The only people who stay high tend to get worshiped or locked up. Or both. It’s not the kind of thing to which most of us aspire. For most of us, it may not even be possible.

But getting high. . . .

Just about anything can get you high: sports, music, travel, poetry, chemical intoxication — anything that saturates the senses with good feelings.

For the best high, however, nothing beats falling in love. The evidence is overwhelming. One fourth of all the books sold in this country are “romance” novels. On any given week, most of the Top Ten hits have lyrics concerned with the issues of romantic love. Look at the movies. The TV shows. Dances. No doubt the creator wrote romance into the human program to assure that even an intelligent species would still produce offspring.

Romance is love’s drug. It’s absolutely intoxicating. Other highs not only pale beside it, they retreat to another time zone. Faced with a choice, sane practitioners of every elevating habit will defer to romance in a heartbeat. Diehard tokers and strokers will turkey so cold you’ll get frostbite wondering where their identities went.

Talk about high. In the outer spaces of romance, problems are as hidden as shadows from the sun. Every flick of an eyelash, every droplet of rain shimmers with charm and hope. Every heart opens wide, and inner lights bloom like fireworks. It’s all wonderful and perfect and fat with grand promises.

While it lasts.

They say love is blind. In truth, romantic love isn’t blind — it’s blinding. The object of our passions shines with an obliging brilliance that burns a lovely image on to the retina of our mind’s eye, leaving a luminous shape superimposed over everything we see — like the blue spot left in our sight by a popping flashbulb. Then the image fades, yielding to the details of the real world, revealing again the object of our passions, flaws and all.

This is where real love is called to duty. With real love, the heart can accept and forgive even when the mind can’t understand why one should do either. Real love is grounded in the soul itself — in that deepest part of our being that feels the Nothing that borders our beginnings and ends, and understands that everything we have is more than our minds really need and less than our hearts really know.

Real love is the only hope for keeping a romance airborne. Or for liberating a romance that lies flopping on the ground.

Of course, if real love were easy to find and apply, we wouldn’t have any problems. But we do. And it could be that problems are as much a part of the human program as romance. (In which case the creator may have put it there to keep us interested in our own stories.) So the best most of us can do is fly and crash and fly again — understanding, as eagles do, that you can’t soar without knowing where the ground is.

David Searls
Durham, N.C.

I trim big trees for a living. To do that you have to get high. But then there are branches on the ground and you have to humble yourself and get low to cut them up and haul them away. But I “stay high” when I’m bending down there picking up those sticks, twigs, branches, leaves and limbs. Because I know that the Puritan-Quaker drudgery that I experience, the low following the exhilarating challenge of having conquered the tree, is an emotion blindly obeying a karmic law of life, a leveling out of life’s energies. Jesus said if you laugh now you’ll cry later, and woe to you that are filled now for you shall hunger. Here is the great karmic law.

So I can rejoice and stay high in my mind as I view my body and emotions traveling in the valley because I understand the dynamic of Emotional-Energy Justice. A lot of people never learn this and ruin their lives blinded to it, seeking alcohol or some other disastrous “pleasure” or diversion, thinking somehow a “high” or a “peace” or a nirvana will replace the roller-coaster fickle drifters we call our feelings.

Getting “into yourself,” “going within,” will yield a lot of hypocrisy and blindness if it doesn’t see a lot of ugliness, anger, and personal idolatry. The only way then to stay high once you see your see-saw emotions clearly is to recognize them, and dutifully live above them, for purpose, whatever they might protest. If you know this truth you will be set free.

Larry Pahl
Elk Grove, Illinois

High is deeper feeling and clearer perception. I found that drugs were a materialistic answer to a spiritual problem. They were inadequate and inefficient. Negative feelings were sometimes intensified and the high was never enough. Prayer brings me higher and offers a clear view. I have felt one with all creation. I felt the presence of my Beloved and experienced a joy so deep, so overwhelming and so pervasive that I prayed further to bring me down from the joy because I feared I would perish. Prayer takes me to a high pinnacle where the view of the universe is clear and wide.

When I run, the world becomes a dream rich with symbols. Often I stop and the road rolls beneath me. Sometimes my body becomes part of the play and is simply moved by nature while my soul sneaks past my unraveling mind and visits with kindred spirits dancing on the mountains of the moon. When my body rolls to a halt my soul tumbles softly on the grass laughing a cosmic laugh.

There are times before I retire for the evening I glance in the mirror and WHOOSH! the person in the mirror’s reflection is only part of me. I seem to be “looking” from a vantage point above my head, my self being more than the body and personality. At that moment I feel the limitations of personality, my self running much deeper. I spoke to Joseph Chilton Pearce, author, lecturer and educator, about this experience and his reply: “Sounds like fun.” It is!

Jay Bender
Christiansburg, Virginia

Wednesday night, production week at THE SUN. Sy smiles a busy half-smile from behind his desk.

“You just came from a meditation group. You’re high,” he says, “Think up a good US topic.”

“Let’s do one on getting high,” I joke.

“How about getting high, staying high?”

“Great, then it won’t be all drug tales.”

We laugh, but it’s a challenging topic. After years of looking for ways to get high (call it happy, aware, or free) staying high remains a misty goal.

Feeling fine, until something happens. “She’s ruining all my wonderful plans for this afternoon.” I close down. My words are curt. I only half listen to hers. And I remain bothered, until I turn the mirror inward. There really is nothing wrong with her words, once I stop viewing them through the filter of my expectations. I see that I’m allowing my highness to be conditional upon her response, an external. I widen my focus, slowly settle into the shape of the moment. So often not being high comes from forgetting the possibility. Remembering, I open my heart and forget my plans. I mention my disappointment, then let it pass. Our talk ends with a smile. Further down the street I meet a friend I’ve needed to see. The connection is sweet; I really start feeling high, and think how little I know about what should happen.

I relish this high like all the others, run laughing, singing, through those moments that lighten me and make me feel at home. All is joyous choice. But then they pass.

Slowly, getting high stops being the goal. It presumes a false distinction between being high and not being high, as if the essence of the two weren’t the same. Every high kicks up some mud, soon clouding my cherished clarity. I learn to sit back and watch their passing, staying more grounded through the highs, not panicking as much through the lows. I open wide my love and find my fear, sit with loneliness long enough to feel the unity. The paradox is that while each moment can be high, they’re not all going to be.

The lows are a potent time for change. I talk to my pain and ask, “Why do you feel this way? Where does the aloneness come from when I don’t believe in separation?” And the felt response is “OWWWWWW!” Concepts don’t even numb it. So I feel it, let it lead me through its broken spirals, confused, upset, frightened, but deep down never quite believing in my own distress. I sit with the lows until they ripen and I can squeeze the juice from them. They raise the negativity, sadness, pain, anger, fear that I’ve swept into a corner, preferring to identify with my more “acceptable” emotions. My limiting beliefs float to the surface, show me where I need healing and set me looking for the cure. It’s there for the asking, but depending upon how attached I am to the dis-ease, or afraid of the work needed to relieve it, it can take some time to phrase the request. I hang on as if the low ground was safe and solid, the high risky.

“It’s safe,” I assure myself, and haltingly step higher, my only safety net a feeling of love, if I let it guide me. In place of fear I find freedom. I wonder how I’d ever gotten so confused.

As an open-hearted feeling returns, I ask “Why haven’t you been around?”

Comes the soft reply, “I wasn’t invited.”

I want to tie a bright red string around my finger, spray paint a luminous message on the door of my perception, that each breath can carry that invitation. And every time I remember will mean another time I’ve forgotten. I take it on faith that it’s the climbing and the falling, and the attention paid to both, that make up the real high, and that while peace (staying high) may eventually be possible, for now there’s only to enjoy the climb.

Howard Rubin
Durham, N.C.