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"Learning to stop, to just be, to come back to the treasure within us is what the spiritual journey is all about."
Jim Dreaver is a healer, teacher, and author of The Way of Harmony: Walking the Inner Path to Balance, Happiness, and Success, and other books.
He lives in northern California and is available for private consultation. You can visit his website at www.jimdreaver.com. (Site will open in a new window.)
Jim Dreaver, "A Glimpse of
In the summer of 1975, I was living in northern California. I had been on my spiritual path ever since a health crisis two years earlier, when late one night I thought I was having a heart attack. I had a lot of tightness in my chest, palpitations, pain in my left arm, difficulty breathing, extreme anxiety.
Somehow, I got through the night, but it began a process where for months I was afraid to go to sleep at night, afraid that I would stop breathing and die. When I would wake up the next morning, the first thing I would do was offer a prayer of thanks, for the fact that I was still alive.
Doctors assured me the problem was not my heart. There was nothing organically wrong with me. I figured out it was stress. I was just very uptight. I needed to learn to relax. I had always been somewhat mystically inclined anyway and, when young, had had a close relationship with God, the living, breathing mystery that I could actually sense and feel that was behind all of Creation.
I worked through my anxiety by getting into daily meditation, yoga, attending a few workshops, and reading books by Krishnamurti, Alan Watts, and Herman Hesse. I became an enlightenment junkie. Even though I still wasn’t quite sure how to describe what I was looking for, I knew it had something to do with inner peace, inner happiness. I’d tasted enough of that to know I wanted more.
On the morning in question, I had awoken early. The sun had just risen, and it was very quiet. A shaft of light poked its way through a chink in the blinds into the room. I noticed the dust motes dancing in it, and heard a dog bark, and then a mourning dove calling out, its haunting sound stirring something deep inside me.
Suddenly, everything inside me stopped. The thoughts in my mind, the residue of the night's dreams, the morning stiffness in my body, it all just dropped away, and I found myself in the most extraordinary state of stillness, of oneness with everything, I had ever known.
It was a totally spontaneous experience, if it can be called an experience, for it was out of time, and there was no "me" having the experience. There was just an indescribable feeling of silence, of peace, of fullness. It was as if a veil had been lifted from my consciousness, and I was seeing Reality for the very first time.
I was acutely aware of everything—the growing warmth of the morning light, the dust motes, a mocking bird that had just started singing outside, another dog barking from somewhere far away. It all fit so naturally together. How beautiful and magical life really was, I realized. Such grace, such harmony, such unity!
As I lay in bed, bathed in that presence, the thought entered my mind, "So, this is the freedom that all the spiritual teachers have been talking about." When I finally did get out of bed, I did so quietly, with extreme care. I didn't want to risk disturbing the silence. I didn't want to break the spell.
Although I did not yet fully comprehend what had happened to me, I knew I had been blessed. I had been given a glimpse of enlightenment, a moment of what in Zen is called satori. For a minute or two I had been shown that I truly was perfect as I was, and that the only problem in my life was all the mental and emotional baggage I had accumulated. The baggage wasn't even real, I saw. It was a figment, a "story" I had made up about myself, and for some reason persisted in holding onto.
What happened that summer's morning changed my life forever, although for the most part the change was subtle and gradual. It began a journey that took me down many paths, many roads as I sought to recapture that experience, to have it again, to find some way of keeping it. I had intuited that that peace and stillness, that timeless sense of being I had touched upon, was my real nature. I had never felt such a sense of well-being, such an all-pervading awareness of the utter goodness and rightness of life. Understandably, I wanted to live with that awareness all the time.
Some time after that day, a friend gave me a quote that came from one of the teachers in her Hindu meditation lineage. It put it up on my refrigerator, and kept it there for several years, so profoundly did it speak to me. Here’s what it said:
"When I looked in I found within me that which has been sought for ages by all mankind. We have been searching for it for many ages here and there, from one corner of the earth to the other, but we have found it only in our heart. Therefore do not search for your lost Beloved outside yourself. You will find him only in the recess of your heart."
In the years following my that glimpse of enlightenment I’d been gifted with, whenever I started to feel lost or in conflict, caught up in some worldly problem, whether to do with relationships, work, or money, I would read that quote, and it would remind me to come back to silence, presence, stillness. It would remind me to turn within, to soften my heart, to open up to the beauty and fullness of my own inner being.
That beauty is always here, within each of us. We really are what we are seeking. The paradox is that our very seeking, our yearning, our looking outwards, takes us away from it. Learning to stop, to just be, to come back to the treasure within us is what the spiritual journey is all about.