I awoke from a strange dream and found myself lying at the edge of a cliff, dangerously close to rolling over the edge. I tried to recall how I had gotten there, but found I could not. Had I awoken from a dream, or was this the dream? My personal history seemed to have disappeared completely, and all I had left was fragments of stories—some real, some fantastical, and many somewhere in between the two.
All I had left were stories, songs, and a deep sense that something was missing. You were missing. If I had found you beside me, all would have made sense. I would be able to remember myself, and my place in this world. But you were gone, and I could do nothing but go in search of you.
How my heart ached and mind reeled in that wilderness. My clothes were ragged and torn and they felt foreign—as though some great darkness had descended on me in my sleep and refused to let go. If I took them off I would have to go naked, and the thorns would cut me and the nights would be unbearable.
The harder I fought against the thicket and the bramble, the more difficult my path became. Those I met in the wilderness either fled my step in fear or shouted harsh words and I was compelled to hide until they passed. There were many times I would have given up if the memory of you had not sustained me—this wordless and imageless memory that we had once been happy together.
One day—a miracle!
I pushed my bruised body through a tangle of branches and vines and found myself in a clearing, where the sweet sound of music met my ears. Sitting underneath a grand and welcoming tree sat an old Indian ascetic, mostly naked save some modest rags, and playing most wonderfully on a majestic sitar. I fell at his feet with tears streaming down my face, releasing an ounce of my sorrow and longing into the Earth, and letting his pure music flow down the notches of my spine and settle at the base, in my genitals and belly.
Some experiences feel eternal, as though you have been there time and time again and you wonder how it could ever end. But then, inevitably, the experience does end, and you find yourself face to face with a stranger, wondering where to go next. I lifted my bleary eyes to this old man who spoke gentle words in a language I did not understand. He stroked my hair and gripped my shoulder, repeating what sounded like a mantra. I repeated the words after him, and he smiled and laughed.
Like a madman, I began to tell him about you—how deeply I longed for you, how I had been searching for you, and how the wilderness had cut me to the bone and shown me the depths of desperation. He listened patiently and something in his eyes told me he understood—that he too had known this search, and this pain of the wilderness. When my words were exhausted, he beckoned me with a long and bony finger to follow him through the woods.
He sensed my hesitation, and placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder. I heard clearly his message in my own mind—trust me.
He began to walk through the forest with remarkable precision. He knew exactly where to step, which trees to lean on for support, and he moved slowly and gently so that the thorns would not clutch or bite him. As I imitated his graceful movements, I noticed that the forest seemed to be clearing out, as though the trees and creatures were making room for us. And indeed, after walking this way for a while we came to a place where the trees were comfortably spaced, where the ground was soft and sweet and sunlight drifted through the canopy and sparkled on the leaves.
He turned to me again and placed both hands on my shoulders. I looked into his eyes and saw only a softness there, a total ease. And when I looked at his face, I saw my own.
In this new freedom from the oppression of the wilderness, I began to dream the ancient dreams of men. I dreamt of great cities with buildings piercing the clouds, of palaces built for lost loves, of temples and monasteries built on mountains and river banks. Would you be found there, shining out among the million faces as a single flame can cut through the total darkness of night? How would I recognize you, when I could hardly recognize myself?
These troubled reflections disturbed my mind, and I saw the darkness of the world of men, the oppressive governments and religions. I saw men and women burned on pyres by their neighbors, I saw separation drive many to madness until they had nowhere to go and died forlorn in the streets. I saw the thieves and soldiers in their futile struggle, unable to recognize each other behind the masks they wore. Masks, masks, so many masks, so many fighting and dying for the sake of their masks, loving without love and living without life.
Would I find you in this insane masquerade? A million tragedies flooded my mind—looking for love in the loveless, wanting to connect without surrendering separation. Each of my tears told a different story but every story was the same… seeking union without surrendering separateness. I could not go back into that world to find you, it would swallow me up and my life would become just another failed dream, ending in death and forgetting.
I stood at the edge of the forest, gazing at all the cities and villages of man, from the crudest thatch huts to the most fortified and sterile metropolises. Would I return to the wilderness? Would I lose myself in the frenetic movement of civilization? I could not go either way. I had no choice but to sit and wait.
So I sat. As soon as I sat, I felt the most amazing sensation. There was some tangible magic in this boundary zone, pulled by both worlds and yet at a point of balance between them. My body felt heavy and grounded, supported and energized by the Earth.
Night and day and the flow of seasons seemed to dance around me, playful characters in this dream rather than capricious, impersonal forces to be reckoned with. Everything around me took on this playfulness, a playfulness I had often misinterpreted as callous or malicious. No, the plants and animals and time all seemed genuinely delighted to simply be and be seen. They felt like extensions of me, tendrils breathing out of my own confused existence. Wherein lay this confusion? What was this force that kept me seeking, kept me feeling as though I was not truly at home?
And then, I can hardly describe it, there was a profound feeling of falling in love. I was falling in love with it all… with this timeless place of peace I had found, with the madness of civilization, with the harshness of wilderness, all of it! I was falling in love with the masks, with the pain, the seeking, the characters and stories that didn’t even really exist…
I was going to the heart of it all, into this amazing pain that connected all beings in their deepest intimacy. And there I was falling in love, I was letting go, I was losing everything. There was nothing there but the longing—this longing for you.
Do you know what happens next? Do you know what I saw when I opened my eyes? I saw you, of course. I saw you everywhere, in everything, because I had found you within myself. I went back into all the pain of all my past lives—of all lives—and everywhere I saw you. When I was viciously murdered, it was by you. And when I murdered and terrorized, it was you. But none of that was real anymore. It was a terrible dream, but it had never been truly real. Only you are real, so eternally real that all nightmares recede to nothingness.
And so, I saw your true face. You were sitting beside me, where you had always been. You were right where I had never thought to look. And you were as surprised to see me as I was to see you! Because we are one, my Beloved, we are one with each other and with our Creator.
All forms turn to bear witness to this oneness, and celebrate the purity of existence.
So we hold hands, and turn toward the world, knowing that we can never again be separated. When we speak, it is with one voice. Our thoughts spring eternal, pure water from one mind. Our actions are the tender touch that heal without effort. And every step we take vanishes without a trace, because we step only into the eternal now.
Is there an epilogue to this story? A happily ever after? Ah, time seems to weave around us to paint a picture of our perfection. All of our children sit at our table, eating the meal which is only the image of our love. As for us, we are blind! Everything has become light.
Is there an epilogue to this story? One happy ending draws all others toward it. They are only different perspectives, myriad colors emanating from a stained glass window. The old Indian man returned to play sitar in the marriage hall. And when we wed wilderness and civilization found harmony at last.
Could there be a happily ever after? Only a happiness ever now. Where there is time there is longing, only timelessness can bring perfect peace.
Our grandchildren hang on our words, so perfectly aware and attentive, ever ready for that happily ever after. And you know I will draw it out, to hear their gasps, sighs, and laughter. I do it only to see them shine! And you smile as I lead them this way and that, surprising them, shocking them a little, but always giving them what their heart desires. How can any grandparent resist? You know I cannot.
And when the grandchildren have gone to bed, and the children are drinking their wine in the living room, we will sit outside on the porch and gaze at the moon, alone in our silent knowing, still tenderly holding hands.
I will meet You there. Be happy, my Love.