The Ordinary Luminosity of Being

There is a sense in which we think that awakening is special – that only a few ever achieve it, and that when they do, they are no longer like the rest of us but are lit from within by a rare and precious lamp. A lot of teachers, some well-intentioned, some not so much, contribute to this idea. Salvation can’t be sold, so we end up selling something else – images, ideas, methods. Suddenly the one doing the teaching matters: or the teaching matters: and we miss the luminosity that is naturally inherent in all of us as a simple condition of being.

Awakening is natural and simple: it is simply seeing what is, where “seeing” is not merely visual but a sort of gestalt of perception unconcerned with getting “all.” We might not recognize it as such, and we might be invested in it as something rare and complex, but that’s okay. What we think and feel is never as important as we assume it is, or presume it should be. No matter how many cool stories and myths we know about apples, an apple is still just an apple. I’m not saying apples aren’t amazing – they are, very much so – but their amazingness has nothing to do with what goes on in our brains.

What am I saying here, really? A Course in Miracles is just a course – that’s all. It’s not a religion and it’s not a way of life. You take the course – maybe you take it again if, like me, you’re kind of slow – but sooner or later, you finish it. And you move on.

This course is a beginning, not an end. Your Friend goes with you . . . Therefore obey your will, and follow Him Whom you accepted as your voice, to speak of what you really want and really need. His is the Voice for God and also yours. And thus He speaks of freedom and of truth (W-ep.1:1-2, 2:4-6).

What does this mean? Hell if I know. I can tell you what it meant for me – and what it looks like – but the intimacy of awakening is such that we must meet it alone. Indeed, a time comes when even the most eloquent and gentle of teachers grates on our sense of spaciousness. These days I can only bear Tara Singh in sentences, one or two only. It is enough.

I said earlier that awakening is natural. I mean simply that our natural intelligence and common sense are sufficient. Life – as being, as awareness of being, and as attention within awareness of being – is given to us in the same measure as every other form of life, including deer and black bears and violets and maple trees and so forth. All that is really required is to settle into what we are in truth. And if we look at that previous sentence closely, we will see: how can we possibly be anything else? An apple can’t be an orange, nor an orange a goldfish. Just so with us, and what we are in truth. Discovering this, and then deepening in and with it, is what it means to be joyful. It is the peace that surpasses understanding.

There is a tendency to think that other energies have to enter – that a divine project is required. Guardian angels, gurus, ascended masters and so forth. They don’t. And it is a relief to finally see this: to realize that life itself, precisely as we are aware of it right now, is sufficient. We can choose to read Wittgenstein or not. We can choose to meditate or not. Life accepts it all. Life has no preferences, one way or the other.

I went through a brief but difficult period where I resisted this for the simple reason that I wanted awakening to be more in the nature of a wild disco, a perpetual orgasm. But it is not. For me it is not. It is more like my walks in the woods before dawn: very quiet and gentle, very ordinary, and – when I am attentive and still – so lovely I can hardly breathe. What I had sought was always before me: what I longed for had been given to me at birth. Seeing it, I fall to my knees. Then I get up and keep walking.

A Course in Miracles merits our attention. It is a course worth taking, and taking with all of the energy and willingness we can give to it. Yet we need to be sensitive to the still voice within which at some point urges us to step outside the formality of the course. There is a time to learn and a time to bring our learning into application. Life is rich and variegated, and it is in that flux that we discover our wholeness, our perfection, and our joyfulness.

Of course, when I say perfection (et cetera), I am not referring to the temporary forms in which we find ourselves. Our bodies are fine – they are more than fine – they are neutral containers facilitating experience. But we can choose to identify with awareness itself – with this sense of being – and this is not conditional on a body, even as it is briefly experienced there. While our subjective experience of being and awareness end upon the expiration of the body, being and awareness – in the generic sense, in the fullest sense – continue. While this fact disturbs the ego, it is the essence of freedom.

Thus the ordinary: snow melt dripping off the eaves, prismatic in late afternoon sunlight, gray hairs, the sound of a deer bounding away through the snow, hot coffee while driving, kisses at bus stops, poems and songs and pictures. Thus the luminosity of being, the love of which we are composed: all of it at once: now.


  1. I like the way the three postings come together the way they build upon each other. I read them both ways.
    For example: I read them as they show up on my screen

    The Ordinary Luminosity of Being
    Seeing New Englandly Alone

    But then when I read that days’ posting from the bottom up:

    Seeing New Englandy Alone
    The Ordinary Luminosity of Being

    I love them even more.

    I laugh when I read that more than two sentences from Tara Singh is invading your spaciousness! Oh what a joyous space you are enjoying 🙂
    And who wouldn’t rush to meet you there?!



    p.s. The heart symbol alone just couldn’t cut this time

    1. thank you, Annie . . . I am very grateful for your close reading . . . lately my focus has been on a sense of care and integration with the writing, more than volume . . . how is it said rather than what is said . . . so I appreciate very much that you see that . . . we are in the spaciousness together!


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