After six weeks of travelling around in the world, I came home and have been journeying inwardly. My guide books have been two works by the German writer Eckhart Tolle – Stillness Speaks and A New Earth.
He's most famous for his bestselling book, The Power of Now. When I was given a copy of that years ago I remember looking at the title and thinking, "Great, I'll read it later". And yes, the irony was lost on me at the time.
It's hard coming down from a whirlwind of travel and challenging emotional shifts and heightened states of joy and sadness. The rollercoaster takes time to slow and settle to a quiet stop. This past week, it stopped. Unfortunately, I kept going and crashed into the buffers big time.
Eckhart's take on things is that we are mostly driven by our Ego mind until we become aware that we are in essence much more than our thoughts. This greater awareness, this Self, is whole, perfect, complete. It is the same essence that is at the heart of every person, animal, plant, river, rock, tree and supermarket trolley.
The ego needs to feel separate so it can feel superior. It feeds on the suffering it creates by talking in our ear in the voice of our parents, teachers, co-workers, enemies, friends, religious, political, business figures. It loves to suffer. That way it stays alive.
And it's possible to live in the world of this Ego mind all the time. Possible to stay unaware of the bigger I, that hums away behind and beneath everything. The I is aware of Itself, it's just that the Ego can sometimes drown it out very effectively.
But sometimes something dramatic happens to shake up your sense of who you are. Your identity. Suddenly all the certainties are pulled from under you and in that place of desolation, you become aware of something there, something solid yet weightless, something humming away, always.
And besides the pain and sadness of loss or grief or anger or indignation or terror, there is a something that just is.
It just is.
It holds all the opinions, thoughts, angers and differences and all the violent expressions of separateness and the need to be right and the need to punish others or ourselves and the desire to be special and seen and loved and to have money and security and freedom.
And it just is. Humming away quietly.
These two books have been like a bridge into this awareness for me. A link, a portal, a way into the thing that is always there.
And the joke of it all is, there is nothing to do! There is nothing I or you or we have to learn or find out or work hard to understand. It doesn't have to be understood with the mind.
It just is.
All there is to do is see that the identity we have put together for ourselves through our place of birth, our family background, our education, or choices in everything from clothes to music to political party or none, all this identity is only the outer form of us. It's like taking your ID to the polling booth on Thursday and confusing that bit of plastic or passport with who you really are.
Behind the limited form, which tells us we are all different, our awareness knows we are all the same.
When you've run all your roads and stopped to see, you'll see. They've all led you here, back here, to you. Enjoy yourself. You are enough.
The racism that’s harder to spot
It's easy to condemn thugs who creep up in the dark and petrol-bomb the house of a woman who wasn't born here. The morons who write racist slogans on a family's front walls. The extremists who physically vent their fear in bigotry and violence.
Much harder to catch oneself in the act of having a negative gut reaction to seeing lots of Romanian women with lots of children and swollen pregnant bellies. To see in oneself the same fear of... what?
They are people same as me. Just the same. And they also want the best that they can imagine.
Bringing home what matters
As a person nears the end of their physical life, does the sight of flowers or the smell of a single bloom or the scent of cut grass become more relevant, or less?
What matters? Is there peace to be found in the detail of a close up of anything?
As change happens, can the constant of ongoing change bring the soothing caress of acceptance?
To lie back and actually experience the beauty that cannot be held onto and the beauty of not needing it to be held onto.
To be carried like an innocent baby.