Sunday, January 19, 2014

Doing Time

How many of us have been blindsided by an event that our emotional body registers as traumatic, painful, and completely unexpected? Whether through wartime, illness, infidelity, accident, mega-misunderstanding, sudden death and everything else in between, the loss of a normal everyday life style causes us to stretch in ways we would never choose consciously.

Many years ago, my friend's two year old drowned in her backyard swimming pool. When she went outside and saw him floating face down in the water, her first thought was, "Oh God, don't let me have to learn about this."

She related her spontaneous reaction to me at the little one's funeral, which she conducted herself. Her confession has stayed with me for all these decades because it seemed an astoundingly conscious thought to have when she realized her family's fate.

Truth comes wrapped in many packages; some with bright golden hues and others clothed in a black night of the soul. Learning through ecstatic experience is the way of the mystics, but they are the happy few who are awoken with the sweet kiss of grace. Most of us who leap forward on the evolutionary path do so via what Baba Ram Das calls "fierce grace," a term he aptly coined when rendered paralyzed by a stroke. (Or as he says, "I was stroked.")

If one struggles against the riptide of dramatic-traumatic events, exhaustion sets in and the fear of drowning in sorrow becomes overwhelming. The only way out of the stormy sea of emotion is to float with the current until it spits you out - maybe far from shore but still breathing. As long as one relaxes and stays the course, it is possible to reclaim terra firma and rediscover one's ground of being.

In prison, inmates call their sentence "doing time." When our psyches are blown apart and we are imprisoned by pain, it is good to remember that we are doing time, and that one day the clear air of freedom will be ours to reclaim.



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