Standing at the Edge

Description

Right now, as we sit here, we are standing at the edge of a cliff. On every side there is a great drop. Right now, what do you experience standing on the edge of this great cliff? Whatever you experience standing here, that is your life. At the end of your days you’ll say, “This is what I did.” So what do you experience standing on the edge of the cliff?

A Talk by John Tarrant
Given at a retreat at St. Dorothy’s Rest, Camp Meeker, CA
Transcribed by Ann Hunkins
Edited by Rachel Boughton

Right now, as we sit here, we are standing at the edge of a cliff. On every side there is a great drop. Right now, what do you experience standing on the edge of this great cliff? Whatever you experience standing here, that is your life. At the end of your days you’ll say, “This is what I did.” So what do you experience standing on the edge of the cliff?

It is good to let the usual day voices fall away — judgments, comparisons, plans, our opinions about this and that. It’s remarkable how persistent they are, but nevertheless, we can let them fall away. And then bigger things come up in the meditation–great longings and sorrows and griefs, great happinesses–the big forms that make up the matrix of our lives. And it’s good to let them, too, fall away, because standing on the edge of the cliff the wind is blowing and it doesn’t matter what happened to me when I was a child, and it doesn’t matter what I want for the future. Now is the only time and this is the only place. And, if I give this moment of attention to what happened to me in the past and to what I hope will happen in the future, then I am a ghost. And it’s boring besides.

The great forms are surprisingly persistent, too, but when they start to lift, everything shines. It’s not that it didn’t shine before, it’s just that there was too much of us in the way. It is no secret. Things have always shone from before the beginning of time. But here on the edge of the cliff we can see it because we are falling away. And when we start to fall, there is no bottom anywhere, there are no sides, there is no top and in every direction it’s greater than the ocean and it’s nothing at all. It’s worth seeing this for yourself.

That greatness, that vastness, is always right here, standing, as we do. And when we don’t hold on to anything any longer, then the vastness shines and blazes and everywhere we turn there it is. And when we really don’t hold on to anything, even what is shining and blazing, then we’ll find that it holds us up, mysteriously. And I don’t know how this happens, but the birds sing, day and night come, children are born, people set out in search of the Way, the whole world is born anew. Everything is tender and lovely, complete and whole. Everything is shining with its piece of the one light. And, as you stand here on the cliff, at this moment, right now, you stand in that light, you sit in that light, you walk and eat and drink in that light.

When we suffer, we still walk through that light; and when we grieve for what cannot be, and when we grieve for what is, we still walk in that light and the vastness supports us. And when we walk in that light, underneath everything there is a joy that continues and continues and continues. The day the child is born, the joy is there, the day you die, the joy is there. And there is nothing else to look for, but always there is the walking, the walking in the light.

So, it’s a great thing to sit together, to stand on the cliff together with companions. It’s good to have companions to do this. It’s a simple thing to walk this way and it requires of us only our attention, but that it requires absolutely. And if you want to know where that light is, look at yourself, look in your heart and look at your companions for it’s shining all around you.

Thank you.