This post was originally written and published in 2009. I came across it because I’ve been gathering (and editing) my writing for a project. Even though this is one of the pieces I remember very well, re-reading it still shocked me. I was truly under the impression it was a one-time deal, situation specific. But it is as relevant today as it was 4 years ago, as it was a few times in between and surely will be a few more times in the years to come. It’s not situation specific…it’s about a process.
Turns out that as the spiritual masters, philosophers and so many other wise ones have always suggested, whatever we are here to learn and deal with, things of an emotional or practical nature, will continue to show up again and again and again in some way or other, until hopefully we realize what’s happening. There’s no avoiding the essential lessons and paths in each of our lives…no hiding them or from them.
The “big issues” work the same as the littlest ones. Bills come to mind as a great example. We can put them off, defer payments, use credit to pay for credit, but eventually, it’s all going to have to be paid off somehow. And even if it all goes away one time, our very habit of handling money will create another similar situation, more bills, and another round on the same carousel. Until we allow the learning of a new habit of handling money, practice it, test it, live it…we’ll be in the same place even if the scenery changes. It’s exactly like in that movie…Groundhog Day.
I turned, as I often do, to Kahlil Gibran‘s poem on love. I remember the first time I read it, and each time I re-read it, there is always a measure of surprise mixed with awe and recognition.
He certainly doesn’t mince words or soften the truth: wounded, crucified, shaken from the roots, naked, ground to whiteness, pliant. And all this so we may know…so we may live an authentic life, OUR authentic life. He measures the immeasurable and leaves it unmeasured. He carves the truth into rock, only so we may find it floating about, a luminous winged creature ready to settle on our shoulder should we so wish.
I come to meet these lines: “but if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure” the same way every time: with a shiver. Because I know what comes next: “the seasonless world”. The half-life.
And I know exactly what it means…and that it does not only refer to love, but to every single choice we make in our lives about important things…soulful things, things that describe who we are and what we build in this world.
What I remembered the other day was a contradiction I met before…one that explains why we might misunderstand what lies at the core of our greatest inner struggles. It isn’t confusion, it’s the exact opposite. To face confusion is, at worst, a really frustrating experience. To face certainty however, is probably one of the scariest experiences we can ever have. It’s that shaking of one’s roots in their clinging to the earth; the freeing from our husks, the grinding into whiteness.
This poem I know practically by heart reconfirms that struggle and conflict only exist when fear takes over, and we know exactly what we want of ourselves and in our lives. Yet to have it all and make it happen, we have to step beyond our comfort zone…way beyond; beyond contentment with an inauthentic yet apparently safe, comfortable, even lucrative existence.
If we miss rare opportunities, it’s never because they are unattainable. And THAT is a hell of a truth to face head on.
No wonder we struggle like mad at crossroads. One path leads to the “seasonless world”. The other is an unknown path…challenging in ways we can’t imagine, yet also wondrous in ways we’ve only dared begin to dream of. On this path, we can only be who we are, and can no longer deny both our responsibility and our own power.
I sat many times at crossroads for different reasons and in different spots: at home, in nature, in a seminar, in a chair, in front of a mirror. Perhaps paused would be a better word to describe the experience. And I didn’t pause because I wanted or chose to. Something always seems to have brought me there, as if on purpose, and in a rather abrupt, if not outright painful manner.
What one experiences in this place is, I believe, a very similar thing every time and for every person. It’s a journey into the future where we meet two versions of ourselves and our lives. We get to see and feel what it is like to lose and exist without what we want, not become who we need to become, how much less we are when we do not tap into our true potential and make the most of it. It’s unthinkable.
And we also get to see and feel what happens on the other path…not details, but the fear of living, the intensity and beauty of life, as raw and awesome as it truly is.
I think crossroads are most terrible places to be, and at the same time, the most fortunate.
Terrible because we know the familiar, safer path leads to that “seasonless world”, which is never going to be otherwise no matter what we come across, invent as a distraction or numb within ourselves so as to survive. And also terrible because the other path, with all its promise, is the scariest thing we can imagine.
Most fortunate because there is the other path.