So this month we have been talking about meaning as a spiritual practice. I have shared with you the writings of the Dalai Lama about how life is like driving a car and talked about the meanings I have gotten from the sculptures of George Segal. This week though I wanted to just write about life. A dear friend of mine is going through a challenging time health wise and it has made me stop and thinking about the meaning of life. As I was praying about my friend’s situation, I was drawn to the book we are reading in the book club called Inside the Miracle by Mark Nepo. The first section of the book is called, Upon Seeking Tufu as a Guide. Nepo wrote:
And so I asked him, how is it God is everywhere and nowhere? He circled me like a self I couldn't reach. "Because humans refuse to live their lives." i was confused. He continued, "You hover rather then enter." I was still confused. He spoke in my ear, "God is only visible within your moment entered like a burning lake." I grew frightened. He laughed. "Even now, you peer at me as if what you see and hear are not a part of you." I grew angry. He ignored me. "You peer at the edge of your life, so frantic to know, so unwilling to believe." Indeed, I was frantic He was in my face. "And now that you have cancer, you ask to be spared." I grew depressed. He took my shoulder. "For God's sake! enter your own life! Enter!"
Why is it that we do not enter our own lives until something happens to us, like we are diagnosed with cancer? The meaning of our life seems to change. I remember how my life changed when I almost died twice almost two years ago. Over the last fifteen years, I have listened to so many people’s stories about their experiences with illness. It really has not mattered where people have told me or even what they have shared with me, what is important is the meanings contained in the stories. I remember a conversation I had with one of my surgeons. He told me he always knew how the surgery was going to go by the emotional state of the patient. If they were worried things would not go well, they didn’t and if they were positive and faithful that things would go smoothly, they did. In my situation and in my friends, there was positive energy and so holding on to this I am sure that my friend will come through and that is what I am being intentional about believing.
When we go through life transforming illnesses it can change the way we think about life and what things mean, what aspects of our life mean to us. When a friend of mine was losing her vision, it changed the way she saw things. In some respects she has a more powerful sense of vision then she did before she began losing her vision.
Sometimes illness can symbolize something powerful for us. I remember when I was sick, I had this feeling as if I had to die for a second or in some physical way so I could be reborn and rebirth myself. It was a critical part of my spiritual journey and for me meant something really powerful. I remember when I tried to explain it to someone else it did not make sense, but to me the meaning was powerful.
Sometimes we have to enter our illness, and see it as a miracle. We have to see it as a gift from the Divine. It is one of those ways in which we stop hovering around in our lives and enter them, engage in them and more actively engage with the Divine. For me, my friends journey right now is an invitation for me to look at whether I am hovering again or am I still entered into my life. Is God present with me all the time or just when something is in crisis? Do I believe all the time or just when I am scared? It is easy to move into this state of hovering when things are going well. May we all work on staying entered in our life and not just hovering.