"There is another world and it is inside this one." - Paul Eluard
Meditation practice doesn't give you information or experiences about life; it presents the experience of life itself. Koans, and the practice of keeping company with them, illuminate a state of awareness you can enter just by sitting and noticing.
I was drawn to this Koan because I often feel so many layers of my consciousness rising up, mixing together and readjusting my eyesight, my hearing, my listening and my relationship to all things including myself. I sit with this Koan and ask myself, "what is this "other" world and where can I find it?"
First, what I notice arises is the layer of story: When I was young I was this and I did that and I have an awareness that is alive within the layers of time and place. I think about "a time before this when life felt and looked this way." This story is in relationship to where I lived, who I lived with, the places we went and the stories that helped form who I think I am and was. I am with the story, but not fully “in” the story. There is a feeling of myself and my life as two different and individual things.
Next I notice, there is the layer of sense memory. For example, whenever I see a HUGE full harvest moon setting close to the horizon I instantly am transported back to the times on such nights when my family would drive to the ocean in Santa Monica, California and I’d play chase with my brothers on the sand as my parents watched and laughed with us. This is the experience of being “in” the story where the sense of myself is diffused and blurry and my awareness takes in every aspect of the experience and I am totally transported. My experience is no longer two but also not quite one.
Then there is the layer of just the light beneath everything: All distinctions fall away and there is only “this” with equal light coming in from all directions and from no place in particular and the moment is alive and vibrant and that’s all there is. I feel connected as if everything is me and I am everything all at the same time.
Human life is made up of all of this and more. Recently, an invitation and an acknowledgement was made to me and for me. I noticed all these layers arising which is what made this quote of Paul Eluard’s so potent. I found myself in the moment until suddenly fear struck me and I imagined that with this acknowledgment and invitation I had to also pass a test. This made me get small, closed down and defensive. My heart tightened and I fought back tears that wanted to flow out of the sorrow of my own sense of inadequacy. There was me, this “test,” the history of such tests and my memories of failure. I sat with this feeling – turning into it, sitting with it and I felt into the paralyzing feelings of how much effort it takes to live up to “other’s” expectations, hopes of me and the feelings of years of competition that I have often been afraid of not being enough. This points the first two layers or worlds mentioned above we all occupy at different times. That next layer of the light came when I sat long enough with my deluded mind, my stories and returned to the moment – the way the light filters into my heart and I am the light and the moment right now became so alive and there wasn't really a test, no other, just this and just this was more than enough.
What makes this experience and other similar experiences so remarkable is that this is the human condition. When we are caught up in our struggle, when I am caught up in my struggle, we miss the light. The glorious realization is that all things pass with time but the light is always there.
So, when the moments of our life and our experiences come and we are able to meet it – we are instantly liberated and free. That is the miracle of meditation and the mystery of keeping company with a Koan.
Illana Berger - Director of sharing the moon Meditation
I have built a private practice rooted in the mystical, shamanic teachings of ancient Judaism, indigenous practices and Zen. Her work is targeted to help individuals expand their personal awareness and consciousness of the mind, body and soul. Illana is devoted to assisting people in discovering how the tapestry of their life story influences their relationships, spiritual path, creativity and life purpose.