“Faith is, above all, open-ness—an act of trust in the unknown.” ~Alan Watts
Just the other day, Masami and I were out for a walk to a lovely open space park by our house, and during a moment of pause in our conversation, a sudden realization struck me.
There was a complete absence of negative or critical self-talk in my mind.
And more than that, I couldn’t remember the last time that the negative chatter had been there as the all-too-familiar wallpaper of my daily experience. It took a little while to feel the full impact of this realization.
While it was a real halleluiah moment to become so consciously aware of that deep silence, at the same time, it was completely natural and in no need of fanfare or special attention. But for the first time in my adult life, I could confidently say that I have at last come “home” to my life and my body—and not just for a weekend visit!
How did this happen?
The feeling of that realization has stayed with me, and its reality has remained steady. It has invited me to look at all of the ways this incredible culmination of changes in my physical body, psyche, and spirit has come about.
I remember back to just how bad of shape I was in, in every respect, even just a few short years ago, after leaping out of what had been a successful educational career into an alien world of building our house and starting a new business. There was the creeping weight gain, the constant physical pain from old injuries, the feelings of inadequacy and depression, the loss of old friendships, the vacillation from hope to hopelessness, the constant lack of energy, the foggy brain, the lack of clear direction.
But even in the midst of what seemed a very dark walk through a night forest, I never gave up my search—for a way out of my misery, a way through the despair into a different way of living and being. I asked again and again what life held for me and what was here for me to do.
There was never a single answer.
Though the way forward was simple enough—just one step after another—it was often excruciating, always demanding that I let go of old identities, fixtures, patterns, and ideas. It became a path of learning, of opening to what is right here before me at all times, of trusting that the vast sea of “not knowing” always contains wisdom, ways, and means that are not yet mine to recognize or understand.
For all of my questions, the best and most empowering thing I learned was to hold them lightly and allow myself to say “I don’t know”.
I sought answers in spiritual teachings and made deep connections within myself and with others engaged in that profound inward journey. I sought answers in my personal relationships and in deepening my commitment and responsiveness to my marriage. I sought answers through new learning and training in physiology and the healthy functioning of the human organism. And I sought answers in my own body, learning how to move again, how to rest again, how to heal again, how to grow again, and how to see the connection between my inside and outside worlds.
In all of these phases of development, my body was my constant companion and greatest teacher.
It was the common denominator, the through line. It was my body that taught me the true meaning of “faith”, because through everything it never failed me, never gave up, and never wavered from its dedication to restoring balance. It has always been a true friend and ally.
I have learned to trust in my body as the experiential basis for my consciousness and my every expression of being. Without it, how could I have these words I’m writing now, or my deep feelings of gratitude for the opportunities I’ve been given, to be forged, honed, and polished in the fires and hammer blows of this incomprehensible smithy we call “living”.
The body does its greatest work in steadfast silence, with complete sincerity, and without demand for reward. It draws nutrients up from the earth, yields life, gives rise to mind, and opens the doors to heavens beyond imagining. And our minds, like children toward their doting parents, tend to forget that without the love of our bodies, they would have no home, no place at all to drink life in, complaints and all.
The great 13th Century observer of human experience, Jelaluddin Rumi, wrote this about our evolutionary movement:
“We began as a mineral. We emerged into plant life and into the animal state, and then into being human, and always we have forgotten our former states, except in early spring when we slightly recall being green again… Humankind is being led along an evolving course, through this migration of intelligences, and though we seem to be sleeping, there is an Inner Wakefulness that directs the dream, and that will eventually startle us back to the truth of who we are.”
Along with the blank slate of the New Year, I am so grateful for receiving a nudge from this Inner Wakefulness to remember that everything—even our most persistent patterns, pains, and attitudes—has room to shift, change, and grow beyond what it first seemed to be. And I remember again my greenness, and the many steps of my journey that have brought me to where I stand today.
My prayer for 2017: May the silent, hidden work of my body become louder and more uncomfortable the more I work against it, that I may quickly recognize and correct my errors, rather than blindly lose my faith in it.
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