Happy apocalypse: A world without agendas

flaming world LAST SPRING, I had a vivid dream that the world would end on January 25, 2011. That date is coming up. This might sound like a nightmare, but the effect on me was just the opposite. In the dream, In the middle of taking in this horrible news I had an insight: if the world is ending–and all of human life with it–then I can’t leave a legacy or save the white dolphins from extinction. There’s no time for any of us to reach our so-called full potential. I might as well drop all my guilty stories about what I need to do and all my earnest agendas for what needs to happen in the world. There just isn’t time for that. If the world is ending, the only thing left to do is to love and appreciate it while it’s here.

I woke up from what should have been a nightmare with a lightness and tender joy that lasted for days. I walked down the road thinking, This could be the last time I ever do this. The colors of the leaves became vivid, the people’s faces each so utterly distinct. Everything vibrated with precious life. Instead of leaving me in despair and nihilism, letting go of all of my agendas for myself and for the world freed everything to be as beautiful and precious as it really is. And it opened even the hardest corners of my heart.

I vowed to continue living as though that date were real–as though this were the last nine months of my life–but I couldn’t do it. The colors faded back to ordinary. I couldn’t stop it from happening, much as I tried.

But the date never left me. And now here it is, just around the corner, and I feel as though I am preparing for a great transition of some kind. I hope this is true, because all these nine months I’ve been noticing with painful clarity how my agendas keep getting in the way, blocking my heart and my clear seeing. So now I find myself praying that on January 25, 2011 the world as I know it ends when all of my ideas about how things should be vaporize in a fiery cosmic explosion. And I hope your agendas burn up right along with mine.

This could be the last time I ever do this.

May we live with that thought as our constant companion.

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13 comments to Happy apocalypse: A world without agendas

  • I hear you, sister. I feel big transition times happening and coming up in the near future. That dream is exciting. Again, not exciting for drama and tragedy, but for old oppressive thoughts and feelings to be burned up so we can live more freely and as we are made to be.

    No doubt there is pain and suffering in this world and we can do all we want to create healing for it. But here’s to continually finding ways to live and be free, which provide healing for the world while at the same time maintaining that inner sense of liberation and a ground-uplift. To experience pain and sadness, anger and frustration in ways that don’t take over our beings and senses entirely, but instead just help us clarify our senses of who we are, what world we live in and how those two things are one and the same.

    Here’s to the quickening of the ways in which our struggles and poisons are transmuted into medicines that provide liberatory guidance along our true paths, embodying our true purposes.

    Happy apocalypse indeed!

  • Thanks Alex, for your thoughts. What you say about pain and sadness as a doorway to clarity–poison into medicine–resonates deeply. It isn’t about avoiding it. Here in Bali, every temple is guarded by demonic statues with bared teeth. The imagery really makes it clear: If we want to enter into the sacred, we have to brave the temple dogs. Until we’re willing to do that, we can’t enter the sanctuary.

  • Jane, I think about this subject often, and it was great to read your thoughts about it. And I enjoyed Alex’s comment about not letting our negative emotions take us over.

    We are all dying yet most of us don’t know exactly when, and therefore don’t let ourselves fully experience the urgency (and beauty) of the moment. Jane, I know you worked with terminally ill clients before and you used to speak of the clarity that many of them found as they transitioned in their emotional healing.

    Rather than mourning the time we don’t have, why don’t we rejoice in the moments we do have? I am so grateful to my children because they cause me to stop in my tracks and be with them instead of somewhere else at any given moment.

    By the time they are no longer living with me, I hope I will have learned to do this all by myself.

  • Laura

    Wow Jane….
    i want to print this and hang it on the bathroom mirror!
    the poignancy of your realizations remind me of how i felt during the moments days, weeks and months following 9/11… it was a day the earth stood still and the assessments of society, thoughts, actions just stopped.. and the moment vibrated with loud quiet, vibrant senses, all labels and standards fell away… the world turned in to one giant family of flesh, blood and bone… then over time, the train started once again, on it’s course and those moments fell away… except for that feeling i had…. like muscle memory, the pathways remain and are remembered with practice.

  • Yes Lisa, it’s interesting how getting the diagnosis allows some people to finally start living. I often wish that we didn’t have to wait until then, but it’s really hard to take in that we are ALL terminal. Most of us don’t want to think about that–popular wisdom says to deny and avoid it–too depressing. And it’s hard to truly believe it, even when we do contemplate it. One of the most important practices in Tibetan Buddhism is to meditate on your own death–imagining it in detail, right down to the bones blowing away as dust. …. You mention your children: I LOVE that it is children and the awareness of death that bring us into the moment! Too strange.

  • I love how you put that–it’s like muscle memory. Once we experience that way of seeing, we have a way back to it. It is no longer a fantasy or concept, but an experience that gets recorded in our cells. I notice that if I’m getting dull and grey, I can say with conviction, “This could be the last time I ever do this.” If my defenses are sufficiently at ease, I can lighten my load and get at least a glimpse of appreciation for the moment. Walking the pathway, as you put it.

  • Dear Jane,

    This piece is beautifully written, inspiring and resonant to me. We all have our fears of annhilation, but what do we do with them? As you point out, when it comes to death, our fears have a good basis in reality: we really are all going to die. The recognition of impermanence can leave us quaking in fear or awaken us to the beauty of each moment. Of course, the fear of apocalypse contains something more – the fear not just of our life ending but the end of life itself. Does the fear of apocalypse speak to our love and concern for life itself? Does it indicate an implicit belief in reincarnation or at least interdependence? Or a love that surpasses our own ego? At any rate, I love that your psyche transcended the apocalypse and went directly to Heaven – at least for a few days. You took that fear and used it to fuel love. Beautiful. It made me think about how many Born Again Christians look forward to the Apocalypse as it means the end of life as we know it but also the return of Jesus Christ and the rapture of Xians to Heaven. Of course, in their vision, the true believers skip the nasty death and suffering stuff, unlike the rest of us – a very different kind of spiritual teaching, no?

    On a different note, I thought about what the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott wrote about the fear of a breakdown in some patients – that it is the fear of a breakdown that has already occurred but at a point in the person’s development when it could not be experienced or integrated into the personality. This idea often occurs to me when I hear talk of the apocalypse. There have in fact been many apocalypses, small and large, some occurring right now – our psyches may be a little overwhelmed by it all, overloaded – the future may be a container with space enough to hold them.

    All the same, this may be the last time I write you.



  • Thank you for this thoughtful response. What you say about Winnecott really got me thinking. It makes so much sense that we would need to get that unformed, unarticulated breakdown out of the burial in our psyches and into the open where we can see it. (Just as we do with other forms of projection).

    At the same time, the breakdown has already occurred for all of us, if only we could realize it. There’s a story in Buddhist circles about a Lama who always drinks out of his favorite glass. A student asks him, “If we’re supposed to be unattached, then why do you always use that glass?” And the Lama said something like, “For me, the glass is already broken. That is why I can enjoy using it so much.”

    If the world has already ended (because it is going to at some point: could be 2012, could be in another 20 million years), then we can finally relax and be here. The future isn’t a threat anymore. The breakdown has already happened, and we have survived it.

  • I resonate with your amazingly inspiring post. It reminds me to throw away all agendas, however harmless and minute they might seem while remaining true to myself every moment. I love what you have set up here and the way you share your thoughts so clearly.

  • I really resonate with what you say: that the agendas (even those that appear positive) are blocking the moment-by-moment inner attention needed to really stay true to ourselves. In my experience, the closer to the ego structure the agendas get, the harder they are to throw away…

  • Have a happy apocalypse, Jane. I’m sure we’re all going to the dance together. We’ll hear it on the radio first, I guess, unless we’re already rounded up. Pleasant wishes, Roy Berger.

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