The Magic Formula

I don’t know the magic formula; nobody does. Forget the wisdom of the ages. You are feeling like a dope much of the time. How do I know that about you? Because I know myself. There are some situations that beg to be patiently suffered and I have been unable to. For instance, the day the kindly pediatric surgeon told my husband and I that our four-year-old had cancer. How could any parent in their right mind take that nondually?

My friend Peter and I had that understanding in common. When he had a series of strokes due to an accident, his whole life became one long series of medical misfortunes. He turned to advaita and it failed him. It had to. In its place arose his own wisdom. It turned out to be a little cat he placed on his chest so he could hear it purr.

Peter and I emailed each other for several years. Bob had just gotten his cancer diagnosis and I was flailing about in the waters of God’s love. “All they waves and billows have gone over me.” I hadn’t learned how to float and the salt water coming from my eyes was blinding me. “For what it’s worth, I hold your hand in this,” wrote Peter. Now he has passed on and every now and again I remember the sheer beauty of our friendship.

Peter and I knew the frailties of the human body. His was barely able to move and Bob’s was becoming unable to make red blood cells. We spent many an hour in the chemo room while he got tanked up. I would come home, fix dinner and collapse in front of the computer. There I discovered that even though I didn’t know the magic formula, it helped me to write and write and write. Peter was on the other end of the line, so to speak.

When Bob died, I had no magic formula for recovery. I spent several years enjoying insomnia! A friend said, “You are afraid to fall asleep for fear something worse will come upon you. You’re like a snail who’s been salted.” Bingo. At some point, Peter weakened to the point where one fine day I heard from him no more. Somewhere he is playing his penny whistle and watching clouds. He ended up having it all, the utter bliss of not knowing became his answer to the question of life.

There is no magic formula applicable to the masses. We awaken one by one and even that is not guaranteed. Don’t ask me if I’m awake. Anyone who answers that is talking in their sleep. If Peter should come back for another moment of friendship, I would not ask him if he was awake. I would look into his eyes and that would be quite enough.

Vicki Woodyard


  1. Someone shared this today. It was written in 2011 and I was surprised at how well it held up. I haven’t changed my message since Day One, but it will be new to some readers. Peter was a blessing indeed.


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