Mark Zegarelli
Mark Zegarelli

Insight 33:
To the extent that I remain consciously aligned with consciousness, I am at peace;

to the extent that I fall out of conscious alignment with consciousness, I fall out of peace.

I’d like to work in the coming weeks on the mechanics of what it means to continue separating myself from the stuff that separates me from me.

Michael Brooks, as quoted by Gabor Mate and Daniel Mate in The Myth of Normal

This may sound silly, but when I remember to do this, one of the most humble and useful practices I have is to simply connect to a feeling of gratitude for the inanimate objects that happen to be around me at the moment. Whether I’m at home, in my car, in a hotel room, or someplace else, I just stop to thank the things around me for being willing to stand at the ready should I need them.


For example, most of the time I don’t think much about the chair I’m sitting in as I write these words. Even so, the chair seems perfectly content to support me day after day with neither my thought nor my thanks. But what happens when I give this chair a little attention is unexpected. In a small way, another dimension opens up. I give the chair a little consideration for being there, and having loyally been there all this time.  And I seem to feel back from it a bit of gratitude for my having taken the time to notice.


When I do this, without much effort, my attention then turns to all the other objects in the room. Wow, I sure have a lot of stuff – more than my share, really. And it’s all seemingly content to wait around for me to use it or not. The floor supports me, the roof protects me, the walls shelter me and seal in the heat on a cold night. Oh yeah, that’s right, I remember now: I’m among the lucky ones on the planet who have a warm place to sleep. One more reason for gratitude.


I can be pretty self-centered and entitled. So many small and humble gifts – plus a few very large and precious ones – have somehow shifted my way in this apparently random and indifferent universe. You’d think I’d be more grateful more of the time, but I’m really not.


In fact, I’m kind of a jerk, cluelessly bumbling along, complaining a lot of the time about all sorts of trivial offenses – and then waiting for enlightenment on some grand scale, as befits my outsized opinion of myself. When, in fact, I’m hardly even present to the many daily gifts I have received and continue to receive all the time.


I’m sure you’re familiar with the story A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, which has famously been turned into dozens of movies. By the end of the story, Scrooge sees clearly that for the longest time, he’s had everything he would ever have needed to create a deeply satisfying life for himself and everyone around him, but that he’s spent most of his years squandering it. And his redemption comes simply in his realizing that truth in a deeply felt way and acting upon it.


The same could be said of Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, or George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, or Daisy Gamble in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,or Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, or Joel Barish in The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Each of these stories is about the natural joy that emerges when a person is forced by extraordinary circumstance to stop focusing on what they don’t have and feel grateful for what they do have. That’s why these stories are iconic and can move us to tears, even in the midst of our very skeptical adulthood: They speak directly to the heart.


For me, this realization starts with remembering simply to give attention to the apparently void space of my room and the many things in it until I begin to see it as it has been all along: a gift. The subtle shift that I just described is only one example among many of what can open up as a result of aligning myself with consciousness.


Remember, from a materialist perspective, the entire practice of showing gratitude for a bunch of inanimate objects isn’t just silly, as I called it up top, but pointless and futile, insultingly so, entirely lacking in meaning and purpose, a fool’s errand. As long as you align yourself with this perspective, you will find that you have endless agreement for this position from the people around you, endless evidence that any other way of thinking is ridiculous, and endless reason to feel discontent at life’s many disappointments and frustrations.


One of my very favorite books on this topic is The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment by Thaddeus Golas. Go get it now, so you have something to continue reading once this little book is done. Again and again throughout his book, Golas encourages the reader to lovingly engage in whatever is happening as an active practice: to almost literally pour love into any thought, feeling, event, or person that comes your way in life. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “If you are not sure how it feels to be loving, love yourself for not being sure of how it feels.”


Again, from a materialist perspective, absurd; from the perspective of consciousness, food for thought, and probably action.


As another example, my uncle, a very devout Christian, told me this story, which I’ve never forgotten: One day, he and his family were at a restaurant, attended by a somewhat rude and obviously stressed-out server. He recognized that this behavior wasn’t personal, so he didn’t take it personally. Instead, he and his family who were seated at the table prayed for her, asking God to help her out. What surprised them all was the specific message they received in return: God said, in essence, Well, at the moment you’re there with her, so how about if you take this one on for Me yourselves! So, as a group, they treated her with extraordinary kindness, asked her a little about herself without being intrusive, listened with compassion – and left her a nice, big tip at the end of the meal!


Once again, an option was open to my uncle and his family that simply wouldn’t be open to a person whose baseline take on life is materialist.


All of these examples illustrate what I alluded to as another dimension becoming available that simply isn’t given strict materialism. And if you believe that you might feel foolish doing some of the stuff I’ve just described, well, the Fool is a noble and ancient path. The flipside is looking cool to fit in and hoping to be accepted by the cool kids. Only, you know by now – don’t you? – that the cool kids were never really all that happy. They just pretended to be whatever they thought they were supposed to be in the hopes that it would make them happy. Which, by the way, it kind of didn’t.


OK, final movie reference: If you want to see what an enlightened Fool looks like, watch Frances McDormand play Police Chief Marge Gunderson in Fargo all the way to the end to see what she really is: Nobody’s Fool.