At this hour on a Sunday evening, I would ordinarily have finished the dishes, locked the front door and settled in with a book or a movie. But tonight, a feeling of restlessness broke into the open and took me with it. I was washing the dishes, scrubbing the bottom of a pot in which I had burned a can of mushroom soup I had intended for my supper, when suddenly I was looking down on myself from above. Contemplating the bald spot on the crown of my head, I noticed that my hands were not moving; even while another part of my mind was still busy scrapping the bottom of the pot. Then my overhead view was moving through the house and I realized I was following myself into the rest of my evening. Seeing myself sitting on the bed with the TV on, I recognized the desperation of a wolf caught in the jaws of a trap.
Abruptly, I was back in the kitchen and—abandoning the pot to the soapy water–I rinsed and dried my hands, put on a jacket against the October wind that had been rattling the kitchen window, and stepped outside into the evening. Without conscious choice, I was heading west.
A while later, I was standing in front of a church in the downtown area, wondering why I couldn’t recall the hour long walk I must have taken to get there. Then the church entrance opened and a man was gesturing me to come inside.
How like a dream this is, I thought. Then a burst of wind running down the street, carrying leaves and newspapers, brought with it the feeling of being totally present. The weight of the wind grounded and energized me—and a sudden longing to rest my back against the firm back of a pew, after an hour pounding the city’s streets, guided me up the stone steps into the church.
Instead of slipping into the first empty pew, I followed the young man and sat a few places away from him. My attention was immediately drawn to the man standing at the pulpit.
He gazed at me with such intensity that I thought he must be irritated that I had not only arrived late but had walked boldly into the center of the congregation as if I felt entitled to be at its heart. Then his arm was sweeping over the congregation and he began to speak.
“Awareness is like the surface of a lake. It reflects what appears in the sky above us. The depths below guide us and make it possible for us to connect with what lies above.”
It was more than a feeling of relaxation that then arose in me. I was standing on the edge of a lake as mist rose off its surface and enveloped me. I felt the presence of a forest behind me. The cry of a loon threaded its way through the stillness, stitching together time and space; and I remembered things that I’d long ago forgotten.
His words were already familiar to me. As his arm continued to sweep over the silent faces, it was as if my mind and heart, my private awareness and caring about life, were gathered into that sweeping gesture.
I seemed to know what he was going to say before he said it. That didn’t surprise me. He was reciting the calling card I had been given before entering this world, which I had somehow forgotten had been tucked into my breast pocket all along.
I felt an intimate connection with the person I have become on this life journey. The waters of that lake hold a secret: when I care about the people I meet in this life, I come as close as I can to the Being that unites everything. The loon may know something I don’t know about unity, connection and the nature of this life, but I am grateful that I am not that lonely cry calling out to travelers lost by the wayside; reminding us that we are free to stumble over our own choices and to rediscover anew what we have always known from time immemorial.