Thanks to the wonder of YouTube, I have some great spiritual teachers accompanying me around the house right now. They share their wisdom with me as I sort socks, pick up lego and cook meals. And they tell me the same thing over and over – that (as the recently deceased Wayne Dyer puts it) “we are not human beings in search of a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings immersed in a human experience.”
Which in many ways is a perspective shift to end all perspective shifts.
Because accepting this requires a conceptual move beyond everything that seems to be of this world. It requires us to move above and beyond our physical experience. To take an imaginative leap into the ethers. To run, Harry Potter-style at a wall, in the hope that it’s not going to end in broken ribs and a nosebleed, in order to discover a whole other dimension.
If Harry Potter’s not your thing you need only look up at the night sky to consider the concept of a whole other dimension. Astronomers refer to an observable universe for good reason. Because they know that there’s an unobservable one as well – that there’s more ‘out there’ than we’re currently able to detect with a telescope, despite the technological advances of recent times.
Which is all mind bending stuff.
But mind bending stuff with a simple message.
That there’s more to life than meets the eye.
And yes, I get that Harry Potter is a work of fiction, and that I would end up with broken ribs and a nosebleed if I ran at a wall in a station. But as a metaphor, it speaks to the perceptual shift required in order to access this other dimension. A willingness to think in a way that seems counterintuitive, to do things differently, in the hope that if you do, there might just be more available to you than first appeared to be the case.
We become so attached to our perceptions of the world. So wedded to how we ‘know’ the world to be. Certainty is revered in our culture, associated with strength, power and stability. And in some contexts that’s awesome. I want someone with a big ol’ dose of certainty when I get on a plane, or go under a surgeon’s knife – no question. But in so many arenas, illusions of certainty hold us back from making changes, trying new things or exploring new terrain. We tell ourselves that it’s too silly/difficult/risky/expensive/complicated/exhausting – that because no one else around us has done it, our desire to do so must be wrong. We settle into the comfortable sofa of certainty. We seek validation from those who share our point of view. We shake our heads, and tell ourselves it was just a ‘moment’s madness’, a passing whim, a crazy idea. We know for sure it was only ever going to be a pipe dream. We tell ourselves off for forgetting, momentarily, to be ‘realistic’.
I speak from a place of authority here. I’ve said all those things to myself and more. I’ve squashed down the dreams, argued myself into submission and berated myself for thinking that I might want more from life. I’ve resisted change, and held myself back from venturing into new territories. I still do it from time to time. But these days, I also have the voices of these spiritual gurus ringing in my ears as I go about the house – reminding me that there’s more to life than meets the eye. I now have the lived experience that taking risks can yield results beyond your wildest dreams. That being uncertain, and staring at a wall you’re about to run at can feel a bit edgy and ridiculous – but that more often than not, you don’t end up with broken ribs and a nosebleed – in fact, you end up discovering your own personal Hogwarts – a world you never knew existed until you ran straight at it.
Maybe you’re convinced. Maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re about to run at a wall. Maybe you’re convinced you’d never do something so risky and stupid. Either way, I’ll leave you with a poem by Valerie Cox that illustrates rather beautifully how, even in the most innocuous situation, all is not exactly as it appears to be.
The Cookie Thief
A woman was waiting at an airport one night
With several long hours before her flight
She hunted for a book in the airport shop
Bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop
She was engrossed in her book but happened to see
That the man beside her as bold as could be
Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag between
Which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene
She munched cookies and watched the clock
As this gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by
Thinking “If I wasn’t so nice I’d blacken his eye”
With each cookie she took he took one too
And when only one was left she wondered what he’d do
With a smile on his face and a nervous laugh
He took the last cookie and broke it in half
He offered her half as he ate the other
She snatched it from him and thought “Oh brother
This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude
Why he didn’t even show any gratitude”
She had never known when she had been so galled
And sighed with relief when her flight was called
She gathered her belongings and headed for the gate
Refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate
She boarded the plane and sank in her seat
Then sought her book which was almost complete
As she reached in her baggage she gasped with surprise
There was her bag of cookies in front of her eyes
“If mine are here” she moaned with despair
“Then the others were his and he tried to share”
“Too late to apologise she realised with grief”
That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.