Saturday, 3 January 2015

Do not fear the future: It is unwritten

We all stand at the beginning of a new year, none of us knowing what the future will hold, it truly is unwritten. The book of life is open waiting for us to mark it with our stories and when it is written to look back on it and give it whatever meaning we find. Yes the pages truly are blank and for some this can appear a scary proposition, but should we fear the unknown? Surely the excitement and the energy of life is in the unknown and the unknowing?

I have had time to take stock on the year now gone these last few days. On a purely material scale it has been a bad year, one filled with loss. There are several people I have loved deeply and who have loved me who are no longer in my life and I have felt and noticed this gap in recent weeks, especially around Christmas. Right from the beginning of the year up until Christmas I received sad news at the loss of people who have touched my life and I theirs. I have stood and wept at too many bedsides this last twelve months and attended and dare I say conducted more funerals than I would have wanted. I have probably shed more tears these last 12 months than during any other year of my life.

I attended the funeral of a dear sweet old friend only two days before Christmas. A young woman who died of an illness I thank God I found merciful release from, she was only 41. After the funeral myself and three old mates spent some time together and talked of old days, happier days and as we remembered laughter came forth. It was lovely to spend time with old friends. I only wish it could have been in happier circumstances. I drove back that afternoon, in the pouring rain with tears rolling down my cheeks as I thought of other friends, sadly no longer with us. About half way across the Pennines at that wonderful spot, Stott Hall Farm, my thoughts turned to friends I have got to know in more recent times, especially these last 12 emotional months. Thoughts of a young woman I have got to know in recent months came into my mind. It has been a real joy watching her grow spiritually and really come alive, following a difficult time in her life. What came to my mind was how much she reminded me of my friend Cath, whose funeral I had just attended. It was not so much that they looked alike, more how much they were alike in spirit, almost the very same personality. As I continued to drive in the pouring rain and the howling wind I found I just couldn’t get the image of her out of my mind.

Eventually I arrived back in Altrincham. Now for some reason before going home I decided to go to Tesco’s as I needed one or two things for a party I was attending that evening. A party I wasn’t sure I really had the stomach for at that precise moment in time. I drove around the car park trying desperately to find a space, feeling increasingly frustrated. Finally I did and then I headed into the store, tears still forming in my eyes. As I got to the top of the escalator I looked up and almost walked straight into a friend (a man who too had found merciful release from the same illness) who I had last seen at dear old Geoffrey Head’s funeral only a couple of weeks before. I had only discovered at the funeral that this man had lived next door to Geoffrey for many years. We spoke for a few minutes and as I walked away my friend said "the last thing you need on a day like this is the mayhem of a packed supermarket, why don’t you just go home." I thought for a moment that maybe I should, but said to myself. "no I need to get this shopping done." I wandered about in a bit of daze and picked up a few items and then headed for the check out. I stood there for a few moments and then something in me stirred me to go get something from another aisle and so I turned around and carried on shopping. And then I saw a sight that turned my face upside down…

There she was the very same young woman who had come into my mind, who so much had the same spirit as my dearly departed friend Cath. I approached her, said hi and we talked for quite some time. As we did I could feel myself once again coming back to life. I’m sure I was a bit odd, I’m sure she thought so as I recounted what had happened that day. By the way she too was buying supplies for the same party we were both going to that evening.

As I walked away I just smiled and laughed to myself and offered thanks and praise for this beautiful moment of synchronicity. As I walked away that beautiful poem by Wordsworth came to mind, words I always think of as I pass Stott Hall Farm, the very same place where images of that young woman had wandered into my mind.

“There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue, whence–depressed
By false opinion and contentious thought,
Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
In trivial occupations, and the round
Of ordinary intercourse–our minds
Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced,
That penetrates, enables us to mount,
When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen.”

“Spots of time” are moments in our lives that have the potential to change us forever. Moments when life not only feeds but truly nourishes us on a deep, deep level, deeper than the marrow of our bones; moments when the common becomes uncommon; moments when the veils we create ourselves seem to slip away; moments when we seemingly see beyond the ordinary; moments when we experience reality on a deeper level.

These “spots of time” are sacred moments that are made holy by their mysterious ability to nourish us and perhaps even repair us in body, mind, heart and soul. These moments are so special because they seem so rare. I suspect that they are a kind of grace; they seemingly come to us, from a place somewhere beyond ourselves.

As I reflect back on the last twelve months of my life such moments have become less rare. Now is this because they have happened more frequently or is it because I am just far more aware of them than I ever was before? All I know is that people, places and things that have lifted me up when I have seemingly fallen. All I can say is thank you for the blessings, despite the sadness.

So as I stand here at the beginning of a new year it would be easy to do so with a sense of fear, but I do not. Instead I stand here with a sense of anticipation of what might be if I continue to “Choose Life”, with all its blessings and curses and stay open and awake, with an undefended heart, as to what might just be.

It is so easy to take the opposite view, to look at the year just gone, to see all that has gone wrong and to therefore face the future in fear and or dread of how things might turn out. We really do not know, the future truly is unwritten.

Fear comes in many forms, but we need not live in fear of fear itself. Fear is a vital part of our makeup, of our animal heart. It sets the pulses racing and heightens our awareness. Fright is a vital instinct. It points to danger, it’s a warning signal. That said there are other forms of fear which are not so useful. Perhaps the most debilitating of all is dread.

Dread and other forms of debilitating fear can overwhelm us and lead to crippling forms of anxiety which can inhibit us from simply living and being. When we are overcome by such emotions everything can appear bleak; our senses become dulled; it drains all the colour and taste from life. This leads to us projecting our anxiety and worry onto everything that we do in life; it takes the very life out of living and leads to abject misery. It drags us into pits of depression and traps us in the very things that we believe protect us from present dangers. As a result we go deeper into ourselves and get lost and trapped in our black holes of doom and gloom. It can be very difficult to find our way out of these black holes. It sucks the life out of us and stops us being who we really are, all that we can be.

So how do we overcome the power of this debilitating fear? How do we find the courage to continue to “choose life”?

Well it takes just a little faith and a little love to create the courage to "choose life", to accept what is in front of us. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Which of course it is, but it is far from easy. I believe in love and I believe in life and through living in love and remaining open to life, despite its difficulties I find the courage to “choose life”, to overcome the power of unnatural fear. Love will always overcome fear; love will always enable us to find the courage to truly be all that we can be.

We will always know the emotion of fear, we will always feel it. We need it, it is a natural instinct. That said we need not be enslaved by it. We need not live in fear of fear itself. To be free all we need do is live with integrity, live in love and to continue to “choose life”. In doing so not only do we liberate ourselves, we will be a light to others who in turn may be inspired to liberate themselves and others too.

We cannot escape the pain and suffering that accompanies the joy of living. If we want to know the love present in life we also have to accept the pain and suffering we all experience in life too, no one is exempt from this. As we all know only too well.

As we all look back at the last 12 months of our lives I’m certain we have all experienced success and failure this year; that we have all known the joy of new life and experiences, I know that I have. I am certain too that we have all known the pain and suffering of illness and death, if not in our lives, then in the lives of those we hold most dear. Life truly is awry. It humbles me every day.

When the difficulties come we all cry out in pain and ask why is this happening to me? We ask for our own cup of suffering to be removed, but eventually most of us accept reality, we surrender to it and in our own ways cry out “Thy will, not mine, be done”. We get what we get in life, whether we deserve it or not, we certainly can’t avoid some things and if we try to all we really avoid is life’s beauty. No one can escape the suffering that is present in life. If we attempt to all that we succeed in doing is blocking ourselves off from life’s beauty and then we experience the worst kind of suffering; the suffering within the suffering, the ache of loneliness.

So my message to you as we step out into this New Year, this blank page, full of new possibilities is to continue to “choose life”, it is to live with your senses wide open to the love present in those many unexpected moments. If we do life will touch us and bless us even when it really hurts. If we keep our senses open we will be blessed by “spots of time”, that will truly lift us up when fallen.

I'm going to end this little chip of a blogspot with these beautiful thoughts...

“Beginning again on the continuous Journey” by Marta I Valentin

By the grace of the Divine Power,
which is larger hearted than we can ever imagine
we are constantly given the opportunity
to begin again
as the signposts along the continuous journey
suggest twists and turns we had not brought into view,
for the focus was on the mountain just up ahead
beyond the ridge….

By the faith of the Divine Power
that lives through the trust of our human ability
we are constantly offered the challenge to test the waters,
not just smooth the inevitable ripples
to a satiny gloss finish as if
that were the goal in life,
losing all character by not realizing:
the swells are what make life
interesting, intriguing, and indescribable.

By the law of the Divine Power,
whose very core is compassion
for our earthly missteps on this journey,
we are constantly given an opening
to remember that we each have a place
in the kin-dom* of humanity,
and the knowledge”
and courage to begin again toward a faith-filled,
loving grace that is our birthright.

*from Ana Maria Isasi-Diaz

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