The assignment: Describe a time when you experienced the joy of inquiry (or learning, or discovery).
My journal is filled with moments like this. Do I pick an early one from long ago, or the gift of an extraordinary peak experience…wondering on what basis to proceed. I think I’ll describe one of my earliest recorded experiences and one more recent one.
It was in the Fall of 1977 and I was visiting a friend in Vermont who had a farm deep in the back woods on the side of a mountain…
You stopped to investigate something that caught your eye. I walked ahead up the solitary dirt road. It cut through the trees upward and I was breathless from the exertion. That was the moment I saw it all. The moment the world and time suspended in a kind of slow motion. The reddish-ocher, orange and green leaves arched overhead, with sunlight shafting through them. The warm damp air was filled with forest dust.
Flying insects darted in and out of the shafts of light like whirling flecks of silver. My ears became the sound of the cool spring that rushed along the side of the dirt road, the sound of a bird that echoed, and the distant buzz of someone sawing wood. I breathed the scent of new moist earth the road crew had plowed over the ruts due to last night’s torrential rain. The magnitude of the moment caught me completely by surprise, joyful, timeless, open and unthinkable.
If you recall no words were exchanged. After a moment I turned around to see if you saw too. I was puzzled. You were watching me with a smile. I smiled back and shook my head, what else can you do at a time like that?
I lost someone close to me and I was deeply feeling that pain. Each day I felt a hollow where that presence used to be, and each night the pain seemed to rise from a depth where I must have been repressing it. Such a sweet friend she was to us for many years, her sense of fun, her affection, and her loyalty, her soulful eyes that connected directly with my heart.
Because of my meditation practice I’d been observing my experiences and emotions as they are presented. When I felt tears well up I opened to whatever was there and did not turn away. After I went to bed for the night I woke a little after midnight and felt access to great spaciousness, so I sat up to meditate. I went right to depths beyond what was normally available to me then, and I wondered if there was a connection to this opening of the heart to the pain of my sorrow. As vastness made thought light and transparent, the feel of sorrow and the loss of a loved one brought more tears. But something peculiar was happening in this immensity; the feel of sorrow turned sweet. I found myself welcoming the near ecstatic sensations running up and down my spine, and there was no longer any pain. There was freedom, I was thanking life for the gift of being, and I was grateful for the open awareness of joy and sorrow, for underneath the layers of thought and conditioning that rule my surface existence there was little difference. In vastness, where the storm of my center forms and blows with sound and fury there was a calm of such exquisite delicacy, and a deep, profound reverence.