It’s Time

Breathe in this forced pause. Breathe out the smell of death, grief and sunken family. Look around and see it’s so much less but more. Feel the hot turmoil under your skin.

Think, my brother died and say aloud, “Again.”

Such great tenderness unveiled in moments. A rush of love begins.

“You’re hurting me,” I say.

“I’m loving you.”

“But, is that the same thing?”

Everything happens in an instant. It is a black flower that blooms and roots in our heart. Some of us hold our breath while we wait. Someone chants in the corner. What are we waiting for? For tomorrow…a new dream… an awakening.

“I don’t want to be here,” I say.

“And yet, here you are.”

“What shall I do with this tragedy?”

“Love. Love hard and love living.”

I watch my family in motion. There’s a huddle and we’re a team. Someone is folding sheets. Another is shifting furniture and making space for Death to arrive and it’s strange really because we know that this guest will not stay long. They will leave us with another hole.

Things mesh and blend, emotions and exhaustion flutter. We find laughter beyond our control. All we can think is—It is time.

“Time for what exactly?”

“Time to come together.”

“Or fall apart,” I say.

My birthday card reads: “It’s time for joy.” I’m reading this while letting go of my brother’s hand and replacing it with someone else’s hand. It’s a warm, loving hand so I don’t fall. But, then in this hand I’m falling into somewhere else.

“I’m scared,” I say.

“I got you,” he says.

“Do you really?”

In that exchange, there’s a glimpse of happiness.

Maybe it’s a preview of what’s to come.

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.

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.