The Fog of DelusionPosted: September 18, 2014
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
The air seemed thick with water as we slipped Ruby (our red canoe) into the lagoon’s still waters. The separation between water and sky was so subtle that it was hard to discern where the brackish water stopped and the salty air began. Not separate and also not one. The occasional gull or cormorant flying by and the sound of the nearby waves crashing against the sandy spit was all that broke the stillness of this gray place. Gliding along, the sound of our paddles breaking the water’s surface joined with the rhythmic waves crashing to the shore to set a hypnotic tone to our paddle. Our meditation was suddenly broken as a head appeared above the water’s surface, looking at us. And then another, followed by the curved backs of others barely breaking the surface tension of the water before disappearing back into the watery world. As we paddled closer, we counted a family of four river otters using the lagoon for more than recreation, for sustenance. In many ways we were doing the same; being sustained in body, mind and spirit by this wild and wonderful place.
Back at our campsite, we had returned to a different world; one of trees and people. Nearly surrounded by other campers, I was quickly annoyed by my fellow human beings, which is usually the sign of an incoming lesson in life. Sitting by our campfire, I wondered at sanity of our neighbors. Why are they just sitting in their RV I wondered and why in god’s name do they have to run their generator? They are probably just sitting in their watching tv, so why did they come “camping” anyway? And why are the neighbors in the van running their car – just so they can smell the delicious exhaust fumes? What is wrong with people? And our other neighbors who have the obnoxiously bright lantern – do they really think that they can illuminate a campfire any better than it does by itself? Don’t they know there are a billion stars up above that they could be looking at (and I could be too) if it wasn’t for their insensitive light pollution?
And then it comes, the lesson. The generator quiets down, the van gets turned off, the lantern dims, and our baby starts to cry. She doesn’t cry for long but her cry is certainly heard by all of our “annoying” neighbors. And now we are the annoying neighbors. This is when I realize that we are non-separate I am from everyone else, and indeed everything else. We too are just like everyone else in that we do something (bring our damn kids camping who make a ton of noise) that can be perceived as annoying to others. It is all too easy to let our perceptions turn into something more. In this case, the observation that their generator is running combines with not understanding why someone would be running a generator and becomes annoyance, something I created in my own mind. Realizing my non-separateness the annoyance dissipates and I am immediately at ease.
Lesson number two comes the next morning. Still feeling the ease of the night before, I start talking with the lantern neighbors (which I may not have done if I had harbored any resentment towards them) and as I engage with them in everyday conversation, my annoyance with them goes completely away. It no longer exists as it did not have any real existence anyway. It was a fabrication of my mind. What was real was that they had their lantern on. What wasn’t real was the annoyance I felt. The simple act of engaging with our neighbors made it impossible to harbor any ill will toward them. When we realize non-separateness, any ill will aimed to another is ill will aimed at ourselves. This is the importance of cultivating understanding and loving-kindness, of ourselves and others.
Sliding gently back into the lagoon for a final paddle before breaking camp and heading home, the sun comes roaring out as geese fly overhead and an osprey searches for its next meal. For a moment, the fog of delusion has lifted and I move easily and effortlessly through the wind rippled water.