Thursday, December 29, 2011

What Can Happen in the Face of Everything :: A 2011 Reflection

She's speaking all the time.

I've been wondering lately... 
What if being friendly with Everything was enough to change the world? Or at least, change your life?

2011 asked me these questions over and over again.

Most days, I was challenged to confront reality, head on. Wake up, pack up, gear up, and go. Weather, terrain and mood, be damned! How will you be in the face of Everything?--In the face of hopelessness, loneliness, an aching body, a tired heart?  

How will you greet your life today? 

So often, my answer felt embarrassing, devolved, pathetic. I generally sucked balls at being friendly with Everything. In turn, I felt pain like never before. Pain from wanting to run, but having to stay put; wanting to escape, but having nowhere to go. You'd think on a bicycle in the middle of nowhere, that would be your escape. But it's not really like that when you're an unenlightened human on a quest for truth and love. When your plopped into extreme conditions. When your strength and surrender are tested.

It's more like being slapped across the face. More like, What just hit me?? And then, Why does that god damn thing keep kitting me?? And then, I just got hit again. Oh well. Fuck it.

Rarely did it become, How sensational!... How wondrous!... The feeling of being hit! Rarely did I love life that deeply.

But when those rare moments happened...

A holy moment story

Maybe finding God looks like holding hands with mystery. #thephotoessayproject #found

One of our last big climbs was through a stretch of ancient Redwoods. The road was narrow and steep, nothing but bends and swerving cars for four miles up. Great for extending hyper-alert paranoia, if you're wired that way, (which, cough, I am). The only calming force was the treeline of Redwoods--their long lineage an unspeakable tribute to survival and strength.

We were trekking and chugging along, and I was trying my best to let my minds' worries subside, when a massive truck swerved past, overflowing with chopped down Redwoods.

My heart sunk, fast. For a moment I was overwhelmed with shock (and anger, and wonder, and resounding sadness). But only for a moment. Then, in a split second, something in me rose: a deep knowing, an unquestionable truth that everything eventually surrenders.

That truck marked death. It marked the inevitable loss of all living things. It marked what I could no longer avoid: I will die. I will die, and who knows when. Maybe sooner than I want to. Maybe before my body is ready to go.

My death is not in my control. Only my life is. This life. This moment. This split-second of consciousness, and how I choose to be with it. Why struggle? Why suffer so much? Why be so unfriendly? Why not lean in, wink, offer a kind hello?--even to this--this pain, this challenge, this fatigue of riding my bike over another steep pass? After all, I'm here. I'm alive. I'm able.

It was time to practice a new way of being--an unconditional sort of Love. 

On that final four mile climb--sweat dripping down my face like rain, legs tingling with ache--I smiled, laughed even, at the holiness of being so alive. I got so close to my vitality that I felt as grounded as grass, as ancient as the ocean. I let the sting of sweat seeping into my eyes persist, wiping nothing away. I let the moist air gushing from those holy trees soak my lungs, penetrate my body. I weaved corner after corner to the top of that cliff like a monk who knew that pain was not something to run from because it would always catch up. When Brian was waning in spirits, I sang from the soul of the earth to keep him going. I let life move through me, for him. I opened up. I held on to nothing.

After we made it to the top, I hooted and hollered the whole way down, my face sore at the bottom from such an unwieldy smile.

What's becoming so clear...

I'm beginning to know now that we are STASHED with reserves of strength and surrender.

Yet, we access so little of what we are made of. We let so much of our time go by in an endless scurry away from that which may cause pain. I get it. Pain is painful. But not as bad as the stories we attach to it--the projection into the past or future, what we think it means about who we are or are not.

Pain can just be pain. Tingly, exciting, as vast or holy as the sky. Sharp, immediate, breath-taking. Pain can just be a moment. It lasts forever only in our minds.

I admit I'm a beginner with this stuff, so if it sounds like I've got things figured out, may you know that I'm fumbling, but continuing anyway. May you know that I'm just a human who tossed herself onto a path, and...

I cannot turn back
May you #find yourself in unfamiliar places, walking paths you've never seen & know not where they lead. In mystery, there is #liberation. This much I'm learning along the way. #thephotoessayproject

I cannot consciously devolve, despite the awkwardness of experiencing myself in such novice stages. I cannot devolve, despite how easy it would be to join the ranks of the half-awake. Because that's not what I'm meant for. It's not what we're meant for, to be half-awake. We're meant to feel joy and freedom and surrender, the cathartic release of letting everything flow out.

The sweet spot is in that place of greeting Everything with a friendly hello. In a place where we show up, connect, follow, breathe. Where we're alive and we really feel it.

New year, new intentions...

I'll be ringing in the new year with immense gratitude for the journey 2011 took me on.

In 2010 my word was daring. In 2011, power. I'll let you know my word for 2012 so soon. It has to do with this surrender stuff... this holiness... this journey of letting go into love.

Until then, wishing you each a chance for sound reflection and renewal as we enter a new year on Earth, a new holy trip around the sun.

Tell me: Who have you become thanks to the journey of 2011?

deep love & tenderness,


Anonymous said...

Wow, that's a deep question. And as much as I connect with your journey (as I've been on one of my own, only mine was internal, not external), I am left with the feeling that there is a more pressing question.

Not who have you become, but who do you want to become in 2012.

(what can I say, I like looking forward more than looking back).

:) namaste.

Brit Hanson said...

Thanks for this post, Rachael. I’ve come to learn how important intentionally marking each year is for me too. 2011 was the year of learning to be my own mama; 2012 will be the year of “i don’t have to be good”.

2011 was one hell of a year -- and I definitely needed lots of tender mama love ... it was a good year to learn how to do that for myself. In fact I just bought a swanky six pack of my fav beers to congratulate myself for making it through.

So who have I become because of it? I don’t have an articulate response, but I know that I feel stronger in my bones and in my heart space. I know that for the first time, despite a long tunnel of heartache, I woke up to joy. I smile more now, and that really matters.

8 months ago my relationship with 2011 was “Fuck You!” ... and today it is “Thank You!” Ain’t life strange.

teryll said...

Love, love, love this post! I was turned on to your blog from Jen Lemen's blog.

This resonates so deeply, thank you for articulating this so well.

2011 was a year of self-care 101 and I think it will definitely continue on into 2012.

I'm still determining what 2012 will be, but seeking out joyful opportunities is a part of it. I also want to "soften" up, let and allow vulnerable me rise to the surface.