Climb to the top of the highest tree
Step onto the branch that you fear will break under your weight
Let it break! — Clarissa Pinkola Estes
The way that ideas are born, blend, and lead on to new avenues of thought is constantly fascinating. One concept cannot be pursued at any great length without involving another. When a certain idea is centered upon, very soon kindred thoughts whirl around the mind like leaves in a vortex of wind. Some of these thoughts seem inconsequential or irrelevant but, like small satellites orbiting a larger central object, all form the whole and give us a larger view of reality.
In everyday life circumstances arise which embody this pattern, which H. P. Blavatsky referred to when she said:
Had you only paid attention to these casualties and little events, the working of these might alone have revealed to you a guiding hand. . . . Yet it is the first rule in the daily life of a student of occultism, namely, to never take off your attention from the smallest circumstances that may happen, . . .
. . . Each step, each person he meets with, every word uttered may be a word purposely placed in the day's sentence with the purpose of giving certain importance to the chapter it belongs to and such or another (Karmic) meaning to the volume of life. — Letter to a London Group, 1887
With this in mind, not long ago, on hearing a song lyric — "the laws of nature keep telling us like a friend . . ." — I was reminded of the essence of a passage in Letters That Have Helped Me by William Quan Judge:
Each mind has a groove, and is not naturally willing to run in the natural groove of another mind. Hence comes often friction and wrangle. Illustrate it by the flanged wheel of the steam-engine running on a track. It cannot run off nor on a track of broader or narrower gauge, and so is confined to one. Take off the flange and make the face of the wheel broader, and then it can run on any road that is at all possible. General human nature is like the engine, it is flanged and run for a certain size of track, but the occultist or the would-be one should take off the flange and have a broad-faced wheel that will accommodate itself to the other mind and nature. Thus in one life even we might have the benefit of many, for the lives of other men are lived beside us unnoticed and unused because we are too broad and flanged in wheel, or too narrow and flanged also. This is not easy, it is true, to change, but there is no better opportunity than is hourly presented to you in the whole world, to make the alteration. I would gladly have such a chance, which Karma has denied me, and I see the loss I incur each day by not having it there or here. — 2:5-6
Judge's words illustrate the universal necessity of change. When we look back on our lives, we can see all too well how we have changed unconsciously. Things may not have turned out as we had planned, but looking back there does seem to be some cohesion to all those events, a guiding plan if you like. Also in the mix, however, are all the self-conscious decisions we have made. Often it's as if a hidden part of us compels us to explore or adopt a new area of life with great enthusiasm, energy, and confidence — be it a new attitude, a challenge at work or at home, an ethical stance — but only takes us half way, leaving the self-conscious part of us with the uphill struggle of carrying on the endeavor. We have, therefore, a dual nature. Our task, as Judge points out, is to choose to expand our limited everyday conscious self.
When our personality disagrees with the plan our higher self has for our life's circumstances, we feel friction, especially when we feel we must make the change to the better life. Change can be a frightening prospect when we don't know what we will become or where we will find ourselves. To leap into the abyss or to venture into unexplored regions is daunting for many, and it requires courage and concentration. But what is it we are afraid of? We need never fear: the small, compassionate voice we hear inside belongs to the part of us which knows what is best because it has always guided our life. It resides with the gods and urges us on to follow the ancient path to the heart of the universe, where human suffering ends.
What causes our daily circumstances, good and bad, to arise in the first place? At all times the law of karma is in operation — a ceaseless flow of events involving every being or collection of beings in the universe, each event acting as a potential weight to balance out the others. Hence karma is constantly the restorer of lost equilibrium through all of nature's kingdoms, and as such it is also the law of justice. If we let our minds work on this for a while, it becomes apparent that we, individually or with others, have the power to balance out our own past actions. The trying dilemma or pleasant feeling we experience today is no more than an opportunity provided for us by nature to leap ahead or to rectify mistakes and restore the balance that we must have upset somewhere in our past. In this way nature is like a very dear friend, giving its all so that we might better ourselves at any given moment.
If we recall that our present circumstances are of our own making, then in them we are really meeting our past selves right here in the present. These days it is common to hear the words, "I wonder who I was or what I was like in a past life," as if it is an unknowable mystery. Our past lives may be mysterious, but there is no need to resort to dangerous regression "therapies" to make sense of our current life, nor need we wait for a revelation. In this "Age of Inquiry" so many of us are "waiting for the moment when the moment has been waiting all the time." By leaping into the abyss of the present, our small, personal self fades into the background and we come face to face with the hidden part of us which is closer to the real us. The "real us," however, can give us a disconcerting shake when it reappears. But shouldn't we be happy to meet ourselves again — surely we are friends with ourselves?
For the most part we are comfortable with the way we are, but sometimes we may not like the thoughts we think or the way we act. Our thoughts are often echoes of past life personalities; our current personality is the result of our efforts and deeds in those incarnations, the negative thoughts a reminder to us of how not to act in this life. Such thoughts may not have to be considered wholly evil, however, and needn't be a hindrance either; and herein lies the difficulty. By welcoming, but not necessarily rebecoming, the "I" of the past — which has journeyed through countless lives and experiences only to finally rejoin with the "I" of the constantly moving present — we receive what is needed at any instant in time. It may be for our benefit or another's — we may never know — but what is certain is that this continuous cycle proceeds from divine origins and must therefore be absolutely compassionate. This is one reason why sacred teachings tell us never to judge another, for even behind the most unlikely personality may lie a great soul.
This continuous coming and going of events has been referred to as a Script of Destiny, each happening a chapter, paragraph, sentence, word, or even a letter in the drama of our lives. Each passing moment is a magical point of our creation. This script is constantly being rewritten by our daily thoughts and actions at exactly the same time as it is being read. Students of literature are reminded that the more they study text, plot, sub-plots, relationships between characters, narrative style, and the subtleties of language, the more they get to know the author and his intent. It could be said that all of our lives are masterpieces of natural literature. The task of getting to know the author — the real divine self within — is a treacherous mountain climb, but no one is better qualified to interpret the script than its author, and having done so the views afforded, as told by those who have made the ascent, are unsurpassable. The foothills start, however, by carefully reading what is happening in the most subtle detail of life within us and without us. We then become empowered to pen a balanced, refined life-script of endless and wonderful possibilities beneficial for ourselves and all those whose lives we touch.
(From Sunrise magazine, December 1999/January 2000; copyright © 1999 Theosophical University Press)