It’s Amazing How Quickly A Year Flies By
Preparing for the last day of this last year and the first day of the next, I arranged for us to go away for two days. The first day to pamper ourselves and play. The second to immerse ourselves in the Silence of the Trappist Monastery (The Order of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance) to open our hearts, for the last time, for now. THEN, just to check to see if I’m still ‘on track’ I referred to Stephen Levine’s gem of a book A Year To Live: How To Live This Year As If It Were Your Last. Lo and behold! Stephen is recommending another life review. OMG! Haven’t I done this enough already! Having lived with the belief that I’m of an adventurous persuasion, I was game to plunge right in. After all, a good part of this year has been exactly that, a life review. In fact, I even made a commitment to blog about it. I’ve reviewed old journals, looked at old pictures, visited old friends and family and had many great adventures along the way. OK, I’m still ready. Then Stephen drops a BOMB.
“Let Go Of Your Story”
What do you mean “Let Go Of My Story!!?” I’ve just spent a lifetime making the story and telling the story and revising the story and now he wants me to let it go. Who are we without our stories? I closed my eyes and said it again, this time “How do I let go of my story?” Well, my ego has been wearing a sign advertising that I’m adventurous, and I concur. I’ve already signed up for the whole trip so I’m in, but the stomach is turning, the heart is fluttering, and there’s a knot of anxiety sitting right in the middle of everything. You’ve heard the expression “only fools rush in”? I didn’t rush in. There was no procrastinating but no rushing either. So in the spirit of another deeply held belief, for years I’ve been saying that it’s the First Rule of Mysticism but I can’t presently locate the reference but, it is that “To ask a question is to presume there is an answer”. So as I prepared for sleep I asked ‘what is it that I need to learn?’ And I slept.
What Button Was That?
The next morning was fine and peaceful. And then my husband said something, I cannot even remember what it was but, there was a rapidly rising sense of stuff in reaction to it. For a very short time I was able to look at it objectively. I was looking for it to just keep on passing through but no such luck. I was willing to stay with it if necessary. I was unwilling to react to the stuff of emotions. There could be no stuffing of ‘the’ stuff. I had to look and listen to what I needed to learn. I exercised, I cooked, I ate, I read, and I pondered lightly. No struggling; just a staying open to the experience. The same kind of staying open that is so important through all kinds of disappointments, disillusions, loss of trusts and confidences that accompany us along our paths. This openness allows us to savor the experience; not wallow in it, savor it. And then I went to sleep.
On The Third Day
I’m beginning to see that I can’t let go of my story until I look, again, at what that story is. Very appreciative of some very good discussion with my Sweetheart, a pot of coffee, and I was ready to do some serious work, after I read the newspaper, did the Jumble, and read my Horoscope (they’re on the same page). My Horoscope: Know your own rules and live by them. What is this? It’s short enough for a fortune cookie. See ya’ later, alligator. The plan was to go through a portfolio of ‘special’ correspondence that I hadn’t looked at in, at least, 20 years. There was four months of correspondence between my future Sweetheart and myself (41 yrs ago), a letter from my Father (33 yrs ago), and then a hand written Life Review from 33 years ago, as well. JackPot! I found a treasure trove of ‘my own rules’ , written in my own hand. They were very good rules and, surprisingly, ones I’ve tried to continue to honor. That was nice. And I came across this: “Thinking and planning is the easy part; it’s making the final decision that’s rough. The great thing about being young is that you can change your whole life style at little more than a moment’s notice. And yet have your whole life ahead in which to make it work. At this age, our lives can still be so flexible. Do you ever notice how many people are hung up, or are hanging on to old things and are afraid to change? Too bad, huh? I guess it all boils down to something that a lot of people consider very valuable. Something called…Security, I think. Could be a heavy rap, you know?”
The Next Four Days
This is the time of living by rules. And my rules say to take the adventure and be ready for change: it’s time to let go of my story and see what’s left. No expectations. I’ll look around for any hopes. The Silence of the Monastery is a personal, special place, at which I hope to enter the Bardo Meditation, the space between life and death, and listen. The First Rule of St. Benedict, by which these monks live, starts: Listen carefully to the Spirit’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.
So We Shall See…or hear…
Suggestion: if you’re interested in engaging in the process of ‘life review’, make sure to have access to some good resources as guides, be they books, podcasts, or people, it helps. Often, a good first step is to simply sit down with paper and pencil, draw a time-line and start marking significant events in your life. You may find yourself off to a good start. Keep the time line around so that you look at it once in awhile, and let it influence you. Change is gentlest when we allow ourselves to be influenced rather than being beat into submission. And most of all, try not to take yourself too seriously.