Timeless Slow Motion

The experience of calendar- and clock-oriented time has seemed to fade and often dissolve completely over the past two to three years of radical changes in the world. I find that many people I know comment on how they often have no idea what day or month it is until they stop and think about it. Life has given us the opportunity to live the ancient wisdom of present-moment awareness in which time does not exist. Now is timeless. There is only Presence. It may be hard to get used to at first, but gradually there is a letting go into a greater sense of being alive, one that is not constrained by human parameters or mental constructions that explain the world. Being alive and being aware of life is all there is.

In 2018 I moved from Massachusetts to Florida; in 2020 I moved back. Within that span of time, a pandemic brought the world to a standstill. Busy-ness of all kinds subsided. My own life became mainly morning meditation, yoga, writing, and daily walks on a nature trail outside my door. Most other things fell away. In 2021­–2022, as I lived through a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, even my past identity began to dissolve. I let go completely into appreciating each second of my life. Today, as people try to get back their pre-pandemic lives and return to “normal” activities, I find myself reluctant to become “busy” again. My entire being wants to move in slow motion and be fully present with a minimum of activities, such as writing or walking in Nature. I am most at peace then.

There is no time in Nature. When I walk quietly among the trees, listening to the call of the wood thrush or cardinal, I do not count the minutes and keep track of how much time has passed. I am fully in the moment and nothing else exists. The color of the sky and the movement of the clouds engage my heart and soul. I frequently stop and just stare at the beauty around me. A flower, butterfly, or bee is a tiny miracle; if I walk swiftly, I miss them entirely. “Slow” is a gift; “timeless” is a gift. I am grateful for all that happened in my life that brought me to this space of just plain “being.”

Major events, whether personal (like cancer) or global (like COVID), shatter reality and give us the opportunity to see the world and ourselves with fresh eyes and no past frameworks. If we remain in this open space without refilling it with previous mindsets that keep us spinning in place, then limitless possibilities open up all around us. The most powerful of which is just to see the world each morning with clear vision and no preconceptions.

Allow the present to move you; don’t try to control it or force it along a particular mental path. When you accept each moment as it arises, your soul can guide you in living a life that peacefully flows and flowers, even in the midst of illness or extreme changes in the external world. Indeed, maybe this is why crisis comes to humans—to teach them fluidity and gratitude. Perhaps our souls chose these particular lifetimes on Planet Earth to help humanity evolve into full conscious awareness of timeless presence and connection to something greater in the universe. Slow down, smile, and watch time disappear.

The Tree of Life

I am looking out my kitchen window at the tree in my neighbors’ backyard. It is October and the green leaves are turning golden/red, some beginning to fall to the ground. The coleus on their porch looks slightly less full and is fading in color. Soon the tree will be bare, and the coleus leaves will also have fallen to the yard below. This is the cycle of life, for trees, for plants, for humans. Seeds to fallen leaves, becoming one with the Earth from which they grew. Spring, summer, fall, winter. Baby, child, adult, elder. Birth, death, rebirth.

The tree of life has many branches, many experiences. If I compare myself to a tree, I can see the human life cycle playing out in the seasonal changes of the tree. We are born in spring, bloom in summer, come into our full colorful wisdom in autumn, and then gradually, gently, one by one, our leaves begin to fade and fall. The winter of our lives appears so much closer then. We can see death in the distance. Ironically, though, as we age, we also begin to see spring on the other side.

When I was a child, I feared death as an end, eternity as an empty void. As I grow older, I am beginning to sense the never-ending continuity of life and death. They are really one, these two experiences that we have been led to believe are polar opposites. The whole, seen together, is Presence, living consciousness that is eternal. If you have a spiritual background, you may see that as God or the Divine Mother; it is also what we are at the soul level. No separation—between God/dess and soul, between life and death. It is all infinite consciousness experiencing itself in a multitude of ways. Awareness, arising from the soul, expands throughout our lives until we are able to perceive the oneness fully.

Soul awareness emerges differently in each person. You may not see the divine fusion of life and death until the moment you transition. Or you may be shown it much earlier, at a time of great crisis or great love. Any profound human experience can open the doors of perception so that the light pours through. We all fear facing death alone with no sense of meaning, no light shining to show us the way. But the deeper you surrender to the mystery of life, the greater your trust grows in both meaning and light. Faith replaces fear.

I am not traditionally religious, but I do believe in a Spirit that fills the cosmos with light and beauty. I feel this Presence every day of my life when I watch the sun rise or hear birds singing; it has been with me since birth and will continue after I die. I see it in the tree outside my window and in all the living beings on Earth, plant, animal, and human. In the stones and stars as well. In my own heart. Everything and everyone is part of it, something so magnificent that words cannot encompass its gentle loving power. Our minds think death exists as an end, but it is only a transition to another beginning. If you look closely at the Tree of Life, its secrets reveal themselves, and you see the cycles of Spirit that never end and the exquisitely sweet flow of infinity itself.

Fear and Trust

We all live with both fear and trust inside us. Fear is the residue of past painful events and the emotional triggers that can make us relive them and think something similar may happen again. Today the entire world lives with the fear engendered by a global pandemic and the illnesses and deaths that have accompanied it. In addition, political discord divides our planet. Each of us handles such fears in a variety of ways: distraction, denial, depression, nervous apprehension, sadness. Or just allowing the feelings to flow through and accepting them. The acceptance arises from a trust that lives deep within each of us. We were born with it.

Trust is the spirit of life itself. It is a connection to something greater than the specific events of your life. Some call this God or Universal Consciousness, but it is beyond labels and even beyond human understanding. The longer you live, the more opportunities you have to remember this connection and open to trusting it.  Sometimes in the midst of a very frightening or sad experience, you may realize that acceptance is the only thing that brings peace of mind. A peace that sidesteps the mind’s attempts to understand and control the situation. Acceptance opens the door to trust. Trust that comes from the wisdom of the heart and soul.

I have had many opportunities to get in touch with acceptance and trust in recent years. I’ve moved from one part of the country to another and then back again, my sense of “home” in constant flux. A dear lifetime friend died unexpectedly, and I felt my heart break. I have also lived through the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Each of these life events affected me immensely and ultimately taught me to let go at the deepest possible level. Cancer, in particular, was a teacher of the most profound wisdom with regard to acceptance. When I accepted that cancer was indeed part of my soul’s path for this lifetime, I was able to move through the experience with trust instead of fear. It has been a year since my diagnosis and treatment, and the deeper truths I learned inform my life daily.

Simultaneously, COVID too has been a major factor for me in living with acceptance. The specter of COVID and its variants forms the background for our lives now, whether we try to ignore it or think of it continually. Perhaps it has come to teach us on a grand scale that there are things we can’t control and that only acceptance will bring peace of mind. Whether it is a hurricane, a pandemic, or a physical condition, there are always events we just have to surrender to and do the best we can to live through consciously. Life is a drama that includes every extreme. At times it feels overwhelming, and we want to rewrite the script, forgetting that we designed our life path before birth.

Everything is happening for our awakening and expansion. If you can embrace this truth, it puts you in touch with the peace at your core. A peace that gently moves you through fear to trust. Trust in the events of your life, however they may appear, and trust in your self and your soul’s journey. You may think everything is chaos in your life, but your heart and soul know better. It is all a sacred passage into the light of peaceful awareness.

Don’t Lose Heart

Life on Earth is not easy. Sometimes it feels like we’re on an endless runaway roller coaster. The polarities of love and hate are constantly playing out: Woodstock and 9/11, rainbow lights on the White House and January 6. Celebration and crisis. Elections. War and peace. It can feel overwhelming. I wonder at times how we ended up on a planet with so much conflict and duality. Then, I remember why—to experience it all and be a bridge to our next evolutionary phase. The key is not to lose heart. Because our hearts are the entry point to everything.

A heart-centered life runs on the energy of love. It leads us to places and events we are destined to experience, people we are meant to meet.  If you are walking down the street, and a stranger smiles and speaks, your spirits lift. If you see beautiful flowers in a neighbor’s garden, you can’t help but smile. When a friend is in tears from a life event that causes them pain, a hug can help you both feel better. If you can reach the point of laughing together at some passing silliness, the world seems less sad and overwhelming. This is what it means to let your heart lead the way. 

What happens when you smile or laugh out loud? Your energy changes, your heart opens. Suddenly, your entire view of life shifts. That’s why it’s called a “hearty laugh”—it’s full-out engaged with life and freely expressed. These are the moments that crack the shell of negativity or mental downswing that we are often prone to these days as the world twists and turns with change. If you can smile, even in the face of fear, conflict, or crisis, then hope is not lost. The human spirit takes a deep breath and continues. From a soul view, everything is unfolding as it’s meant to. The soul is always smiling because it sees the big picture; it sees the evolution of humanity.

We humans often get stuck in the day-to-day dramas of life. We think that’s all that exists, and when we are feeling pain or sadness, we believe it will never go away. Yet emotions are always in motion; if we allow them to flow through us, they dissipate. If we are lucky enough to have a funny friend who makes us laugh in the midst of our upset, we see how everything can suddenly lighten up when humor is introduced. This is probably why comedians play such a key role on Earth–to keep us from taking ourselves too seriously. In truth, life is a constantly shifting reflection of your inner state. What you are experiencing is very much tied to how you see the world.

That may sound simplistic, but it actually plays out in a very real way. If you consciously shift your viewpoint, your experience of events changes too. And smiling and laughing with each other can be catalysts for that shift. Countless popular songs are written about smiling, laughing, or “singing in the rain.” Poets and wise teachers remind us that facing life’s challenges together, hearts linked, keeps our perspective lighter and more positive. So, no matter what is happening in your life or in the world, remember that your gentle heart is the wisest guide you could possibly have; keep it wide open and you will not lose your way.

“Stay gentle, keep the eyes of a child
Don’t harden your heart or your hands
Know to find joy in the darkness is wise
Although they will think you don’t understand…
Stay gentle, stay gentle
The most powerful thing you can do
Oh, gentle, unbreakable you”
—Brandi Carlile

Without a Word

I usually arise around 4 or 5 in the morning when there is predominantly silence everywhere. I sit in the darkness and rest in the stillness, soothed by the absence of noise or traffic outside. Soon the birds begin to sing, and the light of the sun fills the world. There are no voices or conversations interrupting the peace I feel at this time. I am absorbing the experience of morning without a word. Through my ears and eyes; through my cells. Presence.

So much of our lives is based in language, spoken or heard, filling our brains with thoughts. What would it be like to experience the world without mentally describing it to ourselves? Can you see a tree or bird without naming it as such? A person without mentally categorizing gender, age, race? Even beyond that, can you see anything without language, just experiencing it without a word? We humans have learned to divide the world with the words we have created to describe it. Often we aren’t even seeing what we see; instead we perceive a mental image of a word designation we have come to associate with something. We all do this. What if we tried to shift our awareness into just experiencing with no perceptual parameters? Life arising and falling away with no attempts on our part to capture it in words. Like the silence at dawn.

I’m a writer so this can seem like quite a challenge to me at times. Yet when I am walking in Nature or sitting in the silence of sunrise, it frees my mind to just experience the world from my heart, wordlessly. I practice seeing without naming as I walk among the trees, bushes, and flowers of the natural world. I can always write about it later, but in the experience itself I prefer to be and receive the full wonder of what is before me. I grew up an only child on five acres in the Illinois countryside, so I spent a lot of time alone during those years.  I had friends at school, but at home I enjoyed the solitude and silence of Nature. Somehow this has carried over to my adult life. I feel most at home in wordless Presence.

A number of years ago, when I was taking part in traditional fire ceremonies with Maya elders in Guatemala, I experienced this same kind of deep Presence. Even though words in the Maya language were spoken within the ceremony, somehow there was a profound silence that pervaded everything. No conversation, just inner quiet and receptivity. The stillness of Spirit linked our hearts and souls and also brought Nature’s magic beyond human language close to us. Bees circled in the air above the fire before the ceremony at Tikal, and birds swooped through the lingering smoke afterward. It was as if they were weaving the energy of the ceremony into the greater world. And none of us spoke at these times; to be wordlessly present was enough.

Of course, it’s not necessary or realistic to live like this all the time. Our friendships, family, and community arise out of communicating verbally and sharing life experiences, thoughts, and feelings with words. Yet, to step back at times and just be silent is deeply soothing. Your breathing slows, and your whole body relaxes. Space opens up within you for the soul to expand into present-moment awareness. Those who meditate or take long quiet walks experience this. I feel it in the stillness before the day begins. If we each found our way to including such experiences in our daily lives, perhaps we would be less busy and stressed. Sometimes the most profound moments of life occur without a word.