I’ve spent the last two weeks in silence at a Tibetan Buddhist retreat in the UK countryside. During the many hours of meditation, as my mind occasionally (often, haha) wandered, I wondered what gem I would write when the retreat was finished. What deep words of wisdom would I have to share with the world?!?
On the day before the retreat started, my son Kevin said to me with a naughty twinkle in his eye, “Dad, if you write another book on the plane ride home please tell the world how great I am!” And then we had a nice laugh.
Prior to coming to this retreat, we did another retreat as a family. My wife, Kevin, and Shaolin Master Wang Bo (our heart son) sat in silence in the California mountains for a week with the same teacher I went on to sit with in the UK. During that retreat, I had the really beautiful experience of watching my 17-year-old son sitting in meditation and intensive study alongside adult practitioners many times his age. This experience deeply touched me. All my life I’ve so wanted to be a good dad. Do you know that feeling as a parent? Growing up without a dad, I wanted to give Kevin the experience I never had. I wanted to really be there for him. Watching him at that retreat left little doubt that I’d succeeded. I have an amazing son … and that makes this dad’s heart really proud.
I think that’s the takeaway I want to share as I end this period of silence. What I think really counts in life is to fully experience the moments that move us. Those special times that touch us deeply, that cause our hearts to melt, our souls to open … and our eyes to cry. Like seeing your little boy all grown up sitting with a Buddhist lama discussing the meaning of emptiness and the nature of mind.
I’ve spent some time wondering why we don’t often give ourselves this gift of feeling moved by life. Part of the reason, I think, is that we’re too busy. We just don’t have time to feel much of anything as we hustle and rush about our lives with work and school and all the data surging at us night and day. Perhaps there’s a deeper reason as well — below that busyness lies a fear of what we might find if we were to pause, take a deep breath, and allow life to move our souls.
I remember early in my journey sitting on the floor of my therapist’s office, Dr. Vera Dunn. My mom was dying of cancer, my second marriage — in chaos — had fallen apart, and I was raising my children alone while being responsible for thousands of employees producing thousands of concerts around the globe. I sat there overwhelmed by my life and cried as I shared my fear with Vera: “I’m afraid if I stop and look honestly at my life, I’m going to realize I can’t do this anymore. And that really scares me.”
That fear of being honest with ourselves sometimes leads us to layer more and more onto our already tired shoulders. We carry the weight of our lives, our children’s, our spouse’s, our friends’ and coworkers’ … of the starving children in Africa, the whales and trees and honeybees – all on our tired little human backs trying to be good while holding our breath because if we let go we fear deep down that we aren’t going to like our lives anymore. So when we get a glimpse of life’s beauty, when something deeply touches our heart and we start to let go, we stop ourselves and grab our iPhones, check our email or Facebook messages, and our brain rushes on to a new drama … anything to avoid the truth.
I’ve learned over the last few years that it doesn’t have to be this way. We have the option to slow down, to take a breather (literally), and to create a little balance in our lives. We don’t have to run away to either extreme – working ourselves to death and dropping out of life to become a hermit are two sides of the same detachment coin. Instead, we have an opportunity to drop the charade – to put down the load we’re carrying for long enough to smell the roses – not because we have to, but because we deserve to.
This week I invite you to pause, to breathe deeply, and to find a few things in your life that touch your heart … and then dwell there for a while. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re a great mom or dad; maybe it’s your wife’s beautiful blue eyes or a special accomplishment that you dreamt of achieving as a child and now, all grown up, are living. Whatever it is, invite the feeling in, allow it to move you, and fully experience the emotions it brings up. Cry, laugh, and celebrate, and be true to yourself and to the experience of your life.
So this is the insight I have after sitting in silence: that the moments that move us are the moments that matter; and that we deserve — truly deserve — the feelings they bring to our busy lives.
Big hugs of love,