As I took the dog out for our early morning walk on Friday, I spotted her best friend down the street. Dolly, whose head rises a little over 18 inches off the ground, could see only the driveway rising in front of her. I, being four feet taller, could see over the rise of the drive and down the roadway two blocks to the corner, where Kaia was sitting.
At that moment, I became a visionary and prophet. Because of my wide-angle view, I could see what was going to happen before it happened. I knew that Dolly and Kaia were destined to meet on the road sometime in the next thirty seconds, joyously whining and wagging and sniffing each other’s bottoms. It was as if the future had been laid out on a spatial plane.
When spiritual teachers talk about consciousness, they’re not talking about the kind of barely conscious existence that marks so much of our lives—like when I find myself grabbed by the news and not able to notice that my jaw is painfully clenched. Consciousness, in spiritual terms, is a quality of attention. It is non-reactive: attention is not taken bysomething, but rather given to something. Paying attention becomes a matter of choice, rather than something that happens to me. This form of attention is work. What it means right now is that I have to choose to concentrate on writing, instead of checking my email or getting up for a cup of tea or any other of the millions of distractions the world offers.
Those millions of distractions can seem awfully important. I will confess that I spent much of yesterday glued to a news feed about the impeachment of D. Trump in the U.S. Congress. As the mess of the world continues unabated—which it always does—I expect that there will other days when I find my attention well and thoroughly grabbed. When I descend into mechanical being rather than a focused point of attention.
But most days I fight this unconscious behaviour, because it puts me down at doggy-eye-level.
When I’m in the world of consciousness-grabbing stuff, I can’t see any further than the road that rises in front of me. It becomes impossible to imagine anything other than what what’s right ahead. There’s no future different from the present that I see down here at ground level.
But when we rise up taller than a dog, so to speak—when we free ourselves from being grabbed, when we calm down and look out over the landscape—life takes on a different quality. If our standpoint is geological time, we are just one of the millions of species that come and go. From the historical view, civilizations rise and fall. From a cosmic perspective, we see the endless creativity of the universe. And from the vantage point of the shimmering depths of Oneness, we simply dwell in the love that connects everything, regardless.
BUT…there’s something more than just a bigger perspective at work, when you’re taller than a dog. This new vantage point also allows us to think about causality in a different way.
In normal, dog’s-eye-view world, life progresses along in a linear fashion. “A” happens, which causes “B”, which causes “C.” Causality is linear. It is simply the way things are.
But notice, please, when you’re up above and can see more broadly—like I was on that winter morning last week—how the centre becomes causal. From the taller-than-a-dog perspective, it is the inevitable tail-wagging meeting which drew each dog from their own warm home to run down a cold, dark street. The centre of the story exerted an influence which moved the players. This was no linear accident, but a concentric design.
When we see from this viewpoint, it makes a different kind of sense of the incredibly messy world in which we are living. From taller-than-a-dog perspective, the transformation of the world of which so many of us dream is exerting a strong magnetic influence. There is a sense of being drawn forward rather than pushed from behind. Our longing for a more just world pulls us toward deeper commitment; even as the world goes up in flames and people behave so badly, we are tugged more deeply into love of these people, this biosphere. As we struggle toward some collective magnitude of consciousness—a new level of evolution—it seems like that new consciousness is reaching back to help us.
This perspective helps me make sense of the profound disturbances we’re experiencing right now. Resistance to change always becomes stronger as change becomes more inevitable. We have to go through a kind of hell to be willing to chance the next transformation. That’s certainly been true for me, individually; and I am inclined to think that the collective “us” functions in much the same way. It’s terrifying, giving up the way we understand the world; few of us do it graciously. Yet we are inexorably tugged along.
So: it’s a good time to remind ourselves where we want to stand and what we see from that graced lookout. The view does not exempt us from our humanity, from suffering the sorrows of these days and the hard work required to bring things right. But knowing that we are being drawn forward allows us to find the flow, to surf the currents pulling us toward that central causality. From this perspective, we can quit worrying about where things are going and simply play our part as lovers of the whole grand and awful mess of things.