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Learning from the Universe
by Robert Radford
I was sitting one evening in the small office of our recently purchased home. Our four children were in bed, finally quiet, after a noisy day of chattering, arguing, crying, and roaring around underfoot. I was just relaxing, listening to the hum of the humidifier we had installed to help my asthmatic son. Suddenly, I was at one with the universe! I don't know how else to describe it. I felt that I knew everything. I had no questions, no doubts, and no reservations. And everything was absolutely perfect. There were no accidents, no good things, no bad things. Everything in the universe was operating perfectly. The experience felt timeless, but it may have lasted for only a fraction of a second. The sense of wonder permeated my life from that moment on. I wanted to explore all kinds of new experiences.
During the next few years, I did try new experiences, switching jobs, living in differing countries. I can't, however, offer a storybook ending for my life still had major hurdles to overcome. I reached the "male menopause" period: I was 48 years old. I had become a middle manager in a corporation with 26,000 employees, and was living with my family in a charming home located in a quiet residential area of a large city. I was graced with all of the North American symbols of "success," but I felt unfulfilled and unsuccessful. I was not happy in my job, my marriage was in trouble, and my children, who were now teenagers, were rebelling at the hypocrisy and idiocy they perceived in adults.
While browsing in a bookstore one day, I came across the book, The Magic of Findhorn, by Paul Hawken, about a group of people in a community in Northern Scotland who were doing things that challenged the boundaries of scientific thought. Before I got halfway through the book, I decided to visit Findhorn for a couple of weeks. By this time, my wife had moved out of our home to an apartment of her own.
During my first night at Findhorn, I sat with a group of young people from Holland, who politely spoke in English for my benefit. When a young man asked what had brought me to Findhorn, I explained how I hoped to find some way to cope with all the unpleasant things that were happening to me, explaining how my job had turned sour, my wife had left me, and my children were rebelling.
"Well," he said, "I wonder why you are creating all these things in your life at this time?" I corrected him, explaining that I was not creating these things, but that these things were happening to me. However, by the time I was ready to go to bed, I was convinced I had created the circumstances that had allowed those unpleasant events to occur. I had never felt so stupid and inadequate. When I crawled into bed, I didn't really care if I ever woke up again. But I did, and the next morning I decided to take more responsibility for my life. It sounds like such a simple and easy thing to say, but at that moment I started a life of love, peace, harmony and enjoyment, the likes of which had been beyond my ability to comprehend. I saw how my attempts to act like I thought people at work wanted me to act had made me look like an insincere fraud. I saw how I had imprisoned my wife with my rigid views about the duties and responsibilities of a wife. I saw how it was my own idiocy and actions that my children were rebelling against. It was too late to save my marriage—but it was not too late for me to start a new life. Previous casual acquaintances suddenly turned out to be wonderful helpful friends who were just waiting for me to wake up.
I met another woman and we established bonds of love, trust and respect that brought fun and excitement into our lives for the next twenty years until she died of cancer. We had two children of our own, who may think me crazy, but who at least don't think I'm a hypocrite and idiot. From my current perspective, I can see how our culture and society tend to teach us to blame other things and other people for the unpleasant incidents that happen in our lives. I am still looking for ways to help people understand the joy, peace, and happiness available to all of us when we stop blaming others and learn that we are always free to choose a positive and constructive response to whatever happens. It's not easy for me to admit my errors, but it's more satisfying than being a hypocrite.
Later on, I had another experience of feeling "at one with the universe." I once again found myself feeling totally and perfectly connected with everything and every being. During my life, I have met other individuals—a successful entrepreneur, a respected religious leader, a hardworking wife and mother, and a shy sixteen-year-old—who have told me that they, too, have felt these feelings. The fact that so many credible people have essentially had the same experience, and that I have had two of these "at-one-with-the-universe" sensations indicate to me that these experiences contain some significant insights.
One could look at my life, for instance, and focus on my mistakes, but I now believe that everything is interacting with everything else in nonjudgmental harmony. Left to itself, the universe would continue to interact in logical and predictable ways. My experiences indicate that it is we human beings who play a significant role in creating unpredictable happenings in our lives. However, the universe is amoral, nonjudgmental. I feel it is the epitome of unconditional love.
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