“This ‘you’ that sometimes feels inadequate, sometimes becomes afraid or angry or depressed, that searches on and on for fulfillment, contains within itself the very fulfillment it seeks, and to a supreme degree.”– Eknath Easwaran, Yoga Journal, Dec. 2008
It’s early October and Brian and I are embracing the unexpected good fortune of a day off from work. It’s sunny and our decision is immediate: we want 24 hours on the Oregon coast!
A two-hour drive through Oregon’s fiery fall foliage, chatting and reading (he drives, I read out-loud) and we can see the brilliant blue vastness of the Pacific Ocean. We quickly find an ocean view motel, have a bowl of Clam Chowder at Mo’s, and head onto the beach.
Sea air filling our nostrils, a slight breeze blowing through our open jackets, we walk. The freedom from work and ‘the tyranny of the urgent’ allows suppressed feelings and thoughts to rise.
“I’ve come to realize that all my life I’ve been looking for an answer,” I say to my husband.
“That’s what’s odd,” I reply, “I don’t know. But I think it’s one of the reasons I’m a voracious reader. I keep expecting to one day open a book and suddenly all of life will make sense, the missing puzzle pieces will be there and will fit together.”
Brian listens attentively, occasionally asking a question that prompts me to go a little deeper. The conversation is really just a reflection on the mysteries of life: why life’s current at times pulls us down paths that don’t make sense; why some years are smooth sailing and others a near constant challenge; why some people endure great tragedy or poverty while others enjoy privilege and have relatively trauma-free lives. . .
There is no big true answer, despite what some would argue.
As the waves of the ocean rush in with loud shushing sounds, only to recede again, our conversation explores the ebb and flow of life, the sea of human suffering that covers the planet. This is a sea that wets our feet in our own journey in life occasionally. But we are also immersed in it in our work as mental health counselors. (Our daughter Sarah frequently encourages us to make sure we put on our life jackets before we start work.)
‘Life is difficult’ is the first sentence in M. Scott Peck’s multi-million-best-seller, The Road Less Traveled, A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth.
‘Life is desire,’ says Rod Stryker a pre-eminent yoga and meditation teacher and the author of The Four Desires, Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom.
And Stephen Covey, author of another international bestseller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, taught that if we want to change any situation we have to change ourselves and our perceptions.
After a time, my conversation with Brian gives way to a game of kicking a ball back and forth between us as we quietly walk the beach.
But at 4 a.m. the next morning when I can sleep no longer, I turn to a magazine article from an old edition of Yoga Journal called Uncover Your True Self by Eknath Easwaran. In the pre-dawn darkness I feel like she is speaking to me. ‘I invite you to step back and look with your artist’s eye at your own life. Consider it amorphous material, not yet deliberately crafted. Reflect upon what it is, and what it could be. Imagine how you will feel, and what those around you will lose, if it does not become what it could be.’
She reminds the reader that our ‘higher-self’ does not need to be brought into existence, because it already exists within us. In other words, I don’t have to search so far. Any answer we need can be found by attending to that higher knowing within each of us.
I once asked Sue Bender, author of Everyday Sacred, A Woman’s Journey Home, how we find ‘the answer.’
Perhaps my questioning nature is about my ongoing journey home to myself, the life I have been given, and my purpose.
As I write this morning, Sue’s book is open to the personal inscription she wrote to me after we had spent some time together many years ago: “Seeing you again, feeling your spirit – I am struck with . . . the complex purity of your search . . .”
A few tears form in my eyes. She saw me. She honored my need to look for an answer when I didn’t even know the question.
After all, a question wasn’t the purpose. The purpose was the quest itself –and ultimately a journey to the knowing within and the fulfillment that follows.