0 | I came into consciousness in the cave. How I got there and how I proceeded, I cannot say. But I was there, and I was acutely aware that:
1 | I was in pitch black, surrounded by swarming bats, walking in guano, one hand out holding my phone as a torch to show the way, following the individual in front of me. And:
2 | I was mad tripping balls in the fucking darkness of the underground. That this was brand new and I was experiencing something entirely out of the realm of what I thought possible. Alone, but with someone who knew exactly how I felt, whom I was aware of as we went physically through this underground cave. And:
3 | I was beneath the earth. I was crushed by oppressive fiery heat. There were bugs flying into my face and staying on my body. The air was thick with stench and every breath was laboured. Every step I took was one that brought me forward logically and yet could have taken me into an abyss. I was not aware of where I was stepping, how long we were going for, and what was around me. And:
I was being. Not in a state of being. I simply was.
And that sentiment of being was the simplest truth and also a Sisyphean task, because I realised in those unending seconds — flitting in and out of my three levels of consciousness — that I was being taken into a world that I had not known before. A world unto my mind and yet as old as the universe.
I was led into the darkness and lost my sense of sight because it was imperative that I feel this.
In all these moments — undulating, exacting, melting into one another until I was not conscious of my mental capacity — I knew that all of these levels of consciousness were and were not. My reality is not what it is. And yet even beyond these acute realisations, I was still being led to the truth. In the depths of this physical cave, I was taken beyond this world until I was just being.
I was nothing and everything.
I was the Brahman and the Atman.
In that moment, brief and infinite, I saw myself in the way the universe designed me to be.
It is in me, and I am it.
I am tethered to the universe, because it made me to be who I am. My beliefs are tied to the way the universe is to unfold. And I am part of that great unfolding, because it is preordained that I achieve greatness. Like the legions of those before me who were enlightened to their journey, I began to forge my own path long ago because I saw another way. I believed in an unshakable something else that others did not see. In that moment, I was shown that to be true. In that absence of light casting shadows and creating doubt, I was shown the path that others were led to and walked before. A path that tied myself to what the world can be because there is something profoundly bigger than myself, a there that I am connected to.
My existence is a brilliant and beautiful and staggeringly insignificant one in a blanket of stars that the universe is weaving from stardust of worlds past.
But one nonetheless.
Today, I received confirmation that my path is the right one. And this realisation is deeper than myself, my reality, and my world because it is truth of the universe.
My existence is truth.
I gathered puzzle pieces of my meaning in this world before I entered the cave, but I needed to sink into earth to see it come together. I never understood how anyone, given the choice, would choose not to work on their passions and strive to achieve something beyond themselves. I see now that not everyone walks this path. This path that, if I didn’t exist, would not be forged because there would not be anyone to actualize my unique vision for the world.
Few others are where I am. And I recognise now that it will be a profoundly lonely journey because I am and always be different from other people. My reality will always be what can be, not what is.
I regained my sense of self, but not quite.
My consciousness as one, no longer three, came to when I emerged from the underground. Out of the darkness, but still at the bottom of the cave. Looking up — to climb out of that enlightenment and get to the top of the earth’s crust — was to see time stretch. To feel the circuitous path that we were taking.
The universe had one more lesson for me — to impart the difficulty required to lift the veil of reality. Passing through the nine circles of Dante’s hell to come back to my reality was to be proven that my world was simply the upper-most layer. The one that I once only knew as the one. It shocked me into an understanding that what I had felt was real.
I was enveloped into the womb of the universe and baptized for the truth, but at a price.
This allegory of the cave is deeper than mere shadows on the wall.
I descended into the darkness and was pulled up into the light three times. I entered and exited three physical underground caves, one to represent each type of this world’s peoples.
One for those who are not self aware.
One for those who glimpse a greater truth but choose not to act on it.
And to emerge from both and plunge into the third — the darkness — the nothing — the everything — the universe beyond the two caves — is to be compelled to blaze on. I needed to enter the nothingness and everything of the third cave to see that my known reality is a mere fragment of the universe. That my reality, as open and light and freeing as it is, is a veneer. Not light, but rather a shadow. A reflection of the third cave’s infinite truths, but only for a glimpse.
Because I see now that there is a beyond.
Today, I stripped back reality to see the truth. Today, I was shown that I am part of something bigger than my world, and that it is impossible not to be in service of that. Today, I was enlightened to my purpose and path along the hero’s journey.
I emerged from the belly of the beast soaking, gasping for air, seeing the truth.
I felt the layers that I had cut through.
In short, I was reborn.
(Artwork by @art_insoup)
Note: This piece was actually published on Medium on 23 June 2019 and also in my Kenya diary because I didn’t have a concrete home for my writings yet.