It was one of those days when the air was washed and polished like a lens.
Everything was crisp and clear—springtime in California.
I could see each individual leaf shimmering on a tree and was simultaneously taking in the whole tree in all its magnificent glory. The colors were more vivid. The wind was more meaningful. Each breath felt poignant.
As I drove away from Green Gulch Farm, I felt a natural high like none other. Each moment, whatever it contained, was perfect, abundant, simple, and miraculous. It wasn’t until leaving the Zen center grounds after my five-day personal retreat that I realized how much more mindful I had become. I was ultra-sensitive to my surroundings, noticing the details, savoring the natural beauty all around me, more embodied than—maybe—ever before.
This blissful state of heightened awareness lasted for a good week or two. That was April of 2004. Now, with the gift of retrospect, I can pinpoint a few other moments in the 13-plus subsequent years in which my formal practice seeped silently, secretively into my everyday experience, creating tiny moments of illumination.
There was a time in my bedroom in Guatemala, when I was doing a standing backbend, that an epiphany hit me. A voice that spoke from deep within said, “Move to the lake.” I cried tears of sudden joy, because I knew then that Lake Atitlán was where I was meant to be.
Another moment of clarity occurred on January 6, 2013 as I was sitting on a hospital bed, listening to “Across the Universe” on repeat, having taken the doctor’s orders to calm down so that he could perform the unexpected C-section.
“Jai Guru Deva, aum…nothing’s gonna change my world. Nothing’s gonna change my world. Limitless undying love that shines around me like a million suns.”
I shifted from fear-fueled sobs to a quiet, tranquil state. When I saw my daughter’s little face and perfect head full of dark brown hair, my mind was empty of anything but love (and morphine, of course—thank you, epidural!).
Although the air was washed and polished like a lens, too, one midsummer’s day in 2001, I could not see it. I was sailing on Lake Travis with my family. Yeah, yeah, the water, wind, and sky—great. I could perceive the spectacular sunset and feel that I should be appreciating its beauty and the gift of my life, but depression absolutely blocked any absorption of gratitude, happiness, or even okayness. Depression distorted the lens, making my entire view blurry and hopeless.
It took years of recurring depressions for me to break through the fog and see the self-perpetuating cycle. I was caught in sad listlessness and struggling against it only made it worse. It wasn’t until I genuinely let go and allowed myself to feel these dark feelings fully that, paradoxically, I was able to get out of the loop of self-hatred, anxiety, and depression.
My most recent clear experiences have been less monumental, more everyday. The little moments, the frequent pauses when I can sit still, take a sip of tea, look around, and soak in the presence. The gorgeousness of the lake and volcanoes never fails to astound me. I can even (sometimes) see the beauty in the disarray in which our household is often found: the stuffed animals lined up in the hammock, the pile of storybooks by Jade’s bed, the muddy paw prints our dog leaves on the wooden planks of the patio.
I am eternally grateful to Guatemala, to every human and animal, stone and flower, sacred fire and body of water that has crossed my path in my time here. The breeze of eternal spring has cleansed the air and polished my lens in such wonderfully unexpected ways.
“Time to cash in your chips
put your ideas and beliefs on the table.
See who has the bigger hand
you or the Mystery that pervades you.
Time to scrape the mind’s sh*t
off your shoes,
undo the laces
that hold your prison together,
and dangle your toes into emptiness.
Once you’ve put everything
on the table,
once all of your currency is gone,
and your pockets are full of air,
all you’ve got left to gamble with
Go ahead, climb up onto the velvet top
of the highest stakes table.
Place yourself as the bet.
Look God in the eyes
for once in your life,
lose.” ~ Adyashanti
Author: Michelle Margaret Fajkus
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis