There is an abyss—a void—that every being on the road to enlightenment must enter. We fight it. Oh, do we fight it! We run from it, hide from it, try to negotiate with it. We do everything possible to avoid it, for within the abyss there is no power. There is nothing to hold onto, no reflection to show us who we are, no way to fix anything, nothing to manage or get right, no one to love, nowhere to go and nothing to do or accomplish. Within the abyss there is no passion, no identity, not even a self, as we have known it. When we enter the abyss we lose everything, and become nothing. And then, as we finally surrender to oblivion, we realize who we really are and discover that everything has always been inside of us.
As Adamus was discussing it in Keahak recently, I was imagining this void as some dark and empty place that can only be reached in some meditative or mindless space. Great, I thought in frustration, I get it. I’m ready. But how do I get there? Adamus’ answer was predictable: “You just allow it.”
As I took a deep breath I suddenly realized, Wait, I know this place, and it’s a whole lot more real and present and human than anybody has talked about! The abyss manifests as the unknown, as boredom, lack of passion, or sometimes as passion that makes no sense because it has nothing to do with the future or with getting money or fixing all the problems in my life. Confusion, losing control of my life, pain, body issues, loss of friends and family, loneliness, failure, all represent the abyss. The abyss is in every part of life that we avoid. I’m sure there is more to it (or less?), but these are ways that the human experiences it.
My first conscious encounter with the abyss was in 1997. I had created a nasty and painful accident to end a job that I didn’t have the courage to leave, and then I had experienced a magical year of flow and synchronicity and travel and fun. Now it was time for the next part of my life, and I didn’t know what to do. The idea of getting another job made me sick to my stomach, and the only thing I felt any passion about was a spiritual discussion group I had recently discovered. I hadn’t known that I had a talent and passion for writing, and this group was drawing out a part of me that had been deeply buried for a very long time.
I’d learned my lesson with the accident, and in my heart I knew I only had one choice. I felt as though I had come to the edge of a high cliff with jagged rocks far below, and life was closing in and suffocating me. My choice was to dive headlong into the abyss or to lay down and die. I chose the abyss, and began spending most of my time writing email on that discussion group. It was fun and rewarding, especially when people wrote back and shared how much my words had changed their lives. But it was also terrifying, for those rocks were coming up fast in the very real form of rent and other bills coming due.
“What’s in it for the human?” Adamus asked rhetorically in Keahak. What possible reason would the human have to surrender to this horrifying void? Then he explained that when the human allows itself to be in the void, it brings synchronicity, flow and grace into the human life that is beyond what the human can even imagine.
And sure enough, as I went into total panic on the day the rent was due back there in 1997, two checks arrived in the mail from unrelated people who knew nothing of my situation, but who suddenly felt an urge to send a gift. Together, they were exactly the amount I needed for the rent.
That continued for the next three magical and terrifying months. The money I needed was always there, always arriving in unexpected ways at the exact time and in the exact amount that was needed. It was amazing! But the fear was getting to me, for I couldn’t take my eyes off those rocks, and I started looking around for ways to ease the flow a little. Why couldn’t there be a little extra money? I thought. And why couldn’t it come a little sooner, before I go into complete panic? Maybe I can teach a class. What if I write something I can sell?
I didn’t realize it until just this moment, but in all those ideas I was clawing my way back up the cliff, trying to get out of the abyss and to reestablish a little bit of control in my life. And, as I did so, the flow dried up. Enough money still came for food and fuel, the phone bill got paid on the day it would have been disconnected, but everything else was soon a month behind and it looked like I was finally going to hit those rocks for good. In despair I called a friend for support, and after listening for a while she said, “I don’t know what to tell you John, but maybe it’s time to ask God for help.”
I was shocked, for she and I had both let go of our ideas about God years before. And yet, something about it struck a chord deep within, for I was beginning to understand that God is much more personal than I had believed. After we hung up I said aloud, with tears streaming down my face, “God, I don’t even know how to ask you for help anymore, and I know it doesn’t work the way I was taught as a Christian child, but I sure need some help right now!”
That night I dreamed I was on a train, and I could see the tracks ahead and an old white-haired man who was driving. There were friends with me and it was a bright sunny day, and the only care I had in the world was keeping my cowboy hat from blowing off in the breeze.
Then I looked ahead and noticed a place where the tracks were completely gone, as though they had been removed or paved over. I thought the train was going to derail, but the old man did something and it simply crossed over that space and continued as though nothing had happened. Then, around a bend we came upon a huge barrier in the tracks, and I knew we were about to die in a horrible crash. Except the old man did something, and the train was on the other side of the barrier and the tracks were shiny and clear for as far as the eye could see.
I awoke, surprised at the vividness of the dream, and as I realized what it meant I wept for joy and relief. The train represents my life, and God is driving. He’ll let me drive if I insist, and He’ll pick up the pieces when I crash and burn, for I don’t have the ability to drive the train where there are no tracks or to get it through impossible barriers unscathed. But if I’ll just let Him do the driving those impossible situations are nothing, and my only job is to enjoy the ride.
That day I let go, and I dove into my writing with renewed passion, feeling at peace and eager to discover how God was going to handle the looming catastrophe in my life. And sure enough, the very next day, the day before I would have lost my home, a completely unexpected check arrived that paid all the past due bills and all the coming month’s expenses, with several hundred dollars left over.
That experience changed my life. It taught me that I the human am not in charge of my life, and it isn’t my job to figure it out, manage it or make it better. God is driving, and God is my essence, my soul, that part of me that knows me better than I (the human) know myself, and who delights in fulfilling my deepest dreams and desires, when I allow it.
I’ve lived this story over and over for nineteen years, and it’s always the same: I start trying to manage my life, trying to figure out what to do so I can pay the bills, please other people, build my identity, or make my future better in some way, and then the flow comes to a crashing grinding stop and life seems to melt down around me. Sometimes my efforts at managing my life seem to work for a time, and I get all excited. And those crashes are the worst of all. Then I remember the train, and as I let go the controls and dive back into the abyss (sometimes screaming all the way!) life begins to flow again. Synchronicity and magic come back into my life, and miracles happen that sometimes take my breath away.
For years I’ve wondered, why do I keep repeating this cycle over and over again? As I shared my story with a group a few weeks ago, I suddenly realized that I had missed a key part. In the dream I had a very clear and specific job on the train, and that was to enjoy the ride!
When I’m enjoying the ride I’m present in the experience, instead of trying to drive the train. Then my I AM can take the controls, and life becomes synchronous, graceful and joyful. When I’m not enjoying the ride it’s always because I’m hanging onto the railing for dear life and staring at those rocks rushing up to meet me. And, as long as I’m staring at those rocks, sooner or later I’m going to grab the controls and crash my train right into them.
You see, I’ve learned that those rocks, which represent all the potential problems and catastrophes of life, are total illusions conjured by my mind and the minds of others. There’s nothing there to crash into, until I make them real by trying to avoid them. And then, BAM! They’ve got me.
So the mind goes, Great, I get it. That sounds really cool, except that I’m not enjoying my life. My life sucks, I’m flat broke and my body hurts, and it needs to get fixed! Now!
Oh, I know that place so well! And, I’ve learned that enjoying my life is not something that happens to me. It is a conscious choice that I make to float in the abyss, to leave the controls of my life in the hands of my soul, and to deliberately find something to enjoy in this moment. And there is always something to enjoy, no matter what situation I’m in!
Lately my ride has gone from scary and difficult to exciting and fun. I’m having a blast, and the funny thing is that it looks just about the same as it did before. But now, instead of a monster to manage and control, life has become an adventure to discover. Sometimes it’s chaotic as a raging river and other times calm as a still lake, but now there is an amazing, graceful and beautiful flow to my life. My body is feeling more balanced, and the only real stress is when I forget and grab the controls again. But now I let go very quickly!
I thought I might grow wings when I jumped off the cliff so many years ago, but now I know that I don’t need them. I discovered that, within this powerless, crazy, out-of-control emptiness, I can allow life to hold me, nurture me, and fill my ride with grace. I don’t need wings because within the abyss there’s no place to fall.
John McCurdy is a Realizing Master. When he’s not crashing his train into illusions, you’ll often find him on the road to some beautiful place, hanging out with other masters, or sharing his realizations with others along the path. He can be reached at [email protected]