After four months of aggressive chemo, I had to have a test known as First Pass, in order to determine if the chemo had damaged my heart. Through an IV, I was injected with a radioactive dye, which made me feel flush and hot. Then I watched the screen as the first pass of blood moved through the chambers of my heart. It was the only time I’ve seen my physical heart. Ever since, the heart and how it works has been a teacher for me.

Recently, I felt my heart beating in rhythm with the larger network of life and I could feel how we all fit together. With my hand on my heart, I realized that beneath the intensity of our inevitably personal journey, we’re part of a larger pattern of life fulfilling itself. With my heart pumping, I could see that as blood flows from every part of the body to and through the heart, each life follows its mysterious path to and through the Center of All Life. Each of us is born with an instinct to flow to and through that Center. And the heights and depths of our experience form the Spirit Path that brings us through that Center.

We think the Spirit Path we discover is special and unique, though all paths lead to the same Center of Life. Some of us try to map the flow of life and name it physics, psychology, spirituality, nature, or biology. Others want to understand the flow of life as mechanics and dedicate themselves to engineering, meditation, or pragmatism. Still others feel certain the flow of life is entered through art, painting, music, or dance. Some find their Spirit Path through the life of expression. I come alive through the inquiry of writing. But no one path or flow of aliveness is more important than another, any more than the liver’s understanding of blood is more important than the kidney’s.

Just as the heart keeps the blood in circulation, the Center of All Life that draws us to it and pumps us back into our days is the beat that keeps the world together. When following this beat, we’re drawn into the Heart of Oneness. When we pass through that Center, all the principles and names we’ve given to what keeps the world together are cleansed of their self-importance in favor of a more common, nameless immersion into life.

Being human, however, we can’t stay in the Heart of Oneness but must live in the world, the way our blood can’t stay in the heart, but must return to the hands so they can do their work in the world. Once freed of our self-importance, our hands are filled with a mysterious aliveness that conveys the strength of the world. Taking the chance to touch and be touched, we can inhabit the flow of aliveness we’re born with and become a conduit between it and the work that needs to be done. I stop now to look at my hands, thinking of all they’ve touched through the years.

So what is your Spirit Path? How do you come alive and help keep the world together? How do you receive the flow of life that draws you to its center? Discovering this, personalizing this, and relating to this is how we gather our being into a force that can be of use.

This is another way to say that we’re born with a dormant set of gifts that we need to inhabit in order to help each other become complete — through our absorption of what is life-giving, through our reaching with open hands to meet the needs of the world, through our effort to stay connected, and through our courage to remain kind.

I place my hand on my heart and can feel the first pass of blood through its chambers. I open my other hand, accepting that it’s this circulation of aliveness from heart to hand that emanates healing in the world. In this deeper state of involvement, we are goodness.

A Question to Walk With: Tell the story of a moment when you had the privilege of looking into the canyon of another’s heart. What did you see there?

Excerpted from The One Life We’re Given: Finding the Wisdom That Waits in Your Heart by Mark Nepo, published by Atria, July 2016.

*photo credit: Pixabay

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