Comes another day, awakening with no conscious prompting, a momentary pause until the mind reenters and brings with it thoughts of ‘me’ and ‘my life.’
Like an early-morning commuter station humming back to life, the eyes open, the lungs draw deeply, and thoughts come streaming in and out of a head not yet lifted from the pillow.
The mind inquires: “What day is this? What is on the agenda? How am I supposed to feel today?”
Feet swivel to the floor, the body moves toward the bathroom, a subtle ache here or there or perhaps everywhere.
It occurs that I have had nothing to do with any of this. Not the awakening nor the thoughts nor their particular order of appearance nor the body that transported those thoughts from bed to bathroom. The whole thing is on auto-pilot.
I am to turn 50 on Monday. As with all milestones, it serves as a useful bookend to a life spent to this point, and gazing back it is so obviously an illusion, virtually all of it little more than gray-vague memories, yet felt with such intensity. The mind has practiced this role over and over and over, with each day it adds new material to the same story, measures the reflection in the mirror to memories of reflections past. To the unobserved mind there is no interruption, it is ‘me,’ it has always been me, and it is not to be questioned.
In a sense we are all something of a Big Bang, are we not? We burst onto the scene, lives built from nothing into a kind of universe of self-existence. A lifetime of countless thoughts and actions nothing more than reverberations of our being, here, then gone, never to return.
How many words have passed from these lips, how many ardent thoughts, how many passions have gripped the heart, how many faces come and gone, celebrations celebrated, defeats suffered? How many miles walked, meals consumed, how much lovemaking and arguments, how many dreams dreamed? All of it is echoes of something the mind calls ‘life,’ echoes the mind wants desperately to remember, to matter.
But this life does matter, insists the mind.
- Matters to whom? Or to what?
- Depressing to whom? Or to what?
You are repeating yourself.
- So are you. And that’s kind of the point, you wake up every day repeating the same mantra and the belief in that mantra. But does that make it true?
Driving recently, I gaze at my hand on the steering wheel. It is such a miracle, this impossible assemblage of tissue and bones and blood vessels. For the briefest of moments it is so clearly not me (or of me, if you prefer). I had nothing to do with the thing. Yet there it is, attached to ‘me,’ responding to lightning-fast signals from a brain that I also had nothing to do with.
So who or what is turning 50?
The mystics tell us that we are as waves on the surface of the ocean, momentarily rising into existence yet never separated from the Source to which we shall, in the blink of an eye, return. That we are timeless and far from living a life, we are a life being lived, and that all suffering is nothing more than the mistaken notion of somehow being separate and apart from that which we never left.
And so the investigation into the great mystery continues.