Although my role is formally to help others achieve their health goals, I am consistently in awe of how clients teach me the deep lessons in life. Recently, I have been working with a woman who has a chronic degenerative eye disease. Gradually, she is losing her central vision and may one day no longer be able to see. In one of our visits, she explained to me how travelling has changed for her. She said “You know, on previous trips, I could see the big picture — the monuments, the horizon, the birds flying in the sky. Now I can only see what is right in front of me.” From her perspective, this narrowing of vision is a terrible sign of the progression of the disease process. Her words, though, struck me. To see only what is exactly in front of me. That has been the goal of my hours of meditation! How I wriggle from its grasp, how I want to be caught in endless thoughts about my future and ruminations from the past. How many ways have I invented to avoid the present. This woman, who bravely yet reluctantly deals with vision loss, is the embodiment of presence. Sometimes healing is that bitter pill, the last thing we ever want to experience. I am blessed to witness so many of these hard-fought epiphanies. So, thank you to all the wise and brilliant people who have crossed the threshold of my office, to show me what healing truly is.
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received was from a mountain bike instructor. Just before I embarked on my first ride through the woods in east Toronto, he told me ‘Always look to where you want to be going. If you look towards the tree stump you want to avoid, you almost always hit the stump.’ As a confident novice, I ignored his words at first. Again and again, though, I narrowly missed the rocks, the tree roots, the puddles, and the stumps. I believed that the diffuclt path full of obstacles offered the greatest adrenaline rush. I suddenly recalled the instructor’s words, though, and soon was giddily traversing the uneven path. It was on the path of least resistance that I experienced ‘flow’, a oneness with nature. Only later, did I realize the full impact of the instructor’s words. How important is it to focus on your dream and not all the blocks along the way. Even though it is helpful to make note of the pitfalls, most of my attention needs to be on what elevates and inspires me. Not to take the most difficult path, but the one with the easiest route. Not struggling against the tide, but being in the flow. Yes.
Today is a powerful day in planetary motion as a total solar eclipse has been arching over the skies of the South Pacific. Whenever such events occur, they can create waves of momentum in our everyday lives. Depending on how we manage the wave, it can propel us or drown us. Either way, we are released from the inertia of our lives. I have experienced the chaos of bobbing on the giant waves of change and know how terrifying it can be. I have also had the pleasure of basking in the clarity after the torment. How I spent so many years trying to control every aspect of my life to protect against the storms, the waves, the earthquakes. Still, they all broached my carefully-planned defenses and delivered me unwanted misery. By turning myself directly towards the pain and fear, however, I found my way to peace. I gained precious freedom by sitting in the darkness with the menacing sounds of night all around me. My stillness brought the light and revealed the truth of love. Even today, while watching a play at the Fringe Festival, I was overcome with the realization that nothing really matters except love. With love, everything is possible. Love for yourself, love for the universe, love for your family, love for your friends, love for the earth, love for your colleagues, love for those who have hurt you. So I wish all of you love as the energy of the eclipse rolls through your lives. Hang on and embrace the exhilaration.
Recently, I read a poem by Derek Walcott that so eloquently describes this return of love:
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
How many times did I catch myself in the heat wave this week, literally running around the city trying to accomplish so many things at once. Yes, I so easily embrace the hectic ‘yang’ lifestyle that’s endemic to Toronto. Only in this crushing heat do I have the opportunity to reflect on the ‘busyness’ of my life. Only then do I actually surrender to the languid rhythm of city heat. The energy of allowing is powerful indeed. Even though for most of my life I have been convinced of the efficiency of multi-tasking, I now endorse the widsom of focus, of surrender, of allowing the moment to unfold exactly as it should. I feel the time moving more slowly and deeply inside me. It is delicious indeed.
While walking in the woods this past weekend, my heart was overcome by a sensation of trepidation. Pounding hard against my chest, my heart lifted my energy up through the top of my head. I could no longer feel my feet on the earth. Oh no, I despaired, the panic has returned. Desperately craving escape, I ran towards the road, making my own trail between the trees. Just as I reached the road, I came upon a tall mullein plant. Mullein possesses a sturdy type of beauty with its upright backbone of yellow flowers. I stood before the mullein, as I dropped my book knowledge of the plant (it is a tonic for the lungs). I connected my heart energy with the spirit of the mullein. What message had the mullein to tell? After several minutes, I became transfixed by a calmness deep within me. The mullein in its straight-backed posture guided me to stand solid in my own truth. In that place, my centre is found. The fear eased away gently and resolutely. I then realized that it was not actually the mullein plant spirit but rather the spirit in the form of the mullein plant which had healed me.