Thank for your kind words, J. I'll tell you a little story about my life that relates to how I perceive things. Many years ago, after my mother passed away, I was walking in the Rocky mountains with my father. We were hiking at around 13,000 feet, very near the Continental Divide. After walking for some hours, we finally reached this beautiful, blue lake, surrounded by sheer, rock cliffs on three sides. Water flowed over the top of one of the cliffs into the lake, and the sunlight reflecting in it created a rainbow effect. It was absolutely stunning, and I felt this incredible peace in my heart that I had never experienced before. Just then, the thought occurred to me, "The joy isn't coming from the lake. It's coming from inside of you."
This is the way it is. Certain people and experiences may elicit joy from within us, but the joy has always been there. It is our own nature and could never be given to us by anyone or anything outside of ourselves. So the light you saw emanating from my words was really just a reflection of what was already in your own heart. You are the light of all life. You are love itself, dancing in human form, dancing as emptiness. Beneath the thin veneer of ego and mortality, this is what we all are. The Persian poet Rumi summarized this exquisitely when he said, in response to being asked who he was, "I do not know who I am. I am an astounding, lucid confusion. If you label me and define me, you will starve yourself of yourself. If you box me down with labels and definitions, that box will be your coffin. I am your own voice echoing off the walls of God."
Ed has shared with me some of the beautiful experiences you have had recently. This is only the beginning. What people loosely call "enlightenment" isn't a destination, but a never ending journey in which one never arrives. It is a pool of fathomless, ever-new joy that just deepens forever. It is like the poem by Rabindranath Tagore:
Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life.
This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.
At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.
Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.
And yet ironically, after "awakening," we are still human. There is an old zen saying: "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water." After enlightenment (which really has no "before" or "after" -- it just is), one may continue to experience periods of bliss, but they will necessarily be juxtaposed by the pain and unpleasantness that the vicissitudes of life invariably bring. What remains throughout all experience, however, and what continues to deepen as time goes by, is the awareness of Truth -- the abiding peace of the Self that transcends all human understanding.
Some people are under an illusion that the jnani never feels pain or sorrow. This is not true. When Ramana Maharshi was informed that his beloved devotee, Ganapati Muni (a great saint in his own right) had died, he said, deeply moved and with tears in his eyes, “Where can we find another like him?” Towards the end of his own life, commenting on the sarcoma that was eating away his body, Ramana remarked, "Appa! Who could conceive that a disease such as this could be in this world? When a hiccough comes the whole body splits like flashes of lightning in a cloud! There has not been a spot [on my body] which has not been painful to touch."
Yet as identification with the Self deepens, the pain that often accompanies duality increasingly operates in the background, muted by the changeless, blissful reality that is our real nature. As Sri Ramana once explained, "Everybody feels the pain of a cut or sting, but a jnani whose mind is sunk in bliss feels it as in a dream." To use another one of his analogies, the jnani's perception of pain is like the experience of two lovers who are tortured together and are aware of it, but do not mind it too much because they are in ecstasy gazing at one another.
So your path now that you have reached the destination of non-arrival is to continue walking as (what Rumi called) a "breath breathing human being" -- fully experiencing all of the ups and downs that are concomitant with that role, yet feeling an ever increasing awareness of your divine nature. You are living the life of a householder, which can be challenging to say the least. In one sense, having reached a high state of awareness can make this job easier because you have been given an exalted, panoramic view of all creation. In another sense, it can also be harder because ordinary life can take on a mundaneness like never before.
Yet, everything sorts itself out and smooths out in time. When my son, who is now ten, was a baby, I started getting bad migraine headaches from lack of sleep and the many demands that were being placed on me physically. Yet during the same time, I had some of the deepest experiences of bliss while rocking him to sleep. The bliss was so intense at times that I thought my heart would explode and I would leave my body. People looking at my life today from the outside would see much chaos and many sources of stress. Yet, I am happier now than I have ever been. I am deeply in love with love itself, and I find such joy in doing nothing in particular.
So I wish you peace, J, as love continues to unfold within your heart. I don't comment on Ed's blog so much anymore, not because I love him any less, but just because when I have free time, I enjoy sitting in silence or chanting kirtan. You and Ed have a very special place in my heart, and you are most welcome to write me anytime you wish.
Love and Blessings,