Excerpt from Exhilarated Life: Discovering Inner Happiness
Peace is the most luxurious garment.
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When I was a teenager, there was an army greatcoat that hung on a hook
behind the heavy wooden door in the cottage. On rainy days I would
shrug into it, wrap it round me, and cinch the wide belt. It was khaki colored
with epaulettes. A real “trench” coat from the war when my dad
was overseas. It was full of deep pockets and folds, and unexpected inner
stashes. I would grab his old wide brimmed fedora, stained yet much
loved, and pull it down over my eyes. Slipping into black rubber boots
with the red trim around the top and toe, I would leave the cocoon of
the fire-warmed cottage and slam the door behind me.
I would have to bang the door shut because the ancient wrought
iron latch stuck sometimes before clattering into its slot and securing
the door. The screen door would likewise bang shut in a twanging
I loved walking in the rain at the cottage. The enormous pink granite
hill on which the cottage perched would glisten deep red with
undulating veins of clear white quartz. Oak trees flanked the rock on
either side down to the road. At the end of our driveway, the gravel
road curved this way to the left and that way to the right so that for
the moment of decision, the way of the walk was unclear. To the right
was the neighbor’s farm, to the left meant I would likely walk without
interruption and could even climb over upturned tree roots to clamber
over rocks and into hidden pastures full of wildflowers and silent cows.
Before the adventure across the rocks, I would hit my stride. Long
leading strides that stretched my legs and straightened my spine.
Overhead, giant oaks and maples met and twined branches. In the
spring, young frogs would sing from the ditches and in the fall, startling
shades of red, orange, and golden yellow would lift my heart as they
clustered in a matted tapestry along the gravel shoulder.
I loved that coat. It was like walking inside a tent. I was warm and
dry and invincible. I would have gone walking either for escape or
inspiration. Either way, I would be working something out. Thinking.
Thinking. Thinking. The drops would fall and tap, tap, tap on the brim
of the felt hat. The rain would be a damp presence on my shoulders.
Into the woods on either side, the mist would rise and create a hushed
and mysterious enclosure.
As I write, the scents rise up in my memory. Damp earth, pungent
moss, dead leaves, fresh rain, a musty coat, wet felt. Interesting to
think that our sense of smell is the only sense that we cannot avoid.
While we breathe, we smell and since our recollection for over 10,000
differentiated scents far exceeds our image memory, I am reminded
why I began this essay.
Yes….the pale pink cashmere mind. An army trench coat has stains
and scars and deep pockets and unexpected folds. It holds things. It
protects. It is heavy and gets heavier the farther I walk. This is our
thinking mind. It holds things. It pretends to protect. And it becomes
weighted with the detritus of memory—accurate and inaccurate,
information—useful and meaningless.
Our mind is a recording device. Like our noses, our open eyes take in all
information. If I could access it, I could recall each and every tree in those
misty, rain soaked woods that deeply flanked the dirt road. But, as the mind
functions, I filtered out all that was not of “significance” to my thinking
process of that moment. I walked my story, editing as I went along.
We get accustomed to the weight of our minds and forget that we
can hang it on a hook behind a heavy door every once in a while. It
is an exercise that begins with the awareness that we are encumbered
by our own thoughts and thinking. I love the word “mentation”. It is
mental activity. Like a cow chewing its cud, and the constant din of
city traffic. It is the noise of busyness. Think, think, think. Busy. Busy.
Busy. Important. Exhausting. Distracting. Once we know that behind
the noise and all the distractions, lies peace and tranquility, we can
choose to use the mind rather than have it using us.
I realize separating mind from us in a me versus it relationship is to
deny the integrity of body, mind, and soul of the holistic nature of
being human. However, I don’t know if it is by culture or by habit
that we allow this mind of ours to become captain of our ship, when
it is equipped, at best, to be first mate, or even cabin steward, fetching
our stuff—memories and knowledge—and making us comfortable;
providing context and wisdom.
When should we take off our mind and let it fall in a heap on the floor?
How do we reach out and draw the soft pink cashmere sensibility into
consciousness? The “when” is at times of intimacy, times of creativity,
and those illuminated times of self-acknowledgment. Because we are
inextricably body, mind, and spirit, the quickest route to consciousness
is through the body. With the worthy and exacting guidance of the
senses, we can slip out of the heaviness of mind and drift on the soft
whisperings of direct sensorial experience.
Intimacy—true intimacy with another being—is too often tripped over
and a precious moment passes in a blur of other thoughts. We have
little blue pills to ensure human connection, but this is not intimacy. If
anything, it merely distracts the mind with something more imminently
important…for the moment. Intimacy is to release the mind altogether
and is so much more than sexual. Intimacy is to allow ourselves to open
to feelings of love, gestures of tenderness, acts of attentiveness. It can be
a moment that we release ourselves, and like a drop of ink in water, in
that moment our life is suffused with euphoria.
It might be the feather-light stroke of a lover’s fingers that raises the
hairs and calms the mind. It might be the scent of your baby’s skin that
closes your eyes in witness to miracles. It might be the vacant eyes of an
elderly parent or friend that light up at the sound of your voice. It’s the
velvet of your cat’s fur as she snuggles next to you and begins to purr
at your stroking. It’s the feel of the sun on your face sparkling through
the yellow green buds of spring. It’s the smell of lilacs, roses, chocolate
chip cookies, pine forests, a loved one’s shirt.
If we take the signal of our senses and pause we can release the weight
of the mind. Go into that moment. Be there. Feel the touch; let the
sensations transcend the mind. Pause; look into the eyes of your loved
one as you embrace. Step into a warm tub and for that moment as your
body eases beneath the water, experience the response of your skin in
that stimulus. Allow sensation to fill your awareness. Sensation brings
heightened awareness, and heightened awareness brings us into the
feeling reality of our human being-ness.
Creativity—being the vessel of creation, the brush, the melody, the
womb of new possibilities releases us from all judgment of who we are
and are not. We drop the weight of the thinking mind and become
the hands, eyes, voice of ever-evolving creation. We are authentic, at
one with ourselves and always exactly as we should be—no matter
whether our external experience is rain or shine. When we are in tune
with Creation, we access unlimited potential for our unique personal
expression in this world. Creativity is not relegated to the arts as we
know them and to be sure much that we categorize culturally as art has
no basis in creativity. Living a creative life is to see all that might be
expressed through you in any given activity. It brings a vitality to even
the mundane tasks of living.
Self-Acknowledgement—looking into our own eyes in a mirror or into
our own souls through the reflection of silence, and saying, “Oh that’s who
I am.” I am not the sum total of all that I carry as memory or experience. I
am fresh and renewed every waking and sleeping moment. I endorse myself
as I am now. This is my moment. This is my reality. I owe nothing and I
expect nothing. I give all that I might and receive all that I need. There is
no storm or turbulence that does not bring clarity of a new perspective.
There is no opinion of me greater than the one I have of myself. What
another thinks of me is their business, not mine. There is no circumstance
that does not offer choice. The choice is mine to make.
My story is my story. Terms like dysfunction, rage, and blame are shoved
deep into the pockets of a heavy mind. Anger, resentment, entitlement,
and arrogance weight the shoulders of an unexamined life. Intolerance,
manipulation, and coercion wrap in folds around our knees and trip us
up. Your story is your story. It is not you—so drop it. Hang it up. Close
the door on the storm of memory. It doesn’t protect you.
Draw intimacy around your shoulders, inhale creativity with every
breath, and embrace the most luminous Self you can be.
In the pale pink cashmere of my own beautiful life, I rest in elegance
and beauty and wrap myself in the comfort of peace.
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