What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.
"If you stood on the bottom rail of a bridge, and lent over, and watched the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you would suddenly know everything that there is to be known." Winnie the Pooh.
This last week or so I've not been in the mood to write for this blog. It's not that I haven't got lots I'd like to say, it's just that I've got into a 'thinking mode' and, being a bear-of-little-brain, that's not good for me. So, rather than write something that's an effort (I'd feel a fraud and wouldn't enjoy that), I'll tell you about where I am right now and what I sometimes do to get my mojo back.
One of my little indulgences is to take a little quiet time to just sit down and watch the day as it unfolds before me. I don't mean to ponder and reflect on what is going on, but to simply stop and watch life as it is happens, just as we would a play at the theatre. I have a favourite place I go to do this - atop a steep hill near my home. From the summit I can see the City of Sheffield nestling in the foothills of the Derbyshire mountains, with the M1 motorway that takes you there running along the valley bottom below.
From this seat up 'in the Gods', if you sit still enough, it's possible to become aware of everything happening at once .......the wail of sirens as the emergency services go about their day, busy people jostling for position to leave the motorway on their way to their 'important' engagements; the laughter and screams of the children in the playground below and then the sudden silence after the school bell has rung, the vapour trails of planes passing overhead mixing with the clouds that seem to move with a will of their own. And I remember the last time I came up here a Red Admiral butterfly landed on my knee and stretched open it's wings to take in the sun.
I can't imagine a better show in town than this!
In a way, this is my theatre trip....a place I come to step off the stage for a little while, take a seat in the audience and watch the play of 'my life' unfolding before me. From here I can see the hospital where my kids were born and my youngest son battled Meningitis, the hills that have been our playground and the places where I've worked. This is my life - my very own stage production, the one I chose to write and also star in.
But the reason I come up here is not just to watch, but to put things into perspective. From here I can see the 'story of my life' quite clearly for what it really is, just a story......and no more real than the play showing at the Lyceum Theatre I can see over in the distance. It really doesn't matter whether our own story is a farce, a tragedy, a great adventure story, a love story, a horror movie or a mindless soap, it's always entertaining. You can get such a wild-ass trip just watching when you're not up there on the stage in the thick of it, 'suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune'.
But there's a far greater realisation happens when I just stand and stare....I get to see quite clearly that 'me' and 'my story' are two different things. The play still goes on with changing characters, props and scenery, even whilst I'm sat back here in the audience watching.
Have you ever asked yourself who you would be without your story? .......you know, the story we spend our lives polishing and recounting .....the one we quite literally have to remember in the instant we awake each day, and then dress ourselves with before we get out of bed .....and the story that perhaps we've had therapy for - if it started to hurt too much or we thought it needed 'resolving'. It's a question I sometimes like to ask myself while I'm here.
We would, of course, be who we are. But now, without a story to remember and project into the future, we would be fully present and simply aware of what Is.... we'd be aware of our own Presence, the same Presence that is aware of my story unfolding in front of me right now. But I also see that there isn't a 'my' and a 'your' Presence, this Presence that we all feel (yet not often acknowledge) is one.....there is only one Presence that we both feel.....we are all apart of the same thing.
If I'm quiet enough I become aware that this Presence can never suffer or be touched by any of the things that this Presence is aware of, the things happening in 'my story'.....it is simply the pure white canvas upon which we all get to write our own story. I get to see that this Presence knows nothing of birth or death, right and wrong, fairness or injustice.... that it is, in fact, simply the Conscious Awareness that we allow all thought and form to arise from and fall back into, to create each scene of each act of each play that is now showing. And I get to see that this Presence is not constrained by time or space or any of the 'laws' we've come to believe in..... we can write whatever story we choose.....it is only us that sets the limits with our imagination and belief in what is possible.
And in this recognition, when I look up again from writing these words.....at life going on in the city in front of me, I see a host of people chasing whatever it is they think will bring them a sense of peace, security and happiness. But no-one ever stops long enough to recognise the treasure in their own pocket, and realise that what they are looking for arises of it's own accord in the space between our thoughts when we sit still long enough to simply become aware of what Is.
"But strange that I was not told that the brain can hold in a tiny ivory cell God's heaven and hell." ...Oscar Wilde
When I return from 'my hill' I seem to play a better part because now I know I'm only playing. Somehow it's just more fun. Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor...... does it really matter which?
But sometimes I forget. And when I don't step back and take my seat with my friends in the audience I lose track of reality. I get lost in my character in the 'story of my life' and end up feeling like I'm stuck as a bit part player in someone else's production. I forget that as both writer and director, I'm free to change the plot at any moment if it I get bored or fed-up with where the story's going.....
.....and when we I finally get tired of watching make-believe I can always just leave my seat and walk out of the dark theatre into the bright sunshine of the real world outside, free of stories, illusions and self imposed limits of every kind. And so can you.