The experience of life calls us forth—if we are open to the experience, if we experience the experi-ence, if we don’t close ourselves off from it, deny it, hide. How alive are we willing to be in the time left for living? How alive are we willing to be on terms not our own? Everything waits for our go-ahead, for our signal, for us to get on board and get with the program. The program requires us to engage the Mystery.
We have to engage the Mystery to find meaning, and we cannot live—that is, we cannot be truly alive—without meaning. Meaning is the difference between biological life, 98.6 and breathing, being up-right and intact and drinking a beer with all our vital signs in place, and being alive in the deepest, fullest, truest sense of the term. When we fall in love, for instance, our lives have meaning that they didn’t have before we fell in love. We have to fall in love with the Mystery. All of our falling in love is falling in love with the Mystery, we just think it’s the honey or the hunk that we are in love with. The honey or the hunk is what the Mystery uses to get our attention. But, we trump the Mystery and think it’s the honey or the hunk. We are the Mystery’s mystery. The Mystery is trying to wake us up, to speak to us. We have to work toward the Mystery as the Mystery works toward us. We meet in the heart of ourselves.
We work toward the Mystery, engage the Mystery, through metaphor, symbol, and image. It takes sitting with these things to see what they have to show us, to say to us. We live too fast to listen. Our lives are too noisy to see. There is no place, no time, to sit (or walk, or stand) with solitude and understand. So, we have to create a space. And listen, in order to hear. And look, in order to see. And follow our curiosity wherever it takes us.
We cannot wake up without a regular place for silence and solitude in our lives. We have to step back from the noise and speed with which life is lived and be present with the awareness that is always present with us, but lost amid the distractions and diversions of our lives. We have to be quiet and open in order to see, hear, and understand. Where do you wait for awareness to envelop you? How often do you go there? How long do you stay?
Another way to engage the Mystery is by bringing the immediacy of our present experience into the conversation. When we do that, we look into the mirror of ourselves. We cannot talk about the here-and-now without talking about our engagement with, our reaction to, the here-and-now. We cannot say anything about this moment that isn’t more about us than about the moment. When we talk about our-selves, we risk being seen. When we risk being seen, we risk seeing. It’s better to talk about the weather, or baseball, or those people over there.
We cannot collude with one another in the care and tending of denial. We have to be as awake as we can be in each moment, in every conversation. Our obligation is to see, and hear, and understand and to help each other see, hear, understand. That’s mostly what therapists do for us, and we can do as much for one another, simply by seeing, hearing, understanding each other. Those who see us (and hear us and understand us) see things in us, about us, that we don’t see ourselves. There is nothing like being seen and heard to enable, to force, us to see, hear.
So, if we hang with people who are as arrested in their development as we are in ours, and talk about other people, or the weather, or baseball, there is no movement, no stirring, no awakening. There is nothing like talking about other people to keep us from talking about ourselves and waking up. Unless we begin to talk about talking about other people. Unless we see that in talking about other people we are talking about ourselves—about the aspects of ourselves we cannot allow ourselves to see in ourselves, and so we see it, and talk about it, in those people over there. Once we begin to see, we see ourselves eve-rywhere. In seeing ourselves, we approach the Mystery.
In talking about anything, everything, we are talking about our reaction to that thing. We are talk-ing about ourselves. What does our reaction have to say about us? Our reaction to anything—to the weather, baseball, or those people over there? What’s the history of that reaction to that thing? Where does it come from? When did it begin? What was going on in our lives when that reaction was born? Why that reaction and not some other reaction instead? Everything is a mirror to those willing to see. We see ourselves everywhere we look. When we wake up, we wake up to our experience and our response to our experience, and the Mystery that is meeting us in our experience, calling us through our experience, to reconnect us with ourselves.
We are always hearing, “Don’t take it personally.” Wrong advice. Take it personally. That’s the ticket to waking up and being connected with the Mystery and with ourselves. Take it personally and in-quire about it, listen to it, receive the gift it is trying to give us. We cannot treat our experience imperson-ally. We have to make the impersonal personal in order for it to transport us into the unifying whole of existence. It is the Personal Psyche that connects us with the Collective Psyche. When we take something “personally,” that is the beginning. Great! Take everything “personally,” and ask of it the pertinent ques-tions: “What is your history?” “Where do you come from?” “What is your origin?” “Why here, now?” “What is your meaning for me, your gift to me?” “In what ways can you help me move beyond where I am?” “In what ways are you pointing out to me the places I am stuck?” “Where do we go from here?” “How can you help me find the way?” “What do you have to say to me? To show me?” “What am I not see-ing, refusing to see, by seeing only my hurt feelings, the insult, the betrayal, and not inquiring as to their origin?” When we wake up, we wake up in, and to, our experience and in, and to, our response to our ex-perience. We are as close to the experience of God, to experience of the Mystery, as we are to the experi-ence of our own life.
Things happen to us for better and for worse all our lives long. And we experience them and re-spond to them in ways that result in outcomes that are better or worse. We can make a bad thing better and a good thing worse, or a good thing better and a bad thing worse, by the way we react to it. And, if we don’t have the time, or take the time, to process—to become conscious of—the thing that happened and our response to it, we become stuck to it, unconsciously, forever. And, stuck to the thing, we become stuck in our lives, and function inadequately in the world.
Some things are so bad they take a lifetime to process, to become conscious of. We have to tell the story of the bad thing happening and our response to it again and again in order to hear it, finally, our-selves. Until we can see something, we can’t do anything about it.
People who flounder, who make one bad choice, one poor judgment, after another, who reel and crash about in their lives are stuck to something that happened, maybe to everything that has ever hap-pened, to them, and flail about trying to lose it, but only pick up more things in the process, and are, if they could be seen in their unconscious reality, a big wad of unprocessed experiences waddling through experience, getting larger with each step.
And, if we gather in small groups to tut-tut about the poor unconscious souls who stumble sleep-walking through their lives, we miss the mirror they are, and do not see ourselves in the life they live out before us. “We have met the other and he, or she, is us.” We all live under the spell cast by our previous experience and our response to it. We break the spell by waking up to it. And “(waking) up is so very hard to do.”
But, that is all there is to it. And, we begin the process by waking up to ourselves and how it is with us. We don’t get there, of course, by thinking, but by imagining—not directly, but indirectly—through the medium of images, metaphors and symbols. These are the things which awaken us to the depths, open our eyes to how things are, and also are, and transport us to the Mystery of Being. Things come to life for us as we sit with the image, the metaphor, the symbol and become aware of what is opening to us just on the other side. Through the image we catch a glimpse of truth. As we move toward truth, things change.
We live with so many images, metaphors, symbols—they flash at us from everywhere, but they are shallow, trite, and give us the impression of having seen it all before. We see them, but they don’t catch our eye, don’t move us. When was the last time we were moved by anything? Our role is to be moved, stirred. If we aren’t being moved, we are dead. We have to place ourselves in the position of being moved. If we won’t do that, whom are we kidding, talking about life?
Metaphors, symbols and images are everywhere. Anything, everything, serves to connect those with eyes that see to the divine, to the Mystery, to the Holy Wonder at the heart of LIFE. Eyes that see, you see, are the catch. Here’s the rule for developing eyes that see. Notice what moves you and follow it. No-tice what catches your eye and look closer. Seeing hinges on being curious about what catches our eye. Curiosity excites the imagination, deepens inquiry, expands awareness. That’s the way of life.
The dead are not curious about anything. That’s deader than dead. That’s being dead beyond the hope of resurrection, awakening, beyond the reach of life. That’s being Quite Dead. Once we are Quite Dead, it is all over for us, and we are just waiting for the undertaker to make it official, but the date on the death certificate will be off by scores of years.
The Quite Dead have closed themselves off from the Urge to Life. The Urge to Life has to be cham-pioned, sponsored, promoted, subsidized, patronized, nurtured, cultivated, encouraged, tended. This is stewardship at its best. We have to be good stewards of the Urge to Life that comes wrapped in little baby bodies at birth. Look, though, at what we do. By the time our children are five or six, or earlier, they have lost their voice, their curiosity, and are living as extensions of the culture, well on their way to being Quite Dead.
The life that the culture is calling us to live is different from the life the Mystery is calling us to live. Whose idea of life will we serve? Whose side are we on? That’s the question that hangs in the air, waiting to be answered. Everything waits for our go-ahead, for our signal, for us to get on board and get with the program.