By staying in relationship, we gather meaning.
By staying in relationship, our Spirit draws closer to the surface.
To follow our aliveness is the career of awakening.

Inevitably, certain experiences rearrange us. These unexpected events puncture life as we know it and turn us inside out and upside down. For me, this rearranging event was cancer. It could just as easily have been wonder. For you, it might appear as being loved completely when you’ve never been loved before. Or discovering what your work is and giving yourself to it wholeheartedly, whether that’s gardening, fixing cars, caring for children, writing, painting, or being a great listener.

Whether our transforming event is dramatic or subtle, once our gift is exposed, it’s our job to keep it in the open, though no one can stay permanently awake. We take turns being clouded and clear. Today I might be awake for a time, then trip and fall, while you’re awake longer. While you’re awake, you’re the teacher. Tomorrow, you might shut down. You might get something in your heart’s eye, and you’ll be squinting, unable to quite keep it open. That day, I might be clear, and I’ll be the teacher.

No one can avoid the turbulence of being alive. Just as everything in the natural world faces friction and erosion, human beings face the erosion of experience called suffering. There’s no escaping this. Though being awake and wholehearted can help us move through difficulty and suffering.

From an early age, we’re taught to sort, prioritize, and choose what’s most important as a way to negotiate difficulty. Yet while sorting, prioritizing, and choosing can help us get through life, they don’t always help us retrieve meaning from life. Over the years, I’ve been continually broken open beyond what I thought possible. And with a larger, more open heart, I’ve been challenged to let things in, rather than sort them out, and to let what I experience mix into a potent synergy of life’s energies. Drinking from that synergy, I am renewed.

Despite what we’re taught, we don’t have to choose between meanings. Rather, we can absorb and integrate many meanings. So I invite you to let the many things we’re exploring gather and open you to an experience of Wholeness. You don’t need to choose among them. One of the rewards for staying awake is that we start to swim in what we experience, rather than separate and isolate what comes our way.

This excerpt is from my book, The One Life We’re Given: Finding the Wisdom that Waits in Your Heart (Atria 2016).

*photo credit: Tyler Lastovich

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