Last night, as I lying awake in bed and feeling a little frustrated because I hadn’t yet fallen asleep, for some reason the idea of the friendliness of everything came to mind. Strange – I was tossing and turning and getting increasingly upset because of my sleeplessness, and yet at the same time I was being visited by the beautiful sense of the neighborliness of the entire universe! In the midst of my temporary and annoying insomnia, I felt surrounded by the comradeship of absolutely everything. My wife and devoted companion, Delycia, was beside me, but I knew somehow that the air in the bedroom was also showing affection, as were the walls and windows and the easygoing, sociable darkness outside. I don’t know that I have ever felt such vast and saturating congeniality. Somehow, as I lay wide awake in bed, I was absolutely sure that the universe is a totally convivial and sheltering place. I remember thinking of Delycia’s orchids in our living room, and how utterly companionable they always seem as I sit near them – how they lovingly welcome me no matter what I happen to be thinking or feeling. Even worries and sorrows – my lifelong ‘enemies’ – were, I somehow felt, actually full of friendliness and a willingness to assist me in rising up from fear into a sense of the togetherness of all of life.
Yes, I was temporarily sleepless as I lay there beside Delycia, but I was also – I knew – in the center of a completely cordial and comradely universe. I smiled a lot in my wakefulness, and even silently laughed a little.
When worries and fears come my way – and it happens often – nothing comforts me more than the realization that I have a warmhearted and durable relationship with everything in the universe – everything. I am an eternal member of the boundless association called Life. All of the hundred trillion cells that make up my body have a kinship with the most ancient stars, and thus so do I, and all the atoms of oxygen I’m breathing in right now connect me with all the places they have visited in their billions of years of existence. The Universe is an alliance of endless numbers of ‘friends’, all as interconnected as my fingers are to each other and to my hands – and I am a vital and everlasting member of that alliance. The same words I speak today are being spoken even now around the world among numberless people, and all the feelings I will have today have been – and will be – felt by countless other people forever and ever. There’s no way I can avoid or break the relationship that exists between seemingly small and separate ‘me’ and the vast universe. We – meaning every person, squirrel, drop of water, and star above – are all members, forever, of the eternal partnership called Life. Fears and worries have very little power in the presence of such an authoritative and friendly confederation!
Driving on the interstate with Delycia one morning, I started wishing that I could pass through my concerns and worries as smoothly as we passed through the many shadows of trees across the road. Even the most worrisome thoughts have no more solidity than shadows. They’re like wispy winds of the mind, having less substance and shape than breezes blowing across lawns. The worries that wander into my life would wander right out again if I saw them for what they are – flimsy and frail mental shapes, no stronger than shadows across the interstate.
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On the windowsill of my small study, there are a few figurines of my literary heroes (Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, among others), and sometimes I notice the shadows cast by the figurines on the wall by the morning sunlight. Not only do I notice the shadows, but I sometimes actually study them for a few minutes, just watching the way they shake and sway on the wall as the trees outside the window waver in the breezes. There I am, sitting at my desk, motionless and sort of mesmerized by these small, trembling shadows. The shadows are nothing, actually, just short-lived flickerings of light and darkness, but occasionally, for a few short minutes, they are more important than anything I have come to my desk to do.
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Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you. — Walt Whitman