The Upside of Pain

A young mother shared her tears with me about the hardship of her wailing child. She told me that she, her husband and their little boy had gone into the gentle forest to commune with the divine, to set up camp and be one with the elements and find solace in the quiet and power of the wild.

She had hoped to get spiritual.

Only things didn’t turn out as she had expected.

Well, that was her first mistake, I suppose. Expecting. Not an easy thing to avoid, but I digress.

She told me how her child, normally so agreeable, spent the entire 3 days raging and fighting with thrashing, screaming, inconsolable tantrums. Other campers nearby suffered with them, only to increase the madness of his defiance.

The child was not ill, but he was definitely expressing his childish form. They finally surrendered and returned home and the peaceful child they knew returned as well.

What is the lesson in this story? Never leave home to find spiritual sustenance? Well….no.

The lesson here is that my friend had an idea of how to gain a spiritual experience. She did not fully recognize that it is in our suffering that we gain the depths of spiritual growth.

If our lives were entirely filled with all that we needed, if food was plentiful, if homes were without flaw, if children behaved, we would want for nothing. And we would not wonder for a moment about the unseen world. We would forget that something beyond us exists. We would be blind and grossly arrogant and self-satisfied. We would not be grateful, nor strive, nor understand the suffering of others.

When things don’t go as we expected, or trials generate a suffering so great as to stop and notice, we are in a perfect storm of facing our humanity, our fragile and precious state.

Therefore, I remember this when my back aches, when I miss being held, when my milk goes sour. I remember the glory of my growth when my best friend betrayed me, when my cat was stolen, when I had to walk home for miles in my bare feet on a Sunday morning.

Our longing brings that most potent of riches, a recognition of how very sweet it is to come home and find a beloved child sleeping.

The Plateau of Summer

The best part of summer for me is that 3-week period right after the 4th of July. A sweet long stretch of open softness. A plateau upon which we may tread naturally and calmly, or pause and bask under the vast skies with nothing but what we individually choose before society requires more.

We come upon a great big beautiful WHAT NOW?

Ralph Blume said, “As I cultivate my own nature, all else follows.” In keeping with such a wondrous philosophy, I encourage you to harken back to this wisdom and ‘cultivate your own nature’ now. What would that look like? Who do you wish to be now?

The essence of living a spiritual life implies synchronizing two acts: First, to do the footwork of manifesting what you really want, the actual completion of logical tasks. This could range from getting yourself some coffee to building schools in the Middle East. Second, to have faith that something divine is supporting you and will provide the momentum and outside variables required.

I do. And I trust.

I keep doing. And I keep trusting.

If I am not doing what is needed, I pay attention to the changes directed by my intuition, the “messengers” around me, my experiences including dreams and unexpected sparks of thought, and I keep going. This is how the divine keeps me between the lines on my path to success. I am always listening, watching and wondering.

Nonetheless, there is also a time to understand that what I do may be nothing. Sometimes I choose to be still or be patient or just mentally prepare. This is not a justification for procrastination, that absurd dysfunction steeped in fear or defiance. I am talking about knowing that timing is important and impulsive, sloppy action is not helpful.

My father used to describe my mother as peripatetic, a constant movement, a nomadic existence, and in her case, it was meant as “unable to stop moving.” He felt she was too nervously erratic.

My mother would likely suggest that his big cushy chair was a bog of muck where he could not be truly living.

I learn from my elders. I find the solid ground of the mesa’s flat top. I move, but I move slowly with intention.

I will spend each day now curiously observing myself as I meditate, meet strangers, walk the city alone, make myself a meal, listen to a friend, write, paint, and share my ideas.

I know my station, my post, my purpose and my plan. This is a result of spiritual living. I don’t have to rush, nor run in circles. I can cultivate my nature, which is to create and to bravely share my creations, and trust that all else will follow.