The thin line between truth and illusion is not a spiritual experienceby Robert Meagher on 09/02/18
One Saturday last month I enjoyed a daytrip on my bicycle. I headed out early in the morning with food and water for the day. I so enjoy my daytrips on my bicycle. It’s ‘me time’ and I revel in getting out in nature and embracing the stillness that only nature can provide.
This particular day was a quintessential summer’s day. The sky was blue, with the occasional wispy cloud passing by. The temperature was a comfortable 28 Celsius (or 85 Fahrenheit). There was some humidity in the air but it served as a constant and soothing presence that bathed my body in its warm embrace, like nectar for the soul.
After biking for a few hours, I stopped at a popular park that overlooked the Ottawa River. I found myself a quiet spot on the shore of the river, and sat on a large root outcropping from an enormous tree that offered me some shade. In the backdrop was a park that was bustling with activity—people swimming at the beach, families picnicking, people playing baseball, tennis, frisbee, and a host of other activities. There was a section of picnic tables that were full up with people and families enjoying a summer’s feast. I smiled at the scenes and rejoiced in the joy of the setting.
Letting go of my focus on what was happening behind me, I turned back to look out over the river and what was beyond the other side. The river was very wide at this point, as least 2kms across (or 1 mile). I remember looking up and seeing the blue sky and began to tap into the sensation of the expansiveness of the sky. As I lowered my gaze to the shore on the other side of the river, what was in the distance on the other side of the river became the horizon.
As I continued to look out over the river, I reveled in the sensations of the warm summer air embracing me. The warmth wrapped itself around me and carried me into a place of peace and stillness that was pristine and pure. As I sunk into this peace and stillness, I became aware that the sky continued to expand, while at the same time the horizon started to shrink. The sky kept taking up my vision and the horizon kept getting thinner and thinner. This vision continued until there was the sky, there was the water, and all that was separating them was a very thin line that, I was consciously aware of, was the horizon. At the apex of this vision, the horizon almost disappeared and the water and sky started to merge.
I sat with this vision for a minute or two. I remember turning around at the scene unfolding in back of me and everything was as it was before—bustling with activity. I turned back to look out over the river and all there was to see was the ever expanding sky and the water, with only a thin line, a sliver, of a horizon.
I turned around again; still the unfolding bustle of joy happening behind me. I turned back to the scene in front me; still the ever-expanding sky and water, with only a thin sliver of a horizon; and the water and sky merging.
I had a thought, an awareness, that my vision was showing me something else, a window on another reality. But was it truth? Or illusion? And what about the scene unfolding in back of me—the bustling activity in the park? Was it truth? Or illusion?
What was unfolding in front of me, and behind me was both truth (or reality) and illusion. It was truth (or reality) for me, in that moment. But, ultimately, it was illusion, as it was being seen through my body’s eyes. Anything I see through my body’s eyes is my truth, my reality. But anything I see through my body’s eyes is as a result of perception. And perception is only possible through the body’s eyes. My vision of the water meeting the sky was not a spiritual experience. Spiritual experience is not of this time and space, and not something that is seen with the eyes, heard with the ears, tasted with the tongue, smelled with the nose, touched with my appendages. Spiritual experience is beyond the body; it is ineffable.