Oh the tectonic plates of the self, how they move. Months, then years, of the tiniest little shifts, certainly almost imperceptible. And then: whooooosh! A great surging up, the creation of a mountain range, from which an entirely new, yet familiar, perspective is birthed.
How else to describe this amazing project of being human? Of being a seeker? Of trying to get inside myself so I can get OUT of myself, and live fully in the world, alive and open to anything that comes my way.
I spent this weekend in retreat with the great meditation teacher and author Sharon Salzberg. This is only one piece of an unfolding accordion of Stacy self-knowledge that has been suddenly pouring on me from above, inside and around me. Suddenly—that is, after 20 years of focused inquiry and 20 years of slowly unbuilding the story of me that I so carefully and painstakingly built one brick at a time for the 17 years before that. Suddenly, after ten years of having pieces of the foundation of my life pulled away from me and having to begin again. Begin again. Again.
As we all do. As we all will. And will, again.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Easy to do with so much foment fizzing inside me.
These are the two magic words that meditation gives me, the reminder that there is no here, no there; no failure, no perfect—just a long, endless stretch of trying and trying some more.
I sit quietly with my eyes closed and breathe in, breathe out. Then realize I’m off and drifting, away from my breath, or away from the phrases projecting lovingkindness, back into the noise and bustle that we call modern life.
At first, I startle a bit, and cuss myself. “Oh shit, started making a list. Gotta stop my brain. Have to quiet down. Calm down. Okay, breath. Focus on the breath.”
But after a few minutes, of bringing my attention back to my breath, it’s a calmer, kinder transition. “What should I cook for dinner tonight? Did I get out the chicken? Oh, whoops. Breathe in, breathe out.”
And it’s just wondrous and amazing how deeply meaningful and profound that subtle shift is.
It does change how the world looks and feels.
I entered the retreat wanting to take better care of myself, longing to get grounded, as I feel I am still spinning in space six years after my life changed completely. I also wanted to retreat to remind myself that I may never feel “safe” again, that I may never feel I am on a clear path, that that world might be gone forever.
And yes, yes, yes, I did leave the retreat feeling more compassionate for myself and all the tremendous changes I have been metabolizing, and not just the external ones: career, location, family. But the bigger changes, the internal ones: changing my goals, creating new dreams, trying to listen really deeply to my own intuition, forgiving myself for my weaknesses—which is probably the hardest thing to do. I still can’t believe I “got it wrong,” that the path I constructed out of the burning temple of my mother’s grief, wasn’t “right,” didn’t “work.” There’s a very pissed-off 17-year-old inside me who doesn’t want to hear that. Because, of course, I did make it. But not the way I had imagined.
All my old ideas of myself are gone. I need to say that again: ALL OF MY OLD IDEAS OF ME ARE GONE. And yet the me that I am remains. I am still curious, loquacious, dynamic, intense, creative, wildly compassionate, searching, hurting, intellectual, discerning, impulsive, daring, headstrong, generous, impatient, foolhardy, goofy AF, gullible, loving and loving and loving.
And a weekend of lovingkindness meditation with Sharon Salzberg was oh, so right. To remind me of me. The accident of timing and happenstance that brought me there was a minor miracle.
But this—these miracles, these agonies—is what life is made of.
We work hard. We do our best. We try to listen to our inner voices. We fail. We hurt those we love most. We try harder. We bargain and beg. We worry. We have a brief moment of clarity where we can be gentle with ourselves and can see clearly that nothing—nothing!—behind us or ahead of us can bring us to our knees. We dare to imagine the good surprises that might be waiting for us, instead of dwelling in the damage done by the bad surprises.
And we begin again.
Could there be anything more powerful and beautiful than that?
This is the gift of our lives. And I’m excited to say I am just beginning work on a new project that is so very much about that. And this weekend really clarified that this new path I am trying to build right now is starting to feel like home. That I am starting to recognize myself again. That I am finding a new way to trust all those traits I name above, even though I have been wrong about so many things in trying to understand my life.
I’ll get there. I know I will. Because I will always let wonder win over fear.
Inhale. Exhale. And begin again.