Have you noticed that, regardless of our genetics or our upbringing, there remain fundamental distinctions between human experiences and understandings? For example, two siblings, raised in the same home can certainly turn out differently because of the subtle notes of difference in the way their parents’ personalities may mesh with theirs. An adventurous parent might take preference to a child that is energetic, and vice versa.
But even after we draw lines and organize all of this information about character traits, there remain some fundamental understandings that some of us have, and some don’t.
I arrived, to this lifetime, let’s say, pretty well-versed in emotional pain. My empathy was strong from the very beginning, as was my exasperation at injustice. We aren’t all this way. Even when empathy is well in-tact and appropriate, we simply don’t all respond to emotional stimuli with the same amount of intensity. If this life is simply one life in a series that we live, it would seem likely that we come here with knowledge from those experiences of which we have already had. By doing so, in addition to our soul’s growth, we bring this knowledge to the world when we share it.
I share empathy. I share compassion. A sprinkling of wisdom. Some half-baked humor. And an affinity for the written word. When I was in grade school, as shy as I was, I loved the theater. I don’t mean the watching of it; I mean the doing of it. I loved throwing on a character and living their experience. I hoped this would lead me to Hollywood but instead it led me to being a therapist. Empathy. Compassion. Wisdom. Humor.
What did you bring from “before?” What do you have a natural understanding of that has followed you throughout your entire life? What did you bring us? What is your gift?
And what of those things that we struggle with, that we have yet to get our arms around. Those hassles that hassle us for years on end, following us and jumping out at every turn? What of those jerks? Why do they seem to follow you, and no one else? The answer, perhaps, lies right at the beginning- we come with two bags; a bag of the things we know, our experiences, and a bag of the work we’ve come to do, this life’s agenda.
I try to remind myself of this, it’s hard at times. Not so much reminding myself that I am on a journey, but reminding myself that others are too. The journey of others can be incredibly frustrating and painful to watch, as it’s not our own. We didn’t come with their wisdom bag and their work bag. We came with our own.
What can we do? We can give people back to themselves. We can see them and honor who they are. We can pause before asking each other to be different, and instead honor the person that is standing before us. That person, no matter how it looks, has gotten themselves here, to this moment, following and in spite of all of the experiences they had before. We can love them for this, because they have walked as many miles in the darkness as we have and continue on.
When was the last time you sat outside in the late afternoon air, and didn’t ask it to do anything different? You didn’t comment that the temperature would be better off a few degrees warmer or cooler, nor beg the wind to blow in from another direction. And instead of expressing disgust at the sound of cars passing by, you listened to the rhythm of the increasing and decreasing whoosh as they passed. There is music to it all. Musicians and dancers notice this, great writers do too, but so many of us rush past it.
There is music in the daily dance. There is music and motion and a timeless progression of purpose. We are always in motion, always moving through our lives to meet our soul’s purpose in the journey. No matter which way we turn, we will inevitably get there. We may arrive in childhood, adulthood, or upon the moment of our body’s transition to the afterlife, but all roads lead home.
I find that when I’m feeling the most disconnected to my purpose, that time spent outside brings me back. And it isn’t through yoga or meditation, for me, but rather through noticing. The noticing of the wind moving through the trees, the bird landing momentarily on a branch, and then taking off again. I’ve searched high and low for the secrets to calming the mind, and this is where I’ve landed. You will get here on your own too. All roads lead home.
Stand back, against the edge of yourself, and glance down. What lies before you is the edge of a tapestry. Take a few moments and look at it. What color is the thread? Is it wide and flat, or narrow and rounded? Think about the person you are today. Now, grab onto the end of it, and lift. Follow your the thread with your mind’s eye and follow back in time to witness all of the pieces that led you to the moment you are currently in.
Keep going. Look for the connectors. Keep going.
When you’re finished, look up. How far back did it take you? Did you notice anything unexpected? What did you find surprising?
The first time I did this, I decided that I would take a look at my family; my husband and daughter. I traced the cause and effects all the way back, and in just a few moments, I found myself at the moment of my birth. Hundreds and thousands of decisions and accidents led me to him, and to our child.
When we’re feeling lost, and we’re looking for meaning, everything can feel like a thousand steps away. But in retrospect? Most of it turns out to be a matter of three or four events, at the most.
So, keep your head up. You’re closer than you think.