In Awe of the Possibility


image by Scott Hanft

Our industrial civilization has created a scarcity of everything, and not just of ‘consumables’: We’ve also, at least in our minds, created a scarcity of relationship (too many ‘Facebook’ friends and not enough real ones), trust, collaboration, time, and even love. Love, we are told, comes once in a lifetime, it’s personal, it’s hard work, and, of course, you can only really love one person at a time. No surprise there’s so much jealousy and loneliness in our world.

I asked a friend of mine the other day what kind of loving relationships she has now, and what she is now looking for. I knew she’d recently broken up with her boyfriend and that the breakup was difficult for her. I also know she has a very strong and deep network of friends.

Her response surprised me. She said (I’m paraphrasing):

I have a lot of friends who I care deeply about, and they sustain me. What I seek is a monogamous and deeply spiritual connection, a ‘oneness’ with someone based on mutual devotion and worship of each other. I want all that, and I’m convinced it’s out there. Until I find that, I’m perfectly content to live, and be, ‘alone’.

Devotion. Worship. That seemed an almost antiquated view of love, particularly for a woman. Is such love possible without ‘losing’ yourself, without enslaving yourself, I wondered.

But as I spoke with her, I realized that she is speaking from a worldview in which there is an unlimited abundance of love in the world, and that it’s possible to love, and to give, without in any way diminishing yourself or your love for and of others. In fact such love could be the ultimate form of self-realization.

Her spirituality is very personal, but it is rooted in Eastern spiritual principles that see all life on Earth as connected and as one, and which see love as the purpose, the driver, for everything in life. In this view love isn’t just an emotion, a feeling one has for someone or something. It is the essence of life, and exists beyond the physical plane. Life’s purpose is not to understand, or procreate, or provide some kind of legacy; it’s to love everyone and everything, to transcend the limitations of our bodies and our thoughts and our feelings.

I’ve written occasionally about brief glimpses of this kind of transcendence, this kind of presence where there are no boundaries, there is no time, there is no suffering, there is no ‘I’ or ‘other’. Where ‘I’ simply disappear into the wholeness of everything.

A year ago, in an article on my ‘presence’ practice, I wrote about this as a possible ultimate outcome of such a practice:

How do I imagine, in my moments of inquiry and contemplation, my normal state of living if I were able to awaken, connect, and realize who/what I (and the unity of which I am inextricably a part) really am, every moment?

I imagine myself in a state that is at once very relaxed and very aware. A state where my intellect is largely at rest (and damn, it needs a rest!) and where my emotions are calm, even, compassionate, and playful — not “under control” but just at peace. A state where my senses and instinct come to the fore, with my senses acute, noticing, connected, taking in, feeling-at-one-with, enjoying, and my instincts are ‘directing’ ‘me’, gently, letting go, letting things come, just being present, being generous, ‘touching’ appropriately when that ‘touch’ would be helpful.

No longer my ‘self’.

I imagine myself being just a part, flying, floating. Green and blue and white, flowing and glowing.

Softening. Getting lighter.


I think this is what my friend means as the place from which to enter into a love that is mutual devotion and worship. That love for ‘one other’ is not something apart from the love of everyone or everything, it builds upon the foundation of that love of everyone and everything. Only once she is herself in that state of ‘being’ –self-less, light, peaceful and connected, and can recognize and see this ‘other’ in the same state, can they together begin to create this even more intense love and devotion to and worship of each other, because that devotion is not exclusionary of the rest of existence, it is a deeper expression of that love for the rest of existence.

It hurts my head thinking about this, and our language is utterly inadequate to express these concepts. The words have been mostly co-opted by new age opportunists who prey on our anxiousness to proclaim this a state that is rare and exclusive and painless and above the masses and available if only you’ll buy their book and take their courses.

But what my friend says makes sense, not in the intellectual ‘sense’ of the word but in the sensuous ‘sense’, the intuitive ‘sense’. When she said it, it was as if I had a sudden glimpse of something so far beyond what I usually think and feel that I was briefly in awe, not of her, but of the possibility she was describing.

I realized that she brings this ‘sense’-ability to everything she does. Her work, which is extraordinary, is a form of devotion, love, worship of those she works with and for. And that love is unlimited, energizing not exhausting. And it is only possible from that state of presence and acceptance that she has practiced her whole life, and continues to practice. So now she hopes (without actually ‘hoping’) that she will find ‘an other’ who shares that, with whom she can build that next level of love and devotion and worship, to love even more. Or rather, she hopes that it will find her.

I hope it happens for her.

So back to my ‘presence’ practice, as discouraging and unproductive as it seems to be. If I am going to truly be of use to the world, in what’s left of my life, I need to be able to transcend (move past or around, nothing ‘mystical’ here) my own anxieties, my grief, my impatience, my mind’s false ‘sense’ of reality. To transcend them not by ‘detaching’ from my feelings, and others’, but by seeing them as just what they are — feelings, conceptions, reactions, inventions that are understandable and worthy of empathy, but not really ‘real’. And to do all this not in order to ‘better’ my ‘self’ but to get beyond my ‘self’ (my fictitious but demanding and preoccupying ego) and its limitations. To love more. To float, to fly, to vanish. To be a part.

How much might we love, and how much might we be able to give, if we could just get past this complex and intricate prison of scarcity and limits that our minds (in their terrible and misguided attempt to make ‘sense’ of us and who ‘we’ are) have locked us into.

So hard. Maybe not going to happen, at least to me. But still, I am, sometimes, in awe of the possibility.

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7 Responses to In Awe of the Possibility

  1. Devotion as I see it now is that ultimate deep bow to all that is, to the unending mystery of life that shows up in this person, animal, situation in front of me. I am finding myself devoted to more and more–broader and broader strokes. It is surprising and delightful. I could not have imagined it.

    Thank you for this, Dave.

  2. Martha Caldwell-Young says:

    Thank you, Dave. I am practicing, too. I don’t know if I will move beyond my “self” in this lifetime, but the urge to move in this direction keeps coming, and I feel a strong willingness to follow this urge. The world seems to need so much in order to heal. And maybe a big part of that healing will come in the form of more and more people willingly following the urge to move beyond their “self.” Namaste. _/|\_

  3. You are “trying” too hard; looking for this entity/event “beyond self”. It’s not a discrete event, you don’t practice it and you certainly don’t wait till it happens. The bond you friend is looking for is not an item on a shelf, a particular physical feature of some a potential partner.
    The building of the loss of individuality and the expansion of self, blending of personality, occurs over time, gradually.
    Spend 30+ years with someone and see ;-) There is no identifiable moment, the AHAh! moment.
    Show me when a plant starts growing; show me where the wind started from …

  4. leeroy @ GNN says:

    You have got me thinking.
    Love your image.
    I go about pitying
    While I am carried by the wind
    Across the sky. ”
    ― Frances Densmore

  5. Anonymous says:

    How much indeed. Nice to experience this side of you :)

  6. John Banfill says:

    Thanks for the intriguing read. When you write about your Presence quest, I think of the talk by Dr. Jill Taylor at and how one half of the brain functions in this manner but we are mostly aware of the other half of the brain. I would like to hear your thoughts on this and whether I am missing the point.

  7. Yasha says:

    A spiritually-soaring and yet relatively bite-sized post, Dave; love this! You dragged me out of lurk-mode. And of course key kudos to your intellect-bypassing friend. By cutting through the crap which we guys so easily cleave to together (speaking for myself in the too-recent past, at least), she has succeeded in connecting with you where I have failed.

    I feel compelled to encourage more of HTSTW along these non-linear lines, so i’ll re-state my review: This to me is one of the most “vital” little things I’ve read from an avowed non-“mystic”, and one of my favorite things I’ve read in three years of reading your tens of thousands of words. The way this woman semi-re-catalyzed that…whatever to call it, whatever exactly it was in you, and the way you respond here is inspiring to THIS someone, who feels he knows and is ready for and is practicing what you, and she via you, express here. Yes, may she (and I and all others ready, while we’re at it) find that in another, and soon…

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