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If Not Me, Who? If Not Now, When?
by Robert Rabbin

When I was 11 years old, I had one of those epiphanies that shape one’s life in unexpected ways. In my case, I developed a restless soul that longed for missing pieces in the puzzle of living: Who am I? What is my purpose? How shall I live? A few years later I took to the road on a spiritual quest, traveling around the world in search of answers to my questions about life and living, reality and truth, meaning and purpose. I spent the next 25 years immersed in various non-dual wisdom traditions, including ten years of study with Swami Muktananda. During the course of those years, I experienced awakenings, realizations, epiphanies, and transcendent bliss beyond the scope of words. But there always seemed to be a higher place, a summit yet to climb. One day, I stood atop a summit from which no other summits could be seen. I had found the missing pieces of my long-ago longing. My search for existential clarity and wholeness came to an end standing atop a summit of eternal silence and pure being. The weight and confusion of "self" had disappeared, like a snowflake blown from the face of the Earth.

Echoes of Silence by Robert Rabbin

It seemed I had come to a final end, resting in deep peace marbled with constant inner joy. From time to time, gusts of bliss would swirl through the emptiness of my being. Whenever questions or troublesome thoughts or feelings arose within me, they were immediately dissolved in silence and stillness. My eyes looked through and past everything, locked on eternity. Life came and went by itself.

And yet in some unknown, unseen, unfelt place, a storm was gathering, which would force me from this place to a truer place. Though there was no further summit on the climb to existential clarity and wholeness, there was more distance to travel—the distance back down the mountain, to the valley from where I had come.

In Little Gidding, T. S. Eliot writes, "The end is where we start from." I came to one end, only to find myself at another, wholly unexpected, beginning. I was to start over again. Another restless spirit began moving through me, a new passion: a deep hunger to fully engage the world around me, the world I had neglected during years of inward-focused meditation. But there it was, bright as a sun and wilder than an avalanche. The world, which had become transparent, had become solid again, but not so solid I couldn’t see all the way to its soul. The world, from which I had sought to escape, had become beautiful, enchanting, and compelling. The world, which had been a prison, had become an epic adventure of endless freedom. The world, which had stood beneath the majestic summits of spiritual glory, had become mountains of greater majesty and glory.

This wondrous world—full of complexity, chaos, and contradiction—is all the proof one needs of transcendent spirit and mystery. Here, amidst the names and faces of people and things, the light of the creator is most brilliant. I’ve discovered this world is my world; I belong to it and it belongs to me. This world is my body, and my body is this world. I know why Walt Whitman exclaimed, "I am large. I contain multitudes." He said this because it is true, in the most physical and pragmatic of terms. There are practical implications to becoming "one with everything." This is not a salon word-game. It is actual. Existential clarity and wholeness remained, and remain, untouched, even as I discovered the distance down is a climb as steep as the distance up.

And so I start again, at this new beginning, in love with this world, which is as much my body and myself as these arms and legs and heart and mind. The new beginning is summed up in these words from the Kabbalah: "First we receive the light, then we impart it. Thus we repair the world." Imparting the light requires great things of us: authenticity, honesty, courage, determination, empathy, personal responsibility, and a commitment to action. Imparting the light means to heal and make whole not just the existential wound of separation, but all things broken, all things hurting, all things growing tumors of fear and pain. And all of this is within my body, within your body; within the one body we share. Repairing the world means to translate the glory of transcendent spiritual realization into common language, common currency, and common decency. Repairing the world requires that we make love an action. Repairing the world requires we give voice and force to spiritual wisdom, that we stand for the sanctity of life, that we take on projects of renewal, transforming old bodies of prejudice and pain, of hate and ignorance, of fear and suffering into polished new bodies of freedom and joy, of wisdom and strength.

Many things in our world are bent and breaking, if not already broken, and these things need repair. Hundreds of millions of people are suffering, hungry, and hopeless, living in mean and fearful places where people shouldn’t live. Entire continents are threatened by disease and starvation. Militarism is the most popular religion, while political corruption and corporate greed are epidemic and threaten the very continuation of human civilization. The Earth itself is under murderous attack and her animals, plants and trees, her oceans and rivers and skies are all pleading for relief. In the U. S. alone, 12 million children live in poverty, 43 million people are without health insurance, and only one in seven working poor families having access to affordable child care. Two million people live in prisons and jails. The average CEO makes in one day what the average worker makes in one year, and 10% of the people own more than 70% of the wealth. Civil and labor rights are being hunted to extinction. The Pentagon gobbles up $400 billion a year: 51% of the annual discretionary budget. I think our world has become koyaanisqatsi, a Hopi word meaning "crazy life, life out of balance, life in turmoil, life disintegrating; a state of life that calls for another way of living."

Igniting the Soul at Work by Robert Rabbin

The world has become small—a lifeboat in which 6 billion people sit, shoulder-to-shoulder, hip-to-hip. When a single person wiggles or moves, the others feel it. We cannot be victims of people who have no consideration for others and who threaten our boat’s balance with reckless behavior. We have to get involved, speak up, be counted and heard. We cannot be complacent or apathetic. We must not be silent about the koyaanisqatsi culture within our lifeboat. This is the year to bring the beauty of our hearts and souls into the world in real and telling ways. We cannot hide from this world, nor escape it, nor transcend it. We must embrace it and love it and beautify it.

The poet Rumi said, "Take on a big project, like Noah." The world is begging to be healed of violence, brutality, and greed. Let this be our project. The world is crying to be filled with clarity, stillness, insight, kindness, tolerance, patience, empathy, authenticity, and courage. Let this be our project.

We cannot use our spiritual life as a shield from social life and responsibility. We cannot be afraid to put our spiritual hands into the earth of politics. Mahatma Gandhi said, "I do not believe that the spiritual law works on a field of its own. On the contrary, it expresses itself only through the ordinary activities of life. It thus affects the economic, the social, and the political fields."

So, let us affirm the qualities and values of this spiritual law, and let us see how we make them manifest in the economic, social, and political fields. Today, let us take on the big project of repairing this world in the same way we once sought to heal and repair and elevate our own lives.

Let us come together as one at this new beginning, and let us work day and night with our whole being, with all our force and beauty and tenderness, to repair the world. Let us start now, right now, this very minute.

If not me, who? If not now, when?

© Copyright 2004 Robert Rabbin.  All Rights Reserved

Robert Rabbin
Robert Rabbin is a contemporary mystic and catalyst for clarity. He began practicing meditation and self-inquiry in 1969 and subsequently spent ten years studying with meditation master Swami Muktananda.

Since 1985, Robert has been leading Truth Talks, lecturing, and advising professionals and corporate executives. He has written three books, coauthored three others, and published over fifty articles. He was also interviewed for The Awakening West, a collection of conversations with contemporary spiritual teachers.

For additional information, please visit Robert’s web site: www.robrabbin.com.


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