(Dust in the Wind, performed by the band Kansas; lyrics by
band member Kerry Livgren. 1977 on album Point of Know Return)
It is the fourth Sunday in the Christian season of Lent. It began formally on a day called "Ash Wednesday." As a symbol of that day, in many Christian communities, the faithful were marked on the forehead with blessed ashes as the priest said, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
At the time of commital in the liturgy for The Burial of the Dead (Episcopal Book of Common Prayer), the priest makes the sign of the cross, with dirt or sand, on the coffin or urn saying, "...earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust."
It was very early this morning, when I awoke rather completely. This is to say, I came to conscious awareness fully and totally at about 4:45am. I had no overt thoughts or concerns. I simply got up, washed my face, nudged our still sleeping dog awake, and we both quietly padded downstairs. Coffee started, glass of lemon water consumed and sweatshirt donned, I took Duchess for her first foray outside. For a change, I beat her to the punch (she usually wakes me up), and she was still somewhat confused by this shift in routine...to the point that, when we came back inside, she consumed her morning arthritis chew medication and headed directly back upstairs for more sleep. I did not follow.
My typical morning routine includes about an hour of quiet contemplative prayer/meditation. Today was different. I did sink into my usual chair in our area dedicated to quiet reflection (called by us the "prayer area" or "reading room"). Today was different because of where I went...into nowhere. This is scary stuff when I am totally with my day. I do, oft times, reflect on emptiness. Though the daily landscape of life does seem crowded and tightly packed, the physics, cosmology and psycho-spirituality of true reality has vast space. From sub-atomic to the expanse of interstellar space, there is a lot of emptiness. Nothing is truly "solid."
If one pauses to consider what constitutes the human body, it is the same chemistry that makes up all that surrounds us...just assembled in a particular pattern that makes us who we are. Essentially (and I mean this word literally) the protons, electrons, neutrons and quarks that constitute our bodies are the fabric of all matter. When we were conceived, that matter assembled in a wondrous process. When the body ceases corporeal life, it does, in fact, return to elemental form (we go to great lengths to cheat this process, but it is inexorable).
This morning, I got to witness to the space between...that place we call "nothing." Actually, it is reality, but it is literally "no thing." It is, however, rich with consciousness and has an immutability about it. It simply is. I am not sure how long I was there, but a thought did come to me at some point, "Am I dead?" No. Then, "Did I fall asleep?" No. Then, "Did I go somewhere?" Not in body. The fresh, hot coffee with which I had settled down was fairly cool. It was still dark, but that was shifting. I sat in a deep place of peace...a kind of peace that I have not known. The best way to express it is simply, "Everything is good...everything."
I made a fresh cup of coffee and noted that it was almost 6:30am. I opened the sliding glass door to our lanai and stepped into the cool, slightly crisp air of the pre-dawn morning. The building across from us was visible only as a shadow. The pond between us reflected a starry sky but was, otherwise dark. No avian friends moving about and only the sound of some crickets broke the silence. I sat cloaked in the cool, dark place...simply sat and allowed the thoughts to drift across the "mind stage." I greeted each one but did not engage them. What eventually came to me was something I had only yesterday read on a Facebook post from a friend, "There are only two days when we do nothing: yesterday and tomorrow..." They were words of the Dalai Lama. Jesus spoke almost identical words.
From that passing thought came the reality: We live in the space in between....the Eternal Now. Yesterday is done. There is no thing we can do to change it in any way. Tomorrow contains no thing. It has not been born. We are Now. Every new moment becomes Now. This breath...this heartbeat...this instant.
I looked up from observing that thought and saw the uniqueness of the moment. Our lanai faces west. Dawn was breaking behind me. The sky was still an indigo hue and stars still visible. But, to my wonderment, the windows of the building across the pond reflected the turquoise/aquamarine hue of the dawning eastern sky...like a wavy strip under the western indigo sky. Within moments, that scene shifted. It would never be that experience again. Perhaps it would be similar on another day...but never again like this moment. I was awake to that one experience. Even my description is now only a memory...over which I have no control...only descriptors. It is already no thing.
As the dawn became daylight, I shifted out of my chair and headed to the kitchen for a third time since arising. It was just about 7:00am. Duchess met me at the foot of the stairs...time for another quick trip outside and then a cup of coffee for my wife. The new day was now formally underway.
This day, however, I seem to notice more...appreciate the seemingly endless textures and colors more at the moment of impact...see people a bit more as fellow sojourners and not as objects. Dust in the wind...holy and sacred dust.
Love and Blessings...