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Say Yes to Yourself, Then Others

“Living is not breathing. Breathing is only the possession of a possibility. Or of all possibilities.” Antonio Gala, La soledad sonora

You can find me on a solitary journey somewhere between the great metropolitan city and the coast, a long and winding highway that passes through perfectly distributed olive trees that dot the swooping orange and pale brown Jaén mountains; passing through the tunnel of honey, and discovering the oh so sweet Sierra Nevada valleys. I’m arriving briefly at some obscure town I’ll call heat and humidity and I know just then that I am winding down. Winding down this road and this scenery, this winding road inside me, and all I can think of is that, perhaps, it’s time to say, yes. Yes, to myself and then to others. What does this mean?

There is a time and place for meditation, traveling and solitude. And there is a time and place for relationship and establishing community. Learning when to say yes to yourself and when to say yes to others, learning when it’s time to come inside and connect, is not always easy. When we hide in meditation, when we rest in solitude for too long, or stay in our sameness– we are attached to the illusion that enlightenment can be found in one state or another and this is not the case. My sense is enlightenment is fluidity and accepting the ephemeral nature of all things. I am on that trip now, it’s enormous, this understanding. I want to cower in the darkness but light is already bursting out of me. This is the gift. Will I run away?

Say yes to the truth that we are born alone and we die alone, but don’t grow old and die before it’s time. Stay aboard your wandering ship; pursue that capricious gift even it means you must work in communion with others. I am comfortable in my aloneness or not, the world seems to pull me this way and that, and enlightenment is allowing the pull, accepting the struggle and opening myself to readiness, one way or another.

Say yes to the sea and unrest; to know when to hunker down in a storm. Say yes to seeing and touching that sacred moon; to recognizing an opportunity, that wayward passage forward. Say yes to yourself first, then embrace what you least expect. Say yes to yourself but answer the calling. Come down from your mountain and speak. Come out of your cave and greet the humility of people, for why are you here? Dance if there is music playing. Make love when you can. Open your hands wide, reap the reward of your journey.

Sit up with dignity, but then dare to bare your chest. Allow yourself to be small after such greatness, allow yourself to get wet. Let the struggle of uncertainty and breathlessness reside inside you, let the smell of strangeness enter your comfort; wander quietly into their hearts and homes and see how light is shared. Say yes, yes! Say yes to yourself first and then to others.

Throw down your anchor and yank at their chains. Allow yourself to be held in stillness, to observe the change. There is a beginning and an end to each display, so watch your ship approach the shore, watch how it collides and breaks apart as it nears the rocks. Stay the course without delay; don’t let time stand in your way. You are the captain of your ship and the waters are taking you somewhere. Let it take you.

Say yes to yourself and then to others. That is the way.

Posture or Posturing?

This morning I walked to a quiet and lovely section of Madrid. There I contemplated big topics like purpose and identity while trying to address the practical concern of where I’d like to live. When you’re navigating a huge life change such as the loss of a spouse, critical illness, retirement or children leaving—your whole world deviates and both profound and practical questions arise: What is my purpose being alive? Who am I? What should I do with my time? Do I want to live in this house or move to an apartment?

While ruminating and checking out a few buildings, I found myself noticing the architecture, the confident posture of the people and the elegance. It was a tranquil, tree-lined neighborhood and the streets were so much cleaner than where I’m currently living. The attention to aesthetics comforted me and I felt curious. As time passed, I began to wonder about the value of location and how one postures oneself differently in different settings. Who am I sauntering down this swank block? The Isley Brother’s song came to mind: Who’s That Lady? Then, I thought about all the choices I’ve had to make while navigating sudden change and how does one really know the right place for someone like me, or the me I’m becoming?

Of course, none of these questions were answered as I meandered home hungry.

Later in the afternoon, I meditated. I lit a stick of incense and sat in the brightest area of my apartment. About ten minutes in, my left foot fell asleep. The tingling, numbing sensation distracted me. I wiggled my toes to get the circulation going but it didn’t help. Then, because my thoughts kept going back to the foot, I considered adjusting my posture. I sat up straighter and paid attention to my position on the pillow. I thought it might improve the flow of blood to my foot so I can stop being distracted from my nirvana. I saw the inside of my body, observed each bone and muscle where the blood and oxygen needed to flow. I told myself that if any conduit were blocked, I’d continue to feel this pain in my foot. My back got super straight and I kept breathing.

Within seconds, I smelled the incense again. I felt a tiny nodule open up, a release in my foot. Ooh, that sweet, blood flow. My foot was breathing again. I heard the lyrics Who’s That Lady? come into my head and I let them go but a smile lingered on my lips.

When the meditation was done, I thought about each step of my day and the finality of awareness. Posture matters. And when you think you’re posturing, that’s okay too because you’re testing things out and trying on things for size.

Also, there are tiny signs put in place all over to get you to pay attention to your posture, as needed. I wasn’t aware I was slouching until the pain in my foot pushed me to adjust. All that stuff I had read about in books about energy and blockages and the body is true. It’s like there are all these little fairies around you, poking you, saying, hey, keep your back straight, get into alignment, find your dignity, purpose, identity. Hmm.

La Petite Mort

When I was giving birth to my son, I remember feeling that in my pain I understood famine, war and death. It was as if my mind-spirit left me and traveled to all of history. I experienced human suffering. I shared this feeling afterwards but in the telling it was impossible to communicate what I had experienced. How does one explain the feeling of famine and war while giving birth to a baby?

Pain is boundless agony and insight associated with Great Death and Birth. When I refer to Great Death, I refer to the type of death that reverberates, a passing that stops time and changes history. All death and birth is transformational. It is the dissolution and creation of new life. In the moment of labor and birthing we cannot know the greatness that may lie within and therefore, we simply labor and bear fruit and this process is our connection to the infinite.

Our response to a Great Death and Birth blossoms into a new approach to living. This is the gateway to consciousness. All human beings experience a Great Death and Birth while living and often, more than once.

When I was in the hospital, I was tense and exhausted. I was forced to surrender to a painful experience. I had not understood until that moment how much pain and suffering love would bring me. Yet, like my ancestors before me, I was to become part of the great wave of evolution.

The Great Death of my husband was similarly haunting except more complicated and fragile. The struggle to grasp the meaning of love with loss is overwhelming. There is ravage on the body and soul, time extends beyond limits, and what evolves out of grief is harder to see.

When a hero speaks of a Great Death, a death to be remembered, they speak of a death that transforms life.

When an artist speaks of immortality, he creates to alter reality.

When a lover speaks of La Petit Mort, he refers to falling into an altered state of consciousness.

I have experienced Great Death and Birth and feel like a moving river now. Or, perhaps the river is moving me. My ears are still under water and the sound is muffled but the sun is shining over me. My thoughts are paralyzed, it’s the constant bobbing. My arms and legs are adrift.

This is Bardō.