By William R. Stimson
MORNING, THE way I turned a garlic clove while
slicing it suddenly filled me with a thrill, as if the vast exuberance
of life itself resided in the tiny motion. For the brevity of
one single instant I was replete with meaning and newness –
made like a child again in awe and wonder. Then – even as
I was still reeling from the flash – it was gone. The instant
had passed. I was back to just slicing a garlic clove.
Such unexpected explosions of joy and truth as can punctuate our
smallest act provide a hint of what this business of maintaing
a daily spiritual practice like meditation, tai chi or yoga is
all about. After several years, we begin to get glimpses. An awareness
grows and one day we are
startled to notice one tiny instant in a way that does it some
A little hole, a rip, a tear, punctuates the veil we have
drawn between the world and us, that shields us from its ever-present
and scintillating truth and beauty. A bit of light gets through
– light always there but that we don’t see or are
not open to receive because of the veil with which we cover ourselves.
Is it any wonder when we begin to have these first experiences
that we want to rip the whole damn veil down? When we see for
ourselves what real magic each tiny instant can have, we don’t
need anything more to get our thrills. The simplest, the most
basic little thing does fine – more than suffices: a garlic
clove, for example, on a Thursday morning.
value of simple living and a modest livelihood is that it brings
us closer to the possibility of realizing what is true. Getting
rid of so many superfluities makes it easier to experience what
is real and what isn’t. The truth jumps out at us, stares
us in the face, the moment we quit giving ourselves over to lesser
We don’t seek these epiphanies. They seek us. We don’t
know what to make of them. They inform us what to make of everything
else. We don’t need to extend them. They extend us, outside
of time into eternal being – even if only for an instant.
What’s amazing isn’t that we can experience this sort
of thing. Look into the face of any small child. It is a human
trait – this beauteous attunement to the delight in the
ordinary. The amazing thing, really, is that it could ever vanish
– that life could ever go as flat as it has. We buy into
this, we buy into that, never imagining that the capacity to experience
joy itself could ever be bargained away. We make ourselves poor
by trying to get so much.
is so much stronger and so much more authentically resplendent
when it doesn’t require some flashy or trendy or expensive
external pretext. It comes on anyway without one. It will seize
anything as sufficient cause. This magic cannot be bought. It
cannot be sold. It’s not for sale. No wonder so much of
our economy is blind to it. In this sense, a large part of the
economy is not real. It does not recognize the value of what is
primary, everywhere available. Indeed, it bargains this away for
things that don’t matter.
We only have to vanish for an instant, as we know ourselves, to
be overwhelmed by a much larger truth. We feel so much more alive
when those parts of us that don’t matter just slough off,
slide away somewhere for a split second, and leave us free and
unencumbered—open to feel what and who we really are.
The veil that separates us from reality is our conditioning. When
that which we are conditioned to limit ourselves to escapes of
its own accord for just the wink of an eye, then we feel not a
lessening, not a constriction of self, but an explosion—a
magnanimous widening into vastness. All things are our being and
for an instant we can happen to experience, by some wonder we
will certainly never understand, what and who we really are.
Because of the many tiny experiences like this one with the garlic
and different from it that strike intermittently like sparks week
in and week out, we are made more real. It’s not that we
possess anything, or have something. No, it’s not like that.
It’s inching closer and closer to the wonder that right
here, right now, the rarest of miracles is revealing itself to
We become permeable, more and more, to delight.
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