A writer sits down before a screen and keyboard and attempts to re-arrange the Mystery with their particular fantasy of interpretation on memory and perception. The reason they are never ultimately satisfied with their literary lies is because their fantasy is always changing, as are their interpretations on whatever memory or concept first inspired them to write.
Show a writer their work, and they will always think of ways to re-write, edit, add, or subtract. Walt Whitman spent much of his life re-writing his famous “Leaves of Grass”. Really, if you want to see the final version of a piece of literature, wait till the author has passed on. Even then, some researcher may discover hidden notes of revisions to this or that novel, poem, or essay.
Just so, please consider the story which follows as just that: a fantasy of interpretation, based on a vantage point that even now has shifted far from the original events. Regardless, there is still a curious impulse to report on recent experiences in my life, knowing full well that what results will more than likely be merely another fractal of a living kaleidoscope, an angle of vision that points and paints, but can never itself be true. Really, there is no “truth”, only subjectivity (aka dreaming). If we are to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves, we can come to no other conclusion.
Health-wise, 2016 had gotten off to a difficult start. It began with a radical procedure to remove a cancerous prostate, which in turn required an extended period of healing on several levels. Just as I was beginning to return to some semblance of physical normality, I was awakened one night with intense abdominal pain. After enduring it for 14 hours, I eventually followed my wife’s advice and went to the local hospital’s Emergency Room. They performed a number of tests and finally decided to admit me to the hospital’s critical care unit. For the next 10 days I was given one diagnosis after another, one treatment regimen after another, and in the meanwhile contracted a wicked flu and even pneumonia.
As the days progressed, I only seemed to worsen, until a consulting surgeon indicated that the problem might be my gall bladder. I was subjected to a number of further tests, which eventually confirmed the diagnosis, but since so much time had elapsed since I was first admitted, I was told that it would be too dangerous to remove the offending organ immediately. Instead, a tube was surgically inserted directly into my gall bladder, dripping bile fluids into an attached plastic bag. I was to wear this contraption for the next two months, and only then would I be fit for the surgical removal of the organ.
Now, after two months, the date for surgery had finally arrived. Before taking the trip to the hospital, I chanced upon a helpful quote from a Tibetan adept, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche: “No matter what you do, no matter what situation you are in — whether walking, sitting, eating or lying down — always suspend your attention within the nature of nondual awareness. That’s it!”
This seemed like eminently practical advice, and I took it to heart as I was admitted into the pre-operative area at the hospital. Everything achieved a kind of equality as various experiences unfolded (including nearly a dozen failed attempts to insert an IV needle). Even when I was told that the operation was being pushed back a few hours, I was still able to rest as simple awareness, until an interesting recognition began to dawn.
In previous reports, I have mentioned experiences of attention being suspended from the body-mind matrix, the most dramatic of which occurred in 1984, during an automobile accident. It was during that “no-time” that I was shown the illusionary nature of existence itself – its utter transparency. Nevertheless, when attention returned to the bio-vehicle, phenomena once again resumed a kind of solidity, as if the objective world was indeed “real”.
Now, however, it suddenly became apparent that I was literally occupying the body identity in the same way an actor occupies a theatrical role. This was not a mere intellectual acknowledgement, but a palpable realization, as if one were to find themselves in a clown suit and yet realize full well that they are not the clown, but only wearing the temporary costume. Somehow, we forget who and what we really are, and mistake ourselves for these flimsy but rather ingenious identities, complete with feelings, sensations, thoughts, memories, and a corresponding stage on which to perform our little life dances.
I was greatly amused, along with the accompanying recognition that this was all a show, a creative play that I was somehow participating in as the actor. This vision confirmed my prior realizations, and yet was even more vivid than I can possibly relate. I was being given a rare peek behind the curtain, so to speak, at the mechanics of this life-drama, and it was utterly plain to see that, no matter what transpires, everything is OK – nothing real is ever threatened, it is a virtual reality all along!
Finally, I was wheeled into the operating arena, and I couldn’t help smiling widely, as several technicians went about their business of prepping the body, asking me the usual questions, and redundantly informing me of what was about to happen. The surgeon, a very nice Christian gentleman, came over and chatted for a while. I wished him good luck during the procedure, by way of encouragement. He said he didn’t believe in luck, but rather in God’s grace, and then asked if I minded if he prayed over me. I said, “By all means, please feel free!” He began by providing God with a detailed report of what I had been going through, just to get God up-to-date with the situation. Then he opened his heart in a quite lovely and intimate way to the Divine, and I felt the light pouring forth in shards of bliss.
Then another nurse came over and informed me that she was going to put a little “happy juice” into my IV tube to relax me. I was already feeling quite relaxed, but in the next instant I noticed some discordant rock music playing near me, and two unfamiliar female voices discussing some disappointing romantic incident in their lives, and reaching the conclusion that men are no good. Then one of those very men, dressed in a hospital gown and mask, was suddenly leaning over me, asking me if I knew what had happened, and where I was.
The body felt horrible, consciousness itself felt horrible. Something about this new reality was very twisted, as if I had been instantly shifted into a strange “Twilight Zone” world. I tried to say something, but I felt like the effort was akin to futilely grasping through quicksand at a sinking man’s arm.
The only thing that helped was remembering the admonition from Tulku Urgyen, to suspend my attention as simple awareness no matter what appeared. Somehow, I had entered a kind of hell realm, people seemed wrong, everything seemed wrong. I fought back a fear that I had suffered some kind of brain damage, and the signs were not looking good. Somebody else was now peering down at me, and informing me that the surgery had been successful.
That was the least of my concerns, however. I managed to mumble out my wife’s name, and was told that she had been informed. I felt so much love for her that the sun seemed to break through the gloom, the sun of love, and things eventually began to transmute into the normal consciousness, as the anesthesia gradually wore off. I was able to request that they switch the station they had on the radio, as I drifted in and out of consciousness.
Finally, my step-daughter arrived to pick me up – I was so grateful to see her — and I was eventually released to go home. For the next week, however, I found myself despairing about the world in general, and humans in particular. Even amidst the fresh beauty of a mountain Spring season dawning, this realm seemed like a primitive, harsh environment, fraught with ceaseless turmoil. Humans, racing to extinction with their casual cruelty and self-absorption, seemed nearly unredeemable. I wanted nothing more to do with any of this drama, I was weary of it all – with consciousness even.
It was only while watching a televised program (Skinwalkers: The Navajo Mysteries) that I began to snap out of my heavy gloom. At a critical moment, the wise wife of a troubled Navajo detective turned to him and said something to the effect that, “you can see the world as filled with hate, or you can see it as filled with love. It’s a matter of perspective.” That simple reminder was what I needed too. I am not only the actor, but also the co-creator and producer. Reality is arising co-dependently, and mind can make it either a heaven or a hell. There is always a choice – we are after all directing the show, whether we are aware of it or not.
Another image comes to mind, that of the little girl in the brilliant red dress, wandering through the otherwise black and white scenes of the holocaust in the movie “Schindler’s List”. She was not there to save anybody, but just to be present. I saw that love does not dissolve negative phenomena, or somehow neutralize the ugly and evil. It is just here, present, right in the midst of the horror, right alongside the calamity, not offering an escape, but merely a shift in the focal point of attention — another choice, or option of perception.
Beyond that, there is awareness. Awareness is the platform for the alternating play of light and dark that we take to be reality, and yet just as the screen is not affected by what transpires on it — the good movie or the bad — so too are we that fundamental basis, the Source of all the holographic universes and their virtual realities. Again, this was not an intellectual conclusion, but was made abundantly apparent throughout the ordeal. Consciousness is what we dream, and like all dreams, it comes and goes, but only awareness remains.
(from the film “Schindler’s List”)