Nirvana is as a star in our hearts which we develop; and as we develop it, it becomes brilliant.
Its brilliance consumes all the wrong of life until nothing is left but that purity which is the divine light. — Inayat Khan
Here in the Piedmont of North Carolina, I am beginning to wonder if winter is ever going to begin. Just a few days until Christmas, and the temperatures are still sometimes in the seventies every day. This afternoon a heavy, chill rain began, and I sat on the porch in my rocking chair to practice. No need for music today! The rain pounding on the roof, clattering in the gutters and dripping endlessly into the dirt under the bushes says all that needs to be said.
I suppose some would call it magical thinking, but I see that the Spirit of Guidance finds all kinds of ways to answer my questions and concerns. Last weekend, we were in a bookshop in Chapel Hill, a used bookshop, and I found one of Ram Dass’s books, STILL HERE. I remember when he was the rock star of the New Age movement, back in the 60s and 70s, and I consider him to be one of my best friends, even though we’ve only met a few times, and then wordlessly. He always seemed to play the role of, as he himself said, “the one who goes before.” In recent years, he is evidently going before us into the aging process, and he kicked that off with a severe stroke that hastened things quite a bit. It is heartening to see him still doing his work, making use of the Internet now that he can no longer travel (www.ramdass.org). The crowds are definitely smaller these days, even online, and I feel rather sad about that, but he has done good work, and perhaps, as he says in his book, an increasing withdrawal and loneliness is part of the process of returning the soul to God. As to the book, it is very wonderful, just what I needed, for since my health issues began a few years ago, I have been rather lost, still determined to do things as I once did, constantly asking “What’s next? What should I do?” and beating myself up for my increasing need for solitude and quiet, instead of relaxing into them as a natural part of the growth process. In this last year, when I have surrendered to my need for retreat, I have continued to ask myself “When will this be over? When will I return?” and now I’m thinking. . . “What if I don’t?” “Do I have to?” Perhaps. Perhaps not. But I think what life is calling for me and other elders to do, is to live into a new mode of being, one that is actually intrinsic to the balance this old world so badly needs, with the so-often ego-based rush-rush of the younger generations, the constant need to do, to acquire, to accomplish, to kill, to have, to. . . well, to not get caught in the solitude of reality. I suppose it is all about fear, really. We are all deers afraid to get caught in the headlights of what is, afraid to relinquish control, afraid of annihilation. That last, I find (annihilation), is increasingly the only thing that makes sense to me. One comes to feel (if one is fortunate, I think) that death is the goal and the healing, that death not of the body–although obviously that will come–but of one’s concepts, one’s ambitions, one’s ideas about reality, ultimately one’s sense of oneself as a separate entity. . . Really, that’s what all this mystical stuff is about, but the ego–the temporal self–screams in fear at the very idea. It has taken me many years and much desperation to subdue the screaming of my own nafs, the Arabic word for the ego, the self we all think we are, the dimensions of which we try to keep hidden, even as it runs the show with an iron hand, until. . .we decide to stop it (mine is still subject to frequent yelps, by the way). I find that this process has taken more than a decision, and God knows it took me long enough to even get to the decision, but once made, one can begin the best journey of all in life. My road looks like a lonely one at first glance, but I find that increasingly I am joined by all the holy women and men I called to my journey, and the scenery is increasingly beautiful. Ah, but that nafs! Oh well, I suppose we need the nafs as long as we need it.
As some ancient Sufi said, the journey to God is a finite one. The journey in God is never ends.