For many of us who seek a spiritual life, there comes a time when we realize that the life we once lived is no longer the one we must keep living.
We do the spiritual “work.” We walk the “path.” Heck. Sometimes, it may feel as if we really tripped along that path, tumbling down a ravine and scraping ourselves so badly. Yet we surprise ourself when we pick ourself up, dust ourself off, and venture forth … trusting, yet again, in something greater than ourself, and believing, intermittently, and gosh, as best we can, that we are indeed being guided on our journey.
We get additional spiritual clues: “Go this way. No, that way. Wait—over here. Follow the magical pennies on the ground. The blinking streetlamp above your head. The number 11:11 on the clock.”
We continue on. Maybe one day, we feel pulled to go in a direction that would find us sacrificing much more than we are comfortable sacrificing. And … still … we do so, only to find ourselves in the thick of a mystical journey and suddenly looking at the imaginary wristwatch on our arm and wondering: Isn’t this enough? Can I go back to the life I had and feel “comfortable” again?
I have experienced many nuances of all that over the last three years only to find myself asking a curious question that I already know the answer to: Is there a time limit to Trust?
Inevitably along any spiritual journey or, if we’re double winners, a truly mystical experience, the human side of us tends to doubt. We might question what we’ve gotten ourselves into, boldly following what we thought was our intuition—or a “sign from God.” We wonder if we’ve walked the path correctly and if we may ever arrive at the destination we thought would be on the other side. But in performing acts of Surrender and Trust with the Divine, the spiritual hourglass doesn’t ever really run out, does it?
Spirituality is not linear.
Mystical experiences cannot be explained or understood rationally. They just are.
If we trust the “signs” we are given; if we truly believe in what the Divine is whispering into the ears of our soul … and we really go for it … then how can we think we’re ever finished? Maybe the only thing we finished is bootcamp.
Three years ago, I left behind everything I knew. A longtime job ended. I had a memoir due. It was clear to me that it was time to move on from the vibrant Northern California community in which I had lived for nearly twenty-five years. My intuition told me to head back to the Midwest, finish a book about my Polish family, stay in Chicagoland to launch that book, and see what happens. What happened was that the book was released amidst a flurry of mystical acts: Random connections to strangers; special events planned; links to the Polish community; blessings from spiritual titans—who came “from nowhere”—for the book and the unforgotten histories of nearly a million Polish people who were deported to Siberian slave labor camps, which I wrote about in the book because my family miraculously survived the ordeal in the 1940s. I could not have orchestrated any of it—alone. Some power or powers greater than myself were working through me. However, by saying “Yes” to Surrender and Trust and affirming … “OK … I don’t understand the path I am being taken on and I have no guarantee of what will emerge, but I’ll do my part; start walking along this new path and I’ll keep paying attention and we’ll see what happens”… I was giving the Divine my thumbs up that I knew it had my back.
Other, more head-scratching events occurred too. Just when I thought I would return to California and return to a life I had known there, I was asked by a former colleague if I wanted to oversee an olive tree plantation on Maui for 90 days, which I wrote about extensively in this blog. Well, that certainly put a new spin on things. So, I said yes to that … and then things really changed. I unplugged from the world. I lived in the moment. I was bathed in native culture. I realized that there is never an endpoint to the game of Do More/Get More/Be More/KaChing.
When I returned to the Mainland nothing felt the same. I had become a different human. But I felt “off” swirling around in a society that was all about consumption. I wound up living with my Polish mother for a while before taking on another corporate job in California—in Palm Springs, where, I am sorry to say, there was more chatter about the unattractive and hard-to-remove cat lint on “those puffy new pillows” on the imported living room couch in the freshly renovated midcentury modern home people labored to keep in pristine condition than, say, discussions of spiritual growth and the state of humanity. After six weeks, my intuition told me to leave the job. It defied logic: “But I need to ‘make’ and income.”
So I trusted, yet again. I left. Other opportunities emerged without much effort on my part. I remained in Palm Springs for a while. I didn’t want to yet something stirred within: “Stay just a bit longer.” I did. A few months later a miracle arrived in the form of a medical treatment I needed and I one that I never saw coming; one that dramatically shifted my health for the better—all because two lesbian nurses fought with the insurance company to approve treatment. Clearly, I could not have orchestrated that either.
When I returned to Chicago about three months ago, that, too, defied logic. “What on Earth? Why? Again?” Once again, during another time of transition, I found myself residing with my 80-year-old Polish mother, a robust, spritely human who doesn’t take any crap from anybody. I thought I had returned to Chicago to get another job; to “make money”; to settle down—all the things that my Polish mother would have loved to see happen.
The Universe chuckled at that.
Trust me: There is nothing like having to camp out in your parents’ former bedroom; the same bedroom that witnessed the demise of their marriage. What I have learned in being back in the Midwest is that I was never brought back here to settle down or to find a “home.” (One gets intuitive hits when you feel you are in the right place—or not—and belong where you need to belong.) No. In many ways, I returned to do another kind of work: Inner work. It seems my teenage self had a gaggle of unresolved emotions—disappointment, sadness, grief—and from those places he had made a bevy of decisions about life before he hightailed it out of Chicago at the age of eighteen.
When I realized this, that proverbial lightbulb when on above my head. “What would happen,” I thought, “if I take a look at who I was as a teenager and study that me who was so, well, wounded, over my parents’ divorce and feeling misplaced in a world he didn’t know how to maneuver in? What would happen if I made that my job, for a while, instead of looking for jobs that I found absolutely no interest in?
What would happen if I realized that I had never stopped walking the path … that, in fact, I was still on it, and that I had been given the most remarkable opportunity to heal—and to heel—some emotional imbalances within me?
What would happen if simply allowed myself to Trust and to know that I didn’t need to be anywhere other than where I was, and that the hourglass of Trust may just be an illusion.
Because the sand inside that hourglass never runs out.
Until we do.