I went out to lunch today with two of my favorite ladies - my aunt and my grandmother. Here lately I've not been going anywhere, really, except for occasional trips to the grocery store or library. I prefer situations that I'm able to dart out of with a quickness, and not have to make extended conversation with anyone. Going out to eat takes longer than I'd like; I fear I'll be spotted by someone who may have known me in my former life, and the thought makes me anxious. But sometimes I just take the chance and go anyway.
It was right at noon in the middle of the week, so the place was really packed. And just as I knew they would, just as I've practiced, thoughts bombarded me as I walked through the loud, crowded restaurant, and sat down at the table, keenly aware of all the strangers around me. The kind of thoughts that spin scary tales of all I see. I looked around and saw, what looked to me like, a restaurant full of people with their coworkers, laughing, gossiping, having a good time on their lunch breaks. I saw many people with their clipped-on company security badges, dressed in their nice, smart-looking office apparel. They got refills on their Diet Pepsi's, ate salads and chicken and rice.
I remember being like those people. Once upon a time, I was independent. I had my own place, a job, friends, a life. It's what I like to tell myself was the happiest period of my life. Is that true? I don't know, but I like remembering it that way. Looking back, my favorite job was at a brokerage firm in downtown Dallas. 37th floor. I was a data entry/file clerk guy - even had my own cool little badge. My desk was right near a floor-to-ceiling window that I desperately tried not to spend too much of my time staring out of. I liked it. I got up with the sun, took the light rail to work, worked with cool people (one of my coworkers ended up being one of my closest friends), went home, and was grateful for every bill I got and that I had the money to pay them with. Why did I quit and walk away? Why didn't I see what I had? What was I so afraid of? What the hell did I think I was doing? Why was I so sad, so stupid?
I was believing what I was thinking at the time. It's all I can say. That really does explain every madness. Whatever it was, though, I did what I did and I chose what I chose because it made sense to me at the time. Time has passed. Here I am. Here I am at the restaurant with my aunt and my Grams; me in a stained t-shirt, imagining that I must look like, and feeling like, a child. The people around me must have been my age, but they looked so much older. Feeling like a 19-year old when you're 28 can skew your perceptions. Eyeing dudes in collar shirts, I wondered if I even remotely resembled them...
I sat and listened - I really listened - to my thoughts. I knew they'd show up, so I made the conscious decision beforehand just to listen and observe the thoughts that would inevitably come out to play (and by play, I mean plague) - in a loving, detached way. In the noticing, I sat as still Awareness. The discomfort arose. The memories of my former self arose. The images of the people around me and what I imagined their thoughts and judgments of me to be, arose. The thoughts that I'd never be in "their world" arose. The thoughts of what I "should" be doing with my life and am not, arose. All of this inner drama arose...and all of it fell away. Images appeared, played themselves out, and I sat, drank from my glass of water, took bites of mashed potatoes...and I let them.
What a joke! What a crazy dream! Who I am was present, alive, and impossible to be contained or tarnished by any story of better or worse than! Who this body was at one point in time means nothing! Where "he" is going in the future means nothing! How old "he" looks means nothing! How "he" compares to all the other egos around him means nothing! Our stories are so surprisingly flimsy, and yet, so remarkably, relentlessly convincing!
Sitting as Stillness...it's all so beautifully, comically clear!
It's clear that none of it is a problem.
It's a testimony to what returning to your true self...as if you could ever be anything or anywhere else!...can do. What a shift that can take place - and in just one moment of honestly and sincerely being with What Is! I was then able to just relax and enjoy my time. The nervousness left. It hopped up, grabbed a mint, and walked out the door. It left no trace. The stories are allowed to arise and fall away...and what is left? Me.
Not the limited self.
The infinite Self.
The I AM.
The "I AM" that is expressing itself, and posing as, a "Jeff" personality.
The pristine Consciousness who is manifesting as a guy who has, for the moment anyhow, seen himself for what he is - and isn't. The Consciousness that manifests here and now, in this noisy restaurant, as this guy who's now relaxing, not nervous - as the guy who is smiling, enjoying the company of two of his favorite ladies, and taking appreciative bites from his plate of Parmesan crusted chicken.