Sunday, January 11, 2015

Hidden Wholeness

"The Universe"
- in my meditation garden -

Yesterday I came across something written by the 14th century English mystic, Julian of Norwich when I was suddenly struck with a flash of insight - although I had read this many times before-- up until now, I never really "got" what she was saying:

In this vision, he showed me a little thing, 
the size of a hazelnut, and it was round as a ball.
I looked at it with the eye of my understanding, and thought
'What may this be?'
And it was generally answered thus,
'It is all that is made, and it shall ever last.'

As soon as I read that piece of 14th century "mystic wisdom," I immediately remembered something the renowned monk and author Thomas Merton wrote in the 1960's when he talked about the "hidden wholeness" of the universe - every tiny little part contains the whole. He would look at a leaf or a flower, an animal or a person and would see the bigger picture. He wouldn't focus on separated and discrete parts but on the "whole" - that everything and everyone belong together, that the ONE is always reflected in each and every part. 

A tiny hazelnut has a "hidden wholeness." You can look at it, and in it see the universe - all that is, all that will be. I finally understood that this is what Julian of Norwich meant in her writing.

I am reminded of a wonderful Zen wisdom teaching:

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water.
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.
Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected
even in a puddle an inch wide.
The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in
one dewdrop on the grass.

We live in a fairly "mechanistic" culture that likes to "think" in terms of bits and pieces and parts. We break down our day into a schedule of discrete segments and often fail to see how the different parts of the day all flow together and relate to one another. We pigeonhole people into pre-fabricated distinct  categories. We think of a world of nature as being separated from and distinct from the ordinary everyday life of human beings. The blazing cosmos of stars and space, sun and moon are seen as being out there, up there, separated from us. Some people even think of "God" as a separated, super being who controls the whole machine. 

And yet, if we have the eyes to see it (the eye of the mystic) every single one of us is capable of seeing the world as it really is- a living, breathing, organic, hidden wholeness, everything belonging together. The ONE in every tiny part - even in a small little hazelnut. Every tiny dewdrop on the grass reflecting the moon and the entire sky so wide and great.

I am sitting in my garden at the beginning of a new week, in a new year, gazing at one single beautiful hibiscus flower - I am looking at the universe.  

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