Saturday, April 11, 2009

Permanent Vacation

Back in the not-so-good ol' days (says the story), I would be in the midst of some boring, repetitive or routine task--say, driving to work. The general sub-feeling was "stuck" or "trapped" or "cynical". Maybe all of the above.

Autopilot fully engaged, it seemed the same landmarks, the same thoughtless drivers, even the same scenes (whatever the season) were there for me to negotiate while I slept.

Suddenly, for no reason whatsoever, I would awaken. The mental blanket yanked away was never a cause for irritation--just a kind of shock and awe--because the world would change entirely in that fraction of a second. Everything I saw, heard, or sensed on any level became new, as if I were an alien from some cold, dark planet dropped into a glowing experience by a mysterious force.

I still knew my name, destination and such, but everything was different--the way light fell, the details, the clarity of sound. I felt like a tourist stumbling into the "real" culture outside the over-hyped commercial, on an adventure in a wide open space and time. No obligations. No mechanistic schedules. Endless potential for discovery. The road between my routine point A and B might as well have been an exotic paradise...

Once, the sensation was so strong that I pulled over and got out of the car. There was a marvelous crunching sound of gravel under my feet, and when I shut the door, that sound was like an inner massage. Everything had a most satisfying texture. Looking down, early morning sunlight glinted off tiny pieces of broken plastic--blue and yellow gems, is what they were. What a place! What an amazing ride! I was ten minutes late (smiling unapologetically) for work, that day; I did my job with the certain knowledge that, if I wanted to, I could walk out the door and never look back. This allowed a generosity to flow that was previously not there, and the distinctly sweet scent of freedom to surround me through my entire shift. It was a taste of clarity that ultimately did lead me elsewhere, peacefully.

This phenomenon occurred randomly--sometimes during housekeeping or childcare or gardening (I can never forget the first time I saw the true color of my knee-high corn!)--or even in the midst of conversation with someone, when their startling beauty would be immediately apparent. For a long time, I thought of it as some descending alteration of my experience, maybe a weird energetic wave that affected what I "normally" saw. It was frightening, to a degree, because it wasn't something I controlled. I used to wonder if it was a clinical mental dissociation, a "negative" disconnect from reality.

Now, having pitched that particular fear back into the universal compost heap, I see that what I understood to be "me" was, in fact, a kind of chrysalis state; the times of bright clarity and innocence were the stirrings of the winged life...the "real" state of affairs in which I participated constantly and which arose with me each day. I simply was unaware of the fullness of being.

The American dream (which can turn into an utter nightmare!) of "the good life" is a story about an unsuspecting individual who devotes plenty of time to things called "hard work" and "sacrifice", in order to get stuff for entertainment, time to play and some form of love and acceptance. Everything must be earned, sayeth the parents, the school, the church and the government...everything worthwhile must be paid for. Being "yourself" is not allowed unless you have somehow "proven" it; there is always some kind of social meat-grinder that one is expected to throw the life into, whereupon a good human cog in the machine will be rewarded. With lots of sparkly stuff, and a vacation, and maybe health-care.

This is the autopilot program we are typically fed from tiny childhood. Of course it is not a plan any sane being would choose--to needlessly put off authentic happiness and fulfillment for duty and obligation--only to be turned away at the door when the time is supposed to have come! Excuse me while I rant, but why was I never told that the eight-year-old delight I felt while running barefoot down a dirt road in the summer sunshine, birds busy, rattlesnakes warming up, plans to head down to the creek forming, was a real and permanent option for living? The obvious answer lies in the current stressed-out, psychotic state of the human nation. Happiness is not taught in our various institutions. Contentment is not emphasized in high-school career class. Unconditional love and bliss, as my mother told me once, belongs only to "saints".


Quite naturally, we resent the "forced" conformation. Most of us will happily sacrifice time, energy and ego for a cause dear to us, or just doing something we know, without any doubt, is worthwhile. That's what intuition and guts are for--to tell us about what is worthwhile.

It is almost mainstream knowledge, now, that money, fame or walking the party line won't necessarily ensure fulfillment, or even satisfaction. Still, the majority of people don't know themselves much, don't know that they want to risk being happy, because they believe it will be at the expense of the family, the company, the country, the post-death destination, the they freeze, in the headlights, with nothing but a program running where a heart is supposed to be.


With some luck, there may be a lucid moment before death, a moment of release and vision--if it is not drowned out by an intense regret for the true life unlived.

This is it.

On vacation, we are generally quite open to new experience. It's a good excuse to seek it out. We are also usually not on the clock; time seems much more flexible and forgiving. We come to the conclusion that it must be these unfamiliar sights, sounds and activities, maybe the energy of a slower-moving culture, allowing us to relax and be less reserved. But as it has been said, often and wisely: Wherever we go, there we are. We are always the one common denominator in our happiness, or lack of it.

Yes, life can be incredibly difficult, and a good deal of hard work. But working without feeling compelled to work makes a tremendous difference. Taking the risk of standing up for what you truly want to do--what you, because of your love, en-joy--is worth the initial fear. Allowing yourself to shine through all your locations, rather than putting this mask on, or that, because it is the dress code of the local ego society...well...the benefits could never be overstated!

Beyond these basic facts, there is an even more interesting thing, lying around in plain sight, sticking to us like cat hair on a cashmere sweater. Every day, we attempt to brush it off in favor of our superior intellect, in favor of the musts and shoulds and have-tos, in favor of the plans we made a thousand years ago or the aspirations "the world" has for us. It is a gift that is wrapped in the most common, ordinary and the most familiar thing we are. This. Anywhere, anytime, this. All of it, every iota, right now, at home in the bathroom or at work in the cubicle or at play in the ski resort. The precious vulnerability of love, the humbling futility of anger, the insane irritation and itch of just being...we can simply stop it all, right now, if we really, really want to.

We can chase relaxation all over the world, step away from relationship and toward what we think is righteous, sit for hours trying to invite a glimpse of ease and peace. Doing all this, will we ever be able to create a better version of the enchantment rolling at our feet, flowing through our veins and unfolding in spacetime through us? What happens if we just unwrap the gift?

It might be the best graduation or
promotion or retirement ever, entitling the newly-winged to a free pass to the real thing, at last...a life to be felt, tasted, absorbed like sunshine, heard like bells, loved as fiercely as you are.

Now, that's a holiday!

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