It was a grey and cloudy day, rain fell gently every now and then, tiny drops of water kissing blades of grass and rolling to the soil. I was in an interesting mood. I had just witnessed a fight break out in front of a tavern, two men yelling obscenities at each other and quickly everyone began taking sides. The police, fortunately enough, got there before things became too violent, but I was still shaken by the episode.
I have hope and faith for humanity, but sometimes when I look into the depths of our aggression toward one another, I have to wonder what our fate will be. It does, at times, seem that we keep making the same mistakes over and over. We’re such an emotionally volatile species, so quick to judge and blame and attack. There are so many arbitrary distinctions and labels we use to divide and categorize each other and our attachment to these divisions is so strong. I know how long it can take to break an identification with such deep roots. But I also know that revolutions and rebirths are inevitable, sudden tidal waves of light illuminating the mind and breaking through even the darkest clouds.
I can understand the desire to run away from society. On a collective level, human society looks like a barely constrained chaos, perpetually tearing at the seams. And on a personal level, society so often presents itself as an insurmountable wall, an endless maze of red tape where any idealistic hope of accomplishing anything is inevitably crushed or eroded to little pebbles of hopelessness. And at the same time society is this endless pressure to accomplish something, to be somebody, to save the world without posing as a messiah, to be a genius without pushing anyone out of their comfort zone.
The more I think about it the funnier it gets. I know how easy it is to be overwhelmed. But there is also an innocence to the insanity, and clarity opens up the doors to freedom.
In any case, at the time I had my own concerns. I had run out of money. I was lucky enough to have certain benefactors, but I didn’t like relying on them too much. In theory, I wanted work that I could enjoy, that would help me cultivate my God-given gifts and also serve humanity. I just wasn’t sure if that was a realistic desire, and I wasn’t sure how idealistic I could afford to be.
It was with all this in mind that I made the walk up the hill to the Sun Hermit’s cottage. I could see the smoke rising from the chimney, and the sweet smell of squash soup flooded my senses as I made it to the door.
“Come in,” he said, before I had even knocked. His voice was like a gentle rumble of thunder, or the sound of distant rain on this bleak day. Deep and familiar, comforting. Soft and melodious.
I opened the door and walked in. He continued to stir his soup without turning to greet me. Why should he? For us there was no coming or going. I joined him by the fire and warmed my hands. He hummed quietly as he stirred, and it seemed that he was imbuing the soup with his holy voice. I loved to watch the way he lived. A detached and easy celebration of every moment, simple and humble and loving.
My concerns were already drifting away on the smoke through the chimney, but I had made up my mind to seek his council so I drew them quickly into words.
“Teacher, will you speak to me about society?”
As I made this conscious connection to his wisdom, it felt like a little sun ignited inside him and began to shine on me.
“Mmm… society. When you mature in wisdom you will be able to love every person fully without falling into any traps. They won’t have any bait left to catch you.”
“How can I serve humanity?”
“Live simply and honestly and see the beauty in everyone you meet. Speak your vision.”
“What about money? How can I support myself and those who depend on me?”
The Sun Hermit put a lid on his soup and quieted the fire. “Let’s take a walk,” he said.
The light outside was soft and beautiful, as though the dissipating clouds were illuminated from within. The breeze brought fresh air and cooling moisture. The plants danced and swayed to a silent music. I imagined that the Sun Hermit could hear it, and that it carried the answer to my question.
“Is this question your own, or is it another’s?” he asked me softly. “Have you ever truly asked this question? Has your heart cried out for money, the way it has cried out for love or wisdom?”
“No… it hasn’t.”
“Or even when your body cries out for food, haven’t you received it?”
“And love and wisdom?”
“They have arrived, in their own way, in their own time.”
“God supports all things. Money is a little devil of man’s ache to be self-sufficient. Who are you to foster faith in little devils? You are a man of God, of greatness, of the self-birthing light… you walk in the grace of miracles. These concerns are always opportunities to allow your mind to expand to the greatness of the path that has found you. Even in the most ordinary, mundane and cloudy days, you walk the path of royalty. The path of spirit. The path of illumination and salvation. Don’t allow the confused voices of society to distract you from who you are.”
The self-birthing light… my mental faculties stumble and stutter on the paradox that offers no resolution, only the unfolding of wonder and awe and celebration… Why should I value myself by money when my Creator is value itself, ever expanding and self-revealing, and I am an extension of His majesty? Or Her majesty, if you prefer. Mother and Father both, this tender power that births all worlds, imminent and transcendent…
“All little doubts are roads back to the glory of God,” says the Sun Hermit. “Faith is salvation as believing becomes knowing.”
The Sun Hermit had not directly answered my question, but pointed me back in the direction of my own wisdom. This is why I have such faith in him as a Teacher. Beyond this, it is because I see something of divinity through him. It’s not just a belief, it’s a feeling. And it’s not just a feeling, it’s an opening… an opening of perspective and mystery and wonder. I am so grateful for his company and his guidance.
“You are wondering if you should be making more of an effort,” he said. “If you should be trying harder.”
“Yes, that doubt shows up from time to time.”
The Sun Hermit remained silent for a while. We were standing in the wet grass, looking out over the hills, as the sun came and went between the slow-moving clouds. Just as grace seems to come and go, the sudden flashes of insight that inspire a course of action, but then seem to leave us in darkness, so that we wonder if perhaps they were just a dream, a figment of…
“Imagination?” asks the Sun Hermit. “Trust your imagination. Go on feeding it. The imagination has its own momentum that will carry you. Think back to when you were a child. Do you remember reading books about the Buddha? Already you were imagining a great story, already the seed of awakening was there. Your vision calls out to you, and you cultivate it by believing in it. Don’t try to create what isn’t there. Nurture what is there.”
I could feel what he was saying. Nurture isn’t so much about effort, though it sometimes requires hard work. “I have to trust that what has been set in motion has its own life, and will cry out when it needs attention, and also that it will help support me as it becomes mature.”
“Exactly. Your art continues to develop even when you don’t seem to be consciously working on it. It develops through your spirituality. Your devotion to the path feeds your creativity and your love. Your love feeds your devotion. Your devotion magnetizes your art. In every moment, trust what is there, because it’s all interconnected. Everything you do is an opening to your inner world, your sense of self and awakening.”
“When I think of money, often there is just this emptiness and sense of detachment.”
“Money is not real. It’s an invention of the mind. Your mind is just a means, it doesn’t have substance in itself. The body is real, although it is impermanent. When you are hungry, you don’t ask ‘Should I eat? Should I care about eating?’ Hunger speaks for itself. And spirit has its own hunger. It is hungry for awakening. Feed the spirit and allow the mind to remain empty.”
Inspiration comes when it comes. I remember how necessary it is to allow life to have peaks and lulls, and continue to trust. I will allow my life to flow along the river of faith. I believe in the path and I believe in myself. I will not invest my energy in struggle, but allow these tension to push me inward. And whatever wisdom blossoms within, I will allow it to move outward, in its own time.
The sun is shining now, and I feel renewed. I walk with the Sun Hermit back to his cottage. We walk silently, happy to simply be.