When I was a child, I happened upon a magical world just by lying in a patch of sun on our basement floor. When positioned exactly right in the sunlight stream, I could suddenly see the universe of dust that was always there but usually invisible. Oh, the wonder of it! All the infinitesimal specks. All the slow swirling, like a million tiny snowflakes dancing in the air.
I was amazed how any movement, no matter how small, would affect the dust world. When my mother was ironing and used the starch in the spray can, my dust universe, that had been lazily drifting would suddenly explode, moving in a thick current, sparkling and shining through the air, like a starling murmuration or a rampant river running to the sea.
I remember moving my eyes, ever so slightly—into the light, out of the light—and when I did, the entire universe would disappear. Like it had never been there at all. And then one small movement back would make it appear again. It’s always there, I remember thinking, we just can’t always see it.
Life is like this. It can appear to be one thing, but underneath, or alongside, there is a whole other realm just waiting to be perceived. Can you relate to being so preoccupied with making a living or paying the bills that life looks grey and uninteresting? On the other hand, when you are relaxed and content, do things and people look more beautiful to you?
We wield great power with our perception alone and have the ability to shift all that we see. Our state of being is our lens.
I have a friend who recently came out of a deep, dark place and back into the light. She is able to feel wonder again, to see that she is well-loved, and to see that her life has meaning. All things she could not have experienced one short year ago. In her words: “I couldn’t see beauty if it was pointed out to me. I wouldn’t have believed anyone who told me I was loved.”
I’m so curious about how our state of being affects what we are able to perceive in terms of the nature of life, the world around us, and other people.
For me, my initiation happened when I was well into my thirties. I was being eaten alive by a critic in my head, and it was only when I gifted myself a “forced stop” for 10 minutes a day, that I realized that a whole other reality was on offer. When I dropped the to-do lists, and the shoulds, and the inner critical dialogue, and when I just let myself “be,” a whole other way of seeing was revealed to me. A way that let in the beauty and wonder of life. It changed everything.
“I am learning to see. I don’t know why it is, but everything enters me more deeply and doesn’t stop where it once used to. I have an interior that I never knew of. Everything passes into it now.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke
I feel so very fortunate to remember what I knew as a child – that there are things you cannot see if you aren’t looking at them the right way. That there is an soft, gorgeous underbelly to life, rarely glimpsed in the work-a-day world, but there nonetheless. Like the magical dust universe. Knowing this doesn’t mean I live there all the time, but I do know that it’s always on offer.
For instance, when I arrive for a writing retreat at the Trappistine Monastery in New Brunswick, the field outside my window is just an old farmer’s field. But within a day, as I open to the quiet space where regular responsibilities fade away and all of the minutes of the day are mine, that field and the whole of the natural world become unmasked. Every flower, every blade of grass, every snowflake, every drop of dew, and every shaft of light is revealed for the incredibly gorgeous thing it is. I have laid for hours in that field, face up to the sky, breathing in deep beauty and breathing out euphoria.
After years of being ruled by a bit of a tyrant in my head, these forays into sheer delight and wonder feel like nothing short of a miracle. If all of humankind lives in a house, sometimes it feels like I’ve discovered a secret door off a dark hallway. The secret door leads to a garden filled with bright colours and swooping birds and warmth and light. This has been here all along? I gasp in amazement and try to flag people down who are passing by, but they don’t seem to hear me, or they’re too busy to poke their heads in. It is not lost on me that I was once one of those who passed by, preoccupied with to-do’s, lost in sadness, or consumed by critical thoughts.
“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite.”
We live in a time where we are literally bombarded with responsibilities, events, and information. There is a steady stream of bills and taxes and appointments and meetings and mortgages and news with a deliberate negative bias. But no matter how it appears, life is never one-dimensional or banal. Co-existing with all of this, in a parallel universe kind of way, is a world of breathtaking beauty, just waiting for us to lap it up.
Magic is constantly afoot, my friend. And the determining factor is us. We are the only ones who can shift our eyes or tilt our heads to witness the magnificent, often unnoticed, aspects of our existence. We are the only ones who can choose to see what has actually been there all along.
The World I Live In
I have refused to live
locked in the orderly house of
reasons and proofs.
The world I live in and believe in
is wider than that. And anyway,
what’s wrong with Maybe?
You wouldn’t believe what once or
twice I have seen. I’ll just
tell you this:
Only if there are angels in your head will you
ever, possibly, see one.