Ripening of the Soul
Copyright © 1995 A-Hameed Ali ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The old man!
is his pillow.
A few months after the realization of the absolute mystery of Being, I become aware of a curious process. This development is very subtle; it has been unfolding for some weeks before I realize that it is a specific process. It manifests as subtle and fleeting feelings, insights and perceptions.
The first conscious intimation of this development is a sense that I am at the end of a stage of my life. I have done what I had set out to do, in inner realization, work, and personal life. There is a feeling of completion, and a sense that I have no more ambition.
Then there appears a large gap, like a big empty space in my life. I am aware of an opening for something new to emerge. The gap is both in time and space, free to be occupied. Arriving home, and coming to the end of ambition, have left me with a great deal of time and space. I realize now how much space and time seeking takes, whether or not one is conscious of this seeking. The incessant seeking crowds the mind and life with a universe of desiring and discontent, and with a multitude of strategies for fulfillment.
I decide not to try to determine what should happen next, not even to figure out what it might be, but to allow the guidance of Being to unfold my life. This guidance has taken me to my essential home, and it will surely let me know what will come next. In any case, this guidance is actually nothing but the insightful discrimination of what Being is presenting in experience.
One night, watching television alone, after the rest of the family has gone to bed, I become aware of a curious orientation of my consciousness. I notice that certain figures and individuals on the television programs attract my attention. Attention seems to gravitate to older people, regardless of what program I watch. I am fascinated and curious about all of these old people, women and men. I experience an intense curiosity about how they look, move, speak, act, interact, etc. My attention focuses on their interests and concerns, as if I am trying to get under their skin, as if I want to see and feel what it is like to be one of them. I am barely in the middle of my life, but seem to be intensely interested in feeling what it is like to be an old man.
This interest continues for several days. I find my attention gravitating to old people on the street, in restaurants, stores, everywhere. I feel an empathy with them. I feel close to them, affectionate, even a kind of intimacy. I appreciate their slowness, their quiet, their wisdom. I am acutely aware of the effect of the years on them, their bodies and minds, and on their orientation and their concerns.
Gradually, the understanding emerges that the interest in old age is an expression of appreciating it as a time of completion, of finishing with one’s life-projects, of ripening. I see old age as a time, or condition, of relaxation and settling, and of not wanting anything, not needing to do anything. It is a time of mental rest, of physical relaxation, of letting go of ambition. Desires have exhausted themselves, and plans have been either completed or abandoned.
I feel a longing for this condition, which my mind associates with old age. This longing is accompanied by viewing life in a new light. I see life, with its excitement, projects and ambitions, as a wound-up spring which unwinds slowly. The excitement and ambition are expressions of the tension of this wound-up spring, impelling us, driving us, relentlessly and mercilessly. Old age means to me that the spring is all unwound; no more tension and no more drive, just a mellow settling. There is appreciation of this settling, of this mellowness.
As the subtle process continues, each day brings new feelings, new realizations, new understanding. The longing reveals itself as a herald of an upcoming development. I find myself, at some point, in a period of feeling settled and contented. I live for weeks with a kind of quiet certainty that I have arrived. There is no more need for effort, no sense in continuing the search. This is not a conclusion, but a realization arising spontaneously from the depths, unbidden and free.
The sense is that the progress of my unfoldment from the nonconceptual consciousness, with its unity of Being, to the absence of the absolute, and the ability to move back and forth between being the absolute to being the person who is its embodied extension, has affected me in such a way that I feel no drive to go anywhere. I am home, in a way that only the heart knows. It is clear that what is left of the process of realization is a matter of refinement, stabilization and actualization in life, which is a continuing process. Discovery has done its job; it has lead my consciousness to its final abode, to its source. Now it is only a matter of integration, of learning to live from home.
There arises now a sense of wonder and mystery regarding life and death. Living at home, mystery reveals itself as the overwhelming truth that penetrates and underlies all experience. Life is rich and colorful, but it is only the miraculous unfolding of mysterious Being. Regardless of how much I understand it, I still do not truly comprehend it.
I also keep feeling the mystery of death, that life as I know it will end. Yet it is unfathomable. How can life end? I know it does, but how can something so robust, so conscious, so vibrant, actually cease?
Can life comprehend its own end?
In time, I begin to experience the end of life, as I sink deeply into the mysterious depth of the absolute. Consciousness ceases, perception stops, and there is absolutely no awareness at such times. Yet, when consciousness arises, the question of how death happens is still unfathomable. The cessation of consciousness is not a new experience for me, for it is one of the stages in the journey towards the absolute. Now, however, the cessation is happening as part of a new process and a new contemplation, the question of the mystery of death.
I recognize that the individual consciousness does not havethe capacity to understand that it can end, or that it will end. I also recognize that the death I am contemplating is not necessarily only that of the physical body. It is more fundamental. It is the cessation of consciousness. I begin to see death as final, as the ultimate dissolution of consciousness into the absolute. This comes to pass, but the mind still cannot comprehend it.
Some weeks later…
Today the process presents itself as the feeling-recognition that I am at the beginning of a new life, a different life. I feel that I have already lived my life and finished it. The life I have known is over because it is finished. It has run its course, and completed all its initial programs. The journey is over. Arriving home is the end of the journey of life. This ending culminates in a particular death, which is the cessation of the consciousness of the soul in the annihilating space of the absolute.
The life I live now is extra, is a bonus. There is no concern about whether it continues or not, or about what transpires in this life. I have received all that I have ever wanted. I want nothing more. My heart is contented, and my drive spent.
A few days later…
I have been aware that this process involves two intertwining threads—the first a process of finishing and ripening, and the second the contemplation of death. The finishing ends in a certain kind of death, which in turn ushers consciousness into a life of ripening and contentment.
I recognize that all need or movement towards a goal, even towards creativity, is ambition, which is based on ego activity. Creativity can be spontaneous unfoldment, but when it is, it happens on its own. I do not need to move towards it, want it, or concern myself with it.
As the absolute, all that appears to awareness is my creativity, without my lifting a finger. I am the source of all that arises.
The recognition of being devoid of ambition deepens the peace and settling of everyday consciousness. This settling becomes a feeling of contentment. The soul, the individual consciousness, begins to feel like a blobby pearl, soft and pliant, relaxed and settled. It is like being a liquid pearl, suffused with the stillness of peace, and empty of reaction or drive toward activity. Sometimes this feels like being a relaxed old man.
The peace and contentment develop into a sense of fulfillment, as the consciousness attains a nectary fluidity, with the sweetness and aroma of apricot nectar. I feel a sense of maturation, not in terms of capacity, but in the sense of ripening. The fulfilled consciousness becomes a ripening when I experience the soul not only pliant and nectary, but full and sweet, just like a very ripe apricot. The whole soul becomes a heart, a heart full of the most flavorful apricot nectar.
This ripening transubstantiates the essential state that arises during the function of teaching.
When I take the role of the teacher, I frequently experience myself as an objective presence with various capacities and facets. There is clarity and maturity, intelligence and a dynamic interplay of various aspects of essence. The state feels like being a full pearl of consciousness with clear sharp facets of various colors. I think of this state of teachership as a diamond pearl. After the realization of the absolute, I have been experiencing this state of the incomparable pearl as a manifestation of the mystery. I perceive the inner identity of the pearl as the mysterious radiant blackness of the absolute.
This state goes through a further development: As I teach a group meeting, I notice my state is the diamond pearl. However, I also feel the sense of contentment, fullness and ripening which has been my general condition for some time lately. The sense of being a juicy ripe apricot arises as the inside of the diamond pearl. I am now an objective and multifaceted personal presence, but relaxed and settled, fulfilled and ripened.
Arriving home ripens the soul, and this ripening is its fulfillment.
This process of ripening interweaves with a continuing puzzled contemplation of death. I keep remembering that I will die someday, but this cannot be comprehended by mind. It becomes increasingly clear that the death I am contemplating is not only physical death, but also the death of the individuality of ego. Deeper still, it is the cessation of all consciousness. I intuit an end, a cessation of consciousness.
This contemplation, however, culminates in an unexpected development. This occurs again when I am watching television. I am relaxed, rested, feeling contented, with no specific reason for the contentment. Unexpectedly, I have a flash of feeling myself as dead. I am conscious, as an individual soul, but I feel dead. It is as if I am a mummy or a corpse. The soul appears as a corpse, and feels like a corpse. This is curious. It is not the cessation of consciousness, but the consciousness experiencing itself as a corpse.
A few days later…
Quietly and subtly, the feeling-realization that I have reached my destination returns. I did not know that it was the absolute that I was looking for; I have been intensely motivated to find the truth, without knowing what the truth I am looking for is. I have discovered many truths, fundamental truths that changed my life, but none of them seemed to spontaneously end the process of search. But when the absolute manifested itself in the heart, there was heart-felt certainty that it is what I have been looking for, without the mind knowing it.
The certainty that I have found what I have been looking for, and the ripening of the soul, have contributed to the process of integrating the awareness of myself as the absolute mystery. For many weeks I have been feeling relaxed and settled in a certain way. There is an ease and simplicity, a contentment independent of the events of the day.
For a few days lately, however, I have been aware of a new development: a readiness to give, an openness for generosity, and space to spare.
The realization of fulfillment, and the sense that my life is a new life, engenders a sense of having lots of time, energy, and space to give to others. I feel willing and happy to give my time and energy to my family and friends. There is nothing that I want, or want to accomplish for myself, and there is a great deal of space. It is not that I am doing less, or that there are fewer physical activities. The sense of space is psychological; my consciousness is much less cluttered.
When I feel the attitude of unrestricted generosity, I am aware of being the absolute, an absence that has no sense of self. This state of being the crystal absence, that has not an iota of self in it, is the core of generosity. I am willing to give energy, time, and attention because there is no self that needs them. The self needed all these, and many other things, to go home. Now that it is home, it is gone, and everything that arises is for others.
I feel I am home now, my search is ended. The absolute is home. My personal motivations have spent themselves, and now it is the dynamism of the absolute that moves the soul.
A couple of weeks later…
The identity has been alternating between the absolute and the soul. As the soul I am human. Whenever I am human, and know what my heart feels, I realize I long for and love the absolute. Otherwise, I am the absolute, an infinite majesty. There is no problem when I am the absolute, for I am the self of everything. And there is no problem when I am human, for then I love the absolute.
The only problem is when I am human and not in touch with what my heart feels.
As a human being there is no sense of being a person, nor is there a sense of not being a person. It is of being human, in a normal way. This has been the dominant state for about ten days now. It is a state of being normal, human, with an open and loving heart, with selflessness and generosity.
I experience myself as the soul, a kind of conscious substance with qualities between the white personal fullness of the pearl aspect of essence, and the plasmatic, clear, basic medium of consciousness.
As the consciousness which is the soul, I appear transparent, and become translucent, sometimes even luminous. My ultimate nature is the crystal absence of the absolute. There is a sense of integration in this experience, different from any other. It is not as definite and clear as that of the pearl; I do not feel I am just a beingness. I am more a human being, an alive, responsive and functioning conscious presence, and at the same time an inseparable expression of the absolute mystery.