Recently, I participated in an online retreat with hospice chaplain, Amita Llamo. Her book, DANDELIONS BLOOMING IN THE CRACKS OF SIDEWALKS, Stories from the Bedside of the Dying reveal the power of simple human kindness and the wisdom of beingness, even as we are faced with our own death. Especially as we are facing death. While I enjoyed her book and wished I had read it (or something akin) prior to my father’s death 2 years ago, it was Amita’s 5-year meditative retreat that had me signing up for her Zoom retreat. Amita shared with us her wisdom from this extended time spent in prayer, meditation and introspection.
Over 2 and 1/2 days, Amita introduced us to the concept of 4 worlds that exist simultaneously on Earth. The first world, where we all live, is the world of form. Everything measurable and quantifiable lives here. You can describe it, taste it, weigh it, name it, see it… you get the picture. The 1st world is every THING. The 2nd world, is the world of relationships, how we connect to others, other things, the environment, ideas… it’s the world of concepts. Many of us live here in our heads (maybe even more than our senses) and navigate back and forth between world 1 and world 2 and never go beyond the two worlds of things and concepts.
But as we get to world 3 and 4, we find worlds that are not generally “lived in” but merely touched in moments I will explain later. Here we are limited by language and words to describe something that is not describable. So, bear with me as I attempt to use first world words onto 2nd world concepts to illustrate 3rd and 4th world phenomena.
The 3rd world is the world of energy as it exists between form. As an artist, I would call this negative space… everything that is not a thing. I hadn’t considered that this negative space was an energy but it makes sense to me. This energy can be found with a simple exercise: close your eyes and bring your hands together, but not touching, as if in prayer (palms together). Focus on the space between your hands, holding them apart about 5 or 6 inches. Now, slowly, push them together and feel the space between your hands as they get closer and closer. Do the same in reverse, pull them apart and see if you can feel the energy elongating from the compressed feeling when they were close together. If your mind is quiet and you can focus on this exercise, you can feel the energy, almost like pulling etheric taffy. Try it and see! This is the energy of the 3rd world.
The 4th world is the collective whole of consciousness and divinity. Amita described it as a cycle, and used the cycle of water to help us understand. Water comes down as rain or is transformed into snow, which melt and flows into streams and rivers, eventually making its way to the ocean where it evaporates, transforming again into vapor which then makes clouds and the process begins again. This cycle is inherent in all things and all non-things.
We reach world 3 and 4 in moments of Grace. It can come upon you in deep meditation, or after sacred ceremony. Some find it using psychotropic drugs or plant medicine, yogic breathwork or shamanic practices. Grace can be found along the bedside of the dying or the birth of a child. It can be found in the heartbeat of a horrible car accident where time stands still and suddenly you know more than can possible be imagined just seconds before. Perhaps you have felt a glimmer of grace in a dream like state and it follows you into your waking world as you open your eyes onto the new day. Grace takes many forms but you know it when you feel it.
I have felt many moments of Grace and have glimpsed the 3rd and 4th worlds enough times to know these states exist and are as real as the laptop before me. My chosen path is the path of meditation, which is why Deer Buddha, is the title painting for this blog post. Both Deer Buddha and Sacred Cow (from the last post) came to me in a moment of Grace. I truly adore meditation as a path to Grace as it’s far sweeter and easier than sitting at the bedside of the dying or tripping out on acid. Meditation is a gentle path to these worlds of energy. I think, perhaps, that as an artist, I tap into these energy worlds and allow ideas and imagery to come through and then, in manifesting this creative energy, I bring these visions forth into the 1st and 2nd worlds.
As I align myself with these energetic worlds, there are more and more synchronicities and moments of divine Grace. In lifting the veil, I raise my own energy. As many other spiritual teachers have said, a rising tide lifts all boats. In lifting my vibrational energy through the manifestation of creative spirit, I raise the energy of the collective. As do all artists and creative souls; art is a spiritual practice!
In the 1999 movie, The Matrix, the hero, Neo, is on a journey to truth. At one point, he meets a young spiritual acolyte who is bending spoons with his mind. Spoon Boy says to Neo,
“Do not try and bend the spoon, that’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth… there is no spoon. Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”
The first time I heard this, I sighed in awe at the profundity of that simple message. Change your mind and change your reality. But in the movie, Neo is not in the physical world, he is actually in a simulation. For him, in that world, there is no spoon. But when he leaves the world of the mind, he returns to a place where spoons do in fact, exist. We are faced with an existential dilemma, is there or isn’t there a spoon? Well, yes, in the many worlds idea of Llamo there is and there isn’t a spoon.
Many on a spiritual path are heavily invested in the physical world and miss the depth of existence by not being able to experience nor even imagine a state of Grace. Some seek to live in worlds beyond the physical and strive away from where they are now. They live in the future or ruminate over the past, disregarding the present. They long for something new, different, better, pleasurable and move away from discomfort. Buddha says that longing and desire is often the cause of much suffering as we fail to accept and allow and surrender to the reality, we live in. Even longing for enlightenment is a desire that can cause suffering.
But if we look towards embracing all the 4 worlds, not just the manifestation of the physical world, nor only the etheric world, we begin to see the fullness of all the layers of reality. We learn to recognize truth and see things more clearly. All worlds are interconnected, and we are here to experience the many worlds in their own way; though we live in the physical, we are in the world, not of the world. Sometimes we may even lift up the veil and see, there is a spoon AND there is no spoon. Both are true.