The View from Above

I don’t know if it’s because I have lived through breast cancer or through multiple decades on Earth, but I see the world differently now. When you face a serious diagnosis, identification with the smaller concerns of the individual self begins to slip away. And what seemed so important at 20 falls to the wayside later in life. I have written previously about living as soul more than identity now. Open heart space instead of crowded mental highways. That’s as close as I can come to expressing the change. Different experiences engage me. I rise at dawn, meditate, do yoga, and write. I listen to the music of morning birdsong and nighttime crickets. I take long walks in Nature and find that my awareness deepens as I walk wordlessly in the stillness there. (“Be still and know you are God.”)

Don’t get me wrong—I love my friends and family and all the varied parts of my life, past and present. It’s just different now. Often I feel immersed in a kind of expansive consciousness, and anything less powerful and compelling seems only a passing distraction. I know that every moment on Earth is precious, and I appreciate that with all my heart. Yet, part of me is sitting out among the stars seeing the entire cosmos beyond time and space. From that place, there is a letting go of doing into just being. Witnessing life and allowing it to flow with and through me, without attachment or judgment.

Is this the course our lives take, from birth to death? A continuous gradual awakening to a loving awareness that spans all dimensions? Perhaps we are each experiencing this in our own unique way. Some of us speak of it, some don’t. Some of us move forward excitedly; others hold back. It doesn’t matter. We will all reach the same “place” eventually, perfectly, and no clock is measuring our progress. It is the soul’s journey, beyond time and space.

I used to be frightened of flying, terrified that the plane would crash, and I would die. Now I feel more like I am being transported on angel wings when I fly, given a secret glimpse into a world of clouds and light that some think of as heaven. Maybe it is. Actually, maybe everything we experience, however we label it, is heaven because there is nothing else. Infinite consciousness experiencing itself, on Earth and in the skies. When we die, we realize that everything is one magical dream, ours and God’s.

Too far out or intangible? Well, that’s the view from above—everything blends seamlessly into everything else. We humans like to separate and delineate, but it’s only a mind game to entertain us while we’re here. As we depart this dimension, we see every boundary dissolve into oneness, and we realize that we came to Earth for exactly that experience.

Make of Your Life a Song

In one of her most frequently quoted poems, Mary Oliver asks what we each plan to do with our “one wild and precious life.” A question that touches the depths of the soul—and the heart of all life on Earth. We were given our human lives by a universal intelligence beyond naming. Within that act of grace is infinite possibility and expression as well as a world of incredibly diverse experiences. Each day presents a kaleidoscope of wonders to us. When we are children, we see those wonders clearly, our eyes sparkling with delight. As adults, we begin to take them for granted. Our vision may become clouded with habit, loss, or misfortune. Life, of course, can be challenging as well as wondrous. Perhaps the greatest challenge is to continue to experience wonder no matter how your life unfolds.

One year ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It shook me to my core. Yet my actual experience of the months of treatment, in spite of any discomfort or pain, was filled with moments of connection to the Spirit of life, which carried me through the days with surprising synchronicities and inspiration. In the most profound of those moments, I felt one with everything, my own life part of a universal flow of beingness. Within that, my sense of wonder at the daily miracles of life—sunrise, birdsong, human kindness—reawakened and grew. Not that I had lost it, but so often life events get in our way. Our perception is incomplete, shaded. Until suddenly, an event or experience shines a light on each moment, showing it to be the miracle it is.

It may not be cancer that awakens this latent sense in you. It could be anything, perhaps just the course of a lifetime. Many of us, as we grow older, realize the relatively short time we have on this planet. A poignancy and appreciation fill us, an intention not to waste a moment in regret or complaint. The “one wild and precious life” we were gifted with suddenly reveals itself in all its splendor. You don’t want to miss an opportunity to meet each day with joy and gratitude.

There are countless ways to do this, as many possibilities as there are living beings on Earth. Those who have gone before us advise us to share with others our unique essence, our humanity as well as our divinity (they are inseparable) There is no one else like you, so don’t hold back. Make of your life a peaceful prayer, a poem of inspiration, a celebratory dance. Like the wood thrush and robin, make of your life a song that carries the love in your heart to all who hear it. Your soul will guide you.

This is why we were born, why we journey through challenge and crisis, to finally come to understand that each moment carries within it Heaven on Earth. The reward for living, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, is life itself. It sometimes takes an entire lifetime (or many lifetimes) to come to this realization, but each of us is destined to do so. We are currently living through an extraordinary time of transformation on this planet, one in which separation from Spirit and from one another will fall away, sometimes gradually and sometimes with a thunderous crash. We may think we are lost, but there is much more here than what our habitual perceptions show us. Our days are woven from a tapestry of miracles. Open your heart, and let it reveal to you the sweet song your life is meant to be.

Lasting Loving-Kindness

Love takes many forms: family, friends, life partners, animal companions, Nature, Spirit, humankind…the possibilities are endless. Sometimes our lives are so busy that we don’t even realize all the love that comes our way on a daily basis—or the love that we send out. In actuality, our planet is a virtual web of loving connections. Human consciousness and human experience are held together by that web of light within us and all around us. In times of crisis or challenge, that light shines brighter, and we become super-aware of how love and kindness support us in small and large ways.

Gestures of kindness sometimes go by so quickly that you may not fully take note of them: a stranger in the street smiles and says good morning, a neighbor brings you homemade soup when you are not feeling well, an old friend sends flowers for your birthday. A loved one expresses unconditional love by accepting you just as you are. These are the acts of love that help us live our lives with a positive outlook, even in times of pandemic, conflict, and loss. Every generation has faced such challenges, and yet humanity has survived. The human spirit raises its bowed head, looks into the eyes of another, and feels uplifted, able to continue living.

By consciously acknowledging these acts and then living from a similar place, we revitalize the dynamic of human interaction, not just in one place but everywhere. The energy of loving-kindness can circle the globe in a nanosecond. You may think a smile is a small gesture, but it has the power of the heart behind it. This is why we have survived as a species for thousands of years. It is the spirit of love and compassion that has carried us forward in spite of discord or disease. No matter what we have faced personally or collectively, we are still here. And in spite of everything, we are evolving.

Today, in the midst of daily news flashes about gun violence, injustice, or environmental crises, we need these positive moments of connection that touch (and open) our hearts. The evolution of humanity and the planet depend on such openings, which strengthen our commitment to possibility, to the power of the human spirit. We are a resilient species. Here we are, standing strong in the face of all that seems to lead us in the direction of defeat and pessimism. Something as intangible as a kind word and a gentle touch may be the key threads that weave the fabric of a positive future.

So don’t give up hope in troubled times. Your neighbor is right next to you. We are all in this together, we residents of Earth, sons and daughter of Gaia. Take a moment for kindness in your life, for the love that connects you to others, to life itself. It will sustain you through challenges and fill your soul with light and your life with joy. There is nothing as strong or lasting as the love that expresses itself through kindness, acceptance, and compassion.

Half Full, Half Empty, or…?

Most of us are familiar with the saying “Is the glass half full or half empty?”, which points out how perspective affects our experience of life. In other words, do you count your blessings or tally up your grievances? Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Do you feel life is a gift or a burden, joy or tragedy? On any given day, you may feel one of these extremes and then extrapolate to a world view that sets you up for future experiences. You may keep an inner tally sheet of the “good” and “bad.” It seems to be a human tendency to divide up life events in this way. Yet life is made up of many emotions, many experiences. None of them permanent. What if the greater wisdom is to be inclusive of it all?

I grew up seeing the “half empty, half full” view played out in aspects of my parents’ personalities. My dad noticed poison ivy and quickly acted to get rid of it. My mother noticed lilacs in bloom and picked a bouquet for the house. Still, neither one of them embodied only one of these behaviors or life views. They both were so much more. So are we all. What if either/or options like full/empty limit us and keep us from seeing the complete spectrum of possible experiences in our lives? What if the glass of life is always full, and it is only human perception that polarizes it into half and half? Or what if it is always empty, in a receptive state, just waiting for our visions and potential to fill it?

More and more, these days I remind myself of this wisdom. It is very easy to fall into gloom and doom if I focus too much on world events. Even the weather extremes that are now occurring with climate change can trigger fears about the future. Where is the human race headed? Apocalypse or utopia? Heaven or hell? But once again these are polarized views, each one excluding the other. The longer I live, the more I learn to shift into neutral as much as possible, which is the soul’s vision of life. The soul has no opinions; it is just experiencing. We incarnated in human form to experience, to see and feel all of life’s variations and wonders without limitation. Judgment about good or bad stalls us in one viewpoint, which translates to one experience. Is it possible to let go of those opposites and live in neutrality, which includes everything?

Neutrality doesn’t mean boring sameness. It means an open heart and mind. It means inclusivity—of events and people and every single detail of daily life. Nature gives us the best example of this. There is an overall harmony to the natural world: trees, plants, birds, animals, insects, stones, soil, fungi all living intertwined and connected lives. Of course, birth and death take place, but in the natural flow of life on Earth, not artificially imposed or manipulated. Perhaps this is our greatest lesson, we humans: to flow, not try to control. Because in truth, we can’t control, anything. At a deeper level, all is unfolding as part of a greater universal tapestry of being and light.

So if we are meant to flow and not control, why not relax into accepting all of life as a gift of infinite possibilities? Which is the soul’s view. The soul sees glasses stretched to the horizon, in a rainbow of colors, all of them both empty and full. All of them perfect as is. This is a bit like what Buddhists call “the middle way,” between attachment and aversion, form and emptiness. You walk life’s path inclusive of every experience that unfolds before you, without categorizing or judging. Just being fully present. In this is peace, which my life has continuously guided me towards. And it was within me all along.

Peaceful Spaciousness

How do you describe emptiness? How do I wrap words around the peaceful space I have been opening to since being diagnosed with breast cancer last August? Language seems inadequate to translate something so vast and limitless. My experience has been one of emptying out, sometimes called “dying unto yourself” in spiritual traditions. The dissolving of past identities, opinions, questions, expectations, fears, hopes, disappointments. All the parts of our selves that we accumulate over a lifetime and don’t even realize we carry around with us. Gradually, day by day, week by week, pieces fell away. No grief was involved; it was a lifting off, a lightening. Space opened up within me. I felt increasingly empty, but with no sense of loss or regret. In many ways, it was like opening the door to my soul, which was a room without walls filled with nothing but light. I observed all this without any particular emotional response. It was just happening, peacefully.

And it continued to happen, weeks past the end of my treatments. The emptiness endures, neither greater nor smaller, just present. I find I have stepped away from busyness—doing, thinking, trying. Being is my home now. I remain quietly in Presence much of the time, often alone in Nature, which is the part of my life that is most essential to me, perhaps because that is where Presence is strongest. The silence in the natural world aligns perfectly with the silence within me, that vast empty spaciousness that human language names God, or Spirit. But emptiness has no words; it just is.

There is an invisibility to this experience. No one sees this empty space within me; no one knows I am there unless I tell them. And resting silently, invisibly, in emptiness is a spiritual practice that brings me home effortlessly to my soul. In my breath, in the wind in the trees, in the song of a sparrow, I connect to consciousness itself, which holds everything and nothing at the same time. My soul embodies that consciousness, and when I live my life aligned with it, I am one with peaceful spaciousness. I am in a form but also beyond it.

This has been our human destiny, throughout the ages. We are born to a physical form but eventually return to formless being as we journey through our lives. Infinite consciousness, Presence, is the seed of all life. It incarnates to have the experience of becoming aware within physical form—and then returns to formlessness. There is an expansion and evolution of Spirit within all of this. We can’t know the meaning or the depth of it because it is unknowable by the human mind. This is the Great Mystery, the soul’s journey through bodily form and its return to a Oneness that encompasses all. You may come to this “empty” awareness through cancer (as I did), or through any life crisis or challenge. Or it may come to you at the last split-second of your life (“life review”). However or whenever, it is meant to fill you and empty you at the same time. It is the essence of all life, death, and eternity.

Why do I write about this if it is indescribable, unknowable? I don’t know (of course). The words arise within my soul. It seems that part of my life’s journey is to share through language what I am experiencing, even when it can’t be completely expressed. Each of us is here to express our unique beingness in the world—through words, through silence, through art, through music, through connection with others or Nature. However we live our lives is exactly what we’re meant to bring to the experience of life on Earth. We came here to embody both humanity and divinity in a vast array of colors and light. Our differences are perfect; our lives are perfect. Within the peaceful spaciousness at the core of All That Is exists a love that we each express in our own way. As you come to awareness of this, you recognize that soulful space in others, in yourself, and in the world.