That World Is In This World

Breathtakingly beautiful (see pic), the largest cave in the world, Hang Sơn Đoòng in Vietnam. It was discovered by a local man named Hồ Khanh in 1991, God bless him. The whistling sound of wind and the roar of a rushing stream in the cave heard through a small entrance, as well as the steep descent, prevented the local people from ever entering the cave.

I have a fear of small enclosed spaces, sometimes waking up in a sweat from a dream in which I have to crawl through a pipe as a spy (I must have seen a movie like that when I was a kid). But there are enclosed spaces more spacious than the skies. They often have an access that will reveal itself to us only if we want to live alive.

I have realized that I live life in proportion to the breadth and depth of my attention. I have come to believe that life gives itself only to those who pay attention and it gives itself only in proportion to that attention.

To change our life, we have one lever, really. What we choose to pay attention to and how much. It's Prefrontal Cortex 101.

Without my attention to my own inner life, change, no matter how ubiquitous these days, changes nothing. Drowning in change that is foisted on us by infinite information, unquestioned ambition, and evermore explanations, has been an illusion of transformation. Sometimes we actually invite change into our lives so we don't have to pause, drop in, and face the inner work of transition that we really need. We literally use change to stay the same.

I can't even count how many times I have changed in order to avoid a transition I needed on the inside, only to experience unbearable embarrassment (I was that teen wanna-be drummer you cringe hearing about, soooo glad there was no YouTube back then).

While change requires nothing, really, transition requires only a bit of courage. Like following that whistling sound of wind or the roar of a rushing stream at the entrance of something we have been avoiding for years.

I learned to face this from masters of transformation David B. Drake (transformation happens in real time), Michael Margolis (life is an embodied story), and Shayla Wright (dropping in and down inside, and staying there with what is, is the most dynamic place of a fully human life).

(BTW, this power of attention sheds light on religious experiences, art, and other joys that help us see reality for what it really is: magic.)

Here are couple of verses from a recent David Whyte poem that helped me sense this dynamic, rather than merely explain it.

There is a door
beneath everything
you'll walk right by
if you don't stop to look
with that troubled heart
and a loving eye.

~David Whyte

In effect, it says "There are, in this world, doors to another world, and that world is in this world, and you only need to make a small--but real!--step of paying attention."

Today, I will expand the surface of my life's attention by letting my heart be free to feel the trouble, and my eye to catch something I can learn to love.



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