essays

The meaning of life at twenty-nine years

Like everyone, I like to do the things I enjoy most on my birthday. And for me, that has often been a combination of writing/reflection, solitude, hiking, and sharing with community. Today, I will be spending at least part of the day walking around my graduate school campus, making a spiritual goodbye to the place that has served as a portion of my home for the past two years. Additionally, I wanted to share some writing on what I understand the meaning of life to be at my twenty-nine years of experience in this incarnation.

84416478_10156691388992161_4481267322144686080_nFirst and foremost, I understand the base truth of reality to be absolute peace and love. I was not aware of this with such clarity until a little under a year ago, but since then it has been clear to me that beneath every experience—including the most intense, salient, and volatile—lies a field of absolute bliss, lucidity, and stillness. In order to feel into this for yourself, I would suggest a simple exercise by which you ask yourself about the content of any experience, “What is it that is having this experience?” For instance, if you are feeling very angry or distraught, ask yourself, “What is it that is feeling my anger or distress?” Certainly it cannot be more anger or distress, as then there would not be the proper contrast by which to illuminate those emotions. With any experience, what you will realize is that the experience rests within a container of absolute peace and love, absolute stillness.

Another way to arrive at this understanding is to conceive of the ephemerality of all things. Emotions pass, thoughts pass, and so do human lives and the lives of all other beings. In the scheme of things, we are as breath in the wind, a snatch of light in the blink of an eye. We are here, then gone. And what is it on either side of our experience? Furthermore, what is it that undergirds the entirety of our experience? While we are born, grow up, express ourselves in our maturity, grow old, and die, what is it that observes—tirelessly, joyously—while we engage in these behaviors? There must be a watchfulness that is not attached, but rather absolutely patient, absolutely joyful just to have the experience of watching us. That watchfulness is God, and it is also something that lives within each of us as the absolute stillness we will encounter if following our experiences to their home, what I think of as the human soul. (As I have written and stated elsewhere, it seems that the qualities of each soul will be found in every other soul, so it might be a passing reality to say that there are individual “souls;” in other words, there might be only one soul that pervades and animates all beings.)

61629513_10157390029884310_98659191245242368_oKnowing this, we tend to become peaceful and purposeful in a way that greatly enhances our activity here on earth. That is, we no longer act from the fear-based, scarcity-based disposition of enhancing “my” reality at the expense of others; rather, we know that at some level there is only one reality, the reality that undergirds and animates all things, the singular energy that was here before we were born and will be here long after we die. This being the case, in some sense all our activity here is for naught; we do not have to do anything; all that is, is perfect, so why try to fix or improve it?

This does not make us indolent; rather, it makes us act out of a love and joy that knows no bounds. I no longer want to share the reality I write about above with you because I believe that there is something “wrong” with you, and that after learning what I have to share, you will be improved; rather, I share it because I am vastly and lastingly in love with what is, and it is simply fun for me to share, is joyous, is an intrinsic calling that serves as its own end. There is no longer a belief in completing anything on others’ behalf or my own; rather, there is simply a joy in participating in the beautiful existence we are gifted.

And in that respect, I would say that part of our purpose here is simply to do this: to recognize that reality is beautiful, is wonderful, and to honor it. In bowing deeply to the nature of the life to which I have been born, with its relative finitude and smallness, I simultaneously synchronize myself with the absolute reality from whose vantage that life is inconsequential. From this place, my every action is filled with the purpose of making our reality more like the absolute, more perfect; and yet it is not from a place of fear or scarcity, but rather from a place of love for that absolute reality. This disposition, like so many things we encounter along the spiritual path, is paradoxical to the conclusion-striving mind.

95237702_10156949959212161_8820646156238323712_oAnd so we can simultaneously rest in the reality that things are just fine as they are, that there is nothing we need to accomplish in our lives; and know that merely knowing this, and acting from it, imbues our lives with a kind of purpose that is at once beyond the human, is eternal and divine. It is an odd disposition, and it means that our every action is love and peace, is a suffusion of existence with the reality which it already is. This disposition converts all of life into a spiritual practice, such that there is no longer a breach between who I am in meditation, or practicing yoga, or while at a retreat; and who I am at work, or while paying my bills, or buying groceries, etc. All are means which serve the same end of honoring the existence to which we are indebted, the existence which has birthed our very self and, with it, the possibility of really seeing, of experiencing one another, ourselves, of sharing in the divine journey we are all on that nevertheless has its myriad individual expressions. It is oneness; it is absolute individuality; it is the mixing of the two in the one soul that pervades and animates our being; it is everything at once. It is speakable, yet unspoken; it is a secret; it is the most blatant reality to which we are all inheritors.

I simply wanted to share this from my soul to you, and I hope that you have the most wonderful day possible for you on this Sunday, and the most wonderful life.

Jackson

5/3/20

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