Two Pockets
  by Richard Lang

Everyone must have two pockets, so that he can reach into the one or the other, according to his needs. In his right pocket are to be the words: 'For my sake was the world created,' and in his left: 'I am earth and ashes.'

Rabbi Bunum of Pzhysha

Common sense tells me I am a unique human being. My name is Richard, I am English, 46 years old. And being human means being fallible and mortal. I do my best, and often succeed, yet now and again I make mistakes. And in the end - at my end - I will die. For I am 'earth and ashes'. I came from the earth and will return there. Some days I can accept this; other days I rail against the dying of the light.

But some years ago I awoke to another side to myself. I found - with the help of a friend, who is also one of my teachers - that I was not simply earth and ashes. Deeper than my physicality, my materiality, deeper than my psychological self, in the centre of my being, I discovered my true self - mysterious, wonderful, infinite, obvious. Here was an awake spaciousness that, paradoxically, was both empty and brim full of the living universe. Discovering I was this Mystery freed me of all limitations.

I saw this simple yet profound truth about myself all those years ago - and still see it now - more clearly than I see my own hands. (In fact it is the awareness that is seeing my hands.) I had awoken to the life-saving, joyful, incredible discovery that my innermost nature was the One - is the One - the birthless, deathless source of all things. In other words, in this pocket I find the words 'For my sake was the world created'. This is something I didn't learn once and for all. Each day I re-awaken - God willing - to this marvellous truth about myself. Whenever I need to, I dip into this pocket. (And the pocket is always open.)

Both these sides of myself are true, are real - the human and the divine. It is an illusion to think of myself as 'only human'. It is also an illusion to think of myself as 'only God'. To deny either my Godhead or my humanity is madness. I live in a both/and world rather than an either/or one. Each of us is both a person: unique, distinct, mortal - and the Godhead: universal, unseparate, eternal.

Some spiritual paths suggest that awakening to who one really is - 'for my sake was the world created' - involves radically changing the human being - 'I am earth and ashes'. This might even mean getting rid of the human being - magically dissolving it in the Godhead. Perhaps one must first perfect or purify the person - whatever that means - before one can awaken to the Godhead within. But this is not my experience - fortunately so. I don't think I would succeed in that endeavour. I find that even in the midst of my human foibles the perfection of the source shines through clear and steady. I am reminded of John Milton's words:

He who has the clear light within his breast,
May sit i' the centre, and enjoy bright day.

We all have the clear light within our breast. It is bright day, here and now, whatever our outward circumstance.

This is a relief. Often I find myself not quite living up to some inherited or learned idea of what I should be - spiritually, morally, psychologically, physically. If I was only human this would be difficult to accept. But I am also the One. Abiding in the clear light of the One, my true nature, I can look over into my other pocket, my all-too-human nature, and find that not only is my humanity acceptable, but also lovable.

What a joy - to have two pockets to my being. There are special moments when, seeing this beautiful truth about myself, I am filled with awe and wonder, gratitude and praise.

Richard Lang
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