The end point of spiritual study is to trust life.
--Jason Shulman, "Kabbalistic Healing"
I am fiercely in love with my family. My heart fills to overflowing when we are all gathered together, bumping into each other, irritating behaviors tolerated and affectionately respected because of the fierce love that abides as a mark of truth in all of us.
I want to hold onto this tribe with tight reins. Sometimes I feel like a sheltie puppy I had years ago wanting to circle and circle all of us, herding us into one place and keeping us there. It is difficult for my sister and I as we become older and less vital in the lives of the younger members of our family. We smile and learn to loosen the leash of fear, facing our aging vulnerability, and expanding our heart circle of love to make room and space for all.
I’m lucky though. Recently my eleven-month-old great-niece moved to town with her parents delivering us all into the now of the present moment and showing us what fearless living is about. My fear of fear melted into unconditional joy of living one evening as I looked into her eyes and saw her endless smile of joy of being alive. She looked directly into my eyes, and I felt a scene of lovingness, of rightness, and sweetness.
This is the joy of being alive unconditionally. That means not being dependent upon any condition of my life being “right” or “safe”. It’s the kind of love Rumi wrote about when he spoke about the goal of spiritual life as “love without an object”. This is a natural love and joy we all have within us that becomes masked with fear of survival. When we were very young we were hard-wired with it like my niece.
Personal growth and spiritual study are all about returning to that internal state of love of life that extends to all the circumstances of surviving this human dilemma.
Learning to skillfully navigate the fearful slopes of living and dying (I am nowhere near dying yet!) is the task. This fear creates identity crises as well as fears of insignificance and self-worth. However, facing fear leads to wisdom of love that is undeniable.
Fear is present at all the stages of our lives. It is as natural and hard-wired as the joy of loving life. Spiritual presence is about learning how to let the two coexist within my heart at the same time, moment by moment.
Now my circling and circling is rounding up fear, love and joy as well as my family tribe. Combining this circling with my spiritual study and work and my life continues in meaning and purpose that seems endless.
I am aware that my life is endless. I am smiling.
Susan Austin-Crumpton, Executive Director, The Estuary. firstname.lastname@example.org