Invisible Thought Streams

Many years ago in Ottawa, I went swimming one Friday afternoon in the lake. For some reason, the lake water, along with the wax in my ears, swelled up and plugged my ears completely. I couldn’t hear a thing. My doctor could not see me until Monday afternoon, so I spent 3 whole days in a state of total deafness.
On Monday, the doctor cleared my ears with a jet of water. What happened next only lasted about 2 minutes, but I’ll never forget it. Because I had been so deaf, when my hearing suddenly returned I found myself listening to the whole field of sound, all at once. In that field were thousands of tiny tinkling sounds that I had never heard before.  I felt as if I had fallen into a vast web of sound, an enormous symphony of little chirping microscopic noises. I sat there for 2 or 3 minutes, dumbfounded, until my normal sense of hearing returned and the beautiful soft sounds disappeared from my conscious awareness.

Something happened to me recently that was very much like that experience in Ottawa . It all began with gratitude. Over the last while some miracles have happened in my life. I don’t really know how or why these powerful blessings have emerged. I call them miracles because they appeared all of a sudden, for no reason that I know of.  Events like these do not explain themselves! They remain forever connected to a profound sense of mystery.
What has happened in me since the occurrence of these miracles is a growing sense of gratitude, a gratitude so deep that it feels a lot bigger than happiness or joy. In fact it’s not a feeling at all; it’s something much deeper than a feeling. The sense I have is that if I was totally grateful, every day for the rest of my life,
that would not be enough time to really express or embody this gratitude.

The other night I was working on- line and a small glitch happened, one of those things that is always happening on the computer. I felt a wave of irritation, and the whole field of my thought began to display itself before me. It was so extraordinarily clear, as if the radiance of the gratitude was illuminating it all.
I was aware for the first time of hundreds and thousands of thoughts, strung together like beads. Many of them were soft, like a background hum in my being.
And a lot of them had this tone to them of frustration, annoyance, difficulty and struggle- a kind of negative glaze interconnecting them all. I realized with some shock that I had been cultivating these thoughts over a lifetime. That every time things did not work out, every time I experienced loss or grief or bewilderment or
despair, this subtle background field of resistance and struggle would light up and get stronger, even though it stayed far beyond the reach of my conscious awareness.

In all of the years I’ve been practicing meditation, inquiry and yoga, I never perceived the vast field of my thought in this way. I began to understand why in the Buddhist tradition, they say that your thought-stream is your destiny.  It’s something we rarely see because we are looking through it at ourselves and the world.

Somehow the gratitude revealed to me this hidden underlying stream of thought:  all of the ways in which I am still resisting the flow of life, the ways I shut myself down and refuse to trust, refuse to open to the fundamental goodness of life.  What I realized that night was that my attachment to this global mood, this whole field of thought, is being released. I am amazed at how much it has influenced and formed my identity as a human being.

It’s strange when things open and shift around. It’s not like I made a major decision and committed myself to positive thinking. Those kinds of things have never worked for me. Instead there is a simple and clear sense in my body, and in my heart:  “Now that I’ve seen what was invisible to me before, I don’t have to go along with it.” But not because these thoughts are bad or wrong.  Not at all.  Simply because none of these thoughts align with the gratitude. They are simply irrelevant in the face of that deep thankfulness.  Thankfulness for the gift of life and awareness.  A gift we are given, moment after moment, with every breath.

Think of all the events in the universe, in the infinite web of life, that had to converge in order for you to be alive right now, reading this lifeletter. Think of how many times you or I could have disappeared from this world, and here we are.

love and blessings.