like a door you did not realize was already open...
You tell yourself you’re going to the cliff, but actually, you’re going to meet the ocean.
Just as we have territories beyond our understanding in the world that surrounds us, we also have a line inside us below which it is difficult to drop or explore. Every human life is a wild conversation between the horizons outside us that draw us on and an inner horizon that often first presents itself as troubledness. All of our great contemplative traditions assert that at our core is an inner seam of knowledge or understanding of all the patterns that constellate around us – in the Zen tradition this is our ‘true nature’ or our ‘pearl of great price’, in the Romantic poetic tradition, it is ‘the primary imagination’, in the Christian mystic tradition, ‘the cloud of unknowing’; the unknowable place of origin inside us which always asks to be known and the center around which our whole reality orbits and constellates. But the boundary between the difficulties of our outer lives and this deep, calm, rested, centeredness, like the boundary between opposing currents of water, always takes the form of a difficult, stormy, wild and troubled edge.
When the first really wild invitation to this troubled edge is made to us: when we first intuit that it might be possible to go where we want to go and when we first allow ourselves to experience what the fullness of a human life might look like, we almost always turn our faces away; it is almost always declined at first, even if just for a moment, before we turn our faces back towards it again and allow ourselves to look and allow ourselves to see and feel what is happening. This choice to look again, and not to turn our face away, this act of volition in a human life – of looking to the place where the ocean arrives on our shore – to the wilder edge of our understanding, is the act of waking up. It doesn't matter how humble and narrow an awakening it is – just the act of noticing something other than ourselves, something other than our own opinions, or the way we've described the dead-end of our existence, can be enough to not only wake, but to start a sincere journey toward something for which we long.
THOOR ANU You did not know you had come to meet the ocean, thinking the cliff edge had everything you’d need, but when you stared into the deep vault of blue from which the revelation came and you heard the drumbeat or arriving water and looked into the bowl of waves and breaking foam, and sat there stunned and numb in the underbelly of the turning world the vision was immediate, a ghost-like far-in horizon come to meet the sea an anchored, internal origination equal to the sway of moon or ocean or even the wind itself blowing in from nowhere an interior living the edge as center and the pulse of two great hearts, beating together, with the waves’ arrival and the bird flight and the choir inside me singing with the ocean, the rising inward tide a lifting and a washing away and a first footing, in some terra incognita, a castaway sense of self, once wrested and blown away, now strangely re-ordered and restored like a fulcrum from which all movement could come, like a door you did not realize was already open, like a robust and gifted helplessness, a low, mounting ocean roar growing from within, an elemental undoing you’d carry with you in the city street or the plane ride home, still newly inhabited in the small hours of the quiet night or the hubbub of a crowded room, as if everything felt there is happening still as an anticipation a slow, rolling arrival of waves, a birthing, a life delineated. Before and after Thoor Anu. -from Pilgrim