Sunday, January 8, 2017

How well did I love?

It may feel as if today is just another ordinary day, in an ordinary winter, on an ordinary star. We wake and we’re just not sure. Don’t I have some problems I need to attend to? I’m pretty sure there’s something wrong. Isn’t there? An invitation has appeared, but we are unsure of its origin.

It is so easy to take for granted that tomorrow will come, that another opportunity will be given to witness a sunrise, to take a walk, to gaze in awe at the crystals in the newly fallen snow, to share a moment of attuned connection with the one in front of us. But another part of us knows it is so fragile here, so tenuous, and that this opening into life will not be here for much longer.

Recognizing this, let us surrender the dream of postponement by doing whatever we can to help others, by taking a risk to fully show up here, never forgetting what is most important, no longer apologizing for our uniqueness, our sensitivity, and the gifts of our vulnerability. By being willing to dissolve the shadow of our unlived lives, one holy moment at a time, and step into the crucible.

At the end of this life – which is sure to come much sooner than we’d like – it is unlikely we'll be all that concerned with whether or not we accomplished all the tasks on our to-do lists, completed some mythical spiritual journey, perfected ourselves, healed our past, called in one or more magical soulmates to serve the function of the “good other,” played it safe, got all of our needs met, made it big, or manifested all the outer objects and internal states we dreamed would fulfill us. Inside these hearts there may be only one burning question: how well did I love?

Did I pause each day to behold the wonder of just one unfolding here and now moment? Was I willing to take a risk, to feel more, to care deeply about this life, to let another matter, and to honor this very experience, exactly as it has been given?

Was I willing to behold the sacred offering of the natural world – the sky, the snowflakes, the mountains, the sun, the mud, the deer, and the lunar offering of the moon above as she floods our hearts with her secrets?

Was I willing to stay close with the mysterious movement of both sweet and fierce grace as it took form as the others in my life, and as the wisdom flow of feeling, of emotion, and of sensation in this body? As my dreams, as vision, and as the way I am attempting to make meaning of this precious, excruciating, unbelievable, astonishing, and heartbreaking human opportunity?

Was I willing to fall in love, to truly fall in love with this life, exactly as it is? Was I willing to provide a home, a sanctuary, and safe passage for all of me, an environment of wholeness and integration to dance, rest, and play in?

Was I willing to set aside the unending need to make this moment different?

What is it that remains unlived… for you? How have you been holding back? What are you waiting for? What is your heart asking of you? What is most important? What are you unwilling to compromise any longer? In what ways are you not living your own life, but someone else’s? Or living out the fantasies of a society or culture that has forgotten about love and what matters most… for you? The bounty and the harvest of this world is upon you. It is always already here, erupting in each moment, and is not waiting.

One day we will no longer be able to look at, touch, or share a simple moment with those that we love. When we turn to them, they will be gone. One moment will be our last to witness the immensity of just one more breath, to truly see and travel inside a color, to enter into union with the vastness of the ocean. It will be our last chance to feel the presence of a tree, to have a moment of communion with a friend, or to weep as the light yields to the night sky.

One last moment to have a thought, to feel an emotion, to fall in love, to smell a flower, to taste something sweet, and to know heartbreak, joy, and peace – to behold the awe of what it really means to be a sensitive, alive, tender human being.

What if today is that last day? Or tomorrow? Or later this week?

Knowing that death will come to complete the cycle of the beloved in the world of time and space, how will you respond to the breath that is moving within you right now, to the feelings washing through you, and to the opportunity to know and to be the activity of love here?

What would it be like to fully allow in the reality that today may be your last? Will you open your heart to the gift of life before it is too late?

Perhaps your “life's purpose” has nothing to do with what job you will find or what new cool thing you manifest or what awesome soul mate you attract or what mythical awakening journey you complete. But that the purpose of your life is to fully live, finally, to touch each here and now moment with your presence and with the gift of your one, wild heart. And to do whatever you can to help others to remember this, and how precious and unique they are. Perhaps this is the most radical gift that we can all give.

Please don't forget how rare and precious it is here. And please don't forget what it is that really matters to you.

This gorgeous photo (and an eruption others) by Lizzy Gadd

The Way of Rest summer retreat – registration open now 

New book – The Path is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – to be released in April


  1. Matt, this post of yours has aroused in me a question, or dilemma:

    I see you have given great attention in your work to the notion of "spiritual bypassing" or some kind of escapism through total immersion in a religious practice. The use of meditation as a means of avoiding our feelings, etc etc.

    Well, as powerful and touching as your message is in this post, I find that in my own head, it's clashing with this idea of escapism or avoidance, or something else disruptive to the process. Can you explain how one can use this practice -- of becoming consciously aware of the reality of death in each moment, that it may be one's last -- without turning it into some kind of distortion of reality? For me, as soon as I meditate on this, on the idea that maybe this is the last time I type a message on my computer, the last time I lay here in bed with fresh, warm sheets, it feels like a forced, artificial kind of gratitude. It feels like a "covering up" of a deeper emotional process for me.

    Maybe, just maybe, there is a certain part of me that wants to be heard, and this part of me is angry, resentful, with the desire to isolate, to rebel against, to withdraw, to upset others' expectations, to destroy the light inside of me and others. This part of me needs to be integrated, welcomed in, understood, nourished. (I think). And this practice of contemplating my eventual death and the preciousness of each moment feels like a cheap high. It feels like a slap in the face to this part of me. It feels like the message is "You cannot keep wallowing in self-hatred, shame, and resentment. You might die tomorrow! Away with the nihilism and the contempt! Make room for the precious gratitude in the face of death!"

    I want to be able to draw on what you're talking about in this message as a source of insight, hope, holding, self-compassion, when I need it most. But right now it just feels like a quick way of deceiving myself into thinking I'm happy when I'm really not. It feels like I'm telling myself "There's no time for this part of you that doesn't care about death." Where do we put that part of ourselves? The part that relishes the thought of disappointing others, the part whose lifeblood is the mundane, drab, empty feeling of aloneness and purposelessness. How do we hold that part of ourselves while still seeing this whole process as sacred and driven by love? That part of me stands in direct opposition to the self-compassion, gratitude, and grace that comes from seeing each moment as precious and potentially the last.

    1. These are great questions you are asking, Paley, and really important ones. The reality, as you note, is that we do not always feel grateful for our lives, and this must fully be honored. The anger, the resentment, the feelings of isolation. Yes, absolutely, in my experience these parts must be allowed in, met, held, integrated, and nourished. These sorts of posts are really meant to inspire inquiry, to help us all (including myself) to go deeper into our lives, not to take what I am saying as objectively true or in some overly prescriptive way. That is not my intention. That part of you that stands in direct opposition to the self-compassion, the gratitude, and the grace - in my experience that is the grace itself, it is high-voltage truth and honesty and authenticity that you are clearly in touch with. I very much appreciate what you are saying about the cheap high... that makes a lot of sense to me. So you're not going to do that, you're not going to pretend, thank fucking God. You are going to be Paley, and somehow we've met here in these rambling posts of mine, to proclaim that to the world. I don't have any answers for you to these questions but perhaps that's not really what you or I are after anyway, but something else... you are a great writer, btw, and unfolder and reporter of your own subjective experience. God, the part that relishes the through or disappointing others, whose lifeblood is mundane, drab, empty, alone, purposeless. The purpose really of any of my writing it to be a part of this confrontation, whether we term it as a confrontation with the unconscious or the shadow (personal and/or collective, to use Jungian terms), or with the existential aloneness/ groundlessness of this human journey. I appreciate you sharing your world here, Paley.