Hakone waterfallsRecently I went to Hakone Gardens, a 100-year-old Japanese Garden in Saratoga, CA.

Different levels of activity and stillness were apparent, like layers of consciousness.

There was a group of people taking photos during a baby shower, with a young mother carrying her tiny newborn. Kids were running around the grounds, and adults were climbing the paths leading up into the hills.

Another layer was the sheer beauty of the place. Everywhere there were exquisite scenes with colorful flowers and ancient-looking trees, large koi fish in the ponds, turtles on the rocks, some simple Japanese buildings, and the soothing sound of small waterfalls.

Occasionally it would all merge into one experience. There was a sense of peace and presence that brought with it a feeling of happiness in just being there in all that well-cared-for beauty. In those moments, there was an experience of oneness with the people, a reminder that we were all there together.

A few minutes ago, when I awakened from a sleeping dream, there seemed to be a parallel between the levels of participation and presence at the gardens, and the levels of sleeping, dreaming, and deep sleep. (There’s no memory of having been in the deep sleep state, but there’s a refreshing feeling of connectedness that may be evidence of it.)

The most interesting thing about this heightened awareness is the music that’s coming through the level of form. A bird outside the window is singing its refrain, while geese at a nearby lake are honking in unison. No less beautiful is the whoosh of a car passing by, and no more personal is the feeling of a sneeze. It all seems to be coming from one non-thing, as though the Infinite is wordlessly presenting a teaching. Its message is the profound simplicity of its expression.

This level of peace and aliveness is always expressing through the instrument of the present moment, like notes in an ever-unfolding symphony.