,Everything is impermanent, basically yoga philosophy 101 right? Enjoy the moment, there is no time but the present, be kind, compassionate, patient, basically a regurgitation of any preachy yoga class you have ever been to right? Sound Familiar? Well sometimes that shit isn't good enough, sometimes the preaching of impermanence offers me no solace. Sometimes people's words just feel like phonetics falling out of their mouths, lacking the substance of rich words sourced from true empathy and compassion. When we offer ourselves to a suffering being are we doing it from a genuinely empathetic place? Or are we just feeding our egos? Or worse yet can we even bring ourselves to care about another human being on that intimate level?
What about when you have loved someone so deeply you feel you have lived their pain? When you have sang from the depths of your soul as they lay dying, immobile, and brought smiles and tears simultaneously? What if you laid by their bedside and held their hand until their last breath? What if you saw the most beautiful soul move from this physical vessel to another realm? What if you watched the strongest person you know let go of life on this earth?
Sometimes overused inauthentic yoga jargon is not enough to bring true support, love, and real compassion to another being. It is said that the Buddha believes we can free ourselves from suffering. Of course our society is constantly perpetuating unnecessary suffering--traffic, waiting in line at the grocery store, dirty dishes, leaving the toilet seat up... the list goes on for these mundane minuscule inconveniences that matter so little in the grand scheme of our lives and this planet, but these things continue to plague us. These are the things I believe we are capable of freeing ourselves from. These mundane annoyances that we allow to take up valuable space in the miracle I believe to be the human brain. But what about the other stuff? The other stuff that actually warrants suffering?
I've spent the last few years of my life as this carefree spirit, floating around like the air anywhere I was drawn to, I was truly following the ebb and flow of the universe as I believed it to reverberate into my being. Going against what anyone important to me told me I should be doing, I followed my heart. I have surfed waves 2x my height as the current dragged me 2 beaches from where I started onto the shore like a beached whale. I have road tripped across the United States into Canada and climbed the Rocky Mountains. I've sand-boarded down an active volcano, picked coffee in Central America, jumped off waterfalls in Costa Rica, kayaked through mangroves among bioluminescence, got kicked off private property in the Hamptons, explored the streets of the beatnik movement in San Francisco, drank wine at the UN overlooking the NYC skyline at sunset. I've waded through frigid water in the Colombia River Gorge that led to the most majestic waterfalls I have ever seen. I have gotten stranded in the Amazon, climbed Macchu Picchu, lost my passport, and have basically gotten lost or stuck in every country or place I have ever been to, but I have always managed to find my way. I have studied the ancient practices of Tibetan Buddhism, become a certified yoga teacher, explored the practices of Reiki and Thai Massage, completed my Masters in International Relations, I've even worked a 9-to-5. Most importantly, I have fallen in love--fallen out of love, lost the best friends I have ever had only to discover it was to create space for the most amazing community of human beings on this planet.
The truth is, the past few years were nothing but an abundance of light, love, and beauty. Sure I had suffered in my life, we all have, but that is a story for another blog post. It is not until last year that I felt as though I had truly suffered. As each day went by I watched the man I love most wither away with each chemotherapy visit, trip to the emergency room, surgery, procedure, and dose of heavy pain medication. I watched the color slowly drain from his face, the pounds shed leaving little left but bones, his spirit dim as though the strongest fire one has ever known has just had a bucket of water thrown on it, leaving nothing but smoke. With it life swallowed up whatever naivety I had left. Life has in no way left me jaded but it has certainly thrown my spirit into reality, shown me its true ugliness, and the most intense suffering anyone could ever know. Along with it there has also been beauty, laughter, strength, unwavering courage, and the softening of a man who would not so much as acknowledge the existence of a band-aid. Within even the darkest moments of our life there is a light. Being faced with overt impermanence grants one the true realization of the preciousness of each moment. It shows life's unpredictability and that even when we perceive invincibility, we are bound to the realities of impermanence.
When you see someone truly suffering, see if you can reside with them in that pain, if only for a moment. See if you can give the gift of true compassion sourced from authenticity and wisdom, not from books or your Thursday night yoga class (unless it was really great).
Life in its entirety is a journey, but so are each of its parts. I have seen the stark juxtaposition of light and darkness quite overtly, especially in these past few years. I have truly felt the most pain I ever have in my life, and I have changed. I can no longer be who I was when I was floating around country-to-country, yoga festival-to-yoga festival. Don't get me wrong, you will still see me at yoga festivals, traveling, surfing, wherever it is that my heart takes me, but it will be from a place of deeper wisdom, one that knows the feeling of true darkness and pain. It will be from a deeply rich place that includes true freedom and happiness, as well as sadness and suffering.
As I sit here quietly, simultaneously emerging are feelings of gratitude for how deeply I have loved, alongside true sadness for what I have lost. From my uncle I have learned that everyday we wake up is a good day, that happiness lies within even the simplest of moments, the importance of hard work, the amazing sense of fulfillment from doing someone a favor. That zebras can't change their stripes so don't even bother trying. I've learned how much happiness can come from a hot fudge sundae, a slice of pizza, or pancakes with extra whipped cream. From our shared love for the ocean I have realized the dichotomy of lightness and darkness, that we can be as gentle and peaceful as listening to the rising tide or we can be swallowed up like a piece of bubble gum in the midst of a storm.