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The Prodigal Son

By November 6, 2013Articles, Read

Many of us are drawn into spiritual seeking not to achieve those lofty goals of ‘liberation’ or ‘enlightenment’ but out of a deep feeling of disconnection, a yearning to truly meet others beyond the superficial, to rediscover the deep love that feels locked up in some dark, distant dungeon buried way down deep.

As we journey along ‘the path’ we hear the message that there is no autonomous controller in life, that the thinker, the do-er, the chooser we believe ourself to be is simply that, a belief, a grand delusion. But the full gravity of that message has such radical implications, is so utterly devastating to our current world view, that it often remains purely conceptual and not our lived reality.

However willing, however open we are to the possibility that we are much more than we imagine ourself to be, rather than risk falling into the unknown we can’t help but cling to our familiar repertoire of self images. Even the ‘I’m useless’, ‘I’m guilty’, ‘I’m scum’ beliefs seem preferable to that sense of total abandonment; ‘it is as it is’ and other spiritual concepts also providing the perfect excuse to turn away from rather than explore our deepest fears and resistances.

And so ‘we’ hang in there, adding a few more spiritual books and videos to the pile (and certainly not a novel or a hollywood blockbuster!) wondering which sentence will deliver the magic silver bullet that will end all the yearning. We turn the next page and there it is again, “’you’ are not the author of your life!” But it still feels as if without a supposed ‘me’ in charge our world will surely fall apart, that we’ll end up in some kind of terrible danger. How exactly that danger looks is uncertain, for it lurks like a terrifying monster that is always just out of sight, but we can feel its grisly presence.

We inquire and seek, seek and inquire with ever increasing intensity until the frequency may reach fever pitch. Perhaps we wish we’d never started in the first place and could call the whole thing off, but we can’t! We are like a desperate, unrequited lover who, despite having tried everything, still can’t let go of the beloved, a beloved that even seems to tease us with occasional glimpses of affection. Our thoughts become a boxing match between ‘me’ and ‘myself’: ‘I’m almost there’, ‘there is only here’, ‘I’ve finally got it!’, ‘there’s nothing to get’, ‘argh I’ve lost it!’, ‘there’s nothing to lose’… on and on it goes, round after round, until we finally fall to the floor with exhaustion.

In the still aftermath of our frenzied seeking, our utter failure to get ‘there’ becomes our blessing. With nowhere left to look and nothing left to hold, the essence of that terrifying/relieving message finally starts to dawn. As we fall into our fears, as we expose our deep sense of vulnerability, it’s not that the seeker becomes a finder but the very notion of a ‘me’ that seeks falls apart.

We are like the prodigal son who having lost everything, feeling empty, hungry and full of sorrow, returns once more to his father’s land. But crucially it’s not us who throw our arms around the father, but he who embraces us, into whose infinite arms we merge.

We are the father/God/Awareness/Presence/Being, one without a second, within and out of which all arises and dissolves, including this unique character we imagined ourself to exclusively be, along with all its gifts and foibles. We are a living paradox that thought could never understand: time within the timeless, dimensions within the dimensionless, form within the formless, individuality within the indivisible. The ultimate game of dressing up.

Whatever is knowing these words cannot be pointed to, is unfindable, yet undeniable; is indescribable, yet inseparable from each and every word. With every step along the journey we were already home, already being each step, the journey and the traveller. Our emptiness overflows with the fullness of life. We are the wind in the trees, the splash of rain in a puddle, the movement of the breath, the beat of the heart, an opening door and a welcoming smile, a cosy room on a cold winter’s day, a cup of tea and a biscuit, the taste and texture of biscuit on the tongue, the warmth of the cup in the hand, where is the edge of that sensation? Where do I this aware presence end and that sensation begin?! Every situation, every experience, every single perception is screaming “Hello! here I am! This is me, life being this, hello!”.

As those old mis-beliefs begin to melt away so do the walls of that dark, distant dungeon and the love that was made prisoner is set free. Not love as a blissful feeling that comes and goes, not my love for you or your love for me, but Love that recognises itself in all that is, in each and every facet of this glorious, exhilarating, gut wrenching, heart breaking, vertigo inducing, roller-coaster ride of being alive.

No matter how expressive our language, however precise our choice of vocabulary, however talented we are at spilling the contents of our heart onto the page, it’s never that.

Inexpressible, incomprehensible, unavoidable… this.

Image: ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’ by Charlie Mackesy, belgraviagallery.com