Showing up to shine, even when we feel like shadow

I drive home every day next to a river which runs into the Columbia River Gorge which pours into the Pacific Ocean. On certain occasions over the years when I’ve felt particularly low, I’ve wondered what it would be like to float down that river, out of the pain of this temporal world, and into what I imagined was the timelessness and peace of heaven.

Living in this world of form with what has seemed at times to hold absurd, pretentious, and arbitrary rules has been difficult for me, and when I see the world from this spot of ground, I tend to glamorize the river float in favor of making dinner and living life.

That river has become a great reflector of my level of clarity, and for the past few years, most of the time I’ve been grateful to see the river as just a river, and life as just life, and dinner as just dinner.

So a few months ago I felt a bit low. Nothing like before but still a haze of gray and a woman coming in the morning to meet me who had heard somewhere that I knew something about how she could pull out of depression and anxiety. Ah yes, the irony, I reminded myself, asking myself how I was going to speak to my work and understanding in my current state of mind, and then I caught a glimpse of something. Not sure how I did, but I glimpsed it. My state of mind is just fine as-is, and there is nothing I need to do to fix it.  I will stop thinking about myself at all,  show up and speak to her from a genuine place of where I am, and it will be well.

She sat down on my sofa and we somehow opened with a discussion on our shared love of classical music, art, and the humanities, and she told me about her first experience as a child at the symphony, and how she spontaneously teared up at the emotion of it all. We spoke of Gregorian Chant, and quietness, and listening, and feeling the presence of the divine.

Somehow the understanding of how we experience emotions began weaving itself into our conversation and I found myself at my well-used whiteboard, asking her if she’d like to see a few things that have been helpful for me. She sat on the edge of the sofa and said yes!

I drew a few lines, and some circles and squiggles, and by the time we were done, we’d had the most elegant, simple conversation about the human experience I think I’ve ever had with anyone. We spoke of innate wisdom, and wellness, of spontaneous healing and grace. We spoke of the thought feeling connection, of illusions and choice, of noticing the feeling, and her level of insight was huge. She appeared entirely lit. In two hours of easy, light, engaging conversation, I’d used the term depression once in what seemed like half of a sentence and that was it.

I was reminded again that heaven is not a place at which we will someday arrive. Heaven is a state of mind, and heaven is here. It is who we are.

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So I’m curious:   It’s often said that clearer our state of mind, the better our performance, but is this true?  Can we still experience everyday miracles, even in the midst of being bumbling, hazy-headed mortals? Can letting go of self-assessment and simply being present to another human being yield surprising outcomes?

1 Comment

  1. Chris Jones on 09/01 at

    Of course we can see miracles, we can see them in any state. They happen all the time. We won’t see them nearly as often when looking in as when looking out, though.

    Personally, I know that “flow” (Mihaly Csikszentmihaly’s term) is when I’m doing my best work, and it’s a state of mind and being that I’m in much more often when I’m not stressed by events. I also know that events happen all the time, and sometimes my flow is superior to them – I shrug them off and keep going – and sometimes I let them deflate me. Most often when I’m looking outward for how I can help others, I can stay in the flow. When I’m looking at myself, it’s harder.

    People talk about being in a rut, doing the same old things all the time. But I wonder how often the “rut” holds us up just as much as holds us back. Depressed or not, stressed or not, the laundry has to get done and the lawn cut and dinner made. So we get out and we do those things, and stress recedes. We meet worry with work, and the world rights itself.

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