Have you ever wondered why, even after having a moment of absolute clarity or receiving a profound understanding-even after getting a glimpse of your highest self or brushing up against love in its unconditional form-even after falling into a delightfully transcendent state of absorption or being kissed by the sultry lips of inspiration-you still seem to be the same old asshole that you were five minutes before?
I’m going to be honest here; the quest to integrate spiritual practice into everyday life is a constant struggle. Each day brings brand new challenges and with them, new opportunities to fail miserably. Sometimes it can seem like an impossible feat-one that can be talked about in such glittering aphorisms but only sparkles about as much as a damp wash-cloth when it comes to being demonstrated. Often times it seems like the more “spirituality” is talked about, the further away it actually is.
It’s easy enough to see things this way and to let that dark cloud of insecurities drown our honest attempts. But lately I’ve tried to look at this subject just a little bit differently. It’s nothing profound or particularly insightful, but it has helped me to come to terms with my sometimes, less-than-saintly presence on the human stage. Lately, I’ve been trying to respond to each given moment the same way I would respond to a chord change in the midst of a song.
The way I see it is that, as the rhythm of the day thumps along and the chorus of circumstances spill from the heart of the universe, I, as an instrument of the great unfolding am presented with a choice. Do I hold on to my expectations and preferences about how the song should be going, or do I open my ears and listen so that I can hear the approaching changes? Do I act out in defiance by inserting notes that don’t live in harmony with the scale, or do I accept the flow of the music and adjust my choices accordingly. Despite the potentially distasteful genre or the vulgarity of its movement, how I choose to play along is totally up to me. Even if the circumstances I am presented with are completely out of line with my personal taste, the way that I respond will ultimately dictate the quality of my experience.
In other words, I am trying to see my life as a creative response instead of some fight or flight reaction.
This idea goes for the way I respond to my previous responses as well. Just because I hit a sour note before doesn’t mean I have sullied the song beyond repair; it just means that I now know where I am in relation to harmony. If I want remain in balance I need to learn from my mistakes and make an effort to get back on track.
The truth is, life is not always pretty and it certainly isn’t designed to adhere to our desires. Life, as far as I can tell, isn’t even a thing, which can be addressed. We can’t just call upon it with demands like we would call upon the concierge at some fancy resort. We can’t just stomp around like toddlers, expecting it to bend to our insolent will. Life is a vastly mysterious process that functions well beyond our conscious understanding.
It’s in the split second change of direction that turns an ordinary flock of birds into a poem. It’s in the early morning sunbeam that paints a picture of eternity into a drop of dew. It’s in the unseen moment of understanding that transforms a lonely song into a sudden dance party.
No one has control over moments like these. No single individual has the power to command a revelation. The greatest breakthroughs in life tend to come through the most ordinary of moments. It’s not the birds or the sunbeam or a particular song that shifts the needle-its the way that we see them.
Our attention is what creates the harmony that we seek. The way we apply ourselves to each moment determines how much beauty we are capable of seeing. Life is a swinging jazz tune, open to wild improvisation. Nobody ever said it had to be played a certain way. The point is simply to burn and to keep up with the changes.