“I remember now”
Three simple words I uttered while I stared out on the wide open plain that was the home of my recent rebirth.
In the past I kept dreaming of a world I thought I would never see.
A place I didn’t deserve but for my actions alone.
Yet here I was.
And alive, to what definition, well that was subject to debate.
Far behind me was the ocean and the coast. The rocky cliffs were lifetimes ago along with the lingering cold that came with my awakening.
I had come to this world after leaving the chaos behind me.
I had changed.
This was not anything even close to what the Buddhist would call enlightenment. No, that would not be for a thousand more lives to come; if ever.
This was being awake, or less asleep at a minimum. Which was also much better than the self induced coma I put myself into the prior years.
Why had it taken so long I wondered to get here, or not be there?
To answer my own question I knew why. I had not been ready.
Was I now?
I did however make it here, this was a first in my new growth.
This place I was in was calm. Especially by comparison to what I left behind.
Perhaps it was the calm in the center of a storm or maybe the calm between other storms that rage with no end in sight; an endless cycle.
The storms of suffering had taken their toll on me, that is for certain.
“Did it really matter why” I repeated to myself.
For what I could see in my surroundings there was a light brown and yellowish grass growing all over the ground for thousands of feet in all directions; save the break behind me that had been my path up from the ocean below and the muddy trail I had walked up.
The colors reminded me of Boise in the summer I mused internally as I scanned my surroundings.
I think I laughed, I don’t know, nor do I remember if I had just come to this place of if I had been here for a long time.
I didn’t matter.
Outside of the grass, on the fringe of my sight there were tall trees.
When I was younger I knew the names and types of so many trees.
I could have explained the difference between conifers and deciduous and palms and cacti.
Today I think I could tell you they looked like pine trees and that was about it; tall, majestic, green and healthy. All of them on the edge of the field not so far away.
The trees probably buffered the wind and may have held the fog at bay on occasion if it suited their whim.
The temperature was cold still, perhaps 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Which, if any aspect of my memory serves me I think is around 15 Celsius. I don’t know, I’m not Canadian.
A light breeze seemed to blow from what I think would be the west.
Actual directions at the moment weren’t easy to come by and I didn’t have the sun in the sky to make some basic guess.
And it struck me, there is no sun in the sky, yet there is light illuminating all I look at.
How is that possible?
It wasn’t very bright, and there were no shadows, but I could see my surroundings.
This didn’t make sense my logical mind told me.
I stopped on that thought.
The paradox was real.
I heard my breath and my heart beat in the silence as I held the thought.
The world I was in had light from an unknown origin, yet it had form and substance I could detect.
There was some warmth and yet no sun.
The world physically existed as far as my senses could determine.
I knew on some level this defied some law of physics or astronomy or maybe something else I never bothered to learn in college.
Before I dove down the rabbit hole of attempting to rationalize and explain this dilemma I simply stopped.
These things didn’t matter here.
And for a moment I realized, they had never mattered. I had created their value in my mind previously so I could fit the world into some pretty box and put a bow on it. Ignorance was always blissful.
Most people I knew did the same thing. They shaped the world to fit their individual needs and fragile egos. They lived in a convenient state of perpetual denial.
Instead of thinking I closed my eyes.
I remember thinking used to get me into a lot of trouble.
I held onto the inhalation of my breath and cleared these thoughts.
Single minded focus.
I sought to be mindful and on being present and nothing else.
No definition, no frames, no limitations, just being in the moment.
I don’t know why I did that, yet I did.
From the nothing a whisper came to me.
It was as if the world itself spoke.
It was deep and resonated with the ever so slight movement of the trees that I think I had called pines.
The whisper said one word and faded back from whence it came.
Without thinking or even feeling, I knew what that meant. And part of that meaning was not to think or feel, but to just do as it said.
A larger sense of what I was fell over me.
I was seeking a greater purpose than what I had previously exposed and allowed into my life.
I was looking to stop the endless cycle of self-induced suffering.
I was wanting to leave my ego behind.
The breath I took filled my body with a warmth that had nothing to do with the air or the motion of my chest or lungs.
It was acceptance that there was another way.
I was interrupted in mid-thought.
A barely audible sound of wings gliding through the air above my head passed by.
I glanced towards what I believed to be the sky and saw two crows heading the direction I had come from.
Their wings effortlessly guiding them; their eyes peering only forward and downward.
They were looking for something.
This was the first life I had seen or sensed since my arrival.
How strange this was to me.
Not far from away I saw the two large black birds land near something I hadn’t noticed before,
There was a shape laying among the yellowish grass.
It was a foot off of the ground, kind of oval in shape and possibly six feet long.
I cannot say for certain how far this was from me; which meant if it was close I couldn’t tell and if it was far, the crows were in fact extremely large in size.
I focused my eyes intently for a moment on what they were doing and realized they were picking at this shape in the grass.
Their heads snapping back and forth into this thing in almost a tearing fashion.
From what I know of crows this was something that was quite obviously dead or rotting on the ground.
As the crows bounced around and examined this thing between pecking and tearing I could see an electric blue glow shine and almost spark from their wings.
It was as if they radiated an essence that was part of this spirit world.
My brother used to talk about the magpies eating road kill that had been out for a few days and some various jokes along those lines that always made good dinner table discussions.
As I looked closer at what they were picking at and tearing small chunks of flesh away from it struck me, it was a body, a human body!
Where did that come from?
How did I miss that?
And then I realized, the body they were feasting on; the rotting corpse of decaying flesh that was lunch for these large black crows had a familiar look to it.
The dead mass on the ground was me!
It was a very dead version of me, but me nonetheless, me.
I let out an audible gasp at this morbid realization.
The body had no clothes and was dissolving into the ground before my eyes.
The crows seemed to know that they had limited time before there was nothing left and continued to pluck at the skin, bones and diseased organs that were quickly being pulled into the soil of this spirit world.
Instinctively I held out my hands to see if I was dissolving also. I wasn’t.
I looked down at my feet and could see them also.
I didn’t know in the moment who I was and what the crows were eating.
It was both me and not me.
In my conscious mind I also realized I wasn’t wearing any clothes or shoes.
I also saw I wasn’t me anymore. I was changing, or had changed.
I had almost no form. As though the thing that defined me was in a state of regeneration.
I was, in lack of a better term almost transparent or ghost like.
Yet I could touch my arm and chest and my hands had sensations when I did this.
In the distance one of the crows let out an annoyed squawk and they flew away from the ground where my body had just been absorbed.
And with that, they were gone.
My guess was they flew towards the cliffs and the shore hoping to find something more to eat, but I didn’t know.
Perhaps others make it to this land, but give up before getting this far.
I could remember when I had first arrived I wanted to give up, to let go.
The memory of me considering giving up and going back to the world that almost killed me was too real.
Maybe the crows had another body to devour waiting for them as part of their daily schedule.
I migrated back to the present.
The voice that spoke to me and uttered the single word ‘Begin’, what did that mean?
Perhaps it just meant what the word said and nothing else.
Even though I couldn’t rationalize not having a body and the concept of moving forward or walking, I did just that. I moved forward and I walked.
I could feel the ground on my feet and it was soft.
I could lower my hands to the grass and feel the strands play between my fingers. I could see the morning dew on the tips of the plants and I knew it was the sensation of wetness.
As I waded through the varying lengths of grass with no direction in mind I felt at ease with what I was.
The where I was ceased to matter.
The constant thoughts and noise in my head was buried in the silence and peace of a new sense of being.
That didn’t make sense, yet I understood it.
I had left something behind and it was gone; mostly thanks to the crows I laughed.
That part of me that I had held onto for far too long was no more.
A thing that had once been all things. Yet, it had no value I could see clearly now.
To be free from the body and the limitations of the ego felt more natural than anything else I had experienced in my life.
Or, former life.
So many pains had left me and I could see I never needed them.
I never needed them to be part of me.
I had far too often let them talk for me in that life that had just faded away into the nothing.
I was free of that.
I understood more of the nature of suffering for a moment.
I embraced this.
The sky above had turned from a darker grey to a lighter grey with a hint of blue.
There was still no visible sun, but I didn’t care.
I could see what I needed to see. Which was probably the case for longer than I can remember.
Details were unimportant.
Be mindful I repeated as I moved.
I could sense some warming in the world around me.
I attempted to contemplate how one could feel temperature without a body or see the sky without eyes. And I let that go.
Just breathe. Be mindful. Be present.
I moved. I experienced. I smiled. I continued this for countless more moments.
Time had no specific hold in this spirit realm and it didn’t control me; for once.
This went on for so many breaths. So many lifetimes.
It was a joy that I hope you one day share.
Moments blurred into the continuum until I saw a single tree somewhat obliquely in the distance and slightly to my right side.
This tree was not like the others that I called pine.
It’s size was much larger. The trunk had a red glow to it and there was a large canopy; almost a shelter at the base of this redwood.
I had wanted to spend my thoughts on how such a tree could have grown here or come to this place, but I didn’t.
I didn’t need to. It was and I accepted it.
The branches were wide and thick. There was life in this redwood that was deep and looked as if it had been here for more time than I was able to fathom.
This redwood extended up to the heavens and well past the grey and blue sky that I was able to see.
It was eternal. I needed no more information.
It’s trunk must have been more than 100 feet across.
I wondered how deep the roots must have extended into the ground and I stopped to remind myself that accepting the tree was all that had to be done.
It was as though I used to dream of a world I would never see, and now I am here.
The dreams and prophecies perhaps had some merit after all.
As I looked at that great tree in this world after my physical death, after the crows had taken what was left of me, and in the plains of grass and the sunless grey and blue sky I saw appear at the base the shape of a man.
In this spirit place where I had no real body it was just easier to say it was a holy man and not complicate things with words and labels and politically correct pronouns to appease the angry mob that no longer existed.
He said to me a single word, “Closer.”.
I didn’t move at first.
Perhaps it was fear or the remnants of such from before that caused this hesitation.
Yet what could I actually be afraid of?
I had no body, I didn’t know where I was, crows ate me before the land dissolved me back into the continuum and I was completely alone.
I laughed and just moved towards the tree and the holy man sitting underneath it.
There was no longer any point in being afraid.
Even that thought sent a shiver through me as I moved towards the enormous redwood.
It was so momentarily profound I said it aloud “There is nothing left to be afraid of.”.
For years I had been afraid of my fears.
I lived as such and modified my existence out of fear of things that didn’t happen and never were going to.
I went through my days, routines and annoying patterns to avoid the fear of pain or the fear of rejection or the fear of not being loved or something else I created in my mind to stop me. To prevent growth.
Why I thought, just why would we choose to live that way?
There were so many other options, so many other choices, so many other and better ways to be.
I realized I was all but upon the tree with the holy man sitting on a large root and I stopped to look, to gaze, to try to understand.
I also realized the tree was much larger than I could have envisioned. It was clearly well over a hundred feet across and to the best of my ability I would have guessed it went up more than eight hundred feet up into the sky.
Some of the branches extended seventy or more feet out from the trunk.
At the base was a cleared area with many large roots jutting out to form places to sit.
One could give a sermon here with many able to listen.
Which conveniently was directly across from the holy man.
Evidently I was to sit down was the message that was being received.
I don’t know what my hesitation was. Perhaps I just wanted to take this in.
To be mindful of the moment.
I could hear my White Witch telling me. “Now Michael, be mindful of your journey, or you will not learn what it is there to teach you.”. I let out a muffled laugh at that memory.
I moved over to a large root that was a few feet away from the holy man.
I could now see him more, or perhaps, he allowed me to see him more.
I don’t really know which one it was.
To describe him would probably be best to keep simple. He was timeless and undefined. Slender in shape and exuded peace beyond my ability to convey. His eyes remained closed and his hands rested on his lap. He wore no shoes yet his feet were tucked under his legs.
His skin was pale yet without flaw or defining mark. Perhaps it was a pearly white in color that seemed to change if you looked too long.
His hair was lighter in color. Even if I guessed his age I suspect his hair may have once been darker, but now had become a sandy grey and shoulder length due to the passing of time.
He wore what could best be described as a black karate outfit, but I didn’t sense any form of physical need for him to have this particular outfit on.
As my eyes pulled back from him I noticed now I too was wearing something similar, albeit a different color. Mine was a plain white without any definition. In some unknown way, this made sense to me.
For a moment I compared his outfit and mine, and similar to the crows wings that had previously been eating my dead corpse, he seemed to radiate an electric blue spark if you spent too much time trying to figure it out.
Before I could continue he uttered to me in a very low voice, “It is all inter-connected, this you know.”.
I had questions.
I had thoughts.
I wanted to say things.
It took effort to do nothing.
I was excited and scared.
What would the holy man teach me?
What would he say?
I sat down.