How Free Can You Be?

An unopened LiteBrite is sitting on the shelf in our bedroom closet. The toy from the 80s that you or a childhood friend probably had.

It is there because we keep a few good gifts in supply for when school friends’ birthdays pop up and we don’t have time to go pick something up.

I’d pulled the box off the shelf last week while looking for something and it came to mind this morning while I was journaling.

At this point, I was allowing myself to free-write as a means of coming into contact with that ‘other’ which can guide not only my writing, but my thoughts and actions throughout the day. You could say I was trying to wake up God, who tends to sleep in. Or maybe adjusting the squelch on the marine radio so that I could more clearly hear the small voice on the other side.

The moment I saw the LiteBrite appear in my mind, my musing was a putting of words to the experience of being alive that I’ve become more acquainted with recently. Its meaning was immediately obvious to me.

In my journal, I wrote…

LiteBrite is what We Are and the practical implication of this is multifold.

‘LiteBrite is what We Are’ is a succinct way of describing the experience that every one of us conscious beings is a clear peg in a board that obfuscates a light beyond.

In the same way that LiteBrite only has one light source, but all the different pegs make it look like there are many lights, my experience of being alive has become very much one in which I feel I am a peg among pegs, all of which are emitting the same light. Most of us, most of the time, including myself, forget that that which shines through us is all the same light. We think we are the blue, the red, the green, or whatever color we are and that the light shining through us is coming from us.

While it certainly does look like this, especially when dishes get left in the sink by the green peg – again – in my most present and alive state of mind, my strongest experience is that this is simply not so.

The fabric of reality is a dark blanket over a very bright light and every point of consciousness is a pinprick in this blanket through which the source of light shines. Much like the night sky, we are a myriad of dancing stars.

By ‘we’, I don’t just mean human beings. Nor do I mean animals or plants that make up the narrow slice of everything that the Encyclopedia Britannica (to keep with our 80’s throwback theme) taught me is what we call life. I mean all things; the people, the dogs and cats, the insects, the trees, the grass, the planets, the stars, the sand and stones, the wind, the fire, the rain…all of it.

It seems likely to me that always in the moment that some point of consciousness becomes aware of itself, it thinks the light is itself. In the great cycling of creation that is ongoing separation and unification, of death and conception, is it not perfect that conscious awareness itself would also separate and then unite again?

After all, there would be no light coming through the LiteBrite if the pegs didn’t think their separateness into being. There is beauty in the forgetting. The depth of the color comes from the cutting off. The passion that burns across the arc of polarities is not present in unification. Passion, color, pain, and pleasure are all swept away by the neutralizing embrace of insight into the infinite.

And yet, we long to return. We long for that surrender and the equanimity it affords us.

While we live for passion though, we live also for rest. The trick is not to float above the world, but to walk within it. To move shoulder to shoulder, being bumped around by too many people, feeling the agitation, and smelling the sweet perfume of passersby.

As Rumi says, stay at the threshold upon waking. “Don’t go back to sleep. Don’t go back to sleep.

Like upon a small beam, with one foot in place and a leg and two arms out to the side, we can enjoy the ever-fleeting single-pointedness of balance and welcome the wobbling of to and fro. We can enjoy the dance of forgetting and remembering that we are the thing and, also, not the thing at all. That the light comes from us and, too, that we are no more than a peg in a board through which the light shines.

In my journal, I wrote also that the practical implications of this are multifold. There is infinite freedom and creative power available in the embrace of both sleep and waking, of both remembering and forgetting.

What freedom is there in the desperation of forever sustaining something? None, I suggest. The locomotion of walking itself is a complicated maneuver of falling and catching oneself, and yet at a very young age, we learn to do it with mastery and grace.

What if, then, we could learn to walk with mastery in our falling from grace and catching ourselves again? Could we let go of our endeavor for perfect freedom, and instead be here now falling and catching, falling and catching?

If so, when so, then we save ourselves remarkable time fretting about when we’re doing it, how far along we are, or whether we measure up to our ideals or the ideals of others.

At the bottom of all yearnings is a yearning to return and so when we can relax into the beauty of our present predicament as a peg in a board with the simple task of extending light from within to without, we can dedicate much more energy and time to the tasks at hand.

We get on with simply doing a really good job at being a peg.

Loving us all, JPM