I was flying back home from Los Angeles to San Francisco, waiting my turn to push my items onto the revolving belt at airport security.
The security officer stood in his blue uniform with a diamond stud earring, dark facial hair, a neat, close-cut hairstyle, and shining brown eyes. He had a sparkling smile for each passenger. There was a cold steel table separating him from us. People had stripped themselves of their identification, belts, shoes, and accessories, and were each greeted with this calm man’s bright smile.
Each traveler placed their items on the belt to enter into the x-ray machine. He separated them kindly and gently—respectfully. My turn came up and he looked directly into my eyes and declared: “What a face! Joy.” He smiled and asked my name. I don’t even remember telling him my name, but I felt compelled to correct him. It wasn’t joy he saw exactly. I looked back thoughtfully at him, gave a small smile, and said: “Actually, it’s hope you see.”
What he didn’t know was that I’d been going through one of the toughest times of my life, but in those past few days, I felt infused with hope. I was fighting for my son’s life as he battled serious mental illness. This trip’s purpose was to figure out if I should send him to a residential treatment center, nine hours away from home.
Lately, everything had been about ruling out. Ruling out facilities, ruling out medications, ruling out tests. Going through huge lists, meeting with doctors, and learning about this debilitating life-changing illness. I had many questions: What kind of life will my son have? What kind of stigma will he face? Will I have to fight the insurance companies when they decide “he should be well by now?” Will I be caring for him under my roof until I die? Will he ever be self-reliant?
“Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control.” ~ Jack Kornfield
In my spiritual practice, the talk of surrendering is ubiquitous. Knowing the true meaning of giving power over to the universe can be confusing. It does not mean non-action, but instead, understanding the situation that you are at odds with, and which parts you have no control over. When we want to have control so badly, it’s usually driven by fear, and fear does not bring the best results. Have you ever noticed that the more control you try to wrangle the less you actually have?
The growing lesson is how to let go of control and become comfortable with the uncertainty. It is a daily practice and some days it doesn’t work. Consistency with release and breath is key. Sitting down to be with and feel emotions while working through them. Imagining what shape these emotions might take, or where they resonate in my body.
Sometimes my emotions sit in my throat or chest, and other times in the bottom of my foot like a cramp. Everyone is different. Listening to music always helps too. Sitting on a pillow, lighting a candle or two, and just breathing. It always comes back to remembering to take a breath—because sometimes we all forget to breathe.
My personal staple in meditation is to picture a goldenrod coming down through my head, into my body, into the earth, and spreading the roots of a tree, way down deep. It reminds me to connect with the earth and spread those roots into the ground beneath, trusting the energy of nature, for that’s where our intuition lies. It also can be satisfying to imagine the emotions on a river, and watching them float away from where you sit on the river bank.
“It’s hope,” I told the TSA security guard. Everything I just experienced over the last two days flashed in my mind’s eye and as I came out of it, I asked him what his name was. As I read his name tag, Officer Daniels, he answered: “Lawrence.”
That moment was a special moment of humanity. A genuine, blessed moment in time. A smile, a gesture of kindness, warmth, and connection, so rare these days.
Through my spiritual practice, I’ve decided to reframe the relationship between mother and son. I am now the student and he is my teacher. All I can do is surrender and be with what is right in front of me. I’ve surrendered to not having control and allowing things to unfold as they will. Well, today anyway.
“Being love, rather than giving or taking love, is the only thing that provides stability.” ~ Ram Dass
Author: Shelley Karpaty
Editor: Jen Schwartz
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman