In the dimensions of infinite space-time the trampoline curved under its own sheer weight and gravitational pressure. Existence ebbed and flowed like a living breathing organism. Everything played on, in or in the orbit of its surface. Pathways that seemed to lead away ultimately returned for self-containment was the highest order of oneness. Within such a ‘mega-verse’ light, darkness and every field imaginable were atmospheric ‘laws of the land’. Thoughts, ideas, feelings and every sensory expression sang in tribute to its sheer majesty of being. Eyes and heart widened big as saucers and cried tears of untold joy. That was when I saw it! Real or imaginary, one memory could never be extinguished: there had to be something to be connected to and disconnected from! All formed pathways in, out and in the orbit of Krishnamurti’s ‘pathless land’.
Sure the madness was fun – for a time, but it wasn’t real. And working to fund countless wars between reality and non-reality took away from living. All wanted was to know what was real and be real before the end. Surely that wasn’t asking for too much? Before passing away, one good friend told me part of the problem was believing choice meant having more than one option. In reality, there was only one choice: return to the path. All else was distraction.
Its simple beauty strummed at my heartstrings. If schools taught simplicity, I might’ve known what to do, but it wasn’t – so I didn’t! And how could it when life was so complicated. Even if I did let go, what’d happen to everything I’d invested so heavily in? ‘Just return to the path. The Universe will take care of the rest.’ “I don’t understand. Who’s going to clean it up?” ‘Leave it to the Universe.’ “Really?” It was there somewhere in the distance, yet it felt so out of reach. “I can’t let someone else deal with my stuff?” ‘Maybe they don’t have to?’ “I don’t understand?” ‘Ask for another way.’ I wanted to, but pride wouldn’t let me. ‘Let go Mike. Let go,’ a sweet sounding voice said. If only I knew how.
A memory resurfaced of being punished for stealing a comic as a kid. While I took it ‘like a man’, nothing prepared me for the anguish of lingering guilt and shame. Nobody taught me how to deal with them – not that I would’ve let them. I hated myself for years afterwards, but no one would know because I’d mastered the art of coming undone secretly. The same was true of the lingering stain I knew of as HIV. Until a cure came along, I had to live with it every day of my life. Regardless of how much time served, it was the ‘once a thief, always a thief’ mentality that made some people give up hope and revert back to old ways of being.
‘You don’t have to do that anymore.’ “I know, but it’s difficult and I don’t know if I know how not to?” ‘That’s your lessons in letting go. No one can do that for you.’ Once again, I bowed my head in silence. He meant going beyond blame into healing. “Returning to the path is different from letting everything go, right?” ‘Yes.’ “But what about society’s need for justice?” ‘Choosing the higher path that serves the highest purpose is what truly counts. The rest is the rest.’ “The rest is the ‘gong show’, you mean,” I said sarcastically. He smiled.
Alarm bells sounded. Not knowing how to let go of feeling bad made me feel like a mouse on a glue board. Yet how could I feel good when I couldn’t remember what feeling good felt like? ‘Feel your feelings and think your thoughts.’ I looked at him. He sounded so disciplined, so loving and so egoless.
‘Let go Mike,’ a gentle voice kept calling out from the depths. Then I saw it! It centered on the difference between discipline and control. Control depended on an unchanging external world. Discipline let it be whatever it was, but only if I allowed myself the freedom to be too. But how could I let the world be without knowing about it first? ‘It isn’t out there.’ ‘Know thyself’ went the old saying, but it just might as well have been: ‘know thyself and know God.’
In a vision, I steadied my grip on the rope I knew as knowledge. I wanted to let go, but how could I without letting others down and ending up a dribbling baboon in the process? The Hindus called it the Vedanta, the understanding and release from all knowledge. Then I saw how mind and backpacks served the similar function: containment. While I’d reduced many backpacks into one, my mind was still full of too-much-information. It was ironic how those things supposed to save me also weighed me down.
In the forest of mind, the dim light twisted and tormented vision into prickly imagery. Shiny little things became ‘oh-so-grateful’ indulgences. Cold and lonely in this forsaken landscape, I longed for my own ‘Prince Charming’ to come riding in and save me. Yet every time he did he never stayed because he needed time to grow and mature just like I had. Yet according to Bilbo’s Lay Of Aragorn from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, ‘all that is gold does not glitter; not all those who wander are lost.’
Still I waited, a heroic martyr, for the day when he’d return and gently lay a pillow under my head and whisper sweet nothings in my ear once more. Until then, I vowed to do what I set out to do and not go into stasis. The charge I’d got from seeing a picture of a white rider on a horse spoke to how ‘Prince Charming’ and the ‘King’ were playing themselves out in my life.. Still, I was far from being a king. A good king didn’t just sit on a throne and dole out orders, but mingled with his people. He was one of the people!
Suddenly I was horseback riding on a blisteringly hot day. Tired and lost, I turned to the horse for help, but its look of desperation revealed unexpected vulnerability. I and it, we, were two tired animals trying to get back home in the wilderness. Too scared to call for help and make my presence known to other things, I channeled anger to seize hold of the reins and took charge. Entangled in branches I looked to the ground for help. Tiny cow trails scratched the dry landscape. All I could do was pray that even cows had a place to return home to. Along the way, a bull sat in majestic peace on the ground. I let go of the fear and trusted the bond between man and horse, man and animal, animal and bull. I bowed my head in silent respect before setting off again, eventually making it back home to safety.
Twenty years later, things hadn’t changed that much. I was still treading dusty cow trails, but now I was more like the Prodigal Son returning home. But I’d also learned a thing or two along the way. I’d not only played with fire and got burned, but I’d also become a ‘firekeeper’ too. And by not dismissing my past, I helped others in ways that honored my own sobriety and their addictions too.
I didn’t have to. Life would’ve been so much easier wouldn’t it pretending like nothing had happened; like I didn’t know them and getting on with my life? But deep down the residual effects of addiction still festered in the dark like time bombs. They drove the ‘need’ behind all dealing and addictive behaviors. Yet now I had other tools at my disposal to deal with them besides drugs and hurting people. And people still helped me in their own ways by showing me how far along and how far I still had to go. Fingers crossed in silent prayer, I could only pray that my Father would forgive me and welcome me back with open arms?
As if reading my mind, my same friend said that God gave a piece of Himself to us so that we could learn. It reminded me a biblical phrase that’d called out to me in my youth. ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. —John 3:16′ I’d written it on a Christmas card, but covered it up because I felt ashamed and unworthy. Now, it struck a chord in my heart of gratitude for the very gift of life including death in all its worldly glory.
Experiences long held at bay, blossomed like lotus flowers as in past meditations. Awed by the sheer magnitude of what I was being shown, I sat in the present and saw how even my physical, emotional and mental attributes were like artist’s tools. Whereas Pandora’s Box was full of shadowy grays, rich multi-colored hues, tones and tints were added to the mixture. In front of my canvas, I stood poised, paint and paintbrushes in hand to create my own unique colorful painting. And all because I’d dared try to see things differently.
Sure it’d taken a near death experience for me to come to terms with myself, but I wasn’t in charge of the script. What if irony was the glue that bound the two sides of the Mobius strip of ego and spirit together?
‘Stay in the center’ I was told, as I clung to the railings of the merry-go-round. It worked! That was until they came up with a more complicated version that undulated as it went around. Now centripetal force did what it did best and threatened to throw me to the wolves. ‘Hold on, Mike. Hold on.’ What would happen if I just let go? What if I couldn’t or didn’t know how to or didn’t want to? Why wouldn’t I? Why not indeed?
In the deepest, darkest recesses of mind, fear rang out: disclosing truth might hurt people. Another tremor dislodged another truth: it wasn’t the whole truth. No, the real truth stared me in the face: everything I’d lived and strove for would end. I didn’t like endings. I didn’t understand them or what to do after them or why they even existed at all? I wasn’t even sure I wanted to know.
Like a disgraced ninja, I faced death by seppuku. But apparently the Universe had other plans for me. Despite piercing untold layers if being, I now extracted the sword utilizing all the skills I’d ever learned. The humblest irony of all was that all my lifetimes had put me in charge of the entire process. From beginning to end and back again, I was in charge of it all. I had to not only ‘play the game’ like my friend had said, but also love myself in the process. But what was that process? What if it involved not only doing, but undoing it all as well? It was the ‘Meet Me At Zero‘ game all over again.
If this was my lifetime to undo my alleged wrongdoings then they were my trials by fire, my lessons in life, my ‘golden’ opportunities to learn how to live, love and love living.
© Michael J. Varma, The Gong Show, 2011 –
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