“Love is the bridge between you and everything.” ~ Rumi
It’s 2:30 p.m. in the Outer Richmond District of San Francisco, California and I’m at my local coffee joint.
I don’t know if it’s the watered down Kona blend or the gloomy weather encased with grey clouds that puts me in a state of melancholy. Perhaps it’s the realization that I’m 31 years old and have no idea what I’m doing with my life or if I’m cut out to be a writer. My dismay is short lived as I glance outside while beauty blooms before my eyes.
A father walks his two little girls from school. He wore some sunglasses which I thought was odd considering the weather, but living in this city I’ve come to expect the unexpected. He held each daughter’s hand firmly with the brightest of smiles gleaming from his face. All three walked in unison as if they didn’t have a care in the world. This scene might not seem unique, but as I looked closely I noticed something that I will never forget. The father was blind. I was overcome with tears. It’s not that I felt sorry for the father, I instead marveled at how happiness was embraced in this very moment. I don’t know if there is a god, and if there is, I wonder if this is his way to show me miracles.
Shortly after I began to write. Today I wanted to share with you what spirituality has taught me.
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
Spirituality is a term that has taken many different meanings. For me it’s simply understanding the deeper dimension within myself that is realized only through experience. This experience can vary from person to person. I came to understand spirituality through meditation, walks in nature, spiritual and philosophical texts, yoga, and changing my diet to a meatless one. I believe these are all tools that help one understand spirituality but it’s not the ultimate. The ultimate is finding true peace, divinity, serenity, harmony and transcending love in all of life. I have felt all these things in some fragments and the more I practice the tools I mentioned, the more omnipresent these feelings are becoming.
I’m no longer a fixer—I thought it was my responsibility to fix the problems of those that I love. This was a constant practice with my family. They came to me for advice, I provided resolution and the world moved on. Simple enough, right. This wasn’t the case. The more I helped them, the more they started relying on my advice.
At 13, I was helping my parents with their marital problems and my two younger sisters would come to me when they had issues at school, with boys, and generally life. I didn’t know it at the time but I was crippling my family from making their own decisions. This type of “fixing” continued until four years ago. After understanding my spiritual self more I started to just listen.
I provided love and my full attention. I noticed that those that I love did not come to me for advice, but rather to be heard. Listening was healing. I have a few friends that call me often for advice because they know my heart comes with no judgment, no advice, and no resolve. Instead I like to think I’m simply a catalyst that helps those I love find out that they already have all the answers within them.
It’s all temporary—I read about impermanence from many sources.
Some include the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Meditations from Marcus Aurelius, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Carl Sagan and many contemporary spiritual and philosophical thinkers.
While all this knowledge is insightful and important, unless I actually practice it, it’s meaningless. I started to look at everything that I see before me as an illusion. Everything is changing and fleeting right before my eyes, and although this can be sad, I’ve learned to embrace it. If I knew I only had one more day in the world I would spend my time appreciating every moment.
When I see my mother, father, sisters, family and friends, our conversations and time together is always filled with love because there is a possibility I might never see them again. I don’t know what tomorrow holds so I don’t place too much value on it, but I know this moment is more precious than gold. I can think about love yesterday, I can hope for love tomorrow, but I can only give love right now.
My heart dictates my taste buds—I grew up eating everything under the sun. If you asked me four years ago to adopt a vegetarian diet I would probably laugh and make fun of you. A meal without meat was inconceivable. My sisters grew up not liking meat. One day they sat me down to show me animal cruelty videos. This was my initial exposure to the heinous things we are capable of as humans.
In the following months I started learning about food and how what we consume is directly correlated to how we think and act. Food is energy, and if I continue to take in energy that is part of an industry that is not kind, it’s hard not to imagine that negative energy not becoming a part of me. Every being is sentient, and although I can’t save them all I can vote every time I consume a meal. This has helped me build compassion for everything in our planet.
I don’t stress as much because I’m going to die—all the stress I had in the past was self-inflicted. No one is responsible for how I feel but me. There are moments where I can become mildly anxious about something but it doesn’t last long. I know how precious and short life is and moments of stress take me away from enjoying the world.
I don’t neglect stress if it does come. I see it as a cloud that passes by. I’ve made peace with the fact that no feeling is forever. Even happiness doesn’t get me all that flustered. Instead my life is at an even keel of joy. Knowing that I’ll be dead soon is all the reason that I have lightened up about my problems.
I live with less. Contrary to popular belief a minimalist lifestyle is nothing new, it just took me a long time to realize that less is more. Spirituality helped me re-evaluate my life and live with what I need. I can fill all my clothes in a few loads of laundry. Over the years I got rid of things that I no longer used. Letting go of unneeded clutter cleared the mind. My values shifted to things that money can’t buy. For example a deep conversation with a friend, volunteering for a cause, or a simple walk in nature are activities that make me feel alive.
Presence is my default setting—if an unsettling situation creeps up in my thoughts I default to the present moment. Whenever I focus on right now the illusions of my problems melt away. Sometimes I’ll look up at the sky and stare aimlessly at the heavens. I’ll marvel at how the sky gives me a new painting everyday. I’m in a state of awe simply by being alive right now.
The fact that a little seedling can grow into a tree and give us apples is amazing. I started taking up gardening recently because being connected to my food source has made me appreciate the joy of eating. The more amazement I find in the world the less my problems become. To find the surreal you simply need to open your eyes and breath. Presence equals pure bliss and the cessation of time.
“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.” ~ Rumi
I still don’t know why I’m here, what I need to do, what will happen when I die or what all of creation is, but for the first time in my life I’m at peace with not knowing. Instead the joy of living another day is enough to keep my heart going. My spirituality has taken me to the deepest of oceans only to find that love is the only thing flowing.
Author: Anand Swamy
Editor: Sara Kärpänen