Now that I have begun to be more willing, more often, to be one with the quiet, I feel this measure of peace that cannot be quantified or described with mere words. 💛
I don’t tend to live in the past, but I certainly feel influenced by it at times. Things that have happened to me or those that I love; events that were significant; losses through death or estrangement. It seems that a sting still lives in me around past circumstances that stirred up deep feelings of fear and loss in me.
When I was younger, I would acknowledge a loss, such as the death of a loved one, by honoring the anniversary, the year mark of the event itself. By observing it, it seemed to acknowledge the pain of the loss in a way that would bring me comfort, and some form of peace. I don’t recognize anniversaries in any formalized way anymore, but it feels like when a certain time of year comes around, I am taken back to a period of my life that was especially painful and difficult.
Three years ago, at this time, it seemed like many aspects of my life were crashing in on me. Relationships with members of my family were deeply strained; my son was in big emotional trouble; and two people that were very important persons in my life, died. I felt like I was in a tornado of emotions, and reeling from all of the chaos and sadness that I seemed to be experiencing. To this day, parts of that time still seem to haunt me, to feel sharp and real and like they just happened yesterday.
Then, I gratefully recall all that I was learning then, and have been learning in a more deep way since that time. I remember that the past, and any recollection that I have of it, is simply a memory trace. It does not exist, just as the future does not exist. So, for me to ruminate on events that are long past gone, or worry about how things will unfold at some future time, is futile. In addition to that, doing so does nothing for my Peace within. There is no rest for my soul when I keep reminding myself of things that have already occurred and cannot be undone.
So, I remember compassion. I remember gentleness and love. I remember that to recall is only human; but to tell the story over and over again, in a way to condemn myself or others, or to act out a drama that I can suffer all over again, makes no sense, and is unkind. I remember to remember, without telling the story to myself. I remember to breathe. I remember that as real as it may feel now, it has already happened and is gone. It is as it is.
I get to find my Peace, again and again.
There has been deep wisdom that I have opened to most recently in my life. Learning that I would no doubt encounter at some point, but the Now is the best time to be learning it. And even though some of the lessons that I am now learning, are in the same form as in the past, the learning is completely transformed at this time. I am finally ready.
The areas that I have been learning in the most are around being a teacher, and a student; and around suffering, and surrender. No matter who you are or what your life circumstances are, I believe that all of these areas are Universal lessons for all humans. For the earliest years of my life, I was formally and informally a student. Before I was conscious of learning, when I was a baby and small child, a slow, deliberate process of domestication brought teaching to me, and although I was initially passive in the learning, I retained all that I was given. As I got older, and was able to be aware of the learning more acutely, I would receive lessons that were part of formal schooling, and seek out additional topics and learning opportunities that were more interesting to me. I have always enjoyed being a formal learner, and would joke that my career would be to go to college forever. College was the breeding ground for special learning it seemed, because I got to choose what courses to take and what interested me. It was a marketplace of choices and topics.
But, around that time, interesting shifts in me began to occur. I began to see myself as full of knowledge, and stopped having the desire to learn, and just wanting to teach. When I got my undergraduate degree, I wanted to start working because I believed I knew all that I needed to in order to be a great social worker. I wanted to teach others all that I had learned, so that I could get on with saving the world. And, I put my formal learning on hold, thinking there was not much left to learn about how to help others.
Eventually, I did resume some formal learning, and saw how much more there was to know in the world. I started seeking spiritual teachers then as well, and was eager to gain as much knowledge as I could, emulating my instructors and thinking that was the way to believe and think. And, then again, wanting to become a teacher in the world, believing I had the best of information that others needed. With that, I would also stop being willing to learn, thinking, this has to be IT, everything that I need to know.
My other big area of lessons has been in the realm of suffering, and what that means, in terms of my human experiences, and what stories that I tell about it. I used to believe that suffering and difficult experiences were all part of the human condition, that we all have bad things happen in our lives. And, terms of fact and structure, I still hold that to be true. Bad things happen. Yet, the degree to which we suffer over the circumstances and events that happen is directly related to how much we accept life as it is, or don’t. I would often blame the outside world, or my girlfriend, or God, or traffic or other fellow humans for my degree of suffering: it is all their fault. And, if I had a bad experience, and didn’t feel sad or distressed about it, I thought there was something wrong with me; to suffer over my circumstances seemed like a way to pay homage to it. To honor it.
My current belief is that even a person or circumstance is what leads me into sad, angry, or distressing feelings, I still have the power to choose; to choose what type of story I want to tell myself about it. I also ALWAYS have the power to choose to remember that the present moment, right Now, is all that there ever is. This moment. And, when I am able to be in this present moment, and to accept whatever comes in it, as just being what it Is, the suffering is less. Surrender brings great freedom and deep relief. Choosing surrender and experiencing peace honors the events of our lives in a deeper way, because it means we are in deep acceptance of the fleeting, ephemeral nature of all things.
These two pairs of experiences and beliefs are actual paradoxes of one another, but ones that are required for the other to occur. That is the part of wisdom that had been lost on me for the first 50 odd years of my physical existence. In order for me to learn how to surrender, there has to be the experience of suffering. And, for me to be able to teach others, I have to always be willing to learn. One does not exist without the other. And yet, even though I resist, I get scared, I don’t want it to be true, I know that it is the only way that I will learn that which are the deepest truths of my life.
This moment is all there is; and I want to experience it as deeply as possible with no promise of what may come next.
“And in the end, the love you take
Is equal to the love
You make.” The Beatles, Abbey Road
Dear Aunt Ruth:
Not that I am counting, but it has been nearly fifteen months since you died. Most days, that feels like a new normal to me; I have become accustomed to life continuing on without your physical presence in it. And, I say and feel that with no guilt or shame whatever. I am understand death, and dying, more deeply than ever before, and understand that only your physical body experienced death, yet you are always and forever all around me.
Yet tonight, after my yoga class and as I was driving home, I lost my breath as I thought of you not being here physically anymore. The cry felt like a choke in my throat, and some tears came. The quote above was playing as I was driving, and my mind and heart went immediately to you.
Now, it had been building for the last several days. Maybe it was when I would think about my book, and how exciting it is that I am going to be published, one of my dreams come true. I want you to be here at my launch party. Maybe it was because I finally got the ring sized, the one that you are wearing in this very picture, the only item that I cared to have that belonged to you. Maybe it was because I was wearing one of your Oak Island tee shirts, the only destination in your later years that we could ever get you to leave home for; you never missed a year in ten years at the beach. Or, maybe it was listening to Abbey Road in my new, blue Hug Bug, belting out Oh, Darling!, just like I did for you at the beach, pretending I was playing a piano, and you watching me with tears in your eyes. Or, that line: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
Whatever the reason, I am missing you fiercely. I hear your voice in my head, but won’t talk to you on the telephone again. I see your face, but won’t ever touch it again. I feel your touch, yet these moments are never again. Of course, I am not being present, not staying in the now when I have these longings; I am remembering times that have gone by, never to return, only a mere memory trace and nothing more.
Still, I crave having you with me again. We had no unfinished business, no ugly history that needed to be sorted out in order to be at peace. I just wanted to be with you as often as I could. I loved your humor, your honesty, your humility, your love and your care. I loved that you loved me as deeply and courageously as you did, and I felt it, every minute of my life.
So, I am missing you. And, in another moment, I will feel your presence deep, full and eternal, and the missing will pass. Until that time, I will shed tears, stay with my heart, and remember all that you are and forever will be to me.
I love you always.
It’s pretty common for me to get into a routine about certain things in my world. Often times, on a Saturday morning, I will go for a walk, by myself or with my wife, at Lake Scranton near our home. This morning was particularly beautiful, and although I wanted to get out and take a walk, the Lake was not calling to me; however, Nay Aug Park was. I drove over there and started out on the Davis Trail, and as soon as I saw this deadening tree I understood why I was pulled.
The previous evening, my wife had given me a sweater that had belonged to her sister, Diane, my soul sister, who died unexpectedly two months ago. I had felt deep emotion, after giving hugs all evening around the city, when she told me that she wanted me to have it. In that moment, I not only missed Diane’s presence in my 3D life, but I was more acutely aware of impermanence, and how that is true for All Things, human and otherwise. As I walked on the Davis Trail, I saw this tree, and realized that I was deepening that lesson. And more was to come.
I could choose to either stay on the dirt trail, or to walk toward the waterfalls and hike on the rocks. I decided that the rocks felt like the place to be today. As I walked down the steps toward the water, I was aware of how present and mindful I needed to be with each step; there was a hard frost last night, and the steps, leaves, and rocks were slippery. Again, the idea of impermanence, the fleeting nature of things, and my own temporary nature came to me.
I walked along the rocks, large and small, and sat for a few minutes in the crisp morning air, listening to the water running beside me. I kept walking along the brook, and up the hill toward the other end of the trail. As I got back on the Davis Trail, I found a makeshift memorial, underneath the treehouse. There were candles, flowers, and messages. Again, this lesson speaks to me
Every image that I encountered about impermanence- a sweater, a deadening tree, the memorial- had radiant beauty to it. Whether in its appearance, its heart feeling, or its intention, the beauty of each part shone through. This stayed with me as I left the park, and remembered yet again how temporary we all are, as well as everything around us. To some, and to me for much of my life, that knowing would bring to me a deep sense of fear and anticipation. Today, it reminds me of the essential way in which I want to approach my life, as often as possible: In the Present Moment. To be right here, right now, without memory or anticipation, I get to enjoy the deep beauty of what is, and also remember that it is only here Now, and will never be again. It reminds me of the grace of gratitude in my world and how it opens me up to many new, wondrous things. That our fleeting nature reminds me of how I always, in all phases, a part of the whole. A beginning from and returning to the Source.
And, that beauty exists in each portion of our world, no matter where it is at in its evolution.