Everyone is alone at the heart of the earth
pierced by a ray of sunlight:
and suddenly it’s evening.

                                        — Salvatore Quasimodo


Contrary to plans made exactly one year ago, I awoke this morning, twenty-eight years old, and I still was not enlightened. Or, in the vocabulary of a friend who says “We’re all enlightened, we just haven’t realized it yet,” I awoke still unrealized. I awoke still thinking that there are things I need to do, to be, in this lifetime. I still live with some residual dissatisfaction. I remember having a garden talk with a wise neighbor who says: “Life is filled with dissatisfaction. It’s that dissatisfaction, that frustration, that keeps us changing.”

When Sy and I were consoling each other about life’s turbulence, he pantomimed our boyhood baseball heroes rescuing homerun balls from going over the centerfield fence. “Catch it gracefully.” Catch this pain, frustration, hunger, craziness, gracefully. I try because I know that if I don’t, my days will be a bitterness that will end with me wondering why I lived. I have met old people who so mistook the arrogance of the universe for its heart that they spent their lives fighting, drowning, or trembling.

I have grown tired of my fears, my anger, my lonely aloneness. I recognize in my closed heart an ancient fear of surrender; the terror that I will not exist if I let go of my protection, and love without reservation or attachment. I know my human-ness, the impossibility of loving without some degree of need, desire, identification, and fear, and yet I know the possibility too. We have all loved purely, we have all been in that rhythm when we dance so effortlessly and lightly that we are no longer separate. A few months ago, I lay on my back and watched the waving pine trees and floating clouds. I physically emotionally spiritually felt myself opening. Tears of joy came in waves . . . and then I caught myself. In a moment I had contracted into self-consciousness. I have been going through this process for years; sometimes I visualize my body disintegrating and disappearing, but, always, when there is one tiny piece remaining, I re-member myself. I assume this means I am not ready for the Unknown.

For months I have felt like the pre-born, struggling out the birth canal. I have left the womb warmth for somewhere. The other night everywhere that I went, I was a caged animal. I returned to the peace of home and still paced. I stopped in front of a mirror. First I looked at my physical body and criticized and admired. Then I stopped looking at myself and began seeing. Eyes reflecting eyes, I saw boy and old man, birth and death. I felt hints of the lifetimes. I relaxed and no longer saw anything that reminded me of “me.” Sobs of relief again moved through me.

There is
            (no loneliness in)
this moment

I nourish myself much better now than I did a year ago. I do not want to “work it out alone,” but I do recognize that I must be the source of my love. I must be able to tap into the part of me that connects with love, acceptance, strength, wisdom. I have frequently hoped that union with another(s) would be what I needed to feel I love. I realize that love must come through me although I treasure the caring and support of friends that often is the catalyst for me being in touch with love.

Ah, I realize the problem in my articulation, and that’s the paradox. For me to truly feel love, I must be in touch with the part of me that is love. And that part of me isn’t really me, it’s love. I am coming to understand and appreciate the positiveness of paradox. I am continuously confronted with two opposites existing at the same moment; I am only confronted because I think that they should be one or the other. I see strength and weakness, ignorance and wisdom, love and destruction existing simultaneously in me and everywhere.

My desire to be the “good” part of those values keeps me hooked and in pain. I ran five miles today and didn’t eat any sugar — I’m so good. I was lazy all day and ate a quart of ice cream — I’m so bad. Intellectually, I realize the ludicrousness of these value judgments. But emotionally, even when I don’t verbalize, I still believe that I’m good when I act in certain ways and bad when I act in other ways. I am pleased or dis-satisfied with my life performance. The roots, obviously, lay in other people (especially parents) wanting one to match their conception of a good child, and rewarding me with what felt like love when I was “good” and withdrawing that love when I was “bad.” These values are no longer useful for me.

WAITING. If you are sincere,
You have light and success.
Perseverance brings good fortune.
It furthers one to cross the great water.

Clouds rise up to heaven;
The image of WAITING.
Thus the superior man eats and drinks,
Is joyous and of good cheer.

                 The I Ching or Book of Changes

Time is the only change agent that I rely upon; even when my impatience is large and the change slow. A process that I have gone through many times is: I feel some uncomfortable feeling (or the depression of emotions); I feel and express as much as I want to feel and express now; I connect this situation to an earlier similar situation (where the pattern began); I try to understand the dynamics of what happened; I express those old negative feelings or re-integrate the experience by feeling love; with re-leased tension and new knowledge, I re-enter the present situation.

I often wonder about the “best” approach for dealing with life: “perseverance . . . to cross the great water” or “eats and drinks . . . and good cheer.” Obviously, another paradox. I do have a good time and I also work hard. Sometimes my goal is to feel joy, other times, harmony. And harmony seems a place of continuous change. As I observe the world, I observe a wild flux of change. As I observe the flux, I see basic rhythms, basic stability.

I’m walking in the sunshine, enjoying the rich fragrances and beautiful day. The brambles are scratching the hell out of my legs. My attention keeps shifting.

“It happens or it doesn’t happen. And certainly it does not happen if we try to force it upon ourselves, just as it shall not happen so long as we think, in our self-complacency, that we have no need of it. Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual. It strike us when our indifference, our hostility, our lack of direction have become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades. Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks in our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying, “You are accepted. You are accepted by something the name of which you do not know. Do not ask the name now, do not seek anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted. After such an experience everything is transformed and reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement. And nothing is demanded of this experience, no religious or moral or intellectual presupposition, nothing but acceptance.”

— Paul Tillich

I hope that sharing my confusion is of some help in lessening yours.

May you grow gracefully.


— Leaf