What if religion was each other?
If our practice was our life?
If prayer was our words?
What if the temple was the Earth?
If forests were our church?
If holy water -- the rivers, lakes, and oceans?
What if meditation was our relationships?
If the Teacher was life?
If wisdom was self-knowledge?
If love was the center of our being?
~ Ganga White - Founder of the White Lotus Foundation.
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. - Rumi
My thoughts are on my mother and grandmother at the moment... the loss of them and the process of recovering from that loss... or rather, the current moment and it's appearance due to that loss.
"The psyche knows how to heal, but it hurts. Sometimes the healing hurts more than the initial injury, but if you can survive it, you'll be stronger, because you've found a larger base. Every commitment is a narrowing and when that commitment fails, you have to get back to a larger base and have the strength to hold to it."
I read that yesterday and it made me think of all that has happened since losing the two women who played the largest roles in my life. It made me wonder about this "larger base". What does "larger base" mean? Can it be a place? Does tragedy result in strength? Is it possible that all is going to be okay?
I sat with those thoughts a bit.... contemplating whether Cusco was supposed to be a part of that "larger base" or not. Contemplating whether or not I am doing the right thing... settling here, breathing normally again, pausing my adventures around the world.
Joseph Campbell once wrote:
"Nietzsche was the one who did the job for me. At a certain moment in his life, the idea came to him of what he called "the love of your fate." Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, "this is what I need." It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment - not discouragement - you will find the strength is there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow.
Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You'll see that this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes."
This day, four years ago, was the day my mother was in a car accident that eventually took her life and soul out of this world. She took her final breath, on her own, in literally about 10 more minutes, 3:31 pm, four years ago. It feels so crazy to write that. And it feels even crazier that I am able to breathe right now. For so many years this day has come around and I have found myself unable to breathe, unable to sit still, unable to look at anything beautiful without crying, unable to feel loved.
But, this year is different. I am still sad. I still have this tension in my chest, like tears welling up that need to seep from my eyes eventually, but it's not so painful. What I find the most amazing is the journey to this point. The tears shed, the adventures, the letting go, emotionally, physically, etc. The base finally forming like strong steady stone beneath my feet instead of like an ocean of tears.
The yogi principle of non-attachment has been my mantra for as long as I can remember. This concept that everything is temporary. Nothing lasts. Death is inevitable. However, of course, when something or someone is snatched from you, as a human, it is a natural reaction to grasp at it a little tighter and to crave its presence. It's that craving though that causes the suffering. It's the suffering that causes the numbness that sometimes cynically follows. And yet, somehow, there's supposedly a balance that can evolve from the tragedies. One can find gratitude in all the temporary.
I think I've finally reached that point where I am able to feel gratitude for the tragedies, and love for the experiences, for the results.
Because my mother lost her life like she did, when she did... because my 8 year relationship ended suddenly and without warning a couple months later, because I lost all the family I felt I really had since most had been non-participatory in my life... because of the depression and sadness... I was able to leave the country and end up here.
I am now here. Present. Awake. Open-Hearted.
And to be honest, there's nowhere else I'd rather be. I feel very lucky. I feel very blessed. I feel very strong. I feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair and I simply desire nothing more than another June 25th. Another memory. Another breath. Another day.
The dark night of the soul
comes just before revelation.
When everything is lost,
and all seems darkness,
then comes the new life
and all that is needed.
A spirit that lives in this world
and does not wear the shirt of love,
such an existence is a deep disgrace.
Be foolishly in love,
because love is all there is.
There is no way into presence
except through a love exchange.
If someone asks, But what is love?
answer, Dissolving the will.
True freedom comes to those
who have escaped the questions
of freewill and fate.
Love is an emperor.
The two worlds play across him.
He barely notices their tumbling game.
Love and lover live in eternity.
Other desires are substitutes
for that way of being.
How long do you lay embracing a corpse?
Love rather the soul, which cannot be held.
Anything born in spring dies in the fall,
but love is not seasonal.
With wine pressed from grapes,
expect a hangover.
But this love path has no expectations.
You are uneasy riding the body?
Dismount. Travel lighter.
Wings will be given.
Be clear like a mirror
Be clean of pictures and the worry
that comes with images.
Gaze into what is not ashamed
or afraid of any truth.
Contain all human faces in your own
without any judgement of them.
Be pure emptiness.
What is inside that? you ask.
Silence is all I can say.
Lovers have some secrets
that they keep.
“Isn’t it time
to turn your heart
into a temple of fire?”
There is an aloneness that is not loneliness, and not despair, and western medicine hasn’t got a clue. It is something like a profound closeness with your own being, an intimacy with the quiet passing of things, friendship with the broken and the transient within and without. While you quietly grieve over yesterday’s dreams of tomorrows that never came, you hold today so close in your arms. You are the mother of today.
There is a fragility that is not weakness. An exquisite sensitivity to the sad majesty of this ordinary world, a vulnerable openness that has nothing to do with how much money you have made, how you have succeeded or failed in your quest for perfection, or how beautiful or immune to infection your body is, but something to do with the tenderness with which you are willing to touch the broken parts of the world, the depths of aloneness to which you are willing to plunge.
There is an exquisite melancholy that is not depression, contains no pathology, for it contains no self at all. It is as if the heart is broken open and cannot be closed again, ever. Like everything is made of the finest crystal and could shatter at any moment. The sun could burn up without warning, the breath could seize up, a loved one could pass away quietly in your arms. That tiny bird on the tree over there is made of finely woven thread. The neglected pool of water by the supermarket door has infinite depths but no surface, no surface. The moon takes on the quality of a reflection of a reflection in a dream, and everything is so close. You can touch the horizon, whisper to galaxies.
This melancholy, sometimes it arrives unexpectedly in the middle of the night, when you cannot sleep and the moonlight is casting tender shadows on your forearm, or it comes sometimes as you walk through the forest with your dog (you love how he waddles now that he’s getting old, your little companion) and you remember what it is like to be free, or at least alive; or it comes unexpectedly at the dinner table with friends, with delight at … the salt, yes, delight that the salt could exist at all, that there is a world with salt and food and friends, and the possibility of meeting.
Do not medicate away this melancholy. Go deeper into it. It contains information, important information, and longs to release its healing energies. No, they won’t understand you, they will call you depressed, self-indulgent, mad, but you will smile, for you are like the daffodil, and you never wanted to be understood. Your being is too vast to be understood. You will take this imperfect life over no life at all, you will take this broken world blasted through with gratitude over a perfect world half-touched or half-remembered, and the judgements of others will be a small price to pay for never being able to turn away.
Running naked through the streets, throwing off the last of your clothes, you will laugh as they come to lock you up. You are free! You are free! And this beautiful melancholy will keep you from ever closing your heart!
- Jeff Foster
"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with it's yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could." ~ Louise Erdrich
Friend, from the very beginning, you were not broken. You were not born into sin. You were not destined for the spiritual garbage heap. There was never anything fundamentally missing from your life.
You just thought that there was. Others tried to convince you that you were not good enough, because they too felt not good enough. In your innocence, and with no evidence to the contrary, you believed them. So you spent all those years trying to fix, purify and perfect yourself. You sought power, wealth, fame and even enlightenment to prove your worth as a ‘me’. You compared yourself to other versions of ‘me’, and always felt inferior or superior, and it all became so exhausting, trying to reach those unreachable goals, trying to live up to some image that you didn’t even fully believe in anyway, and you longed for the deep rest of yourself.
But you were always perfect, you see, from the very beginning. Perfect in your total imperfection. Your imperfections, your quirks, your flaws, your weirdnesses, your unique and irreplaceable flavours, were what made you so loveable, so human, so real, so relatable. Even in your imperfection, you were always a perfect expression of life, a beloved child of the universe, a complete work of art, unique in all the world and deserving of all the riches of life.
It was never about being a perfect ‘me’. It was always about being perfectly Here, perfectly yourself, in all your divine strangeness. “Forget your perfect offering”, Leonard Cohen sings. “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
You’ve got it all wrong. You didn’t come here to master unconditional love. That is where you came from and that is where you’ll return. You came here to learn personal love. Universal love. Messy love. Sweaty love. Crazy love. Broken love. Whole love. Infused with divinity. Lived through the grace of stumbling. Demonstrated through the beauty of messing up. Often. You didn’t come here to be perfect. You already are. You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous. And then to rise again into remembering. But unconditional love? Stop telling that story. Love, in truth, doesn’t need ANY other adjectives. It doesn’t require modifiers. It doesn’t require the condition of perfection. It only asks that you show up. And do your best. That you stay present and feel fully. That you shine and fly and laugh and cry and hurt and heal and fall and get back up and play and work and live and die as YOU. It’s enough. It’s plenty.”
(Courtney A. Walsh)
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
― Mary Oliver
Love is the essence of our life. I have written this blog with love, and I offer it to you, dear reader, with the hope that the suggestions offered here will become a vital part of your self-healing and continued well-being. ~ Ashley