I only know that my need to listen more deeply has been answered with an undoing that has made me listen with my eyes, my heart, my skin. Now I wonder softly: Does a plant listen by breaking ground? Does sand listen by accepting the waves it can never escape? And how do stubborn souls like us listen?
I feel like a painter who, after mastering certain brushes over the years, has come to the end of brushes; who in an effort to get closer to the light has thrown his brushes into the fire, to ignite more light. I am left finally to paint with my hands. I hope there is something helpful here. –Mark Nepo.
Roses sent to me by my friend Swan
I am sharing my experience because I believe the ways in which our lives unfold hold treasures for ourselves and others. For me, writing is a process of discovery and reflection and a way to continually come back to what feels truest and deepest. Writing and living in this way is the well from which I drink.
Six years ago my dearly beloved brother was killed in a car accident at this time of year. A couple of years later, the anniversary was marked by the mutual decision of my then-husband and I to divorce. Since then I have experienced two significant break ups, all occurring during the same transitional week from September to October. According to traditional Chinese medicine, autumn is the season associated with grief. For me, this is a truth that is repeatedly confirmed. As I sit to write this morning I watch the golden leaves of my neighbor’s maple prepare to make their descent to the earth below.
I share this history not to paint myself as a victim in anyway, but as a reminder that love and life are precious because they are impermanent. Everything shifts and moves and we are required to let go of both harmful and beautiful things. For me living creatively means that the process is far more important than achieving any particular outcome. In the end, life is the unfolding. I bow to that unfolding everyday and it cleanses me and teaches me to be present and patient and kind.
As I reflect on my most recent breakup, I feel sadness, but it is unadulterated. It is the pure emotion of grief and it is made sweet by the mutual respect, honesty, courage, warmth, and the ground of safety that was established in the interactions he and I had. Those things remain. There is a mutual understanding that has come from communication. From the very beginning of our interactions, I did not feel possessive of him. I was not in the relationship for my own gain. I felt warm and curious and supportive of his process and mine. In the last few years I have been living out a deep inquiry into nonviolence. Nonviolence to me means not forcing things. It means sitting very still and listening and making space for unconscious longings to emerge. This has helped me cultivate an attitude of neutrality and unconditional warmth towards what is. I feel deeply grateful to have been able to be a participant in this relationship where both beautiful and difficult things could show themselves and be received with equal warmth.
I am also grateful for the ways in which choosing to be nonviolent has made my intentions sharply clear. I am not interested in engaging with life at the surface levels of blame, drama, and protection. I am interested in kindness. I am interested in presence. I am interested in paying gentle attention. Perhaps I have become wise enough to know that what really needs to happen and what I think needs to happen are rarely the same thing. We are participants in a brilliant tale. This insight has resulted in a much greater capacity for allowing things to take their course. I am developing the patient abiding that creates space for things to soften, unwind, and dissolve. Part of presence is letting go of the need to change or fix or solve anything. This requires incredible trust and courage. It is also the best learning I have ever done.
I also want to say that life moves in a mysterious way. The most painful moments of my life are also the ones where I have been the recipient of real kindness and grace. As I look back over the last few years, I am brought to my knees by the people who have shown up for me in ways large and small to support me and feed me and give the necessary encouragement to take the next step in the most life-giving direction. The genuine goodness within the human heart is the sustenance on which our lives are built.
I want more than anything to live a truly creative life, to be a writer, to let go of all unnecessary things and throw “my brushes into the fire, to ignite more light.” I hope that my words can point people towards the rich depth of life which is also the depth within them. It is a true privilege to love deeply and let go. May the beauty of autumn remind us this is so.