A Language for all Ages, the task of living, the transformation
The analogy of the birth of a butterfly proved to be inspiring. At a class on Thomas Merton's "Seeds of Contemplation" one of the participants had us all exploring the birth of a butterfly. Remember that the quieting of the mind is the path to letting go of who you believed you were. This "self" which is an accumulation of all of your experiences and your interpretation of those experiences is your identity. If I ask you to describe yourself you will probably tell me the roles you play, the relationships you have, the values you hold dear, your belief or not in God, your religion, your politics or even your economic philosophy. All of this is who you think you are. What is sometimes difficult to grasp is our determined attachment to this "self" image and an unwillingness to let go. This creates a separation between you the human and all else. It is this separation that allows an environment of confusion to surround our behavior, our personal relationships and our relationship to all other life on this planet.
The self that we passionately believe is who we are uses every means possible to assert its presence. It will defend itself against all comers and all attacks, real or imaginary, and in most situations prevent us from seeing the moment as it is. If someone, in a conversation, says something we radically disagree with, before they even finish we are processing our response in our heads. If they feel their ideas or beliefs are being threatened they counterattack and we are off and running, amuck.
Eckhart, Merton and others want us to let go of our attachment to this self. To find the quiet place within where awareness is still very real but the minds commentary has halted. This is a peaceful place and a place where unity resides and separation from the world outside our skin no longer exists. In this place a transformation occurs, sometimes slowly sometimes in a burst of light. From this place all things are possible. If we have not fallen asleep and if we practiced allowing a neutral third party to "observe or witness" what is going on within or without, we become open to a new relationship with every thing or every person not us. We exist in the present. A present that is filled with what is and not obscured by our imaginations, our history, our "self" image.
No I did not forget the butterfly analogy. The caterpillar grows, doing what caterpillar do, until it senses that now is the time to build its final resting place, the place where the caterpiller will cease to exist as a caterpiller but will metamorph into a new being, the butterfly. Within this cacoon the caterpiller dissolves away until there is only the essence of its former self, a soup of dna, proteins and all of the organics that will make up the new creature. The process must continue until the cycle is completed, the butterfly must struggle to escape the cacoon. Then and only then is the transformation complete.
This is very close to what the human transformation process is. The self is born and keeps the developing human alive and well until the human begins to understand that it is no longer necessary to travel the old road. As the human detaches from this "self", a process of observing and letting go of what this "self" was, the metamorphosis begins. The new and growing empty place within that this process creates is filled with all that is necessary to connect and stay connected. This unity can be difficult to grasp because it is an experience and does not arise from the mind, but is to be sure the "true self". What we see when this true self is present (and once it exists it does not go away), is the present and our responses to what it offers us reflects our awareness of the moment not clouded over by our past or concerns for the future. Thinking, problem solving, or enjoying the creative process has a purity that only an unencumbered mind can experience. The separation no longer exists, unity grows and grows and all relationships profit from this transformation.