“I remember the moment in my recapitulation when I realized that the story I’d always told myself about my life was utterly false. That’s the shattering moment of surrender to the truth.” Quote from Jan Ketchel during a recent morning discussion.
We are a story loving species. Can’t get enough of a good story. Our days are spun into archetypal dramas that draw us like moths to a flame. And when we encounter the unknown in our daily lives, our thoughts rapidly fill in the blanks, hand us a plausible explanation, a reality to uphold, the fictional novel of our life and times.
In 1931, in one of his Vision Seminars, Jung described a patient’s vision: “I looked into his eyes and saw therein a great river full of writhing bodies. A few men stood upon the bank and called with a loud voice to the struggling masses in the rushing water. The water cast a few souls upon the bank. Then the men who stood there lifted them up and showed them a star and a sun. This I saw in the eyes of the old man. The old man said: “You have perceived” and he sank into the earth.”
This vision reveals the possibility of true perception, simply what is beyond the veils of our stories. Jung interpreted the river of writhing bodies as, “Like the wheel in Buddhistic philosophy, death and rebirth, the curse of that eternal illusory meaningless existence. In this vision we find the same principle as in Buddhism, the consciousness of what is happening as a redeeming principle.”
Jung goes on to say: “…that river only makes sense if a few escape and become conscious, that the purpose of existence is that one should become conscious. Consciousness redeems one from the curse of that eternal flowing on in the river of unconsciousness.”
Jan’s opening quote about her detachment from the novel of her life, as it devolved into the collapse of the world she had always known, landed her into the bowels of truth that ultimately released her from the current of unconsciousness, spitting her out upon the shore to become a riverwalker, one who walks along the river’s edge consciously grounded in the truth.
Consciousness is pure perception. Consciousness is life outside the story. Total acceptance of what is, of what was, is the bridge beyond the confines even of the story of time. Timelessness is infinity, and freedom from story releases us to perceive all that is beyond story time. In Buddhism this state is known as diamond mind, the true nature of mind.
The Shamans of Ancient Mexico called this state inner silence, the springboard to infinity. For them the storyteller within is the incessant internal dialogue that interprets, that is, puts into story format all that we encounter. Freedom from the mesmerizing spells of the internal dialogue is both simple and the hardest thing to achieve.
Suspend judgment, the Shamans recommend. You don’t have to stop the story, but with consciousness you simply acknowledge what it is—a story—and cease to give it attention. You step outside the river, the current of thought, label it for what it is, and like Buddha, don’t attach. Simply perceive what is, beyond story.