We must practice in a way that removes the barrier between practice and non-practice.
~Thich Naht Hanh
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.
R.S. Thomas also wrote about this sacred space, calling it The Bright Field.
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
I've not been able to get the idea of the 'field' out of my heart for days. Numerous authors refer to the sacred within nature, but this wasn't what struck me about these two pieces specifically. More, it was the idea of the space of a field- both past us and within our daily consciousness. In Rumi's words, the sacred communion with spirit and love is found outside our limiting and separating beliefs and views about morality, judgments, and the divisions we construct our human lives and interactions with. For Thomas, this same divine space is contained within the very landscape of our sub-, or unconscious mind- that place we walk right on by without noticing most of the time.
I think about the phrase we so often hear and use when referring to something we can't quite grasp- the gray area.
Those cut and dried blacks and whites can be so much more comfortable to our dualistic natures in this western culture. We want to define everything in categories of right and wrong, light and dark, on and on into some linear infinity stretching before us in a flawless horizon.
But I am coming to feel that it is god, the divine, the great spirit, goddess, who resides in the shades of gray.
She inhabits the field we stumble upon when we least expect it, busy as we are with carpooling and arguments and dirty dishes and red traffic lights.
By ascribing value, or lack thereof, to events, objects- really everything in our awareness, we strip nearly everything of divine potential, and the ability of our eyes to witness it.
I come across many threads on the social networking scene where people will argue back and forth, seemingly forever sometimes, taking each person's words apart and analyzing, stripping and reassembling them into a catchy, cutting response to make their own point- to be right. Many times, I see a person completely written off, and unkindly, because there are elements of what they say (or write) that feel controversial and uncomfortable, or downright wrong to others. This is sad to me, because within each of us are those shades of gray- we contain both wisdom and folly, and it is our human experience that allows us the opportunity to sift each out to learn and grow from. I myself have been guilty of putting down a book, or turning off a program, or changing a radio station mid-sentence because the words I hear or read are offending me. But by doing so, I am making a choice (albeit unconsciously sometimes) to define that person or what they're saying as 'bad", or "wrong" without hearing the entire context, or understanding why they're coming from that position.
There is a field within us all- even those that rub us the "wrong" way. We can meet them there- even if only in our own hearts.
On Sunday, my brother shared a bit about a book he is currently reading. The author talks about this mindset, and how it limits us from experiencing the fullness of love. He gives an example we all experience- of garbage- the everyday refuse we fill our cans with, then set outside to be hauled away so we no longer have to see or smell it.
It's in the very second we toss the used coffee grounds or hollowed out melon rind into the plastic liner that it becomes something gross to us- our consciousness about it alters, and dramatically so.
But what if we were to remember that time, only moments ago, when it was something we enjoyed the taste of, its flesh or juice resting on our tongue, sliding down our throat and nourishing our very cells, providing energy for the next hours to come?
It becomes beauty- not something to dispose of with contempt. We can love it for what it truly is, in all its forms. And when we do that, we are changed.
That is seeing the bright field, and choosing to stop rather than walk by in such a hurry. It honors life in all its forms, and recognizes that life, the divine spark of the unknowable, is contained within everything we see.
In communication with others then, it becomes necessary to view even those we disagree with, with love and honor. If divinity is found in the gray area, the bright field outside of right and wrong, then there is wisdom in meeting everyone in that place, because we will see who they truly are, and not through our filters which are constructed out of fear.
To see the divine becomes both a journey outside of our beliefs and one inward to our center. John O'Donohue reminds us that our soul does not reside within our body, and never has- rather, we inhabit the cloud of soul that goes before us, and lingers long after we have moved away. I love that because it reminds me that my conscious experience here is more effective, more potent than even I can see or feel in any given moment. There are no sharp lines in the auric field (aha, the field again).
I saw a film a couple years ago called Oh My God. It was beautiful. One of the most powerful lines I heard was spoken by Australian born actor, Hugh Jackman. He says that God is "...the space between the words..."
The Bright Field we pass, the field outside and beyond our disagreements and limiting structures that comprise our daily lives, but also woven throughout and within them. I believe the divine to reside in that space.