Each day feels different, carries different thoughts, bears witness to unique events. Whatever your new day carries, don’t forget that being in awe of the mystery unfolding before you is a natural response in any state of being. It is that wonder that heals wounds, and guides you faithfully to the eternal light of the present and all the joy concealed therein.
I often find myself torn between attempts at surrendering to the present moment, and discerning my role in changing it. This simple piece of wisdom from Sri Swami Satchidananda offers a higher vantage point from which life’s circumstances can be peacefully navigated:
“If we know that we are instruments, and nothing is in our hands, then accepting and changing are not in our hands either. It’s very simple. If you are prompted to accept, then accept it. If you are prompted to change, then change it. Even that will be prompted. Something will tell you, “Come on; go ahead and try to change it.” Then your answer should be, “Okay, God, if that’s what You want, let me do it with Your backing. You are prompting me, so I am doing it.” It’s super surrender, and life is really beautiful that way.
All you have to do is follow God’s lead. The brush never tells you, ‘Oh, touch here, touch there, use a broader stroke.’ It lets the painter use it. So, you simply be the brush, and let God paint whatever He wants. God is seeing the whole picture, and it will be a masterpiece.” Sri Swami Satchidananda
I remember the dean of my high school most clearly for the two times I sat crying in his office, refusing to hand over the flip-phone I had long since usurped from my mother. On both occasions a member of school staff had caught me in the bathroom hastily attempting to contact my older brother during what could only have been a five-minute break lest the teacher become suspicious.
My sophomore year of high school marked my older brother’s freshman year of college. While he was still in Illinois, the gap between Highland Park and Urbana-Champaign felt as vast as the distance between the windows of my trigonometry classroom and the intangible clouds above that earned the majority of my attention that year.
For the first time I experienced the pain that came with loving someone who wasn’t physically present in my life. Even though my brother and I saw each other many times that first year of separation, I never quite shook the feeling that it was imperative to live near those I loved. The fact that over ten years have gone by and I still live 45 minutes from my parents is a testament to that notion.
Over the years friends too have come and gone from the proximity that birthed our relationships, and to my surprise the world has continued to spin around its axis. But I am now painfully reminded of the lessons I wasn’t quite able to grasp as a teenager who longed for her brother to come home, because I now have friends who live more than just a car ride away.
A couple posts ago I marveled at the overwhelming lesson I had learned from my travels in Israel: no matter where in the world, one can always be loved. When such bonds of friendship are struck, more than just gratitude can arise. Any meaningful and joyful experience can also be a gateway for attachment. I so missed my brother when he went to college, I long for my friends who have moved out of state, and I can’t fathom the distance between my newfound friends in Israel and my home in Chicago.
When attachment turns joy into sorrow a lesson is being offered in return; the joy and connection that you are pining for came from within yourself. Right now I am missing my friends overseas. But our relationships with other human beings are not outside of ourselves, as they seem from our physical experiences. They originate within, and are born of the love each of us carry as our very being. Our friends do not merely reside in our hearts when we are apart, they are an expression of our hearts, and are returning home to the space from which they came.
Next time you feel attachment gnawing away at your mind, remember that the love for which you pine has never left you, and will continue to reflect itself back to you in infinite, unimaginable ways.
In the center of fear, unhappiness, uncertainty, or grief there is a witness. There is a silent space, so imperceptible that no molecule of pain can penetrate it.
In this space, the witness is you. You’re in a soft comfortable chair, smiling, as you read a book entitled, “The Story of My Life.” Even though you haven’t finished it yet, you aren’t worried. You know that in the end, you turn out just fine. After all, you are sitting there with the finished copy in your hands, knowing you end up completely whole.
In the thick of turmoil the mind may think it is unnatural to be at peace or to feel gratitude. But there is nothing more natural, nothing more true, because that peace is you, and you are the truth: you, the silent smiling witness to the adventure of a life in the midst of being lived.
When I introduced myself to the man sitting next to me, who would become my brother on a tour bus that would become our home for ten days in Israel, I mentioned that I wrote for Let Yourself Learn. He asked me how the blog started and I was brought back to over a year ago when I experienced the traumatic series of events that became the basis for the first trilogy of posts on this site entitled, “The Bed Bug Incident: Parts 1, 2, and 3.”
Not only did those little bugs teach me about inner surrender, acceptance, and becoming comfortable with the unknown, but they also prompted the attempt to manifest my inner lessons into words to be shared with others, that we might mutually benefit from the experience.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to embark on an adventure in Israel, despite the turmoil in the Middle East, and decided to trust the voice of silence within myself that prompted me to pack my suitcase and head to the airport.
After the first few nights on the trip a couple of the participants suffered from several uncomfortable bug bites. A visit to the doctor and the verdict was in: pishpeshim. What were the pishpeshim you ask? None other than bed bugs themselves.
Over a year later, half way around the globe, my pesky spiritual teachers returned with a new lesson. In the first series of posts for Let Yourself Learn I had been shown the areas within myself that needed healing. I was relying on non-existent outer security and comfort. I was holding onto pain long after I had experienced it. I allowed the life of my mind to thrive at the expense of my own enjoyment.
Now, in a land of both great pain and unimaginable joy, holy to generation upon generation of human beings, I was being shown the ways in which I had been healed. The pishpeshim became one of the more hilarious foibles of the group, and the ridiculous amount of education I had acquired about bed bugs from my own experience became beneficial and happily utilized by those who were affected.
The experience of time is but a question: what is good and bad? The present is the punch line.
The pishpeshim incident was just a small moment in what turned out to be one of the most monumental experiences I have yet to witness in my short life. No story, no combination of words, can express the gratitude of my soul more than the tears of joy that still come to my eyes when I take a moment to notice the overwhelming love from the people I connected with that continues to linger in my heart.
So what was the main lesson that I was being taught by my experience in Israel? I learned that it is impossible to understand the real situation and life experience of a person, a nation, and a society, by mere words uttered in a news program. I learned that the brilliance of our tour guide, Iftah, wasn’t born just of his knowledge and expertise, but of his unwavering request that we remain present. I learned that there is courage, bravery, and the strength to persevere in depths of the human heart that I have yet to penetrate.
But the lesson that brings tears of gratitude and peace to my being, is that no matter where I go in the world, I can always be loved. Whether we are far from home, or in an unhappy home, the love that is the makeup of our being can be reflected back to us through the eyes of another.
In the post right before I left, I mentioned that inner security is the only true security. But that isn’t entirely true. Outer security can be experienced in the form of love. Our love for one another is our greatest security and our purest freedom. To all those I encountered on this journey, thank you for your love. Know that I love you more than there are stars in the clear desert sky. And even if you weren’t physically on this journey with me, whenever one is loved, one is loved by all, and I thank you.
While on the outside this might not look like the “right” time to travel to the Middle East, the opportunity is before me and I’ve accepted. Most of life’s big leaps never have a “right” time, and waiting can turn into the ultimate comfort zone. So instead of looking around outside of you to discern the precise moment to take action, take a look within.
In the eternal present of your inner life everything has already unfolded in a manner befitting the perfect organization of the universe that enabled your life to manifest. If your mind is like mine, decision-making can be an agonizing process. But beyond the mind, when you inhabit the space of the witness of your being, there are no decisions to be made. There is only the pure potential for perfect action.
The ultimate security, in a world of unstable forms, is inner security. Get to know the silence within. Sit back and get really comfortable in the resting place of your being. From that vantage point the roller coaster of life has a visible track, you are strapped in tight, and each drop and turn is met with enjoyment.
Enjoy your next ten days, please keep me updated on what lessons life is giving you in the comments, and I’ll talk to you soon with quite a tale to tell.
When space is created in your life it can seem as if something has been lost and you are left less than you were before. But contrary to the mind’s idea of space, that opening is the foundation of abundance.
When it comes down to it, an abundance of space is really just the platform on which abundance manifests. I say this as I move into what looks like a wide-open field of possibilities in my own life. My incredible teaching experience that was grant-funded these past four years has reached its end date, and I am humbled with gratitude. Whenever I feel an inner longing towards what was, I know I experienced something to be thankful for, and any bitter-sweetness changes to pure sweetness.
Over a year ago I began planning a vacation to Florida. While I didn’t know at the time what my life was going to look like a year later, the trip is arriving right on schedule. One week ago I had my last day of work, and in one day I leave for a ten-day excursion. The universal schedule is too vast to contain in a mind, but it is prompt and efficient nonetheless! Trusting in time is the same as trusting in the present moment, it is allowing life to exist as it is and consequently aligning your own experience with its perfect unfolding.