Black Elk and the center of all of us

At the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit. And that center is really everywhere. It is within each of us. ~ Black Elk

This short quote is incredibly powerful. In just a few words, it captures a profound truth that is at once difficult to grasp, yet very simple.

If it finds you out of context, as is likely for most who come across it, it might be shrugged off as weird nonsense. Most Westerners, growing up in a materialist, secularized culture, will be quick to dismiss it.

If it finds you at the right time, however, in the right mindset, in the right context, it might just sum up the nature of reality in a way that brings you to your knees.

Black Elk was a Sioux (more specifically, an Oglala Lakota) warrior and medicine man, or spiritual leader. He lived from 1863 to 1950, and experienced his people’s victory against Custer’s U.S. forces at the Battle of Little Big Horn as well as their defeat at Wounded Knee. His wisdom was captured in the book Black Elk Speaks, a collection of dialogues recorded by John G. Neihardt. This quote comes from those dialogues.

To understand this idea, it must be understood what is meant by the words “here” and “now.” I will not attempt to explain in full their meaning in this space. I’ve already tried to do that elsewhere. If you are interested, you may go here, or now.

In essence, what “here and now” is getting at is the fact that that’s all that ever can be, for any of us. The only place we can be is “here,” wherever that is for us at any given moment, and the only moment we can be is “now.” The location of our bodies might seem to change, but in reality that location is a concept experienced as here. And although our minds may seem to travel to a past or a future, these too are concepts experienced now.

In other words, “here” is not a place in space, and “now” is not a moment in time. Both are ever-present. Here as a point in space is what infinity looks like to the finite mind. Now as a moment in time is what eternity looks like to the finite mind. Both here and now are actually limitless. Both are infinite and eternal.

And in so far as each of us experiences here and now in our selves, each of us experiences the center of all things. All of these things are not independent, separate things, but everything. Each of us is limitless in the truest sense, in that there are no objective qualities which can be placed on our experience. Only the perceived objects of our experience are limited. Experience itself is boundless, outside of time and space.

Writing about this is daunting, and discouraging. It’s all but impossible to convey in a few brief paragraphs. If this reads like the ramblings of a fool, I won’t argue. But if this resonates at any level, I encourage you to sink into it. Not conceptualizing, but looking closely at your own experience, and seeing if this strikes a chord with you. Next time you get off a plane, or travel any distance, near or far, see if you don’t find yourself at a place called here, at this time, right now.

And if that doesn’t do it, then think about what love feels like. How when you are in love, you feel as though you’ve never been separate from the object of your love, as though you’ve always known each other. As though your body and their body seem to be in the way of each other, each of you wanting to dissolve into each other, your center merging with their center.

That’s a realization you’re having here and now. The reality is, it already is. You’ve only forgotten. And in the experience of love, you are remembering.

Namaste. Om Shanti. Peace be with you, my peace I give you. You have found yourself, here, at the center of everything.

Amen.

I honor that place in you where the whole universe resides… And as you abide in that place in you and I abide in that place in me, there is not-two. There is only one of us. ~ Elizabeth MacDonald

Let the senses go. Let desires go. Let conflicts go. Let ideas go. Let the fiction of life and death go. Just remain in the center, watching. And then forget that you are there. ~ Lao Tzu

black-elk


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