April 12, 2012

I’ve been sad lately.  On April 12, I celebrated 10 years of continuous 12-step recovery; it was a moment shared with over 100 people, including my mother and so many dear friends, to celebrate this gift of life I’ve been given.  In the moment, one of the happiest days of my life.  

On that very day, unbeknownst to me until the following day, across the country, my beautiful six-year old niece Lara died in a tragic accident at the beach in Santa Cruz.   Along with many others who love her and who spoke heartwrenchingly at her funeral, I shared a eulogy.  

Today, I miss Lara.  I had just felt I’d begun to know her; I made the youthful, natural mistake of thinking there would always be more time, yet I’d also recently made the heartfelt commitment to spend more of it with her and her sister Kaira more regularly, more often, at more length, at any opportunity…   

And I find myself missing what I realize Lara represented to me — the perfect beauty of unspoiled youth, the fearless joy of unconditional love, innocent happiness that arises spontaneously from the ground of being…  Childhood.

I am feeling heartbroken at the randomness of life.  Random is another word for “no meaningful pattern or explanation” — it’s very hard to feel this, as I do, in my gut, in my heart, in my feet, in my head, in my throat, in my teeth, in every cell of my being — about life itself … And to press on just the same.  

The last 10 years, I took refuge in self-care, healing, following my heart, clearing my karma, being of service, and doing my dharma the best I could discern how. It has been a revolution in my existence.  I am not the same man I was 10 years ago — my motives, my patterns, my interests, my intentions, my bodymind itself — have all deeply shifted.  I want to be of service, to experience and give love the best I know how, as much as I can.  I am grateful for this change, and for this life.  

I know it would have been impossible without faith and perseverance, and that I am, in a sense, still quite young on this path.  The seeds were there before, but the field was fallow, and the life of recovery and of faith I’ve found has been, at various times as a bright sun, a sweet rain and a cool breeze to my gently awakening spirit …  It was recovery that brought me back to my family, to Lara — as a wholer, happier, better man.  

So my heartfelt hope is this time of darkness in my life and spirit evolves into something light and pure and good and true.   I have faith it will. I want to be there for myself, my family, my job, my community, be my best for us all.

The Bhagavad Gita begins with Vishada Yoga — Arjuna’s despair at facing the prospect of certain death of loved ones.  He throws down his bow and says, “I will not fight!”  Yet, somehow, Krishna lovingly teaches him that is just what he must do, to get up, soldier on, fulfill his life’s purpose in the face of certain death and impending grief…  I need that quiet certainty now, that hope that there is redemption, salvation, nirvana, samadhi, moksha, heaven, bliss, or just something good in pressing on… 

At a friend’s suggestion, I’ve decided to read the classic Dr. Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.  I haven’t gotten through it all yet, but the basic existential question it asks is — faced with overwhelming trauma, pain, and sadness — why live? Who or what do you love enough to struggle through life for?  As a Jewish doctor imprisoned at Auschwitz, Dr. Frankl had to answer this question himself…

And, ten years ago, in the depth of a profound depression — I had no good, clear answer to that question.  But now I’ve got hundreds of answers of why to live…  So I know I will come through this time stronger, but I’m feeling very existential nonetheless, and it’s not comfortable to feel these deep questions and deep forces of change churning in me…   I’m feeling I need to re-answer that question even more clearly, with even more urgency. 

I have begun to and will continue to…   And in light of Lara’s passing, hope to have a single, adamantine answer that really honors her perfect, too-short life, and her enormous heart — and my own — and all of us … 

2 thoughts on “April 12, 2012

  1. From Sogyal Rinpoche’s classic The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Ch. 13, p. 214:A friend of mine, who had just graduated from a famous medical school, started work at one of the larger London hospitals. On her very first day on the ward, four or five people died. It was a terrible shock for her; nothing in her training had equipped her to deal with it at all. Isn’t this astonishing, considering she was being trained to be a doctor? One old man was lying in his bed, staring at the wall. He was alone, with no family or friends to visit him, and he was desperate for someone to talk to. She went over to him. His eyes filled with tears and his voice trembled as he asked her the last question she expected to hear: "Do you think God will ever forgive me for my sins?" My friend had no idea at all how to respond; her training had left her completely unprepared for any spiritual questions. She had nothing to say; all she had to hide behind was her professional status as a doctor. There was no chaplain close by, so she just stood there, paralyzed, unable to answer her patient’s desperate call for help and for reassurance about the meaning of his life.She asked me, in her pain and bewilderment: "What would you have done?" I said to her I would have sat by his side, held his hand, and let him talk. I have been amazed again and again by how, if you just let people talk, giving them your complete and compassionate attention, they will say things of a surprising spiritual depth, even when they think they don’t have any spiritual beliefs. Everyone has their own life wisdom, and when you let a person talk you allow this life wisdom to emerge. I have often been very moved by how you can help people to help themselves by helping them to discover their own truth, a truth whose richness, sweetness, and profundity they may never have suspected. The sources of healing and awareness are deep within each of us, and your task is never under any circumstances to impose your beliefs but to enable them to find these within themselves.

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