she could not make sense of
the things that were meant for
her, but she was drawn to it all.
and when she was alone, she felt
like the moon: terrified of the
sky, but completely in love with
the way it held the stars.
I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you can see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.
Growth only comes from adversity and from challenge—from stepping away from what’s comfortable and familiar and stepping out into the unknown.
The purpose of life, after all, is to love it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.
I wish we weren’t (meant for the edge, that is) but I think we are. I think Vonnegut and Saunders and Eleanor Roosevelt all got it right. And so on wobbly legs, untethered and a little afraid, I make my way forward from one precipice to the next.
I am, you anxious one.
Don’t you sense me ready to break
into being at your touch?
My murmurings surround you like shadowy wings.
Can’t you see me standing before you
cloaked in stillness?
Hasn’t my longing ripened in you
from the beginning
as fruit ripens on the branch?
I am the dream you are dreaming.
When you want to awaken, I am that wanting:
I grow strong in the beauty you behold.
And with the silence of stars I enfold
your cities made by time.
Adversity is a natural part of being human. It is the height of arrogance to prescribe a moral code or health regime or spiritual practice as an amulet to keep things from falling apart. Things do fall apart. It is in their nature to do so. When we try to protect ourselves from the inevitability of change, we are not listening to the soul. We are listening to our fear of life and death, our lack of faith, our smaller ego’s will to prevail. To listen to your soul is to stop fighting with life – to stop fighting when things fall apart; when they don’t go our way, when we get sick, when we are betrayed or mistreated or misunderstood. To listen to the soul is to slow down, to feel deeply, to see ourselves clearly, to surrender to discomfort and uncertainty and to wait.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
~2 Timothy 1:7
For me the spiritual path has always been learning how to die. That involves not just death at the end of this particular life, but all the falling apart that happens continually. The fear of death— which is also the fear of groundlessness, of insecurity, of not having it all together—seems to be the most fundamental thing that we have to work with… We have so much fear of not being in control, of not being able to hold on to things. Yet the true nature of things is that you’re never in control. You’re never in control. You can never hold on to anything. That’s the nature of how things are… So my own path has been training to relax with groundlessness and the panic that accompanies it….training to die continually.
I’ve always known I wasn’t an adventurous person. I was too concerned with being safe, with being in control. I spent years powering through my life, manipulating my experiences to get that desired outcome. I was good at it too. You have to be when you’re that scared. Of course at the time I didn’t know I was afraid. It took me years of living with my fear outright before I could see how it had always been there, just beyond my conscious mind. In that hidden part of who I was, the wolves were always at the door…
When the unthinkable happened, and I became ill, the fear surfaced at last, and I found myself in an almost constant state of anxiety. Control had finally proven itself to be the grand illusion all the great scholars said it was. Life had suddenly become precarious and changeable, and I found myself drowning in uncertainty. What Pema Chodron calls groundlessness. I love that word because it so aptly describes that sense of free-fall that comes with truly not knowing.
I’ve spent the last several years now coming to terms with my fear. Through meditation and prayer, I’m learning to trust in something larger than myself, and to relax and just be with whatever comes next. Lately I’ve been turning this phrase over and over in my mind: I Did Not Give You a Heart of Fear. It’s been playing in my head like a melody or a song you suddenly find you can’t stop humming. And I wonder – Is this what all this has been about? Is that what all this has been for, to teach me this one simple truth?
Some days it still comes for me, still unsettles me and shakes me to my core, wanting to know have I learned my lesson? Do I know who I am, and from where I come? And I can answer now with a hard-earned, deep understanding: I come from a place of love and light and I was not given a heart of fear…