Hello 2024. I look at this date and remember as a younger person when the year seemed impossibly distant in the future. Time is relative, both the physicist and the mystic agree. Here we are. Here I am.
A few days ago, someone asked me, ‘what do you foresee this year?’ My first thought was that I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next ten minutes, let alone the rest of the year. I can only imagine what might come, and I can never be certain. I can, however, be present with life unfolding.
So, what will come up this year? Whatever you plant and nourish. We plant seeds today and at some future ‘present moment’ (!) we will harvest what we have tended. The matrix of the future is created in the present; how you are now influences how your future will unfold. It is humbling to consider that we, as homo sapiens, are the newest, most unfinished part of an ancient all-encompassing ‘whole-ness’; yet, how wonderful it is to remember that our story is yet unwritten.
Facing a world that is so full of strife, war, famine, dislocation, environmental destruction, disease, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. When it feels like a struggle just to keep your head above water, despair seems to be the only response. I am only one and the obstacles are so many, is a thought that runs through the mind, what can I do?
The angel said, “Fear not”. Yet the people are afraid, no matter that the angel comes with good news.
What is it that we fear most? Dying? Feeling pain?
Or, is it that we are afraid of ourselves; that deep inside we feel there is something bad or wrong? We have an ancient fear of the dark, of the hidden world and the power that resides beneath the surface of our everyday existence. The appearance of an angel would signify that we could no longer hide and would be revealed for who we really are.
When things are dark, people say that human beings are naturally violent, selfish and greedy; ‘that’s human nature,’ they say. Yet whenever people in desperate circumstances help each other, when goodness abounds and the wish to connect and support each other overflows… I never hear anyone say, ‘Oh, that’s human nature.’
Even in the darkest times, there are points of light.
All of life exists within each of us; all choices available. We can be selfish, equally we can be generous, be loving or withhold our love. When we are not generous with ourselves, when we withhold love from ourselves, we are suffering. In our suffering we disconnect from each other. We become fearful and our fear breeds distrust and hate. We become enslaved in a never-ending cycle of suffering.
The truth is none of us know what reality is. We have no idea what life there may or may not be after death. Our minds exist in duality and we cannot mentally grasp what one-ness might be.
Life is not a test, not a puzzle to be solved. It is not a step on the way to something else; not a rehearsal or prelude to an imagined paradise. Life is not a condition to be conquered: if I get this, then I’ll have made it, be understood, be accepted, etc.
So, where is the light? It’s right here. Right now.
I can only be in this present moment, however my mind might challenge that statement. When I release myself from the burden of waiting for some condition to be satisfied in order for me to feel free, whole in body and mind, I am able to perceive that light. And maybe grace comes to call as a deep feeling of peace arises.
I am free when I live as if this is all there is. I am here… in a body experiencing all that life offers. I am most fully alive when I receive this moment, this ‘now’, as my only chance to enjoy, to love, to exist.
I woke this morning from a dream. My body was full of activity. I felt disturbed even as I was only vaguely aware of a sense of danger. My heart was beating hard. I sensed adrenalin coursing through me, my body signalling ‘alert’. I noticed how quickly I labelled this feeling: anxiety. The thought, “I am feeling anxious” preceded a cascade of thinking as I immediately began searching for a reason. What was the dream telling me? How quickly I locked into the story that something was wrong, that needed to be dealt with.
In the past I would have continued spinning in a search for explanation, for some solution that would alleviate the uncomfortable sensation. Certainly it was not a state that I could say I enjoy. And yet, this morning, another thought arose, “what is wanting to be felt?”
If I could investigate other emotions - anger, sadness, frustration, helplessness - why not anxiety? It is after all a strong emotion. Why should I name it so precisely; why not simply allow that ‘sensation’ was happening. Not fear as response to a clear and present danger, rather a lingering lurking difficult-to-precisely-place sensation.
I found it was not so difficult to allow for the sensations in my body: noticing the tightness in my jaw, the feeling of cortisol and adrenaline in my muscles as if they had been under stress, a contraction in my solar plexus, tension in my forehead from a sustained frown. As I noticed all these sensations, breathing in long even easy breaths, I could let go of the muscles holding.
Stress released until I was simply experiencing. There was no need to find a solution, no need for anything to be fixed. I could simply witness and as I got some distance from what was happening on a physical and emotional level in my body, I could sense space expanding. Being present with the experience, gave room for my body to respond. I felt soothed in much the same way we do when someone listens to us in a time of distress, holds us in silence perhaps, until the wave of sensation passes through.
I am grateful when I listen. Somewhere, somehow I hear that voice that says, ‘Fear not’ and, like a sailor setting his sail for the wind, I open myself for grace to call.
Pay attention, your awareness is not simply a tool for survival – let alertness guide you towards connection – with yourself, with your loved ones, with the world you inhabit and share with everyone and everything else.
You are here. I am here.
You are. I am.