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.

Living with the Unknown

Nothing is definitively known, ever. That’s why Native Americans, in their timeless wisdom, have called life the “Great Mystery.” No matter what scientists do to try to break the code—send vehicles to Mars, create life in a test tube, photograph black holes in space—the puzzle of human existence and life and death is never really solved. Any “knowledge” we come to as a species is a shifting illusion that changes with the years and with those who are “knowing.” That’s the realm of science and the mind—and belief systems.

Then there’s religion and spirituality. Many traditional religions have explained life’s mysteries with teachings about God, each of them claiming truth and revelation. Yet those too are based in belief. Spirituality extends the parameters a bit to a wide array of perspectives and possibilities about the nature of life and Spirit. If we remain open, we enter the realm of the heart. Therein, it becomes clearer that we can never fully understand life or God; we can only experience them. Which means letting go of interpretations and searches and just living in the mystery as it unfolds.

I’ve found this to be a guiding truth over the past month on my journey with breast cancer. Each day, new information comes up to be processed, or there is a new test result to be waited for. If I try to figure it all out ahead of time or mentally project myself into all the possibilities, I get lost in the “what ifs.” And fear. Instead, I focus on the experience of each moment. That returns me to my heart. My decisions and direction arise organically from there.

My years of meditation practice have prepared me for this time. It becomes an intensive immersion in present-moment awareness. Breath by breath. And I find I don’t have to remind myself to do it. At this point in my life—and perhaps because of the nature of what I am going through—I seem to automatically remain centered in today’s experience. Tomorrow is a question mark, but today the sky is clear, the birds are singing, and I am alive. That’s all I “know.” Perhaps that’s the gift of facing a disease that is full of unknowns and can be so frightening. In order to remain centered in the calm at my center, the peace of my soul, my entire being brings me back to the present moment.

So how do you and I retain this wisdom, this calming approach, in our day-to-day lives, beyond crisis situations? Here, I think it once again becomes a practice of consciously calling yourself back to the present moment, with each breath you take. The more you do it, the more ingrained it becomes in your consciousness. Gradually, you release your hold on the need to know outcomes and relax into living with the unknown, accepting each experience as it arises and letting go into the next one. This is the natural flow of spirit in life. If you allow it, it will carry you effortlessly through the endless vacillations of life. You feel every emotion as it arises but never lose your connection to the inner peace that lives at your core. In this way, the unknown becomes your faithful companion, instead of your adversary, on life’s journey.

Commitment to Hope

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without words
And never stops—at all”
—Emily Dickinson

A key component in any transformative life experience, personal or planetary, is hope. Not half-hearted or faint hope, but hope that is steadfast, sturdy, resilient, like that in Emily Dickinson’s poem. Hope within the human soul cannot be extinguished, no matter the hardship or loss. Despite the challenges of life, we humans endure because of that intangible something within us that holds us to life. Yet, there are times when hope seems shaky—as tenuous as a single candle flame wavering in a strong wind. Times such as now, when political discord, a deadly global pandemic, or personal crises erode our belief in a positive outcome. This is when hope is needed most.

Hope requires intention and commitment to keep it alive and well. Especially the latter. Commitment is the strong hand that holds trust in place and points to possibility when surrounded by what seems impossible. Commitment to oneself, to others, and to a greater intelligence that weaves a tapestry of meaning in the seemingly chaotic universe. In our dreams, we envision a better world in which all beings on the planet live in balance, health, and harmony. Those dreams arise from the divine design that shapes our lives on Earth. They are founded in hope.

In day-to-day life, how do we live that commitment, keep it strong within us? It must be part of the weaving of our relationships with family, friends, and our communities. It must live in the smiles among strangers in the streets, the friendly word to grocery cashiers or bus drivers. Commitment is fed by the feedback of connection and loving relationships. Hope grows stronger in our hearts when we feel part of something larger than our own individual lives. When we feel one, not separate. To keep the commitment to hope is to remember that we are not solitary, we are many.

I have been reminded of this repeatedly recently as I face a breast cancer diagnosis and live through the surgery and healing process. Friends and family have been key in keeping me centered in the hope in my own heart and soul. Even in the midst of fears that can accompany illness or disease (or any unknown), hope rises within us and sustains us. The feathered presence that Emily Dickinson refers to has appeared to me again and again in my life, never more than now. No coincidence that birds have been one of my greatest joys throughout the years. Their songs lift my heart and show me the vivid miracles that surround me every day. When I hear a cardinal singing outside my window, I know God is near, both within me and in the external world.

So, whatever your life situation, whatever challenges you are called to face in your life, whatever is going on in the world, look around and see the beauty, see the blessings. Nature, friends, family, the sun that rises each morning—all these call you to hope, for your own life, for all of our lives on this dear blue planet Earth. Listen to the sweet song of hope in your soul and know that each breath you take is a miracle. Commit your life to hope, and it will carry you forward, beyond any challenges, into a profound connection to something greater that your one life, to the oneness of spirit that sustains us all at the deepest level.

Shadows and Light

On August 9, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.* For two days I moved, stunned, beneath the dark shadow of those words, which I never had imagined would apply to me. I felt as if all joy and flow in my life had vanished. I couldn’t access the inner peace that had become so much a part of my daily experience. I couldn’t hear my soul’s voice. I was lost within the dramatic scenarios my mind was playing out, all of them shadowed and sad. I grieved the loss of my connection to spirit, to trust (and perhaps to life). Then a wise friend reminded me that I didn’t have to immediately be at peace, that it was okay to feel whatever I needed to, day by day. The light of peace would eventually return, as long as I remembered not to get caught in the mind drama, and just trust the divine process of it all. He was right.

Shadows and light come and go in our lives. They are the yin and yang of the Earth plane. One can’t exist without the other. We wouldn’t know happiness without sorrow, pleasure without pain. On a planet of polarities, we cannot expect the external world to be only one thing. We might be bored if it were. What we can do is find a place of calm acceptance within us to experience (or observe) all those seeming opposites that fill our lives. From that perspective, all is well, and there is purpose beneath the play of consciousness before us and within us at all times. Eventually, we learn that the opposites flow together into one. The diverse forms that make up our planetary experience arise from formlessness and eventually return to that oneness. This is the nature of the multiverse that we inhabit and that is also within us.

That is wisdom I carry in my soul. At times of crisis in my own life (cancer) or in the world (pandemic), it is easy to forget. Feelings of fear and sadness almost overwhelm me. At the last minute, something or someone appears to remind me. The light shines, and the shadows recede. If I can accept the existence of both shadows and light, I can move forward even in the face of fear, even with sadness in my heart. The human experience is complex and unpredictable. Only in deep inner surrender and trust can we find peace. I signed up for all these life experiences before birth; to resist them is to lose the greater wisdom and purpose of my unique life. I am expanding and evolving through each and every one of them. Our entire planet, our entire multiverse, is evolving through our individual and collective experiences.

I am still on this journey, still facing the unknowns of living with a cancer diagnosis (follow-up MRI yesterday; awaiting results; surgery next week). All this is perhaps a further emptying out within my life, which began in Florida. I know now, with everything in me, that that emptiness occurs so God awareness can fill it. I remind myself repeatedly to remain open to everything that appears to be a loss. More space for God, for divine connection, and for my own soul’s full flowering. There are no mistakes, no terrible errors or punishments. Every single thing, as Rumi wrote, “has been sent as a guide from beyond.”

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*NOTE: I found the lump in my breast myself, only two weeks after a “normal” mammogram. It couldn’t be seen because my breasts are very dense. A subsequent ultrasound picked it up, and I was sent for a biopsy. I am grateful for whatever divine impulse moved me to examine my breasts (which I rarely do) that day because the cancer was found at what appears to be an early stage. So please remember to do breast self-examination–it could save your life!