our understanding of what is going on deepens,
― Thich Nhat Hanh
― Chögyam Trungpa, The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation
Unless you were an astronaut-in-training at NASA (or, perhaps, a Trekkie), the term was a put-down. Not appearing to pay a lot of attention to the seemingly endless concerns and hassles of what most people called the real world, being a space cadet just wasn't cool.
Although I didn't realize it at the time, it's now obvious that some of these space cadets were actually marching, perhaps even dancing, to the beat of a different drummer. They were tuned into something real.
In doing so, they actually had a leg up on the rest of us. The rest of us were fully engaged in spinning our hamster wheels in an invisible, but very compelling, mind cage.
Lost in our thoughts and feelings about doing it right, going for the gold, being all we can be, being "cool," etc., most of us were continually scrambling to get with the program in what society presented to us as the pursuit of happiness. Yet, we didn't realized the the deck was stacked against us. We had internalized the values and norms the mainstream society long before we had the insight or the skills to realize that our society's "conventional reality" was a bum deal. It was merely a house of cards.
The space cadet seemed not to take the game so seriously. Less driven, less engaged in being "with it," he or she could frequently let go, relax -- and journey elsewhere. One guy I knew quit the football team after one practice saying "that's crazy!" He spent his autumn afternoons wandering through the woods, alone, instead. Another friend almost always had her nose in a book, and would sit gazing outside the window with a Mona Lisa smile on her face for swaths of time.
I thought they were wierd. Actually they were delightful. Who knew?
Aboard the Starship Enterprise
These days, I will gladly accept the title of space cadet.
Fortunate to have come of age in an era where many folks managed to "turn on, tune in, and drop out," I found that "inner space," is the final frontier. In fact, as I've journeyed through the vast, open expanse of consciousness, the boundary between inner and outer dissolves. What remains is merely the eternal, pristine, immensity of the present moment. Here, all that is, is simply all that is.
It's been a remarkable voyage. And, for sure, I've encountered some space monsters along the way. Yet, in seeing them for what they are, I've seen that loving acceptance transforms them. The beasties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night, embraced in compassionate awareness, can then become able and helpful fellow travelers on the journey.
So, for decades now, most every day I make the choice to step off the hamster wheel for at least an hour, bow, take a deep, conscious breath -- and go into free fall. Some people call what I do meditation.
All that Glitters is...
As Practice has deepened, it's become quite clear that there is a whole lot more space than there is solidity in the nature of things. In fact, even what appears to be quite solid, when looked into deeply, isn't. Perceived directly, what we conventionally call "things" aren't. They are localized, transitory, intersections in an infinite web of energy. With Practice, they appear in radical clarity as momentary events sparkling like diamonds within the embrace of limitless space.
At this stage of the journey, I find that being a space cadet is often quite delightful and refreshing. Immersed in the Gracious Spaciousness, what had once seemed solid and fixed now becomes malleable. In the alchemy of Practice, even the lead and dross of the human condition can be spun into gold. No longer mindlessly reacting to the world, I can more readily approach the next moment with an open heart and clear mind. The awesome task that Yogi Jesus, and others proclaimed as sacred, that of loving your neighbor as yourself, now becomes increasingly possible.
In the embrace of endless space, reality itself glitters like gold.
The Voyage Continues
As Practice has deepened over the years, the quality of consciousness cultivated on the meditation cushion persists. It embraces the activities of daily life, more and more. When this sense of spaciousness is readily available, all sorts of things shift. Greater ease and delight emerge naturally.
These days, thoughts and feelings that used to dominate my awareness and send me spinning into countless hours of stressful angst at best, or an arsenal of painful and counterproductive behaviors at worst, rarely do. Most of the time, I can pretty much relax, keep my eyes, ears, and heart relatively open, and do what needs to be done (or, better yet, not done) from moment to moment.
With Practice, mind states that used to attach themselves to the illusory solidity of a "me" being right or being wrong are usually seen for what they are: ephemeral and fleeting clouds floating in the expanse of a clear, boundless, sky. As a result, the blame and self-blame that had so often arisen in the past usually don't form.
Even if they do, usually these, too, are experienced as fleeting thoughts and feelings. If I don't allow them to dominate my attention, they quickly dissipate. These days, what would have become angry arguments or hours of debilitating self-talk don't readily emerge. The old patterns may emerge, but usually they can't get any traction. So, they just spin out of view.
No longer as prone to rocking my own boat, I don't create as many ripples, and the journey has become much smoother. Along the way, navigating my relationships has become much easier. When it becomes obvious that even my best efforts haven't dispelled seemingly stormy seas, there is generally enough ambient spaciousness to see and accept that more readily. I can usually take a deep breath or two, trim my sails, explore a different tack if it occurs to me -- or, if necessary, just turn around and sail away with the wind at my back.
It's often just that simple.
But, don't take my word for it. See for yourself.
It just takes Practice.
Originally Published as "Sacred Space," December 6, 2014. Revised.