Throughout the many journeys of self discovery that I’ve been on I always arrive at one fundamental question – who am I now? I mean now now. Like at this moment. I’m a different person than I was in the previous moment and a very different person than I will be years from now. So now is all there is and I’m constantly asking myself “who am I now?”
That question came to me in a sudden glorious moment after emerging from an isolation tank on a mild psychedelic. It was in the mid 90s up at the Leary compound. Ram Dass was visiting Tim, just hanging out. The isolation tank was kept right outside of Tims bedroom on the patio, I had no idea that the two of them were to be perching themselves right next to the tank while I went inside on my journey. About one hour into the session I had enough, so I thrusted the tank door open with great urgency only to find Tim and Ram Dass sitting about 4 feet from me and the tank. I was startled, dazed and just plain amazed. No words were spoken for about 15 seconds while we all just stared at each other. Ram Dass leaned forward, looked at me very gently, and said “who are you now?”
Wow. Oh boy. How fantastic! That’s stuck with me nearly every day since it happened over 15 years ago. The best part is that it gets better and better the more I ask it!
It’s funny that pages 15-22 talk so much about the paradox of this whole “trip” we’re on now. It’s difficult because being on this path of bhakti IS a process of discovering the Self while simultaneously letting go of parts of what we think the Self is. There have been many “a ha!” moments where I’ve seen my Self merge with all the energy around me, being covered in the sweet nectar of love, but eventually I come back down because I’ve got to return to my role. And my role gets tied up with my ego. I need my ego from time to time. I need it to distinguish myself from others, I need it to feel unique, I need it create a personality that is exclusively me. Right?
So the trick I’m finding is how to be in loving awareness even when I’m in my role. The careful balancing act of being in union with everything while carrying a little ego along for the ride can be sweet. Tricky but sweet. Not letting my ego define who I am is the push and pull.
My ego isn’t who I am. All my assets, defects, comforts and desires are just little buoys in the middle of the game of life (oh buoy! oh buoy!). They hold me up for a sec but ultimately just become temporary. What lasts is real love and real tools that help me to see what William Blake describes as “potential forms of consciousness that are entirely different.” (pg 17).
When I realize that what I’m seeing and experiencing isn’t the be all end all is when I attain freedom. Life is so much more liquid than it is linear. There are many core truths on this journey. Being in the now and accepting other forms of consciousness is faith.
“Yeah I’m going to die. Wow! Dig that! I’m going to live! Dig that!” (pg 20)
In Sue’s post the other day, “Carried By Grace” she talks about the dying process of her beloved uncle. To use the parlance of urban life – that’s the pure uncut shit. Those moments are when we really see who we are now and how God works. Death is a core truth. Those moments are like when the universes asks us to get out our toolbox and go to work. All of these shiny tools of love and surrender become ready to use!
But what tool do I use?
It’s so much easier to talk of expanded God consciousness when things are going well. It’s easier to dance when the music is good. Ram Dass talks so much about “making friends with change.” That’s the essence. It will all change. But are we ready when that change comes? Will we become ready to extend the hand of love, compassion and acceptance even when the change is profoundly difficult?
I look around surface levels of our world and see so much change going on. So much fear and anger. We live in powerful times – some people get angry when our homosexual brothers and sisters want to marry or when a center for religious congregation is built too close to a hot spot of tragedy in downtown NY. Is this change? How do we see this as part of Gods grace?
It’s so hard to see the beauty around us when we’re running mad with confusion. I for one, turn into a righteous angry knee jerk liberal when the confusion hits a boiling point. I want so desperately to love my enemies on the other side but I often fail because I loose sight of their souls. I’ve lived for years in a constant back and forth of being unsatisfied with everything around me, blaming everything I could. Like running with flowers only to arrive and throw them at people. Good intensions, poor execution.
I feel a shift now. Re-reading BHN is so simple and delicious. The journey to understanding that the “patterns of energy” that are “part of it all” (pg 21), even in these powerful times is fierce grace. Loving my enemies is fierce grace. Loving our society even though it can appear to be moving backwards is fierce grace. Loving life even when dear ones die is fierce grace.
I’ll keep asking myself “who am I now?” in good times and in challenging times. A little faith can go a long way for the “I” that is in the now. As I embrace this divinity, this new realm of consciousness, I feel it necessary to take that leap of faith like Hanuman did. Maybe then my nows will get longer and even more peaceful.