I know that there is a school of thought that says awakening is becoming permanently blissful. Proponents of it would have us be happy 24/7. Not.
For I have compassion and it bids me speak the truth. I will not lie about my life any longer. For me, life is the space in which awakening may or may not happen. It is the space that counts. I go to Cancer Wellness at the hospital where my late husband was treated for his cancer. At the time, it did not exist and we went to The Wellness Community, which has now merged with Gilda’s Place. Titles come and go; the space remains.
I go there because, unlike church, it espouses no doctrine; it is all inclusive. The space doesn’t care what happens in it. I walk through the doors of the building and am welcomed into a compassionate place.
My favorite activity there is Writing for Recovery. We sit around a table and write for two hours. This is as sacred as it gets. If we want to read what we have written, we do. If not, not. It is a glassed-in room that looks out on both freeway and suburbia, so there are trees and concrete in equal measure. But I am up on the seventh floor and it doesn’t matter whether tree or concrete wins. What matters is the emptiness that it fills.
Space is the place in which awakening arises, or not. It wears no labels and beckons me to enter. Once inside, I find what I am seeking. I may have to sort through boxes of old thoughts and meander among the debris of “me,” but sooner or later the space overtakes all thought.
There are other things to do in this community. There is art, meditation, cooking classes, xi gong…all juicy stuff for the beleaguered cancer patient or caregiver. I joined this community at a low point in my life; I stay because it is a high point in my life now. The cancer patients that I know come there for the same reason that I do. To experience the spaciousness of grace.
Bob may look down from a cloud occasionally and beam on me for staying close to the source. For us, our journey through cancer together ended on Dec. 20, 2004. I continue on.
Opening To The Journey
The more I open up to writing about my inner journey, the more people I reach. What I mean is, everyone is tired of the generic stuff written about the “I am” awareness. Attention to one’s own consciousness on a continual basis is vital. How else can we catch the wolf of mechanicalness waiting to eat our pacific little sheep?
So I sit daily, looking within. Moods I may not have noticed are seen as the beginnings of a full-fledged attack of unconscious forces. The holidays bring these marauders and it happens like this. I watch something on TV and a Hallmark-type commercial comes on. Loving families are portrayed. My emotion is drawn into the scene, but my memories are unique to me. I buried my husband two days before Christmas. I remember a tiny little tree sitting on a hospice dresser and me, his wife, staring at it with unseeing eyes. I let myself know that. And I get up and make a cup of instant coffee and eat a cookie. Silently I bless myself and thereby bless the world. “I vow to relieve the suffering of all sentient beings,” and this is one way to do it. Show mercy to yourself. You have suffered enough without adding self-blame to the mixture.
Eternal love is big enough to hold us all. But the garden variety love will fail to heal your inner hunger for wholeness. I loved my husband poorly at times on the human level and he failed me as well. He is on the other side now and I love him eternally, for ego is out of the picture. I used to get mad at him for not telling me I looked nice. Now there is no possibility of a compliment from him. There is only the Self that he is and I am finding that is a bittersweet “enough.” I have loved and been loved. I can look in a million mirrors and never see myself. Beauty is beyond the mirror; how beautiful is that?
Talking About Loss
Why do I talk so much about my losses? They were sustained over a long period of time, for one thing. My daughter lived for three years after her diagnosis and my husband for about four and a half. That was almost eight years of caregiving a loved one with no hope of healing. All I could do was take care of business one day at a time. We had family in town, my sister and her husband, when our daughter was dying. But when Bob was diagnosed, there was only he and I and our son.
I had weeks and months that turned into years of grief work to do. I did it alone. I turned inward to spiritual teachings that consumed my interest. I lost myself in truth and I learned to breathe that way. The outer world held no attraction for me; I merely went through the motions. I was a good soldier, albeit sometimes an angry one. Oh, yes, I cursed a world that had no room for mothers of children who had died. People turned away from me carrying a bald-headed child and once again when my arms were empty. Who wouldn’t feel betrayed?
But it is good to be betrayed by the world for then you turn within. As the Sufis say, “You are the outermost out and the innermost in.” And one day all will be well. Today, all is well, but the sufferer is unaware of that. And so compassion is built alongside the grief. And you continue on, getting through seasons of hell and seasons of melancholy and seasons of “ so what.” Life goes on, but it must go on in a renewed way.
My writing voice is what I use these days. Taking the ship a little deeper into the waters of remembrance. Healing myself as I confess and share my life with a few readers here and there. I also use humor and utter frankness to bust open the prison doors. If any of you are imprisoned, I give you, not a crust of bread, but a loaf of “Let it be.” And you shall be fed by an inner source…your own compassion.