I have a friend who for a period of his life struggled with alcohol and drugs. He’s been living a sober life for a decade or so. One day he asked me if I’d help him get tickets to see a sold out Coldplay concert in Las Vegas, which I did. This would be his first sober trip to Las Vegas. I saw him a few weeks after the show and asked him about his experience. “You know, waking up refreshed, clear-headed, and feeling healthy in Las Vegas was a pretty great experience for me,” he said, and then added, “but whiskey and strippers used to be pretty great too!”
His blunt honesty made me laugh out loud. I’ve remembered and recounted that story many times as an example of the real-life journey we all go through, slowly awakening and reconstructing our lives again and again to match our awareness at various times in our lives. It’s also an example of how our definitions of good and bad are transient and depend on the perspective of where we are when we make the distinction. As my friend so honestly said, partying in Vegas is fun, and so is waking up sober and aware. It just depends on where you’re looking from and what you’re intending to experience.
My friend’s story popped into my head this week as I’ve been sorting through something similar. Not Vegas or wild parties (been there and done that), but recently I made some pointed decisions about some business opportunities that a few years ago would have been attractive to me, but which no longer fit into the life I’m building with my family. Like my friend, I’ve had moments where I look at my current life and think how lucky I am … but I’ve also had moments of nostalgia and worry if I’m making the right decision. To paraphrase my friend: consciousness is great but so is the thrill of power.
In times like this I’ve learned to sort out my conflicting emotions on the meditation cushion. I recognize the feelings are real because I’m feeling them, but I’m also aware that they’re not true because my core truth is beyond any fear, insecurity, or momentary clinging. As Guru Singh told me the first time I asked him how to handle a whirlwind of emotions, “bolt your butt to the ground and ride the stallion.” So that’s what I do.
Meditation isn’t always easy … in fact it rarely is. We think the exterior world with all its goings on is dramatic and scary, but that rarely compares to what we find when we go inside and look at our own internal drama. We close our eyes and slow our breath and are often shocked by the tidal wave of memories, programming, and emotional baggage that floods our mind. Over time we learn, as I have, to let it all come and just breathe until it wears itself out banging around the interior spaces of your mind. Some days this takes minutes, and other times it never really calms down. You just sit and breathe and let the emotions do their thing until, even for a brief second, you take a breath and that’s all there is … just the sensation of air on the end of your nose or the tip of your lip. That instant is worth so much, because for a second or two what moments earlier was suffocating you beneath its weight expands and stretches and clarity is allowed to seep in through the cracks of the chaos.
This particular day — as I was sorting through my emotions — was just like that. I sat bravely on my meditation cushion facing my own internal emotional storm front, trying to breathe and focus on my breath. And then something happened. I heard the click of our bedroom door handle and the familiar steps and creaks of the hardwood floor as someone entered. By the sound of the impact of the feet on the floor I knew it was my son Kevin. It’s funny how you get to know your children so well that you can tell them by their footsteps. The steps drew nearer and then I felt his face close to mine followed by a gentle kiss on my forehead. And then Kevin whispered, “I love you dad.”
I don’t know if Kevin had sensed that something was brewing inside me, or if it was just a spontaneous sharing of love from son to father. Whatever the motivation, that kiss sent everything I was feeling away. Like a sci-fi movie when good overtakes evil and the earth spontaneously heals, I felt peace and lightness. In that moment I was reminded why I started this journey, what’s truly important to me and why, despite the sexy allure of power, living powerfully from my heart is just more important to me. And as a lone tear slid down my cheek, love and deep gratitude replaced the fear I had been feeling … and I was home.
This week I invite you to take inventory of your life. Look around at your possessions, your work, your home, your family and friends and connect to what is truly important to you at this moment in your life. Take a deep breath and let go of things, ideas and beliefs that no longer fit into your definition of a great life. Don’t let go disparagingly; instead, let go with gratitude and grace on the wings of the breath as it exits your lungs. Then bolt your butt to the ground and sit in the company of this current version of you. Embrace the silence you’ve created by clearing out what no longer serves you.
With courage, open your heart and ride the stallion as you let go and allow life’s beautiful opportunities to flow in.
Big hugs of love,