Early in the morning, I like sitting out back on my patio with a cup of coffee. I raise the umbrellas to shade the morning sun then sit in silent meditation with Harmony, my chocolate lab, by my side. I feel content in that place. On some level, I sense and know that all is right with the world.

My senses take in the external world. I hear the chirping of birds, the buzz of insects, the bark of a distant dog, the sounds of traffic nearby and the motor of an occasional airplane flying overhead. I open my eyes to see the greenness of the grass and trees, take in the sights of the singing birds or look down with love at Harmony resting in the shade on the concrete. I feel the heat of the sun on my scalp as the turning of the earth has moved the position of the umbrella such that it no longer provides me shade. I slide my chair to a new position. I feel the gentle breeze moving across the hair on my arms. I bring the cup of coffee to my lips and enjoy the taste of the liquid as it flows across my taste buds and warms my palate.

I am conscious of so much. I am conscious of me, the individual perceiving and sensing all of this external world. I’m conscious of my individuality and uniqueness – that I am the only one having this particular experience at this particular moment. I’m conscious of my interconnectedness to all that is. My experience of life and all that is within it is impacted by the insects, the birds, the coffee, the traffic, Harmony, the airplane, the sun, the umbrella and the turning of the earth. I know that I am connected at some level to all of these things that I perceive as being “outside” of me. They are connected to me.

The chirping bird I hear nearby is experiencing its own sense of individuality, its own history, its own personal life. Yet that bird’s life has been one of not only personal independence but one of interdependence on the givingness of nature. It draws warmth and energy from the sun. It quenches its thirst with the lakes and streams and rain. It fills its hunger with the seeds and worms it finds. It interacts with other birds and in such interactions develops its own behaviors and habits as well as creates new birds to keep the circle of life ever moving upward. I see the bird, it sees me – each of us slightly changed by the interaction.

The airplane flying overhead is piloted by another human being who has hopes and dreams and a flight plan. In this moment, they are moving about their life unaware that their actions have touched me in some way. We humans “bump into” each other all the time changing each other in ways big and miniscule.

Each of us experience this dance between our sense of individuality and our realization of our connectedness to the rest of the universe. This dance occurs within the perception of time ever continuously flowing from the past into the future. There is only this moment, but with that realization the moment is gone and we are on to a new moment. The river of time is gently moving us from one experience of the eternal now into another.

Each of us has been gifted the power of free will choice. This gift even allows us the free will to believe we don’t have free will. Each moment we can choose how to see the world, how to experience it, how we’re going to play in it. How are you choosing?

There is a beautiful gracefulness to the flow of life. When we choose to see our interconnectedness to all that is, when we release our attachments to things we wish to cling, we gently flow with life with ease. We realize that life provides for us, that life is joyful.

When we choose to see ourselves as separate and apart from everything else, when we are ever in competition with all of the outer world, we cling to those things we believe we must “possess”. Our attachments to our material possessions and our ideas and beliefs take us out of the gentle flow. We end up continuously “pushing the river”, fighting against the natural tendency of life.

Taken in total – our sense of individuality, our sensory perceptions, our sense of the flow of time, our sense of the interconnectedness of life, the deep awareness of unity, our release of attachments, our being in the flow and allowing ourselves to effortlessly glide along enjoying the bountiful gifts of life – all of this and so much more than words can express is what spiritual teachers have tried to share with us throughout the history of humanity. They have sipped this divine experience and call us to draw from its deep well.

Some have called it God. However the use of that word has often resulted in our placing limits on God as we attempt to define God in our human image. I generally prefer the use of the word Spirit for this eternal essence that underlies all that is. The Chinese sage Lao Tzu in the sixth century B.C.E. termed this essence the Tao in the classic text the Tao Te Ching.

The first few lines of the Tao Te Ching begin this way:

The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
The named is the mother of myriad things

Thus, constantly free of desire
One observes its wonders
Constantly filled with desire
One observes its manifestations

These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders

We each experience this mystery of mysteries, this door to all wonders each day our lives. But can we sense it? The outer life seduces us into external desires and attachments and into a trance of forgetting that we are in this eternal flow. We end up in struggle and pain as we push against the stream. Somehow we must let go, release attachments and move gracefully with the flow of life.

From Chapter 8:

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.

It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself
and don’t compare or compete,
everybody will respect you.

Isn’t it time for you to be content to simply “be yourself”?

Mark Gilbert

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Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!