Belonging to Love

For the first time in many, MANY years I hosted a group meditation at my apartment. It sparked a cleaning frenzy and had me looking at my apartment with fresh eyes. Almost exactly four years ago I stuck two pieces of masking tape above my doorknob with the phrase, “This life now belongs to love and anything can happen.”

As you can guess, after four years I barely register those pieces of masking tape but today they struck me anew. The phrase comes from Tosha Silver’s book It’s Not Your Money, which I reread every February not because I plan on it but because that’s when I need a reminder that the Divine Beloved is my source for all. This ties into my post from last week about acting as if all is well in my world and that there’s an ever-present loving entity that wants to help me, that’s running this entire show we call life anyway.

Glass heart

Let your life belong to love. Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Tosha remarks people often say, “You’ll never find a parking spot in that area,” or “You’ll never find a house in this market.” Her response is, “You’re right. You won’t find a parking spot … without God.” “You won’t find a house in this market . . . without God.” She encourages people to recognize with God/Source/the universe anything and everything is possible. If something is in our best interest, if it’s in our highest good, the Divine Beloved will make it so. Even if parking is terrible, the housing market is fiercely competitive, the economy is in the toilet, etc., what we need will always come to us.

Living in such a way requires that we let go of old stories and understand no matter what happened in the past, we can do things differently now. We can live a new reality where life belongs to love and anything can happen. Doing so opens us to magic and possibilities. It means we are letting ourselves be taken care of by something greater than ourselves.

This concept of letting life belong to love also means that I’m letting love lead the way. It’s seeing there is a divine presence here, in this moment, in every moment. It’s recognizing a loving force moves through me and through you. And again, I can consciously invite that loving force into my life.

I’ve been on the spiritual path for a long time and I still need the reminder that surrender doesn’t only happen on the meditation cushion. Real surrender means saying, “Hey God/higher power/universe, I want you to take care of this. Please guide my actions. I trust where you are leading me,” and then letting go, knowing whatever needs to come, comes, and whatever needs to go, goes. I let this life belong to love.

I dream of a world where we recognize the power and the presence of a loving force in our lives. A world where we’re able to surrender and let go of our micromanaging tendencies and fully trust all true needs will be met, and often in amazing ways. A world where we realize things work out better if we let our lives belong to love.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

I’m all about the questions these days. I want to be happy, joyous, and free so I’m asking what that looks like and how to accomplish it. I’m aware that happiness requires daily action, it’s not a destination, but I know the way I think and act has a lot to do with how I feel. Often, my thoughts are negative and I slip into worst-case scenarios, which doesn’t feel great.

If I throw a party, I’m sure no one will come. If it’s a slow week work-wise, I’m convinced I won’t be able to pay my rent and will have to move back in with my parents. I know it’s a protective mechanism, that I want to save myself from disappointment and also prepare for the worst, but it kind of sucks. It’s not fun to constantly scan for threats and be negative. As I wrote about last week, it robs me of joy.

I’m affirming, “I create a new life with new rules that totally support me.” But how do I actually do that? What occurred to me is a concept that I learned from 12-step programs, which is “acting as if.” It means pretending until something feels real. It’s building a baseball field believing the players will come, to cite the movie Field of Dreams. It’s taking contrary actions that don’t feel natural until one day they do.

baseball

“If you build it, he will come.” Classic acting as is. Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

For me, the questions are, “How can I act as if the universe loves and supports me? What would I do/say/think if I believed all is well and that I’m being taken care of?” It may seem like small questions but the ramifications are huge. If I believe the money will come to pay my rent, then right now I would stop worrying and spinning my wheels. If I trust that all is well, I would have patience in the here and now knowing that every delay is beneficial and the perfect fill-in-the-blank has already been selected. I would affirm that all right actions will be shown.

It reminds me of something my friend Emma said in November 2021 after I was in a car accident: “There will always be an invitation to the fear and negativity party but you can choose to decline.” It was a powerful perspective shift that’s resurfacing. I don’t have to say yes to negativity and worst-case scenarios. I can choose to center myself in faith, not by doing it once, but like with happiness, making it a daily practice.

My spiritual teacher says over and over again if a person takes shelter in the Supreme, they need not be afraid of anything in this world. That the divine is “more courageous than the most courageous, and braver than the bravest. Those who take shelter in [the divine] are therefore bound to acquire these qualities: courage, bravery, chivalry, and so on. Once endowed with such qualities, what is there to fear?

When I’m in fear, I’m not taking shelter in the Divine Beloved. I’m separating myself and saying, “Oh no! I’m all alone! I have to figure it out!” But I’m not alone, ever. There is an entity that is nearer than near, that is with me now, forever, and always. What would my life be like if I remembered that? And if that feels inaccessible, which it does right now, what if I acted as if I was never alone? That I was always loved, always cared for, and always supported? I’m not sure yet but I notice my breathing deepens and I feel soothed contemplating it so I think I’m on the right track.

I dream of a world where we remember there can be a step between doubt and faith. A world where we recognize that step is acting as if. A world where we realize even if we don’t believe it, we can act as if all is well, that we are loved, taken care of, and supported. A world where we know there is power in pretending because eventually, the masquerade becomes reality.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

On the heels of my post from last week about not settling, emerged another question: “What is my capacity for joy?” If I go after what I truly want, how comfortable am I getting it? Or experiencing joy in general? It turns out I’m not all that comfortable. It’s been humbling to realize I feel better when things are going wrong than when they’re going right. And also to recognize I stop myself from feeling joy by imagining all the terrible things that could happen.

Here’s a perfect example I keep thinking about. In September 2014, my dear friend Amal and I went to Tomales Bay and swam with bioluminescent plankton. For context, Tomales Bay only has a few nights a year in which numerous factors come together so that you can perceive the bioluminescent plankton in its waters.

He and I arrived on such a night and not only did we creep to the edge of the water and splash around, Amal made the impulsive decision to get into the water. Without a wetsuit. In the Pacific Ocean. While I was wearing a hat and coat and scarf on the beach. The water though? It was warm. Warm! With a little coaxing, I stripped down to my underwear and joined him.

bioluminescence

This is the Maldives, so not Tomales Bay but it *is* bioluminescence. Photo by Ahmed Nishaath on Unsplash

It was the most magical, mystical, profound experience with nature I’ve ever had. Him too. It was so powerful, he wrote his master’s thesis about it and I highly recommend you read his account if you haven’t already. If you want the in-depth version, there’s also a video. Here is a small quote from his piece:

“It’s one thing to think, to believe that the universe is interpenetrating and interconnected – that everything resonates with everything else, and really we’re all a part of a web. It’s another thing to literally see it – to feel it. Spinning in circles, every thrust of my arm out before me was like a spiral arm of the Milky Way, the movements of my body giving birth to billions of glimmering stars. And the lights – the lights responded to me. If I moved slowly, they moved slowly. If I moved quickly, they worked hard to keep up. Violent or gentle, deep or shallow, no matter how I moved, no matter what I did, the lights, the bay, the whole universe, it felt like, seemed lovingly, longingly, intimately desperate to respond. I felt embedded. I felt like I was dancing.”

How does this relate to my post on joy? Because even while experiencing all this beauty and wonder, I couldn’t fully be there! I kept worrying I’d get stung by a jellyfish, or step on something weird, or cut my foot on a rock. When I told Amal about it on the car ride back, he said, “That makes me sad.” I heard what he said but I couldn’t take in the sentiment because it’s where I was at the time. My sleep disorder hadn’t been sorted out, my nervous system was on high alert all the time, I was in the middle of packing up my apartment to move again. In other words, I was a wreck and so of course it was hard to take in joy.

I’m not beating myself up about it but I also don’t want to keep missing out on my life because I’m so worried about what may or may not happen. I don’t want to think about jellyfish and rocks when I’m having a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I want to be fully present and immersed in joy. The solution? I’m still working on it but it starts with letting go of my old self and replacing it with someone new.

Louise Hay has a wonderful affirmation that addresses this: “I create a new life with new rules that totally support me.” In my new life with new rules that totally support me, it’s safe to be joyful. It’s safe to be happy. I allow myself to experience all the good that life has to offer and I want that for you too.

I dream of a world where we let ourselves experience the full range of our emotions. A world where we fully immerse ourselves in the moment without worrying it will disappear. A world where we know at any time we can choose to think differently. A world where we increase our capacity to feel joy.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

A friend asked me an audacious (in a good way) question: “What if you only said yes to things that were a heck yes instead of settling for things that are mediocre?” My friend isn’t referring to every situation because to be an adult means sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do. Will I ever say “heck yes” to washing dishes or filing my taxes? Personally, I will not but I still wash dishes and file taxes. But other things? The way I spend my time? The people I hang out with? The dreams I have? It’s a good question.

My friend asked this because right now I do a lot of settling. I frequently say, “It’s fine,” or “This is good enough,” because I don’t believe what I want exists. Here is a small, but telling example. I have about a billion pairs of pants that all sort of fit. Maybe the length is fine but the hips are too wide. Or the hips fit well but the waist is too big. Why do I buy these pants? I settle for them because I don’t think I can have what I want. Lest you say, “You can custom-make pants,” I did! And even those don’t fit quite right! I gave up because it was too much of a hassle/expensive to get tailor-made pants retailored. But this is precisely the issue. At some point, I give up.

jeans

This could be my closet but it’s not because mine is worse. Photo by BBiDDac on Unsplash

Pants are one thing but dreams are another. I keep saying I want to be a novelist but then I spend my time applying for jobs I don’t actually want or paralyzed with self-doubt about my writing abilities. The refrain is, “I can’t do it! Novel writing is too hard! I’m bad at this!” But here’s the thing – the Divine Beloved placed this dream in my heart because I have a novel idea that wants to be birthed in the world, ideally through me. By applying for full-time writing jobs that I don’t want and don’t have the energy to do, I’m settling for a half-life where I’m bumbling around too scared to pursue what I really want, which is to make a living as a creative person.

My breakthrough, at the moment anyway, is to say, “Forget that! I’m writing a novel and it may be bad in the beginning but that’s what revision is for!” If I say I want to be a novelist, I have to actually write a novel. If I say I want a romantic partner I have to stop wasting my time with people I’m not actually interested in. Everything I want in life requires me to not settle, to not say mediocre is acceptable.

In my spiritual tradition, we say there are six secrets to success and the very first secret is firm determination or saḿkalpa. Some people interpret saḿkalpa as “intention” but that’s not how we interpret it. My teacher says, “This firm determination is the secret of success in each and every human life. Where there is no firm determination, one will never be successful in any arena of human life.”

He says that because without firm determination, you’ll do what I do and buy pants after pants that don’t really fit. Or you’ll live somewhere you don’t like because you’re scared nothing better will come along. Or you date someone because no one else is showing interest in you. Firm determination means saying, “I must do it! I must ____! There isn’t another option.” That’s not to say what you desire will come quickly, or at all if it’s not in your best interest, but if your will and the Cosmic will line up, you’re sure to be successful if you keep your eye on the goal.

I dream of a world where we focus our attention on what we really want. A world where we recognize the first factor for success in any endeavor is firm determination. A world where we understand the power of saying, “I must be successful” and we aren’t distracted along the way. A world where we stop settling for what’s merely fine.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

I feel unmoored because a very significant relationship has entered a new era. For context, this is a person who knows everything about me – all the things I want to keep hidden, my missteps, the self-destructive thoughts and actions – everything. She’s witnessed every crisis and every celebration from the last 12 years. She’s offered guidance, care, and support through it all and played an enormous role in me being the person I am today. In other words, she’s a true MVP. But now she’s not available like she was before and my inner child is freaking out.

It’s not only about the change in this relationship. It’s about the many, many changes over the past month. The things I thought were steady have turned out to be not so steady. Other relationships have dropped off, regular events have come to an end, and people died. All of it has me asking, “What can I even hold onto? What can I count on?”

What’s funny is that sometimes the universe gives me the answers to my questions in advance. Earlier this month, I had a conversation with a friend about precisely this topic. I told him the constant, unchangeable, permanent entity in our shared spiritual tradition is called Sat and that when we meditate, we are practicing Iishvara prańidhána. “Iishvara” means controller of the universe and “prańidhána” means to adopt something as a shelter. Therefore, Iishvara prańidhána means to adopt the controller of the universe as a shelter. It means to take refuge in the controller of the universe. In other words, to remember what is truly unchangeable.

anchor

We all need an anchor. Photo by Grant Durr on Unsplash

The joke’s on me because I thought I was having a casual conversation about spiritual philosophy with a newcomer when instead I was laying the groundwork for a huge spiritual lesson. My inner child, and other parts of me, want good things to stay the same. We want cherished relationships to remain steady and ever-present but they don’t. The nature of this universe is to change and I can no more stop things from changing than I can control when the sun sets.

When I contemplate how everything changes, I could curl into the fetal position and rock myself or I could do what my spiritual teacher suggests, which is to remember what is actually permanent, unchangeable, constant, and steady. Yes, it’s the Cosmic Consciousness but there’s also a relationship with that entity that’s important to remember.

He tells us that Cosmic Consciousness is our one true friend, and even more than that, the Divine Beloved is bandhu, or a person or entity who cannot stand separation. According to my spiritual philosophy, Cosmic Consciousness is inextricably involved with everything and cannot stand to be separated from Its creations.

Everyone else will come and go but the Divine Beloved is with me now, forever, and always through every lifetime. In this period of my life where so much is upending, it’s nice to remember I do have a reliable friend I can turn to all the time in all the ways. There is something I can hold onto like an anchor when I feel adrift at sea and that something is the Divine Beloved.

I dream of a world where we remember the only constant in life is change. A world where we stop trying to make impermanent things permanent. A world where we know where to turn when life gets choppy and we need something steady. A world where we recognize there is something we can hold onto and that something is the Divine Beloved.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

In high school and college, I was a stage manager. For the uninitiated, that’s the person who notes all the actors’ blocking, feeds them a line when they ask for it, calls the lighting and sound cues during the show, and just generally supports the director in manifesting their vision. I was good at it because I perpetually thought about the future and what was next. The shadow side of being an adept organizer/planner is I have trouble staying present.

After every show, I fell into a depression because there was no next. I didn’t have to plan and had no idea what to do with myself. I’m no longer a stage manager but the behavior didn’t quit when I stopped participating in theater. I still focus far too much on the future because I think that’s where my happiness lies. It’s the “I’ll be happy when” trap but life doesn’t happen in the future, it happens now. In this moment.

I can’t mention this topic without quoting Ram Dass and Eckhart Tolle. Ram Dass says in his famous book Be Here Now:

“[I]f you set the alarm to get up at 3:47 this morning and when the alarm rings and you get up and turn it off and say: ‘What time is it?’ You’d say, ‘Now. Now. Where am I? Here! Here!’ then go back to sleep and get up at 9:00 tomorrow. Where am I?? Here! What time is it? Now! Try 4:32 three weeks from next Thursday. By God it is – there’s no getting away from it – that’s the way it is. That’s the eternal present. You finally figure out that it’s only the clock that’s going around … it’s doing its thing but you – you’re sitting here, right now, always.”

Tolle writes, “Most humans are never fully present in the now because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now.” Yep. And to underscore the point some more, here’s another quote from Ram Dass: “What are you doing? Planning for the future? Well it’s all right now but later? Forget it baby, that’s later. Now is now. Are you going to be here or not? It’s as simple as that!”

child playing in the ocean

What a moment. Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Simple but not easy. There’s a part of me that thinks I can skip to the “good part” of life where I have the husband, the house, the bestselling book, but I forget that the work now is how all of the future dreams come true. I can’t have the things I want now because I’m not the person I need to be to receive them. Here’s a true story to illustrate this.

I met a woman many years ago who I knew would become one of my closest friends. I wanted us to become bosom buddies, to quote Anne of Green Gables, but this friend didn’t get the memo. When she had a bachelorette party and didn’t invite me, I was hurt and disappointed because it didn’t seem right, it didn’t make sense. We were supposed to be close friends! Never mind the fact we hadn’t logged the hours on the phone or spent the time together in person to make that true!

Fast forward to today and not only am I invited to her bachelorette party, she asked me to give a toast at her wedding because we are bosom buddies and she wants to signal that to her community. I couldn’t have skipped to this part because our friendship hadn’t grown and developed. We didn’t know each other well enough to warrant an invite to her first bachelorette party. We lived our way into the future by being present to what was.

My spiritual teacher says the past, present, and future are not separate and distinct from each other. He adds, “Nothing suddenly emerges or suddenly disappears; all entities respectfully obey the Cosmic laws in a disciplined way and proceed from the future to the still more distant future in the panoramic flow of the Cosmic Cycle. No one can resist the momentum of this Cosmic flow – no one can contain it – no one can suppress it.”

I take that to mean, yes, the past influences the present and the future, but again life is a flow happening in the here and now. Am I moving with it or not?

I dream of a world where we live in the moment. A world where we understand the future is not more important than the present. A world where we recognize we can’t jump ahead to the future because we have to live our way into the future. A world where we remember life always happens here, now.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

It’s been a very up-and-down start to the new year for me. I’ve cried every day thus far, which is not my MO. I have a friend who jokes that it’s a good day when she only cries once but that’s not me. I’m more of a “cry as needed” type and I guess right now it’s needed because all this grief is coming up about my friend who died, yes, but about other things too. Grief is a gateway and once the door is open, grief about a variety of things waltzes through.

Amid this grief though, there have been sweet things, miraculous things. Because of negativity bias, I could focus on all the things going wrong in my life but I’d rather not so I want to tell you about a small miracle I experienced. It’s my way of noticing the presence of the Divine Beloved in my life.

About three weeks ago, I listed my friend’s guitar for sale on Craigslist and Facebook marketplace. (She lives in Europe and thus can’t handle the logistics herself.) I don’t know the metrics for Craigslist but the Facebook ad had 611 clicks and about 25 people messaged me, every one of them saying, “Is this still available?” When I replied, “Yes,” they disappeared. After a few weeks of this, one man reached out to me and said, “Will you accept $100 less than your asking price?” No, I would not.

guitar

Not the guitar in question, in case you were wondering. Photo by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash

That same man messaged me multiple days in a row while I kept holding out for a buyer willing to pay the full price. After not getting any traction, I caved and agreed to $50 less than the asking price with that dude. What follows is our actual exchange:

Me: “Meet me at ____ elementary school.”
Him: “I’m honestly I don’t have a car. Is it possible to meet at my house?” And he proceeded to drop a pin of where he lives.
Me: “I don’t have a car either. Let’s meet at a bus stop that’s in between the both of us.”
“I don’t know how take buss.”
“Then I’m sorry it won’t work. Taking the bus is easy. You can also take a Lyft or Uber.”
“Try if can bring me here that will be great. Thank you.”
“No.”

I’m half convinced that if I’d gone to this random man’s house I would have been robbed and/or murdered. It was crushing to have this option, even a terrible one, off the table and to be left with nothing. I prayed fervently, asking for help, the guitar feeling like an albatross around my neck. Literally the next day a woman messaged me, “Is this still available?” I anticipated the same song and dance of no response after my initial “yes” but she said, “I’m interested and I can come by today.” So that’s how I got rid of the guitar for the asking price and in a public location.

Some people might not think that’s a miracle but I do because it arrived when I was at the end of my rope. Yes, I could have sold the guitar to a shop but my physical capacity at the moment is low. There’s a circular light bulb sitting on my ottoman that I’ve meant to recycle for three months but haven’t because I can’t find the energy or motivation to do so. Schlepping a guitar across town? Even more impossible.

The miracle is I didn’t have to “push through” or go through a hassle because Higher Power came through for me. I perpetually think HP won’t, that this time will be different, but so far, the universe’s track record is 100%. The solution never arrives when I want it to but that’s a different story. When I think about this small miracle, my breathing deepens and my body relaxes because I remember the universe loves and supports me. And I hope you feel the same.

I dream of a world where we recognize there’s a power greater than ourselves at work in our lives. A world where we witness moments of ease, sweetness, and grace. A world where we know the universe will come through for us even though sometimes it’s at the last possible second. A world where we savor the small miracles.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

The Future Unfolding

Even though I sync up better with the Jewish New Year, the Gregorian New Year still acts as a mile marker for me. I ask, “How does this year compare with last year? What did I think of this year? What happened?” When I contemplate 2023, I realize I couldn’t have predicted 99% of the things that transpired. I thought I knew what the future held but I didn’t, like, at all.

I want to predict the future to give myself a sense of safety. If I know what’s coming, I think I can prepare for it but I’m not sure you can ever truly prepare. For instance, you build up savings in case you lose your job but then you lose your job and it’s still discombobulating. Or your parent is on their deathbed and then they die and it’s still devastating. Can you ever prepare for what life brings you? Or can you only live it, one day at a time?

fern unfolding

The future is like this. Photo by Maddy Weiss on Unsplash

I’m reminded of that famous Rainer Maria Rilke quote that says:

“I beg you…to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

As we enter the Gregorian New Year, I’m living the questions. I keep searching for answers but the answers aren’t here yet because the future is still unfolding. There are still many unknowns for us mortals. At this point, you might be sick of reading poems on “Another World is Probable” but I’m sharing another poem! Here are three stanzas from John O’Donohue’s poem “For a New Beginning:”

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

There is a world awaiting us but we’re rising up to meet it. We’re living the future with all its question marks and unknowns. Life happens here, now. While I’m mulling over whether this thing will happen or that thing, my life continues. In the shadow of my friend’s death, I want to be present for what is, not what could be. And that means not worrying about the future and instead letting it unfold as it will.

I dream of a world where we have patience with the unresolved questions in our hearts. A world where we understand the future is mostly unknowable and so it’s better to be here, now. A world where we trust the promise of our life’s opening and the grace of beginning. A world where we let the future unfold.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

A former therapist and coach told me once that grief can feel pleasurable in an unexpected way because every other emotion is heightened. You’re sad but also recognizing the transience of life and because of that transience, strawberries taste sweeter and time with loved ones is more precious. When he said this to me, I told him he was off his rocker because there was nothing pleasurable about grief but now I see what he meant.

We’re theoretically in the “happiest time of the year,” but against the backdrop of the holidays with the sparkly lights, sappy movies, and festivities, I’m sad. I’m grieving the loss of people I knew well and people that I didn’t. In the background, there’s a refrain that so-and-so isn’t here anymore and so every moment becomes more precious because I know in my bones that tomorrow isn’t promised. Grief shakes me from the dream where I think I know how anything will play out. I don’t. I really, really don’t.

My former therapist is right. My heart, it hurts. It’s squeezing in my chest and feels tender and fragile. And yet, because of the pain, there’s also more pleasure because when I come across delightful things, they are more delightful. A father and daughter were on the same Bart train as me to the airport, and then on the same flight to Seattle, and then they also took the Seattle light rail and sat next to me on that train. I watched the daughter swinging from the rail above her head as if it were monkey bars and smiled.

man in front of a window

Darkness and light are paired together. Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

I look at the birds nibbling seed from the feeder outside my parents’ window and say, “Wow. You’re so beautiful.” The sun seems to shine brighter, flower colors are more vibrant, and everything is amplified right now because death is also so present. I’m hugging my parents a little tighter, a little longer, aware that our time together is limited.

Rashani Réa speaks to this in her poem, “The Unbroken:”

There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
a shatteredness
out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.

There is a hollow space
too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of whose darkness
we are sanctioned into being.

There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole,
while learning to sing.

I didn’t think it was possible, but sorrow is amplifying joy because the dial has been turned up in my life. I’m just as likely to burst into tears as I am to burst out laughing. I feel a little unhinged, a little uncontained because I am. Something has been broken open and at the moment I am painfully, exquisitely alive.

I dream of a world where we hold our grief and our joy with tenderness. A world where we recognize sometimes sorrow leads to joy because we’re aware of how fleeting everything is. A world where we absorb the preciousness of where we are right here, right now because we recognize this, too, shall pass.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Death is strange. You already know that but I’m stating it again: Death is strange. There are people who seem like they’re on their deathbeds, who you’re sure only have a few months to live who wind up sticking around for another five years. And then there are people who are young, who you think have another 40 years left, that die suddenly. Death is always a shock but it’s the sudden ones I have the most trouble processing. It reminds me of that passage from Macbeth:

Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more.

It is so very painful to take in that you won’t hear a person anymore. You won’t see their posts on Instagram. They won’t encourage you to donate to their charity run. They’re just … gone. At least in their current form. My spiritual teacher says, “This expressed universe is nothing but a collection of temporary entities which are undergoing constant metamorphosis according to the sweet will of nature.”

friendship

We all matter. Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

We’re all undergoing metamorphosis, energy isn’t created or destroyed, so the person is still there but also not there and I’m sad about it. In my life, I’m mourning the sudden death of Matt Peter. I didn’t know him well, we didn’t chat on the phone, but what I did know is he was a good man. He genuinely tried to make the city of Albany, New York, a better place. He was a local politician who cared tremendously about his constituents and days before his death he participated in a charity run. That man showed up and he tried.

He approached politics with zeal like it was his mission in life, which tracks with what we say in my spiritual tradition. One of our tenets is that a person will merge in Cosmic Consciousness only after completing the duty assigned to them by Cosmic Consciousness. The trouble is, there’s no sand timer in the sky letting us know when the sand has run out. The person is there and then they’re not.

Some people worry about their legacy. They wonder how they’ll be remembered once they’re gone, if they made a difference, if anyone will think of them. I take comfort in that Carl Jung quote that says, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” If there was any reaction, you made a difference. You’ll be remembered. You mattered.

I’m not going to tell you to seize the day, to live life to the fullest, or any of the other platitudes we hear so frequently after someone dies. Instead, I’m reminded of that game where you stand in a circle and hold a piece of yarn while also throwing it to someone else in the circle. In the end, you wind up with a giant web that connects every person to everyone else. That’s what I think life is like. So of course when someone dies, the metaphorical yarn is tugged and we all feel it, some more deeply than others.

Yet every person in my life who has died, I miss. Every person counts no matter how tangential our relationship. And that is something worth remembering.

I dream of a world where we allow ourselves to grieve no matter when or how grief shows up. A world where we remember we each have a duty and when we’ve fulfilled that mission, we return to the Source of creation. A world where we realize we’re all connected and any death leaves an impact. A world where we understand that every person counts.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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