At a powerful crossroad
On the outside my life looked wonderful. Successful. Together. Abundant. On the inside the careful life I had created was unraveling. My family was in turmoil. My children and I struggling. I felt isolated. Alone. Fearful. Imprisoned.
None of these feelings were even remote strangers to me. However, the intense, almost unbearable pressure and awareness of this, the longing for relief, for answers, for something more – something beyond this almost unendurable way of living was. I was lost in a deep, dark and unfathomable valley. I was looking for way out.
This longing and a series of serendipitous and unexpected events had landed me here, in this moment. Seated cross-legged, on the floor, near the front of a large room amidst almost thirty strangers, I was now listening with ferocious concentration to a diminutive man dressed in a white turban and robe speaking quietly to us in softly accented English.
That morning on my hour-long drive through deep woods, across farmlands and bridges that took me to a secluded island home, I had prayed unceasingly. I was journeying with a deep and sincere need. All the way – across those miles – I talked to God/ Goddess/ the Universe. Asking for answers. For guidance. For Truth. For Mercy. For relief from the pain and suffering my life was.
When I finally arrived at my destination, I uncharacteristically chose to sit in the front of the room – even though I was aware of an almost overwhelming desire to shrink and hide. I was determined and extremely serious in my intention to take in the words and possible wisdom this stranger from Brazil might impart over the next couple of days.
I stayed to myself. I didn’t socialize with the others. I simply and to the best of my ability did the exercises, the meditations, took copious notes and listened. Deeply. Widely. Completely.
As the event unfolded I was riveted. It was as if this man were speaking directly to me. Every. Single. Word. His eyes and focus coming back to me over and over again during the course of our brief time together. And most remarkable of all – it was if he had been listening in on every fervent word of my conversation with God and he was answering. Every. Single. Ask.
Many deep, personal understandings and revelations I had experienced over my life, every symbol that had and still does resurface as a form of breadcrumb showing me I am on my right path was mentioned. Spoken to. Expanded upon. Brought together in new and startling ways.
Hope began to blossom. Maybe I was still – had always been on the right track all along. Maybe all was not lost.
Toward the end of the second day he taught us a sky meditation. He spoke of the experience of being One with the Cosmos. The experience of being the sky. The stars. The galaxies. And I listened with single focus yearning.
He looked straight at me and asked. “Do YOU want to feel this?” And before my mind or mouth could form a lying protest my body answered. I leapt to my feet and the word, “Yes!” Came flying out of my mouth. I stepped forward – unthinking and without hesitation.
This beautiful bearded and diminutive man enfolded me firmly in his arms, his head just above my shoulders and I completely disappeared. My body fell away. My personal identity dissolved and I WAS the Cosmos. Vast. Quiet. Infinite. Still.
There are no words to adequately describe this experience. I can still feel the immensity and power of it in my belly as body memory. Visceral. Complete. This Stillness resides in every cell. The vastness. The absolute completeness of this experience, this knowing has never fully disappeared.
As my awareness came back into the room and I sat down I was conscious of an immense and complete inner hush. A final Silence within me. I felt light. Free of burdens. I was feeling something I did not remember ever feeling before. I was completely happy.
This occurred in early June – around my forty-first birthday. For the next three plus months I traveled up and down the West coast for business. I resumed my life as single mom and business owner. I did laundry. Pulled weeds. Cooked meals. Worked with clients. Put out fires. Went for walks.
And yet everything had changed.
My mind was quiet. A sensation of never moving, never going anywhere was my constant. Although my physical self was moving at a very fast clip that summer – it was as if everything else was moving around ME – while I was completely still. Unmoving. Watching the world moving by me. In it. Participating more joyfully and completely than ever, yet aware of an immense and vast spaciousness in and around me.
I felt peace. Well being. Confidence. Inner strength. Love. Joy. Blissful. Wherever I went. Whatever I was doing.
I WAS bliss.
Nothing about my outer circumstances had changed. My inner world however was not even in the same constellation.
This state unshakably continued for more than three months.
One morning in September I woke at about four thirty in the morning and heard an inner voice instruct me to go outside and meditate on the sky.
In the dark I quietly rose, grabbed my medicine blanket and a pillow. I went outside. I made myself comfortable on the chaise lounge under the nearly hundred year old pear tree in my back yard and began the open-eye gaze looking up into the heavens as my teacher had instructed me.
As darkness slowly, quietly gave way to dawn, my awareness open and wide, I noticed the flicker of a TV through sheer curtains in my neighbor’s living room across the street. Odd.
A few minutes later, I heard her basement door open and close.
As the first gentle streaks of peach stretched across the lightening sky I noticed my friend and neighbor come down her driveway, cross the street and ascended the stairs into my back garden, heading for my back door.
I called her name. She turned toward me with a blank look on her face, eyes wide. In obvious shock and distress she said – “A plane has hit the World Trade Center in New York.”
I somehow had an immediate and complete understanding of what was taking place. We spoke for a few moments. I hugged her and she went back to her home to prepare for work. I to my meditation on the sky. Still in bliss.
As the next couple of days unfolded, Air Force jets screamed overhead for hours, then alternatively all air traffic eerily and completely would stop. The silence heavy and unnatural, as if the whole world was holding its breath. As news poured in speculation rose and soared. As our county and the world watched, mourned, reacted in shock.
As the magnitude of the events taking place unfolded, as we crossed a line – I stood – my heart wide open. Still unmoving. Clear. Aware. In bliss.
Then, toward the end of the third day, as everyone was grieving and suffering I began to question.
Who was I to feel Whole? Complete? Blissful? Who was I to feel good in the face of everyone else’s suffering? How could I be unmoving in the face of this?
And the inner contraction, the shrinking began.
I felt guilt. Guilt that I could feel this immense well-being as the majority of my fellow countrymen and women mourned. Were devastated. Angry. Afraid. Wanted to strike back.
All of my childhood as I observed all of those around me in immense suffering and distress I felt guilt for feeling happy. For wanting to sing. To skip. To feel the sweetness of the breeze against my face. The bliss and perfect connection I felt with my best friend, my horse.
I felt guilt that I was not suffering too. I repeatedly shouldered blame that was not mine in order to ease another’s consequences. I took in, took on members of my family’s emotional storms and despair.
And so – the strength, power and clarity of my genuine well-being – what I have come to understand as our truer nature – was once again swamped, dominated and suffocated by guilt.
By believing that if another was in pain I must be as well. That somehow I must close ranks in the misery as solidarity to show I care. Am compassionate. Am loving. Am with. Am supportive.
I know now this is not true.
My happiness does not negate or make insignificant another’s pain.
My clarity and inner quiet does not take away or diminish another’s righteous anger.
What each of us authenticity and personally experience is just that. Authentic and personal.
My suffering in support of your suffering does not support you. Or me.
My standing in solidarity with another’s pain, suffering, outrage or desire to get back at – when it is not my own experience – is one of the greatest betrayals of Self I know of.
Merging with the collective or another for the sake of belonging. Being accepted. Safe. This only takes me out of my own clear center, cuts me off from my valuable and needed experience of my intrinsic Wholeness. Diminishes us all.
Resting in and cultivating my own inner landscape is of great value. A true service to the Whole. Doing this allows me to hear and know my OWN authentic truth. To act – and I do act – with greater clarity, accordingly. To be compassionate. Honest. To be more resourceful. To share the much needed gifts that I offer. We each offer.
When I lovingly stay with myself.
When I take the time and space to kindly and patiently listen underneath the noise of collective consciousness and the mind.
When I cultivate and invite the harmony, silence and benevolence of the Universe through simple acts of attention and intention.
When I welcome all emotion – grief, anger, fear and joy then allow them to move through me. To inform me without believing they are me.
When I question the thoughts that move across the landscape of my mind rather than simply to follow and believe them, then I am able to hold greater space for possibility, for solutions, for miracles. For you, dear one – AND for me.
I am able to stand and bear witness. To steadfastly NOT turn away. To support. To have compassion and let go of harsh judgment. To speak from my own Wholeness.
To be fully present so that I may know when kindness is wanted. Help is needed. When I CAN make a small or large difference by using my voice, my body, my hands, my good mind, my money. I can then know more naturally when a firm and unmistakably steady line must be drawn in the sand before me. With myself and also in my interactions with others.
That day fifteen years ago when I collapsed in on myself?
I didn’t do anything wrong. Nothing was lost. Nothing died.
On the contrary – something new was born. Something was set into motion that is still moving. Still unfolding. Still informing.
Because windows open. And then they close.
We stretch far beyond our previous inner borders and our understanding – and then we retract.
We feel overwhelming love and compassion and then the bitter taste of anger and fear are on our lips, our tongue, racing through our veins, temporarily taking the reins of our mind.
This IS the natural pattern of growth. Of evolution. Of transformation. Of healing and Whole-ing.
It is how galaxies are born. Expansion and then contraction.
Expansion and contraction.
This is the unfolding we are witnessing.
In our own lives. In the life of our nation. Our planet.
Stay awake, dear one. Pay attention. Be with yourself. Keep coming back.
All is well.