When I stare up at the moving clouds I am reminded how everything in my life is constantly changing, and has been from the day I was born. At the same time, so many things that I experience day-to-day appear not to change; like where I live, my job, my routines, and my inability to drop a few extra pounds (hmmm). I know people who have lived in the same house for over 50 years, so it is easy for me to understand why we often say that things don’t change.
A few years ago I became more interested in examining the contemplative side of life. Not that I wanted to go off and become a monk in a cave mind you, just that there was something tugging on me to go deeper. Through meditation, reading, prayer, silence, and time in nature, I slowly began awakening to the realization that I had an ability to observe myself; my thoughts coming and going, the dynamic sensations in my body, the routines and habits that make up most of my life. And then it occurred to me to ask the simple question, who is it that is observing me?
It was a strange moment realizing that the me or the I that is John is different than the entity that is observing me. And that even the observer in me changes because what it observes is constantly changing! But as I spent more time with the observer in me, for longer periods of time, something quite remarkable happened. The observer awakened me to the fact that my life is, and always has been, connected to something that is unchangeable, infinite, and timeless. Call it whatever you want – God, Spirit, Atman, Yahweh, Jesus, Buddha, Jehovah, Allah or Higher Power – but this one realization has been a game-changer!
One of my favorite books is titled After the Ecstasy, the Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path by Jack Kornfield. The book is great because even if we venture down the contemplative path and begin to awaken to who we really are, we still have to live in the world. We still have to eat, sleep, put on our clothes, and do the laundry. We have to find the balance between our changeable self and the self that is always connected to the changeless. And we have to do this until our experience awakens us to the realization that they are one and the same.