The Master sat in her favorite spot in the forest, sipping her morning coffee and enjoying the clean scent of nature after a light rain. A babbling brook tumbled over the rocks nearby, finding its busy way down the mountain.
“Water,” she mused, “Is such a beautiful example of energy.” She loved watching the infinite rearrangements of the eddies and splashes and could stare at the stream for hours. But today, something else called her attention. The sharp snap of a twig announced the stumbling arrival of William, one of her students. The Master smiled and took a deep breath. This would be an interesting meeting.
William was always rushing through life. He’d been raised with a strong work ethic and knew how to get things done, and quickly. He also had a bright mind and had driven his parents crazy with all his childhood questions. William’s habit of questioning everything helped him learn a lot over the years, but it also meant he was rarely satisfied. Having perfected the art of tucking away bits of information like a mental packrat, he took pride in being able to impress other people with his knowledge. And, as often happens, all the questioning eventually brought him to the well-worn path of spiritual seeking. Now he collected spiritual concepts with the same insatiable eagerness, hoping to find the one jewel of wisdom that could finally answer every single question. William had studied many religions and while they all seemed to have part of “the answer,” he secretly hoped that just maybe he would be the one smart enough to put it all together. Lately he’d been feeling like he was almost there, and it was this determined search that brought him to the Master this morning. Running a bit late as usual, he hurried down the trail and almost missed the little path leading to the Master’s bench beside the water. “Sorry I’m late!” he gasped, a bit breathless.
He reached to pull out a notebook with his list of questions, but the Master held up her hand to stop him and asked, “William, what do you smell?” William was taken aback by the odd question. In his hurry, he hadn’t noticed much of anything, certainly not any smells. But the question did cause him to take a deep breath, and his senses began to catch up with him. William finally noticed the beautiful surroundings – the fresh, crisp autumn air, skittering sounds of forest creatures, the whisper of leaves floating to the ground, the invigorating smell of freshly watered earth. He even caught a tantalizing whiff of the Master’s coffee, and for a moment regretted the special diet he was on at the moment. It was supposed to cleanse and reset his body, and one of the many rules was “no coffee.” But oh, how he missed it.
Oops, the Master was still waiting for the answer to her question. “There’s so much to smell!” William said, taking in another deep breath. The Master smiled and invited him to take a seat beside her. She produced another cup and offered him coffee from her thermos. He looked at it longingly, but commitment was everything to him and there were only had a few more days of this special diet. He couldn’t fail now, and politely declined. She smiled again and waited, knowing what was coming.
William had a lot of questions, but the smell of that coffee triggered an old familiar frustration. There always seemed to be a disconnect or separation between what he knew in his mind and what he experienced, between what he wanted and what he had, even between the spiritual things he was learning and the reality he was living. This discrepancy was a source of constant frustration. Why could the Master drink all the coffee she wanted, eat whatever she fancied, and yet never seemed to get sick or out of balance? Her body was healthy, her mind was clear; in fact, she never seemed bothered by anything. What a contrast to William’s constant stress and rushing, his ever-changing dietary requirements, and his many mysterious physical issues. It wasn’t fair. Why did everything seem so perfect in her life? There had to be something she wasn’t telling him, maybe a special elixir she kept only for herself. Maybe having all these students was a way of funding her own secret supply, and she kept stringing them along just to keep the money flowing.
Now William’s frustration was turning to anger. He had to know, now. What is it?” he burst out. “What’s the secret you’ve been keeping from us? We’ve paid for all your classes, spent all this time listening to your every word, yet nothing has changed. You’re sitting here with all the time and money in the world while your students struggle through life, barely making ends meet, feeling half dead and on the verge of going crazy. I demand that you share your secret! Otherwise I’ll know you’re a fraud, just like my friends have been saying.”
The Master smiled serenely, which infuriated William even more. He was beginning to regret coming all the way out here in the forest, he didn’t have time for these games. As he rose to leave, the Master spoke. “William,” she asked, “Who is it that’s so angry right now?”
“I am! Can’t you tell?” he retorted. The Master took a gentle breath and asked again. “Look deeper, William. Who is having this anger?”
‘The Master’s a blind idiot,’ William thought to himself. But he couldn’t blurt that out to her, so he took a deep breath and tried to calm down. “Sorry Master, I get a little carried away sometimes. I’m not really angry, just passionate, and I get so frustrated when nothing really changes. In fact, all this is starting to seem like a waste of time.”
“William,” the Master said. “There’s nothing wrong with being angry, and please don’t stuff it down just because you’re with me. Now, I ask you again, who is angry?”
He had tried to stop the anger or even rename it to ‘passion,’ but now it bubbled up even more. Then it started sliding into the next phase, one that William knew well and was even harder for him to deal with: depression. “This is stupid,” he said. “Obviously I’m the one who got angry, so I don’t see why you keep asking. In fact, you’re always asking these dumb questions. But of course, I can never get an answer that suits you, so I always end up feeling foolish. I’m ready to quit this stupid search for enlightenment and go back to a normal human life.”
“William,” the Master spoke gently. “Who is depressed now?”
“I give up,” he sighed. “You tell me.”
The Master smiled again, because William was finally ready to hear what she had to say, what the point of this whole meeting was really about. “William,” she said. “These emotions are not yours, but you are acting as if they are. There’s a part of you that’s angry, a part of you that’s depressed, a part of you that’s frustrated. But they are only parts of you, aspects, patterns of energy that you set in place long ago. They aren’t YOU.”
“Yeah, you’ve said that before, but it doesn’t make any sense. If I’m feeling and experiencing something, how can you say I’m not?”
“Oh yes, you’re feeling these emotions, dear William. But that’s different than being them. You are so much more. And when you can say ‘A part of me is angry’ rather ‘I am angry,’ it opens space in your awareness to the more of you, the ‘more’ that is your wisdom and your Presence. And then things can finally start to change.”
“But what I feel is what I feel!” William shot back. “It’s my reality. I can try to get over it and calm down, but it’s still what I’m feeling.”
“William,” the Master said, “Do you want to know my secret?” His eyes grew wide. Would it really be this easy? “Yes, of course!”
“The secret, my friend, is allowing yourself to be aware of multiple experiences at once. Don’t fix or fight the part of you that’s angry, discouraged, or frustrated. Feel it deeply, breathe it in, let it fill you. And, at the very same time, be aware of your body, the meal you just ate, the energies and objects around you, the other things you feel. More than anything, be aware of your Self, your I Am which is containing all this. When you experience this multiple awareness, you’ll realize that none of it is you. When you can be aware of and accept EVERYTHING you’re feeling, it allows the integration.”
The Master paused for a moment, then said, “Look at this stream. Water is like energy. It flows freely, bounding through reality having countless experiences. Imagine that every splash of water, large or small, is energy having an experience. Then it falls back into the stream, returning to itself, ready for another experience. Now imagine that it’s winter; the air is cold and harsh. Some of the splashes freeze, turn to ice and get stuck. That’s what can happen when your energy has a harsh experience. It can freeze, get stuck in that pattern and stop flowing. There’s a part of you that got very disappointed and disillusioned with God in another lifetime. You felt he let you down, was hiding the truth from you, had even forgotten you. It was a traumatic experience, and some of your energy got stuck in that pattern. And now it pops up sometimes, still in the pattern of frustration and anger.” William was listening intently now, having completely forgotten his desire to leave.
“The good news is that it’s all just energy,” the Master continued. “And remember what Tobias said about that? ‘All energy seeks resolution.’ Just like water seeks its own level, energy will always find a way to flow again. You don’t have to ‘fix’ the water that’s frozen or in turmoil, only allow it to melt back into the stream, returning to itself. The stream accepts the ice no matter how cold or sharp it is, and that acceptance is all that’s needed. When you can remember that it’s only a part of you having an emotion, and accept that part, it allows the ‘ice’ of stuck energy to melt or integrate back into the ‘stream’ of You, from whence it came. An ugly or uncomfortable emotion doesn’t mean something’s wrong with you. It means another part is ready to come home. All that’s needed is your acceptance and your multiple awareness.”
William pondered all this. “Master,” he said at last, “I don’t know how to make my awareness multiple. I understand the theory, but what I’m experiencing is what I’m experiencing, period. How can it be something else at the same time? I don’t think it’s possible.” His frustration was rising again.
“Here’s something you can do,” she said. “When you get home, fill two bowls with water, one hot and the other cold. Put a hand in each. Are you experiencing hot or cold?”
“Well, both of course,” said William.
“Exactly,” the Master smiled. “You’re having very different experiences at the same time, perceived through different parts of yourself. And who is actually containing all this experience? It’s the I Am, which is big enough to hold ALL your parts and pieces. Every experience is available. Now, where will you put your awareness? It’s like focusing on the hot water so much you forget about the cold. But now you’re becoming aware of the other parts of you. So, I ask you again, who is feeling angry?”
William stared at the stream for a while. He was aware of the part that had been stuck in anger for a very long time, but he was starting to become aware of other parts too. He was beginning to experience the And he’d heard about, and realized it’s potential for changing everything. It was simply a matter of awareness.
Breaking out of his reverie, William turned to thank the Master, but she was nowhere in sight. Instead, there was a mug of steaming coffee, topped with a bit of whipped cream. “Yes,” he thought, “There’s a part of me that’s committed to my diet. But there’s another part that wants this coffee very much.” He picked it up, inhaled the aroma, and took a sip. “I am aware of the part of me enjoying this coffee, as well as the part that thinks it’s bad. And now I can choose which one to focus on!” Ah, another sip, and William thought it was the best coffee he’d ever had. “Hmm, I still feel the part of me with lots of questions, but maybe I’ll focus on another part that’s perfectly content,” William thought. He smiled, realizing there was even a part of him that already had every answer he would ever need.