with my back against a tree, watching a squirrel. As an adult, I remember three vivid examples of these divine portals beyond feelings, perceptions, impulses, and words.
One occurred on a late September afternoon, overlooking Canandaigua Lake while standing on the deck of a friend’s condominium built into the side of a steep hill. My hosts and other guests went into the condo, taking with them their happy leaf-peeping party chatter, and I remained, watching a lone tern ride drafts against a dark, cloudy sky. That was all. But time stopped, thoughts stopped, my sense of self stopped—I was exhilarated by an immense joy beyond reason or cause. I wanted to describe it to my companions when I joined them again, but had no words.
Two other experiences happened in far less poetic settings. One day I glanced out the window near my desk, taking a break from my work and computer screen, and noticed my elderly neighbor brushing the snow from his car. I watched for a few minutes that seemed like hours. Nothing happened that I hadn’t seen a million times before, but his slow, attentive, careful, and caring snow brushing penetrated my heart with a simple yet brilliant love for my neighbor, myself, everyone, and everything.
Another time where I experienced the grace of a peek into the perfection of everything was while lying in bed, ill, and in pain. I had been ill for sometime. I was exhausted and depressed by the pain, and the lack of promise for a quick resolution. For some reason, I was able to truly relax “into” the pain, depression, and fear. I was able to be in it, as an experience alone—not characterized as bad, or pain, suffering. At that precise moment, I wasn’t me. For a moment between the rushing screams of thoughts coming from everywhere, there was no me—but there I was and I knew that I was.
Some might describe these experiences as described in the Bible, in Philippians 4:7: "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
The Indian Poet Rabindranath Tagore was watching the sun rise in a Calcutta street when he wrote, “suddenly, in a moment, a veil seemed to be lifted from my eyes….There was nothing and no one whom I did not love at that moment.”
From a Buddhist perspective, I think of these of experiences as glimpses of enlightenment, or temporarily experiencing what is referred to as Shunyata, emptiness, or suchness. Someone who has reached total enlightenment is a Buddha. The Buddha referred to himself as Tathagata, which means "one who has thus come" or "one who has thus gone." Either way it means one who resides totally in "suchness."
To truly understand or reside in suchness is, as described in the 5th century Chinese Mahaya scripture, Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana, "the highest wisdom which shines throughout the world, it has true knowledge and a mind resting simply in its own being. It is eternal, blissful, its own self-being and the purest simplicity."
The great prajnaparamita mantra, from The Heart Sutra, praises this enlightenment: “Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha. Gone, Gone, Gone Beyond, Gone Altogether Beyond, O What An Awakening, All Hail!”
I don't believe that awakening is foreign to us. I believe we have all glimpsed it. The Heart Sutra reassures us that we are in fact the stuff of suchness; we have this enlightenment potential in us because “Whatever is form, that is emptiness; whatever is emptiness that is form.”
This long introduction is a way of initiating a new element of my blog: poetry. I have written lots of poetry over the years and hope I keep writing poetry in the years to come. It is through poetry that I have been able to express my Buddha nature by expressing things exactly as they are. It is only in poetry that I feel I can speak to you without the restriction of the form of words—stopping time, ending the separation between us, and uniting us in the immersion of suchness.
Yes, I use words to write poetry, but the form of these words come from suchness itself, come from all life outside of me, through me, to you. As Shunryu Suzuki said “when you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.”
Whether you like poetry or not, I hope you enjoy the poetry I will occasionally share in this blog and I hope as you read it, "I" will disappear
About these blog posts
A mix of older posts I wrote for the blog, Suchness: It's All Good - Buddhist Ramblings, LinkedIn articles, and Career Coaching blog posts.