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by Gill Schwartz


An Epiphany


       I'm sitting on the porch on my sun faded black canvas chair doing my morning practices and meditation. Earlier, I'd joyfully watched the sunrise's golden aura sparkle across the rippling face of the small, quiet lake before me. Now, in this clear midmorning's splendor, the inner smile is still with me.

       This cheerful attention circulates through me with my alternating breathwork. Closing one nostril with a finger, I guide my breath and life-force to rise to the top of my head, the Crown Chakra, where it touches the radiance of higher realms. Then it flows down through the lightbody channel along that side of my spine to its base, the Root Chakra, my connection with primal earth energy. Then I change nostrils and reverse the circulation of life-force and breath, Root Chakra to Crown.

       Each complete breath cycle of soaring and descending brings me more present, opens me more fully as the alternating flows through these Sun and Moon passageways in my lightbody balance and merge. In expansive mindfulness, I watch the flow and let it go.

       But I'm only half-mindful of even this enticing interweaving of breath and life-force through my being because I'm still partly entranced by the interplay of sunlight on the water's wind-textured surface. And the two rhythms -my breathwork and the sun-reflecting ripples on the Lake- wonderfully harmonize.

       My apartment is near a train track. And, just now, in this moment of blissful harmony between inward and outward absorption, a raucously loud horn suddenly blasts. The porch shakes with the rumble of the passing train. Though I experience this many times a day and am mentally defended, a reflex irritation suddenly springs up with inner shouts of complaint.

       I prayerfully ask Knowing how to hold this awareness in the midst of this blaring, porch trembling intrusion.

       It brings the recall of a teaching from a Tibetan teacher while I lived in Katmandu, Dupdop Rinpoche. In private, he'd advised me to keep a particular practice. He assured me that it was especially important for my eventual awakening. "Coming into being and passing away," he described it. A contemplative practice of observing the fleeting, transitory nature of every being and thing. "Anicha" is the Buddhist term. One of Buddha's Four Noble Truths is that attachment to the transitory is a major cause of our suffering -loosing what we want, getting what we don't. After his initiating me into the practice, Rinpoche explained that this contemplation was not one more thing to put into my ordinary mind. It was to be held as a catalyzing truth to transform that mind itself.

       In the illuminative power of this memory, the clacking wheels of each passing freight car suddenly become a metronome for Anicha. My circulating life-force is captured by this jostling rhythm and thus brings its reality to me with startling clarity. The train's coming into being and passing away is known with my whole being.

       From where I sit on the porch, the sun has risen to the roof's edge so that my eyes are half in its blaze, half in its shadow. The shimmering between them soaks into my deep seeing and there the radiance and darkness merge.

       The unique conditions of the moment, the fruit of many years of meditation, grace, however it comes about, at once, the life-breath looping through my being; the rumble of the passing train; this Lake lined with spring-blossoming trees in their glory; the arcing sun and its wave-refracted splendor; random memories, dreams, visions, lovers, seemingly all my life and every moment in it is held in this heartbeat. This gleaming instant is a perfect intermeshing of all my life's fragments into a vast gem of wholeness and presence. All merged together. Complete!

       Then, in the next heartbeat, it is all utterly gone. All is shattered apart -into me and other, joy and misery, truth and fantasy. Amidst this mortifying whirl, some bit of my mind finally grasps the utter and essential fleetingness of every being and thing. Anicha. Anicha.


"Gate, gate
Boddhi svaha.

"Gone, gone,
truly gone,
ultimately gone
to become Awakened."


       The true nature of passing time is a heartbeat that spans the rise and fall of mountains, of planets coming into being and passing away. All ephemeral as a breath. But that Truth I saw stays with me: If I cling to nothing, I comprehend it all.

       My soul-self often finds passing time difficult, afflicting: the limits and frustrations inherent in impermanence, the endless loss and compromise in this realm of duality. For that part of me, passing time often has a savor of grieving. But in these moments of accepting Anicha, my soul is unbound and this same field of transient time appears a wondrous adventure, a potent means to explore and express my true self. For that timeless part of me, these moments are intriguing. That eternal, yet time-imprisoned me, is even grateful for this precious passing moment.


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