I’m drinking a cappuccino at a pavement café and people watching. It’s a favorite pastime of mine, because I can see that everyone is living in a story about who they are and what life is.
That guy over there with the briefcase lives in a world in which succeeding is what matters … although he’s secretly worried he might be a loser. The pretty girl reading the magazine hasn’t decided who she is yet… but she’s considering a story that revolves around becoming a model with enormous breasts. The nervous father pushing the pram, on the other hand, looks like he’s just had his whole story turned upside down… but he seems to be enjoying it.
We all live in a story. Mine is the story of ‘Tim’…. the philosopher plumbing the depths of life… the father trying to support a family… the author attempting to write a bestseller. I can’t tell you how much I love my story. But sometimes I become so lost in my dramas I don’t notice the underlying mystery of existence. I forget how strange and amazing it is to be alive.. and then life starts to go dead on me. Feeling numb becomes normal.
It’s like when a romantic relationship loses its magic.
Look at that young couple window shopping. Right now they’re so in love. You know what it’s like. You meet someone and they seem so amazing. They’re a mystery to you and you’re a mystery to them. And when you meet in that mystery you say you’re in love with each other. It feels as if you’re walking on sunshine and life is sweet. But as time goes by things usually change.
And that, I’m guessing, is exactly what’s happened to the middle aged woman arguing with her husband on the table opposite. He used to see her as a sublime mystery, but over the years he’s adopted a lot of limiting ideas about her. Now he’s put her into a conceptual box, so she feels cramped and confined. He can no longer see who she really is, because he’s relating to an idea of who she is. This is preventing them from authentically connecting in the mystery, so the magic has gone from their relationship. When that happens we say we’ve fallen out of love… which is exactly right.
I find that it’s the same with life. When I put the mystery of existence into a conceptual box the magic goes. I stop loving my life and I start just getting on with it. But when I step out of my story into the mystery it’s as if I’ve suddenly remembered I’m alive again, and I find myself falling in love with everything and everyone.
I’m conscious of the mystery now and all my superficial judgements are dissolving. I love the middle aged woman for giving her husband a hard time, because she so much wants them to be amazed by each other again. I love the new father for embracing a change of direction that fills him with fear of the future. I love the business man for his ambition and the pretty girl for her naiveté. Who knows where their strange lives will lead? Maybe to the ever-present mystery of this moment?
The Mystery of the Moment
At its mystical heart spirituality is about experiencing an ultra-conscious state of awareness I call being ‘deep awake’. This can sounds like something only available to those who become monks and practise years of meditation, but in my experience it is available to all of us. And the simplest way to taste the deep awake state is to focus your attention on the mystery of the moment.
- Become conscious that you are constantly telling yourself a story about who you are and what life is.
- Now put that story on one side for a while and focus your attention on the most obvious thing about life … that it’s profoundly mysterious.
- Be conscious of the feeling that there is much more to life than you understand.
- Most people relegate this feeling of uncertainty to the background of the mind, where it can be conveniently ignored. But if you bring it into the foreground of our attention, something interesting will immediately start to happen to your state of consciousness.
Sometimes it can feel frightening to dive into the mystery. We want to hold on to something, because we associate not being certain about things with feeling confused and anxious. But dissolving into the mystery is actually an experience of ecstatic liberation, not worried perplexity.
It can be terrifying when we hover nervously on the outskirts of the mystery, but when we unconditionally let go into the mystery, there’s nothing to fear. When we finally recognise we truly know nothing, there is an exhilarating feeling of freedom and an overwhelming sense of wonder.
The mystery of life is so utterly obvious it’s astonishing that we miss it so much of the time. We are like fish not noticing water. We are conscious of the eddies in the flow and the changes in temperature, but not that it’s all water. Normally we’re so engrossed with our stories about life that we miss the ever-present mystery. But as soon as we step out of our story… there it is in all its unfathomable glory.
Throughout my life I’ve found that simply becoming conscious of the mystery wakes me up. The trick is to recognise when I’ve become lost in the story of Tim. The telltale clues are that I’ve become certain about things and overly anxious… and that I’ve lost my sense of humour. Then I simply step out of my story into the mystery of the moment. I remember that I’m alive and how awesome that is.
When I see beyond my ideas about life, there’s a wonderful feeling of oneness with all that is, because it’s only my concepts that make me see things as separate. And when I know that essentially all is one I find myself in love with life, because love is how oneness feels. So, when I bring my attention back to the dramas I’m confronting in my story, I see things through new eyes. And the more I hang out in the mystery, the easier it becomes to wake up the next time I’m lost in the story of Tim.
THE PLEASURE OF BREATHING
- Focusing on my breath, or any particular sensation, is a powerful technique which helps me step out of my story and into the mystery.
- When I shift my attention away from my thoughts my mind begins to quiet down.
- This makes it much easier to disengage myself from my story and become conscious of the mystery of the moment.
About The Author: This article was excerpted from Freke’s book, How Long Is Now: A Journey To Enlightenment, available at Satiama by clicking here. Tim Freke is a bestselling author and internationally respected authority on world spirituality and previous books include The Jesus Mysteries, which was a controversial top 10 bestseller in the UK and US and a ‘book of the year’ in the Daily Telegraph. His books and live performances have inspired hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world. To find out more about his standup philosophy shows and his ‘Magical Mystery Experience’ weekends, visit www.timfreke.com.