Yesterday was my birthday. Wow, 62! Who knew this age would ever arrive on the doorstep, bringing with it this very flavor of aches and pains, joys and laughter? Who knew?
At age 11 or 35 or 54 we can perhaps imagine what it’s like to be eligible for social security. But we really can never know a new age until we blow out the birthday cake candles. Another candle for another year lived! We are still alive, dear people, alive and kicking, alive and breathing, alive and sharing love with one another.
All day yesterday–amid the emails, messages, Facebook birthday wishes, phone calls and personal interaction hugs and exchanges–I felt the good fortune of the past year blooming into a brand new birth year. So much learned in a single year! So many gifts of hummingbirds at the feeder, partridge by the mailbox–although I am no longer speaking to the wild beastie since he/she tried to attack me last week, a daughter’s colorful wedding along the Amalfi Coast (no official photographs yet), an impromptu visit downstate to visit my mom, oh so many shining pieces of this mosaic of life.
And yet–I like to paint shining pictures of the joy of life because that what seems to be remembered–and yet–one of the greatest gifts of this year has been a spiritual teacher who teaches how to stay present to our bodies, our humanity, the slices of pain in our hearts brought by 11, 35, 54 or 62 years of living. How to truly feel and digest the pain and sorrow and anger and confusion of living on this blue and green spinning planet where wars and unkindness and death dares to roam.
When I meet you, and you, and you, and you…we are all telling stories of the places where we haven’t yet learned to love, to surrender to something beyond the mind’s dramas, to feel the peace and causeless joy that runs like a clear mountain spring behind the difficult thoughts and emotions hurtling havoc through our nervous systems.
Some spiritual teachers point to re-framing our thoughts into positive messages and yes, that can work. But for me that was always a temporary fix. My journey has been through darkness and pain, like a miner in an underground cave, a light strapped on the forehead, moving through and through and through.
Learning how to move beyond the stories of our human drama into the actual undigested emotions that fester in our nervous system. Learning to bring a transcendent spirituality into the bones, and blood, and cells, and atoms.
Learning, learning, learning. That’s what we do for 11, 35, 54 or 62 years. Sometimes kicking and screaming. Often resisting in our efforts to create something other than the present moment. Going up the roller coaster, and down the roller coaster, and sometimes screaming in fear that you’re gonna crash, you’re gonna die, you can’t figure out this game called Life.
Facebook suggests we can donate to important causes. Help the immigrants. Save the oceans. Donate for the elephants. Choose your favorite charity.
All those can be helpful, and our deepest self might point our pocketbooks towards giving. But I have a different suggestion. If any of you would like to donate for my birthday, would you please consider the gift of love?
Peer down, down, down into your own big and beautiful self throughout the day and notice any places which feel tight and sorrowful. The places where tears want to arise like waterfalls. Aches in the shoulder, perhaps. Twist in the belly. A depression, a meanness, a judging thought.
Now embrace it, throw your imaginary arms around it, allow it. Whisper to yourself: mercy, mercy, mercy to us humans. Breathe into the achy spots, feel the ground beneath your toes, your sturdy feet. Donate to loving yourself, dear human, donate to loving yourself.
And if perchance another hurting human being passes your path today, make space for their sorrow as well. So often we simply can’t, simply can’t make space for another human without trying to fix, correct, help, heal. In this donation to love you might want to consider just holding space for that precious hurting being. Feel whatever love you can muster in your heart of hearts, and breathe, and allow any hurting simply to arise.
Thank you for considering my birthday request to donate to love.
Perhaps someday the world will shine rich with love, but that’s someday. Right now I am feeling stars in my chest and an ache in the belly and a joy that arises at the opportunity for another day, another week, perhaps even another year of feeling the totality of hummingbirds, partridges, travel, writing, weeding–and you.