Do you sometimes feel you are living your life like a hamster on a wheel? You wake up, go to work, wonder where the week went? Do you feel as if your wild self has been domesticated, harnessed by duties, demands, dos and don’ts? That the moments of happiness are fleeting clouds that scud across the surface of your life?
It takes a strong wind of change to topple us from the high wire of our sleepwalking lives. A fragment of conversation that comes to us, like the fragrance of sweet jasmine. A book, a song, an interview on YouTube which invites us back to a deeper place where we embrace our Wholeheartedness. Something quite unexpected that reminds us that Life is mysterious. “And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” – Hamlet.
I have just read Dying to be Me, Anita Moorjani’s story of the “terminal lymphoma” which ravaged her body for four painful years. Anita was rushed to hospital, her vital organs suddenly silent. Like Snow White, in her glass coffin, Anita lay in a coma. Her doctor told her grief-stricken family that she had only a few hours to live. Anita describes the near death experience (NDE) that brought an instant release of the fear that was stifling her life force. In her profoundly moving account of what she learnt after returning to her body, she delivers a simple message to the world. It is a message we have heard, but not heeded, for centuries. It is the one thing we all find so difficult to really do: To Love OURSELVES unconditionally. To step out of our own way, and let things flow.
Yet, who is the Self we must love? And how do we nurture and love this Self if we have tasted only neglect, or blame, even cruelty, in our families of origin? How do we love ourselves with gentleness and compassion, if we don’t know how? If our core belief is that we are unworthy, that life is hard or dangerous? How do we soften, how do we love fearlessly if our instincts are blunted, our hearts shielded protectively?
We live in a Petri dish of fear in the West. We fear the sun, we fear growing fat. We fear losing our loved ones, we fear losing our source of income. We fear old age, we fear death. We fear love. We fight AIDS, we support “Cancer Prevention” campaigns, we take out insurance, invest our money in hospital plans, bolster our sense of safety with imaginary security – money in the bank, stocks and shares – our beliefs are fuelled by lack and aspiration. Like automatons we march with the tribe mind to the drum beat of fear and competition. We juice, read self-help books, exercise, go for regular medical check-ups, but if we cannot truly love and honour ourselves, we sit passively on the Ferris wheel of life, vaguely aware that the interludes of happiness are ephemeral. Round and round we go, living in the past, living in the future, never in the Now.
Anita Moorjani says she believes that her cancer manifested in her body because of her enormous fear of living. Now she wakes in the morning and asks herself, why am I choosing to be alive today? And she lives from that perspective, in self-love.
So we may experience ourselves in illness or in lack. We may lose our way in the labyrinth of our seriousness. Our minds may be filled with discord, dissonance. We may entangle ourselves in the straining and resisting we call stress. Meister Eckhardt said that “when the soul wishes to experience something she throws an image of the experience out before her and enters into her own image”. Beneath our Promethean thrust to discover, analyse, grasp, we blind ourselves with the glare of our stolen fire to the brilliance of the Light with ourselves. Like Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers, has been there all the time. So, all we can do is to be very gentle with ourselves, find the humour in our grumpiness, our acting out, our blaming others – ourselves. Until we decide not to. We can waken to a new day. Remember that we are all part of a magnificent mandala of creation. Look deeply today.
Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.
Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.
I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.
Extract from “Call Me By My True Names – Thich Nhat Hanh.
Artwork by Emelisa Mudle