“Dears, there is nothing in your life that will not change –– especially all your ideas of God.”
I love this quote from Tukaram, a sixteenth century Hindu poet, (this translation by Daniel Ladinsky from a poem called Certainty) where Tukaram reflects on the damage caused by certainty. I realize that certainty also blocks forward progress and can leave one stuck. I see that in hindsight my atheism during the mid part of my life was a result of my father’s certainty that there was only one God and my resulting conclusion that such an authoritarian, capricious, cruel, limited, patriarchal figure could not possibly exist therefore there was no God. It was not until my mid forties that I opened up to the possibility that perhaps there was a concept of the divine that could be relevant to me. For years I struggled with the word “God” because it carried so much negative baggage from my childhood but I became more comfortable with more general expressions like Universe, Cosmos, Spirit, Presence, Nature and Creation. This shift occurred in part as one aspect of mid life crisis which saw me abandon wife, friends and job for a one-year trip around the world with my much younger girlfriend who was more open to such concepts. It received a great deal of reinforcement when we stayed for some weeks with my sister Chris and her husband Roy in the UK who, to my total surprise, seemed totally open to the possibility that there was divine energy in the universe and they had been involved with a “new age” spiritual group for some years. “So how come you never told me?” I asked my sister. She laughed and said, “I didn’t think you had an open mind.” And of course she was right.
Feeling like a neophyte in this realm of possibility, I began to see my experience on the planet as part of something much bigger than myself and it was with curiosity that I began to test out the potential of this new relationship with the cosmos. I began to experiment, treating this power or energy as a resource to be drawn upon, that could aid me in my life’s journey. The first true test took place during a visit to Nepal where we embarked on a trek around the Annapurna circuit. It was an awesome 260 km hike taking 18 to 20 days and climbs to a high mountain pass called Tharung La which bridges the two halves of the walk. The trail ascends to 17,769 ft, considerably higher than I had ever climbed and there is a risk of acute mountain sickness if you have not fully acclimatized. The final night before the climb is spent at a small inn at Tharung Phedi and it is recommended that you leave at 4.00 a.m. in order to avoid the risk of damaging winds later in the day. I noticed I had significant anxiety emerging about this venture. I was already noticing minor headaches, not uncommon at altitude but a worrying sign as we would ascend 1,000 metres on the final day. Due to a conflict with our porters we had fired one of them and as a result would have a pack to carry; in addition our remaining porter had somewhat inadequate gear for this climb and had never been across before.
In this troubled state, I went to bed around 6.00 p.m., in preparation for the early start and because it was so cold then and had great difficulty falling asleep which of course added to my angst. I decided to do something that upon reflection was like praying but at the time that word was far too associated with the God of my parents to be acceptable. However, as the old saying goes that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it is likely a duck. I decided to focus on my connection with the universe to give me strength for the ordeal that lay ahead. I created in my mind something that I learned later was an affirmation that went as follows, “My strength comes from the universe, I will be filled with energy and vitality, my pack will feel light and I would climb to the top of the Tharong La with ease.” I reflected on this affirmation through the long night.
The next morning we set off at 3.57 a.m. and I had one of my early insights into the amazing nature of the universe. I felt no need to share the weight of the pack with Karen, I walked steadily, and made the summit after three and a half hours with such ease that I turned around and went back to meet our porter Jahan who was not faring quite as well. I took the other much heavier pack and continued back to the top with ease. I had my first taste of the power of setting intention and co-creating a result.
Certainty undermines one’s power, and turns happiness
into a long shot. Certainty confines.
Dears, there is nothing in your life that will
not change – especially your ideas of God.
Look what the insanity of righteous knowledge can do:
crusade and maim thousands
in wanting to convert that which
is already gold
Certainty can become an illness
that creates hate and
God once said to Tuka,
“Even I am ever changing –
I am ever beyond
what I may have once put my seal upon,
may no longer be
~ Tukaram ~