The Music of Life
The first question I ask myself when something doesn't seem to be beautiful is why do I think it's not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason." -- John Cage.
Glimmers of light
The first house I owned was on a main road through a town. Although it had a lovely back garden backing onto a river with open country beyond, I couldn’t get used to the noise from the road. Every morning we’d wake to sounds of sirens from the ambulance station diagonally opposite, and the din of commuter traffic in the early morning rush. What a nightmare! I grew to hate it, and couldn’t wait till we could afford a place in the country.
Then one day something extraordinary happened. I’d been working ridiculous hours, been out till the early hours, I was exhausted and fell into a deep sleep. What woke me from my slumber was the sound of a lorry pulling away from the junction just down the road, and now coming towards our house. But this time the sound was like nothing I ever heard before. It was wonderful beyond imagination. It had somehow caught me in the moment as we awaken from sleep, but before we remember just who or where we are.
The engine note started with a deep reverberating bass, rising -- slowly at first -- through the scales as it gathered speed, becoming louder until a wonderful crescendo of engine revs. Then followed by a softly pause, a clatter of misplaced gears, and then once again repeating this stanza from the base line as the truck gathered speed again in a higher gear… but closer and louder now. It sounds silly typing this, but this was unbelievably delightful and enchanting. Two cars then added to this symphony as they overtook — their contrasting speed and engine tones in absolute perfect harmony, as this now three-piece-ensemble burst into full song. Words cannot describe how beautiful this was.
I lay there with eyes now wide open, lost in the sounds and in awe of this moment, until eventually the thought arose of not wanting this music to end. And sure enough, in the instant of wanting, it faded. I loved music, many genres, but I’d never heard anything as mellifluous as this. In retrospect, the sounds were much the same as those I’d always heard, and had grown to despise, but what I had inadvertently fallen open to was the feeling and experience of This that was animating the whole show.
It took many years and many such experiences to grasp that these moments are simply glimpses of into what is always present, and all we need do to experience the reality of this -- as happened accidentally on this morning -- is set aside our resistance to being open in what is plain to see in each moment that we come to defencelessly.
This music is always playing because it’s the sound of our own Self which knows nothing as separate from itself. Our ability to hear it is only a function of our willingness to listen. Fast forward thirty years.
I am writing this piece from the cafe a mile from home. I love it here. A couple of times a week I'll come and use this place as my office for a hour or three. It's full of noisy kids, ladies who
lunch gossip, students or business types tapping on laptops, and I sat in a corner by the window listening to the music of life inside and outside as I write — the air brakes on the delivery truck across the street, the clunk of car doors of a Mum and her Mum who just left, the couple by the wall trying to have a discrete argument and failing miserably, the clatter of crockery and gurgling of the coffee machine from behind the counter. I love all of this. This, to me, is the most sublime music of all.
I have nothing against silence, but it’s this stillness in the heart of the storm where I feel at Home, and right here I feel as though I have best the seat to the best show in town. Paradoxically, I find the peace, insight and inspiration that’s sought after in meditation overflows in abundance when we open like this to the recognition of our Self as Life itself. As I look around I know I can experience an overwhelming love and connection with anyone who walks through that door, as long as I remember it’s a choice. Love flows through me as I listen to the Truth, as it does with all of us.
Some folk say ‘Hi’, some chat a little, occasionally someone gets curious and comes sit with me. Each of these is a gift that pulls me deeper into this Flow of benevolent, energetic wholeness that we are all a part of and immersed in and that delights in it’s free expression and recognition. Friends have asked me how I can work with so much no noise and so much going on, and yet I am at my most creative and productive here. This ‘noise’ is music to my ears, 'interruption' is no more than a name given to a judgement call that has no basis in reality. I could write a whole book about the serendipitous moments that just come together in this place to help me bring clarity to whatever it is I happen to be working on.
Most of us, most of the time, don’t hear this Music. We are so caught up in our own story, or caught up trying to fix our story, or caught up in trying to resolve the parts of our story that still trouble us... that we have come to believe the story is real, and taken our identity as our story’s lead role. In doing so we forget that this is our fiction — this is our own tape we are listening to running inside our own heads (http://goo.gl/cd6iX) and nothing at all to do with the reality that is here right now, calling us to from every corner of Creation to wake up from our mind-constructed dream-state.
The burden of keeping up the appearance of the protagonist in our own black comedy, is one so huge it is a wonder how we ever cope. Our hospitals and our prisons and our locked bedrooms are full of those that don’t. Yet we perpetuate this in each moment that we choose not listen to this Music, in favour of retelling our story and seeking self-validation (little ‘s’) instead. Perversely, we continuously choose being ‘right’ (regardless of the suffering) over being happy as we shed our mistaken limiting beliefs.
Do you want to hear this Music now?
We don’t believe we can simply call upon this and have it be so, because our ego does not allow us to believe this. It will support our effort to atone for the past, improve ourselves, and even support our spiritual journey, but not this. It takes no time because it is not something 'we' do. Our real Self knows it’s own way into our conscious awareness. What we experience as time is only our letting go of our resistance to the recognition that time plays no part in this.
NOTE: If you are unwilling to do what I suggest in the next few paragraphs, don’t fret about it and just skip ahead. This is something we approach or resist in our own particular way, and that is absolutely perfect. :)
If you are up for it, take a few moment to allow everything you deem unacceptable -- in the past, present or imagined in the future -- to be exactly as it is. This ’everything’ includes not only your list of personal horrors, but also you. This means setting aside your need for self-validation, or enlightenment or fulfilment or your idea of ‘success’ or whatever else it is you seek. Just for a few moments let all hope of getting any of that stuff go. Let everything be just as it is.
Is it absolutely just as it is?
What this little preparation does is leave us sat on the chair exactly as we are, with nowhere to go with who we are right now. We are left face to face with the issue of our own Self-acceptance and nowhere to hide from it.
And now, without second-guessing or assuming you already know, just listen to what is here... trusting that this ‘What Is’ knows it’s own way into your conscious awareness. Trust that in choosing this, your part is done… and so all you need do is relax into the feeling of what is here right now. Nothing more.
Notice how challenging this is. For each of us our prison is right there, at the point where we can't just let it all be. This is our resistance staring back at us. This is the very situation we spend most of our life avoiding.
But here’s the thing: This is also the one place we can exchange resistance -- and the resultant suffering -- for freedom. The tug-of-love in us knows for sure how to handle every spec or boulder of resistance that our mind would have us turn away from. Everything that appears as an impediment to us, our God-Self delights to trance-end.
The challenge I offer, is for you to hand over to your true Self whatever resistance appears for you now. Give these in trust, and see how delightful this can be. It knows how to trance-end any obstacle (mental, emotional or circumstantial) that appears as a limitation or impediment within our experience. From the light of our own Beingness, the secret attraction that any suffering has held for us within in our story can be clearly seen, and in seeing this we naturally let it go.
These miracles are ours for the asking, but we've got to want them. We've got to want the Spirit that jiggles the molecules more than the molecules themselves, and no-one can make this choice for us. The problem we have with it, is that we can’t keep both the story and the Music because only one can be true. It’s impossible to believe a lie once it’s seen for what it is, the awareness of what is true immediately invalidated what is untrue.
This Self-acceptance is the way we come to know that our story -- however attractive or horrendous it may have been -- is just a story. Our Beingness is untouched by anything that appears in nightmares. Self-acceptance gives us the eyes to see this, and also see that everything that shows up for us is perfectly helpful in our overcoming our resistance to consistently choosing this gift. Life delights to lift us free.
I hope you join me in listening to the Music this New Year, to be true to What Is instead of true to our latest idea about what is still needed… and perhaps you’ll also remind me when I forget. :)