Mountainous Coast Near Elgol
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This photograph was taken on the rugged coastline of the Isle of Skye that is most easily accessed by boat, although intrepid hikers do scale the cliff face to get down with a path that is only four inches wide in places. I opted for the boat, as I didn't want to get into trouble on my own. The next morning, a German couple at the bed and breakfast related their experiences hiking. The wife said the difficulty was that it was hard to even identify where the path was because it was so sheer and boulders were right on top of one another. She spent a lot of time splayed over rocks, hanging on with her fingertips and praying.
Life is often like this. Things get all jumbled up and it is hard to see where the path is, though it is often fraught with danger. Yet, especially when it seems most perilous and the urgency arises to move quickly to safety, it is important to stop for a moment and breathe. It is more likely that the next step you take will be the right step if you take the time to feel into where you are and which direction you should really be going. It takes patience, discernment, and a whole lot of faith to make it from point a to point b sometimes, particularly when point b is unknown.
This is something that has become painfully clear to me in the past two weeks as I have faced a health issue that still has an unknown outcome. I have spent a lot of time hanging on with my fingertips and breathing and hopefully the decisions I am making are best for me. Having to think about such serious issues really put the rest of life into perspective as well. I feel blessed that Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist and author ofBuddha's Brain, also recently faced a health challenge that he is past now. Not that I wish serious medical problems on anyone, but he has been writing some great blogs that really spoke to me. A recent one was entitled "Is it Truly Urgent" and today's was "What is Living You?" The practice he recommended in the first blog was lowering pressure by getting rid of "shoulds" and figuring out what you don't need to do, and the practice for today's was giving over to the good instead of the bad. Though he admits that we are often lived my currents of life and continually give ourselves over to them, he advocates that we can choose which currents we opt to flow with and I would say our perspective as well. After the initial surprise of being told that something might be wrong with me, as I always consider myself to be so healthy, I have been trying to figure out what I can learn from all of this and I can tell you there is a lot.
As I contemplate how to reduce pressure and narrow in on what really matters to me in life, so that I am able to spend what time remains living authentically and in harmony with the planet, things suddenly seem more black and white–though of course there are always shades of gray. It's just that the distractions my attention was often drawn to are falling away and the direction I want to move in is becoming more apparent–even if it is only the next step. I am beginning to be able to see beneath the superficial layers of existence and social conventions, to an underlying structure of being. Two words keep entering my consciousness and they are
. My goal is to behave with kindness and respect towards myself first, and then towards everyone I encounter and the earth. Really it is all one and the same, as we are all connected for the time we co-exist on this planet. If we disrespect anything or anyone, then we are acting out of alignment and our actions will not be beneficial–even to ourselves.
My fiend who is a structural engineer said he was drawn to the field because he likes seeing the world in black and white: will it stand up or will it fall down. The same is true for how we interact with one another. Do we want to lift each other higher or push someone else down to make ourselves appear better. The latter has never worked for me, because my larger self knows it is an inauthentic way of being. I choose, like Rick Hanson, Sandra Ingerman, Dewitt Jones, Rikki Cooke, Mark Nepo, and so many exemplary people whose writings I have read or whom I have had the honor of meeting, to choose the good–especially when times are difficult.