In the shadow of a moment

— For Madhu and Viv

Sometimes, in a life, there may be a single moment out of time, when a connection occurs that is breathtaking.  It leaves you speechless and you feel your will bows to something greater than itself.

A moment so remarkable that it makes you stop in your tracks and rise out of your self. 

This is a moment when the psyche connects with itself and also with something/ everything outside of itself.  You could call such an experience a moment of impersonal awareness.  It is so awe-inspiring that you cannot forget it.

If you have had one or more of these moments, then you’ll know what I mean.  And if you haven’t, then just think of a time when you’ve been struck or commanded to deep reverence and silence.  The energy of such moments is very special.  For some musicians I know it might be the moment of a deep connection with their music and  their audience.  Or it could be a time of connection in nature.

There is a particular energy in such a moment – it is hard to put into words, but you feel it inside of you and all around you.  In my experience, having such a moment in mind, the energy lasted for hours, and even now several years on, I can reactivate the lingering reverberation.  I felt a separation between my awareness and my body in this moment of connection – and as my body moved away, carried passively by the car I was driving and somehow could not stop, my spirit stayed and part of me is still there.

I would not be without such a moment.  It brings a different quality to your life. 

There are moments of such experience of different intensity – some mild and pleasing, others moderate and stronger, some intense and even overwhelming.  This last category can be so potent its effect lingers for a very long time, possibly even a lifetime.

Who would not be without such moments?  If you have had any experience at all like what I am describing, then you will know how difficult it is not to become attached to such an experience, let alone overwhelmed by it.  This is particularly true of the most potent variety.

It gives you a feeling of certainty, of connectedness within and without, of direction and support.  Without thinking or meaning to, you invest what was within that moment – the place, sounds, smells, feelings, people – with an importance that cannot be denied.

You can build a path forward from such a moment, which keeps that direction and support alive.  You trust in its inner rightness, you have an inner faith.

But then, fast forward.  The world gets involved in the conversation.  You start to suspect that the experience might have been an illusion, possibly the fruit of your seeking psyche in need; or that the experience may have given rise to further illusions.  Does that matter?  Does it affect the integrity of the experience itself or the reaction it has triggered? 

The world and your mind get in the way to undermine it, like taking in a pure gold ring to be valued and finding out it’s really cheap metal.  All this interference is like rust on a ring, that obscures its original purity and light.  You are no longer as purely connected to that experience.  The memory is still there to be activated, but you find it hard to maintain your faith with all these increasingly resistant overlays, layers of paint covering the original walls.

So you feel a little uneasy and disappointed, maybe cheated.  Over time these feelings are likely to intensify rather than diminish.  You might feel devastated, deeply disappointed,  even abandoned or deceived.  Ultimately you may feel bereaved, as you will feel that you have lost something so precious.  Something that you were not grasping on to, and trying to preserve, but something which was just there, just something that happened.  You did not seek it or chase it, it came to you, as strong and steady as a glance. 

It is hard not to feel such strong emotions when you have invested so much, involuntarily, in the response to this unplanned, unexpected treasure of a moment’s experience. 

Perhaps you invested too much, because it was only a moment.  Yet moments out of time, extraordinary moments, are hard to treat as mundane.  They have a larger than life quality that commands your obedience and respect. 

How can you hold on to that essential feeling even when you see that the moment too has its shadow?  Should you even try?

Indeed the shadow of the moment is where you reside.  From the shadow you can see the light, in the light you are simply blinded.

However, if you stay in this place, this dark and disappointed place, you can only become diminished.  The person you are, the awareness you felt you had connected with, is suffocated and killed.  You end up feeling less than you were.  You and it are lost.

It was your experience, it still is.  No matter what else, it always is.  Only if you can realise that the essential integrity of the original experience is unperturbed, unruffled, untroubled by the noise of everyday life, maybe even by truth – then, despite the rust, overcoming doubt, you can perhaps still unlock the door to the secret garden.

‘It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine.  The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of climbing roses which were so thick that they were matted together…All the ground was covered with grass of a wintry brown and out of it grew clumps of bushes which were surely rose-bushes if they were alive.  There were numbers of standard roses which had so spread their branches that they were like little trees.  There were other trees in the garden, and one of the things which made the place look stranges and loveliest was that climbing roses had run all over them and swung down long tendrils which made light swaying curtains, and here and there they had caught at each other or at a far-reaching branch and had crept from one tree to another and made lovely bridges of themselve.  There were neither leaves nor roses on them now and Mary did not know whether they were dead or alive, but their thin gray or brown branches and sprays looked like a sort of hazy mantle spreading over everything, walls, and trees, and even brown grass, where they had fallen from their fastenings and run along the ground.  It was this hazy tangle from tree to tree which made it all look so mysterious.  Mary had thought it must be different from other gardens which had not been left all by themselves so long; and indeed it was different from any other place she had ever seen in her life.’

                          –    from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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17 Responses to In the shadow of a moment

  1. Viv says:

    Just lovely and so true. Thank you for reminding me of it. xxx

  2. Barbara says:

    Thank you Karin. That is so helpful, we cling to experiences often wanting more from them. Just letting them be as they are means we have can leave them alone to be as they are, no more or less. Just perfect.
    Barbara

  3. sally oliver says:

    I have always held one of those moments very close to my heart. I remember that the strangest thing about it was that it felt completely normal and ordinary as it was happening. It was only afterwards that the wonder of it hit me, and my conscious mind was “shocked” at myself for experiencing it as normal and unremarkable. Happily, it has never been diminished by time, it is still perhaps even more wondrous than when it happened. As you say, these moments exude such a sense of connectedness, of rightness, the comfort and joy is utterly uplifting. Thank you for writing such a lovely piece.

    • Thank you for these comments, Sally. I remember having an interesting conversation with you on this topic last year. Hope all is well now that you are back, and sorry to receive the sad news you sent through. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

  4. Madhu Sameer says:

    Wonderful…!

    And thanks…. 🙂

    M.

  5. I’m curious about the experience in the car, what happened? I’d like to hear about the experiences!

  6. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words says:

    sometimes we stumble in a secret garden of someone else’s
    as I was beginning the thought I imagined or rather I brought life to
    a fantasy and what I experienced was pie in the sky I was told,
    and it was time to put it back in the pages of my journal (paraphrasing
    what I was told)
    I read your heart spoken words…..
    Thank you…..I know exactly what you feel…..
    mine was created out of unconditional love, and as I move forward
    the other is paralyzed in fear of change…..I was beginning to think he was right
    Take Care….
    You Matter…
    )0(
    ladybluerose

  7. Hello, thanks for your kind comments. Not sure I understand all of your enigmatic words, but perhaps mine are equally enigmatic. 🙂

  8. Chris says:

    I had such a moment decades ago. In Yorkshire in a hard winter a friend and I came by chance upon a lake. Bare, bleak and in a bowl of land it felt so special and still and peaceful that it seemed like a little bit of heaven on earth and I felt pure and blessed. I turned to my friend to discover that she had experienced exactly the same feeling. It became an iconic memory for us both and we often referred to in times of stress because once recalled to the forefront of the mind it always had that same calming effect and put into perspective whatever worldy hassle was grieving us at the time.

  9. The other day I was speaking to someone about this topic. I shared that I had wondered if there were definitive moments in our lives that make us who we are. This person said that they definitely believed that and went on to share their experience. With permission, let me share just a bit. This person was married but the spouse had gotten into drugs. One day the spouse was snorting cocaine and had left some on the coffee table. The spouse handed the other spouse a rolled up bill and said, “Here, I have something for you.” The implication was that she could have the drugs. She indicated she was going to throw it out, and he asked why. She said that since it was given to her, it was hers, and she didn’t want it, so she was going to throw it out. Ultimately he used it, and she didn’t. This person I was speaking to still had troubles and challenges throughout her life, but she looks at that moment as a defining one. She feels that if she had tried it just once, she’d have been caught, and might very well have ended up on the street. As it was, eventually decisions were made that led her to St Catharines where she joined the Church. In sharing this story with me, the person said that it was good to talk about these things, so we can remember those moments. Hopefully our remembering will shape the decisions we make in the future moments.

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