I was in Georgia last week, visiting with Tananarive’s family, and seeing Sijo Muhammad my beloved karate instructor and friend, and having the honor to address his students. We also drove down to Tallahassee and back with T’s father, Civil Rights icon John Due. Jason had a fantastic time with his cousins, and all of us came back exhausted but paradoxically renewed and refreshed.
Strange how that works.
On our way back from Tallehassee, T and I stopped at a gas station, and went into the convenience store to get some snacks. The man behind the counter, a typical Georgia guy, seemed glum and dour, and I asked how he was.
“Terrible,” he said. “I’m getting out of here. Moving to the Philippines.”
“Really? Why?” I asked.
“This country is going to hell,” he said.
I tried to engage him, find out more of what he meant by that, but frankly, with all the change happening in America right now, it wasn’t hard to guess.
Fear. It was alive in his eyes. Anger. Depression. The world he knew was changing too rapidly, out of his control. He wanted to go to a world that felt smaller, more comfortable, familiar. I celebrate much of the change happening in the world right now, but grieve for the discomfort being experienced by those more comfortable in the past.
I take no pleasure in the pain of others.
(Except in sparring, when it can be kinda fun. Ahem. Not TOO much pain, of course. Just enough to get their attention. But that’s another matter…)
Over the course of the lives of my teachers, there have been countless times when stress, fear, anger, grief or anxiety have drained their energies. The Hero’s Journey says that is just a part of the process. The trick is to get back on balance as rapidly as possible. And the fastest way I know to accomplish this is to shift your breathing and focus. When you do this properly, you gain power, and that power can be transferred to others, IF you genuinely make the shift yourself, and IF you genuinely care. Love can pass barriers impassable to logic.
So I went into Tai Chi breathing, holding myself erect as if held by a string from above. Smiled, remembering the touch of my daughter’s cheek against mine, the warmth of Jason’s hug, the sense of sitting on my sister Joyce’s lap as she taught me to read, the sweetness of Tananarive’s kiss. Instant bliss. Warmth, spreading through my body. Pooled that in my Tan Tien, the spot two inches beneath my naval. Then anchored it to my feet, and let it spread upward to the top of my skull. For that moment, I was the avatar of divine love, and saw nothing but a man seeking love and peace, torn by the whirlwind of change. As he passed me my change, I took his hand in mine, looked in his eyes and said:
“Wherever you go, whatever you do, find the peace you seek.” He was startled, and then something softened in his face. I saw his eyes shimmer, almost as if he wanted to cry. He blinked.
I HAD SEEN HIM. One human being to another. And he nodded. “You…travel safe, you hear?” He said, his voice softened and roughened with emotion. I smiled, receiving his gift. And T and I left.
One moment. Two people. Probably on opposite sides of several philosophical divides. But…both human. My cup is full, and I simply let him drink a bit from that wellspring.
One day, I might write that incident into a short story. Maybe it is enough to share it in this manner. Time will tell. But this is exactly what we teach in the LIFEWRITING workshop: to heal yourself enough to see yourself clearly, and then to see others. To see the humanity in every human being you meet, and understand life enough to extract from it the wonderful lessons available all around us every day.
Sure, we teach techniques: the very best techniques you’ll find anywhere. But that’s the easy part. The hard part is to remember that we are more than technique. More than the sum total of our experiences. We are the glue that holds those experiences together, the space in which they occurred. In the darkest night, we are also the stars within.
If you want to master the near-mystical connection between story and consciousness, to learn to spin the stuff of your life into myth and story, or to build your skills to the professional level…I hope you’ll take a look at the Lifewriting workshop, now available on a weekly plan. There is nothing like it, anywhere. And it will change you, I promise.
Have a wonderful day, a wonderful week. A wonderful life
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