I’m at a roadside park just off I-94 overlooking a part of the Badlands called Painted Canyon.
The sun is setting to my left. It highlights the layered colors of the sprawling valley below me in intense blues, fiery reds, bruised purpled, living greens and a hundred shades of grey and brown.
The clouds are lit from within on a background that slowly shifts from pale blue to a deep violet capturing all the colors of my imagination.
Just past the edge of this vantage is an ancient juniper with dark berries. Balancing on the edge of its sparse limbs a meadowlark sings. In the distance a red tailed hawk circles.
At my feet are perfect yellow flowers that iridescent green bees suckle at. Ants clamber in the deep grass, carrying supplies to stock their underground metropolis.
A child’s balloon floats by me. A red island drifting on a cool breeze. Dancing with the invisible.
In the distance a child cries. Another laughs. The incessant sounds of man, the murmuring chatterous monotony of high and low and hushed and shouted tones and nearby traffic and all their smells, sweet and masked and dirty, are all broken, drowned in a profound silence that has no name.
Standing at the fence that keeps humanity at bay, separate from the world we were born into, is a young couple, giddy with love, arms wrapped around each other, smiling, content, joyous. Their love shines so brightly that it adds to the glow of the setting sun. A stranger takes their picture, hands the camera back to them with a “You’re welcome” and with no more than a quick glance into eternity and a shrug, walks quickly back to their car. They have someplace to be. An itinerary. A plan. They will miss so much. Too much.
I take in the sight and am filled with a deep peace, with the miracle of this moment. It is captured within me and I am captured within it and it lives forever.
Not in the past. Not as a memory, now, because Now is all that ever exists.
I have something to admit: I have a problem with Christmas. Not an objection, I like the idea of families gathering and sharing, I just don’t have that, not for many years. and it’s become a problem. An issue.
I don’t know when it started, a long time ago, but every year now for a few weeks leading up to the day and building exponentially like a nuclear reactor going offline unexpectedly (except far more predictable), I deal with a pretty severe depression. By the time the day arrives I want to lock my doors, block the windows, turn off all the lights, and disappear silently into a bottle.
It’s a battle. One I usually lose. This year was no different. I tried. I really did. I meditated and read only optimistic news and reached out to family, but the meditations only made me aware of the underlying self pity, the good news made me feel left out, and family stayed out of reach.
How about that? Me. The Bohemian that spends his spare time learning, practicing, and writing about mindfulness and acceptance and gratitude and love. Depressed.
The thing about problems, problems like seasonal depression, or loneliness, or loss of self worth, or whatever, is that absolutely no one is immune. No one. The Christ faced his demons in the desert, Buddha constantly battled with Mara, and I deal with depression that lights up like a Roman candle with the first Christmas song played over crappy speakers in some back road gas station Santa will surely pass by and grows into a raging forest fire that chokes the life out of me and leaves me in ashes.
Okay, maybe that’s a little melodramatic, but also probably not so far from the truth of how it feels, but it’s also not my point.
My point is that everyone, absolutely everyone, deals with something and while I am neither the Christ or the Bhudda I have been given the very same tools to deal with those “somethings” that they were.
And one day I will learn how to use them.
Wait for it…
Today I’m grateful it’s passed and accept that I still have things to learn.
Depressed Bohemian, indeed.
There’s something funny about that image. I’ll throw it in the fodder file to use later. A gift to myself.
There is a silence here. A silence in the air. In the ground I walk upon broken with heavy boots leaving the slightest crackle of lightest snow snuffed little by little with each step as my path hardens into firmest ice.
Above me a sky of photograph blue spreads so far I can see the curve of this incredible planet I call home.
Big Sky. Yes. No denying that moniker. I’ve seen many skies and Montana has the biggest skies I’ve ever seen.
Early winters are the norm here. I guess I forgot that having lived so many years just east of the natural weather break the Badlands provide. Here, there is nothing to stop the winds amplified by unimaginable miles of rolling hills meeting high plains.
So here I am. At the edge of what I knew facing the experience of what I will know.
Sounds familiar. Sounds like Life.
Unless we live under the warm blankets of comfort, never venturing out to explore what we may yet know, we fortify ourselves. Build walls.
To never step into the cold, the blizzard winds that tear at us, each frozen tear of the Universe itself falling from heights we really can not imagine like an infantry of icy pebbles, or grains of purest sand that burn our feet with impressions of the memories of worlds that left them, is to never experience the gift that life is.
How fortunate I am that the Divine, both furious ice and flame, has put me here to see with eyes and feel with hands what those with only the machinations or extrapolations of minds may express or experience through words.
Days when the lightness in our heart can lift us to the skies
Days when it’s so heavy that the weight threatens to sink us to the core of the earth where we’d gladly lose ourselves in that molten hell
Days when the sun shines and lights our way
Days when the sunshine hurts our eyes and makes us wish we were invisible
Days of love and joy
Days of suffering and pain
We have very little control over the events of our days and sometimes simple things can trigger either incredible happiness or intense sorrow.
What we can control is how we deal with those events. The more aware I am of this and the more I practice mindfulness and meditation the more awake I become and the more better my days are. But its not a cure, it’s a practice. A practice that never ends.
I hope you have a more better day too but if this turns out to be one of “those” days then remember; we all have them. They pass.
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters”
– M. Scott Peck
Today I’m working on acceptance. This has always been a difficult one for me because I am capable of so much. I do everything myself; do my own mechanic work, construction, you name it I do it.
But there are things beyond my ability to fix. Things I have no control over. And other things that have resulted from my choices, good or bad, that follow me, linger like specters, haunt my dreams and unbalance me.
Accepting them is not easy but it’s necessary because without acceptance I fall under their control. I am led by them and I suffer and sometimes the pain of those things can be overwhelming.
In accepting my limitations, knowing that my best is always good enough, I render those things powerless. They still exist. They just don’t control me.
This is not always an easy thing to do So today I pray to the Divine Source that I learn to accept those things I can not change, learn from them the lessons I require, and live in peaceful acceptance of them.
When we are born we discover the most amazing things: the world develops before our very eyes and as we grow it expands as if we, ourselves, are the gods that create it moment by moment.
In our teens we discover complex emotions that threaten our very existence: rage, pain, immense joy and sadness, and, for the very first time, even though we may not recognize it for what it is, Love.
We go through school being taught pointless rhetoric: math, science, history. All the while being taught none of those things that could lead us to deeper paths; mindfulness, loving kindness, compassion. Those are supposed to be taught by our parents. Parents who never learned those things either.
Learn them. They will lead you farther than you imagine.
Later still, we discover that we wished we had learned more of those worthless ideas. Paid closer attention. What was that formula for finding the volume of a circle again? That will come in handy later. I promise you that. So pay attention if you can. But there’s more.
We discover the value of money. Of friendship and of hard work and of possession. We go into the world discovering fine food, good company, bright lights.
Too often people don’t make it past those last discoveries. They base their lives on the hedonistic values of life: a big house, a nice car, good clothes, physical pleasure. Discovery ends. Life has been explored and all that it offers has been found.
Those discoveries become empty. Meaningless. Superficial. Life becomes meaningless. Emotions become an intolerable consequence. A side effect of life.
If we are insightful, or have a fortunate predilection for it, or have a loved one willing to force our awareness, or we are just plain lucky, or unlucky, we push deeper. Struggle harder to find meaning.
Our path of discovery narrows to two distinct paths: inward or outward.
The outward path leads us to medical discovery. To miracle cures. To pills that end our suffering. To gurus and healers and shaman. The path can branch over and over from here but it always leads us to the discovery of the inward path though very very few can make that transition.
If you find yourself at that transitional fork in your path I hope, I truly hope, you find your way to the inward path. Reach into that place and you will find a hand willing to lead you farther than you ever imagined. I promise you that.
The inward path leads us to ever deeper discovery: understanding, self love, honesty, acceptance, awareness, unity, Love. True Love.
Discoveries that lead us to higher planes of existence. Planes where loss and suffering are accepted as simply a part of life and where the value of a single breath, drawn long and slow while listening to and feeling the beat of our own miraculous heart connect us to the very soul of the Universe, is beyond measure.
What we discover there can never be fully expressed in words but in that place are experiences outside the realm of comprehension and yet understood as if we were once again children creating, moment by moment, the very fabric of our own distinct, yet combined, reality.
My wish for you is this:
Continue your journey. Never cease in your struggle of discovery, because even further beyond that point lay infinity: a point of chaotic generation and regeneration of life where the distance between infancy and eons are but fractions of moments of the life of a single drop of moisture on a spiders web and all that we have discovered between birth and true life, the life that always awaits, that bekons and welcomes all, are a single reflection on the surface of that dew that shimmers a while before dropping into an endless ocean that rises as mist to condense on the web over and over again.
In that chaos of constant re-creation resides the Divine where She rests on this, the Seventh Day, with arms wide and welcome, to bring us into Her embrace.
It is a place of constant discovery and awe and wonder where a word as simple and complex as “Love” or “Gratitude” can define our very existence.
Though I tend to speak of it in terms of enlightenment and higher planes of consciousness it is not some mythical place reached only through lifetimes of deep meditation and study. It does not require the use of psychoactive compounds or healers or teachers.