It is another balmy day in Ubud, Bali, where I am living for the month of January (more on the logistics of that soon), and I am lying face-up on a bodywork table. The acupuncturist sticks a small pin in my shin and it sends a shockwave through my body as I recoil at the bee-sting-like sensation.
This is my third of nine sessions; a final frontier in my attempt to correct a chronic acne problem, before turning to more severe chemical-laden Western medicine solutions. Acne. The word itself sounds so ugly and shameful. I hate saying it out loud.
As I’m laying on the table watching the rickety fan cycle through its rotations, I start calculating how many more pin-pricks I will need to endure across the remaining six sessions. Can I breathe my way through them? Can I find some way to appreciate that this problem will not be fixed overnight? Can I be grateful for each puncture and for my body that is enduring it, for the sake of easing a 20-year struggle?
“'All life is sorrowful' is the first Buddhist saying, and so it is. It wouldn’t be life if there were not temporality involved, which is sorrow—loss, loss, loss. You’ve got to say yes to life and see it as magnificent this way; for this surely is the way God intended it.”
—Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
They say that the universe/God/fill-in-your-deity-of-choice doesn’t give you what you want, it gives you what you need. We know that attachments create suffering, specific expectations even moreso. By the very nature that death and time exist, we fear loss and we fear living a life halfway.
So we hold grand ambitions for ourselves, as we should! Life is an adventure and I believe it should be lived full-out. Follow your bliss, as Campbell would say, and love your fate.
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our innermost being and reality, so that we can actually feel the rapture of being alive. That’s what it’s all finally about, and that’s what these clues help us to find within ourselves.”
—Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
I’d like you to bring to mind one of your biggest dreams or desires . . . one that hasn't fully come to fruition yet.
Imagine that the map of this next thing you are aiming toward—a job, a business, a relationship, or another adventure altogether—has a secret legend written on the inside of an intricately folded square of origami paper:
- Can you enjoy the discovery process?
- Can you follow the clues as they reveal themselves corner-by-corner?
- When you feel bored, impatient and frustrated, can you sit with your suffering and love the part of you that has such passion and desire for something?
I’m asking you not just to tolerate the at-times-painfully-slow unfolding, not just accept it, not just resign to it, but delight in it. Savor it. Appreciate it.
That’s my word for 2015. I know it sounds fru-fru, but I chose it precisely because it felt so far from my daily existence the last few years.
It feels good to reach up now and pluck delight down from the trees and place it front-and-center in my everyday life. It is not the lowest hanging fruit in my worry-prone brain, but definitely one of the most fruitful.
So far this year I have been working on keeping a calm, curious, appreciative spirit, open to moments of delight in whatever form they take, no matter how miniscule.
- Seeing a puppy and scratching his soft forehead
- Savoring the delicious first bite of a robust forkful of eggs Benedict at a cafe with a friend along a Balinese beach
- The smell of frangipani flowers in the air
- Garlic and butter wafting up to the yoga room from a wok nearby
- Sticking handstands after years of 3,000 "failures", feeling weightless and fearless
- Celebrating the birth of a friend's beautiful new baby
- Daily conversation over coffee with a fellow blogger who I randomly ran into at the co-working space here
- A big gulp of cold mango juice on a hot day
- Running into a stranger in the street, with whom I’d formerly just exchanged glances across a cafe, and talking as if we had known each other ten years
- Jumping on the back of a new friend's motorbike on the heels of a spontaneous invitation
- Day 12 of two weeks unplugged, remembering what it feels like to exist without plans
- Tapping into a sense of flow; going "where the wind blows" hour-by-hour
- Appreciating how blessed I am to I have a business, a healthy body and a healthy family
My last relationship ended two years ago. I have days where the intensity of my longing for emotional and physical intimacy feels unbearable, like it is going to swallow me whole. Not because am I not whole, but because I can’t wait to share that kind of connection with someone again.
During a recent tibetan bowl meditation class, the thought came to me that this seemingly ungraspable desire in my life was like a scavenger hunt, designed just for me. Couldn’t I learn to love the game of it?
"I can’t wait until you see what I am making for you!" The giddy voice-from-above seemed to say to me. Aren’t you loving all the games and messages I have sent you along the way?
Loving?! I had been overanalyzing, resisting and rejecting them. But this creator, higher self, whatever you want to call it, was so emphatic and joyful in her delivery of the message. How could I spend one more moment resenting it? How could I find the delight in the unfolding instead?
Get Going With It
“I don’t think there is any such thing as an ordinary mortal. Everybody has his own possibility of rapture in the experience of life. All he has to do is recognize it and then cultivate it and get going with it.”
—Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
What if all your mistakes, fumbles, and fuck-ups were not in vain? What if you could embrace your neurosis and your shortcomings as part of your unique human signature? What if you saw these as the very ingredients that most unite and connect us?
What if you could ditch the bullshit self-love and manifestation formulas that tell you only “if” then? IF you love yourself 100%, if you think all the right thoughts, if you manifest properly, then you can receive what your heart is calling you toward. Bullshit. What if you were to release the need for perfection and control?
What if you trusted the instructions and guidance that come straight from your gut, or your heart, or your quiet daydreaming, no matter how crazy they may seem?
You are flawed. And you are fearful and insecure at times . . . and so am I. You are also magnificent, fascinating, lovable, huggable, and doing your best in this crazy world and wild life. That sounds like a plenty full plate to me.
Keep your chin up, find the delight in it, and reach high, my friend. The world needs you to follow your bliss.
Good Things Coming
Thanks to my Dad, who encouraged me to share more of my full sensory experience in Bali; not something that tends to come naturally to me. And to Joseph Campbell who sparked many of these thoughts. Campbell said a day spent reading books is like a “nice, mild, slow-burning rapture all the time.” I couldn’t agree more. Standing on the shoulders of giants, soaking up and sharing their wisdom, is delightful.