An Update on Recent Writing – Reflecting on Self-Creation

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It seems I have not been writing much lately. That’s what it seems like – especially if you look here. But appearances can be deceiving. In fact, I have not written so much in all of my life as I have in the past month (though not in volume, certainly in consistency and pace).

I have clicked in to gear, even while failing and recommitting dozens of times daily, and I am producing more work than I could have imagined. I must admit that it was a deadline which spurred me on. I am hitting the road again in two weeks – leaving this old home of mine, this beautiful cocoon – and I have amped up my discipline in hopes of finishing the first draft of this massive book I have been working on. It has grown a bit out of control, and I have no idea what will become of it, but I can’t say I mind. I have discovered the true value of this creation is the creation itself – the act of creation, not the outcome. Truly expressing ourselves is an incredible path to truth and freedom. Results are far less than secondary, and never final.

I had been dreaming this book up while I travelled around Europe, and I was telling people all about it along the way. Over the past year (particularly the past seven months) I have finally been writing it. It has tasted some wild highs and lows, and yet I have been blessed to mostly sit back and observe these extremes with plenty of perspective, not getting too wrapped up in the waves.

It has been one of the greatest challenges of my life. I have never worked so hard before. It has been entirely effortless at times, and lots of fun. More often, though, it has called for a depth of discipline I never knew I had access to. And yet taking space to relax and do absolutely nothing has been just as vital as the work, allowing things to settle and connect. There is a fine line, a razor’s edge, that seems like a complete paradox, which finds me pouring myself completely into this project, my life story, even as I know, simultaneously, that it is ultimately meaningless. It doesn’t matter one iota. Not in the big picture. It will never fully express what it endeavours to express, and yet I sense it can express much more, too. So I guess it’s just for fun. I don’t know if I have merely imagined these ideas, but they have at least enabled me to create without attaching any importance to the result of the work.

I have been learning a lot as I have been writing this memoir. This matters far more to me than the thoughts, feelings and stories I have been collecting. I see that the work is, at once, entirely for myself and also an act of total service. It might just end up the world’s longest, most self-absorbed and self-revelatory journal entry ever. I honestly don’t care if anyone ever reads it. But I will keep working away at it, to bring it as near as possible to the state of being ‘finished’, whatever that might mean. I trust that I will know when it gets there, or someone will slap me and take it from me. Either way.

The act of composition is a funny one. It seems as if we are all doing it anyway, largely unconsciously, weaving our little life stories as we walk along our road, making it all fit, feeding it with meaning. To bring our narrative under the light of real seeing, however, exposing it to the naked page, is a daring act. It can be absolutely terrifying. I’m not patting myself on the back here, claiming to be particularly brave or courageous, either. In fact, I’ve never felt more consistently vulnerable in all my life. But I feel that this vulnerability, this uncertainty, has become some kind of strength. I am learning to lean into this mystery. I know intuitively that life is real in this raw open space. And I am doing my best to live from this tender, authentic centre more and more.

This is a complete reversal of the general operating principles that seem to have prevailed in recent western society. They seem to have prevailed. But we know that appearances can be deceiving. I see that these principles, of conquest, competition and consumerism – principles of capitalism, basically – are eroding the very foundation upon which they rest. The bloodsport of money, which we call an economy, if left to its own devices, ends up with one person holding it all. What good will it do them, or anyone else? Life goes on. Balance is inescapable. We don’t need money. Life existed before it, and will long outlast it. Seeds sprout and food grows. We share and we eat. We build, we live and we love. In the end, human community prevails.

But I have digressed, and will reel it in before this becomes a rant. I am nearly done a draft.  Then it is time for a break. On March 5th I have a flight booked to Cuba. I am chaperoning a mission trip. I will likely be out of touch for the duration of my stay. I have a one-way flight booked to Venezuela on March 19th. I am hoping to drop in on a few friends scattered about South America. I have had some friends and family members question why I am starting in Venezuela. I have even had a few urge me not to go, citing political instability and great social unrest. I can’t say I know why I am going, but I trust life entirely, and I trust that a way will be made for me. If I am not meant to go there, something will come up and intuition will guide me elsewhere.

I believe this is the case for all of us. I believe that if we walk out in the direction of our dreams, even if it takes us straight through our greatest fears, we will awaken more and more to our deepest and truest self. This journey need not be literal. The real journey is within, though sometimes it may also be mirrored outside of ourselves. We are all creators, building our lives, blindly or otherwise. The more we see, the more pure our creation becomes. But it is dangerous to consider ourselves as ‘in control’. Stop trying to arrive.  We’re already here. I feel the best service any of us can do is to simply let all that is inside of us out. A lofty ambition, perhaps, but absolutely worthwhile – essential, even. This pure creation is even closer to us than within reach; I see it to be within release. All we have to do is let go. See clearly. This surrender is the hardest work of all, and it is absolutely effortless.

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Good luck. ;) Travel light. Send me love as I journey. :) I will try to get some photos and travel posts up here as I am able to throughout my South American jaunt. As ever, I don’t know when I’ll be back, so I won’t pretend, though I don’t plan on more than a couple of months.

De-cluttering Our ‘TO DO’ Lists: Honouring Responsibility Over Obligation

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WHAT TO DO?

What do you have to do today? Really. Look it over. Whether you have an actual list in front of you or just a stack of tasks gathered in your mind, have a good look at it. Ask yourself; is all of this necessary? Is any of it necessary? Who says so? Even if that voice in your head barks back ‘I say so!’, inquire. Who is that voice? Is it really you? Or might it just be a collection of expectations and obligations that a life of conditioning has imprinted upon you? This may be a frightening thought, that some entity other than ourselves is driving our minds. But this ‘conditioning’ need not be seen as intentionally oppressive, as if some evil perpetrator were sitting in a wingback chair, laughing, hands held together in a pyramid, fingers dancing back and forth while we silly mortals fall prey to some grand evil scheme.

SEEING THROUGH OUR CONDITIONING

Conditioning has just happened. This is simply how life has developed so far. It’s a part of our growth. And not all conditioning is bad. But when we are blind to it, it drives us. It fills up our ‘to do’ lists with endless things that we feel we must do. The extent to which we can see this conditioning at work is the extent to which we can become free of it. After all, it is in the nature of a mistake to disappear once we discover it. And then we can watch our ‘to do’ lists thin out significantly. They may go blank altogether. And they may remain that way for a while – empty. And that’s ok. After running a marathon, whether finishing first or last, it’s reasonable to take a moment to gather our breath, maybe have a sip of water and walk it off. Similarly, when we wake up to see we’ve been running in circles for most of our lives, we are permitted to take a bit of a breather, to walk it off. We may feel aimless for a while. (We’ll certainly appear it!) This is ok, too. Gradually, we can begin introducing new items to our ‘to do’ lists, when we feel up to it, and especially when we feel inspired to act from a place of conviction – a place of deep truth. We are no longer merely following commands, but seeing action arise from our natural impulse for love. We do what we want to do, what we love to do. We can begin developing ‘to do’ lists with intention. It’s our inattention that has kept us spinning in hamster wheels for so long. It’s time to rise and shine.

CLARIFYING OUR UNDERSTANDING

What I am talking about is a subtle but vital distinction which can revolutionize our lives. This is the fine line between obligation and responsibility. But what’s the difference? How do we discern which is which? Sometimes it’s a razor’s edge. And it’s more often not even about what we do, but how we do it. Are we doing something because we have to or because we want to? It is not always so simple, though this can be a good place to begin our inquiry. Fortunately, for fuzzier matters, a bit of patient reflection can help us understand which voice we should be honouring.

So what is obligation? Well, to feel obliged to do something seems to imply some sense of pressure, some external force, whether from the expectations of our family, our work, or society at large. These are tasks we would seldom take upon ourselves to perform. But responsibility is literally the ability to respond. Response-ability.  It’s all right there. This is an uprising of our truest self, a deep moral sense of right action, appropriate to the moment. And it always comes from within, expressing itself in a completely unique way through each of us. Still, it can be difficult to strain through the many voices chattering inside of us to figure out where each voice is coming from, where they would have us go and what they would have us do.

TRIMMING DOWN OUR BIG ‘TO DO’s

This is where thinning out our ‘to do’ lists can be so helpful. It’s a two-way street. It may feel a bit scary, at first, and maybe even a little crazy, but by stripping away our excess ‘busy-ness’ – if only for a few days, allowing ourselves to breathe and relax – we can begin to see what is truly important in our lives. It will emerge all on its own. And we can learn to prioritize more wisely. As we do this, we may hear old voices rising up inside, telling us we are letting people down, or letting ourselves down. But if we can weather this storm, perhaps we can stop worrying about ‘let downs’ and learn to let up and let go. Maybe we’ll realize that what we want is not what we need, and what we need is not what we want. Facing this can be disorienting. But if we can exercise a bit of bravery – just enough to take a small step out of our comfortable routines, letting go of our ‘to do’ lists for a while – perhaps we can become more of who we truly are, surrendering the rest, and ending up a greater help to ourselves and others, growing and serving in ways far beyond what we had ever imagined possible.

TAKE A CHANCE – RELAX

Why not try letting go? Maybe all you have to lose is all you need to lose to be truly free. Take a deep breath in and let go of everything else. Exhale and feel the release spreading through your entire body. This is our natural state. Inner peace is our effortless inheritance. There is nothing it asks us ‘to do’ but let it in. So be still. Go deep. And ask yourself, what do I really have to do today?

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Express Yourself

This is how to speak from the heart.  I am teaching myself.  I am learning.  I often work with ideas as I write and I feel physically oriented in my head, but right now, as I type this, I am focusing attention on the centre of my chest, allowing myself to feel whatever is there.  I am not trying to create anything.  I am just speaking.  The song ‘Express Yourself’ comes to mind.  To mind?  To heart?  Where is it that ideas arrive?  Where do they come from?  Maybe it doesn’t matter.  Not now.  I may end up chasing my tail.  And even just there, I caught myself up in my head, feeling myself there physically again.  I have recalibrated.  Holding strong in the expansive heart-centre.  Mmmmm….that feels right.

So why do we spend so much time in our heads?  I feel it is because so much of our sensory information is processed there.  Or that seems to be the major locus of so much sensory input, at least.  The eyes are wired to the brain, and the ears are right there, too.  The nose is in the same neighbourhood.  The tongue, too.  Right off the bat, that’s four out of five senses all located around the head.  It’s no surprise that so many of us have become so tied up in our minds.  But where is the mind?  The Pixies asked us this.  A valuable question.  Where is my mind?  Why do so many of us assume it is in the brain?  What proof do we have?  We can feel sensations all over our bodies, and within our bodies, too.  I’ve been doing it a lot more, lately.  I find it a welcome relief, a sort of recalibration, after so many years of residing in my head.

Since my diet shifted away from much of the junk I once put in it, I am able to feel the inner activities of my body with much more clarity and awareness.  It’s something else.  I highly recommend it.  I can feel my body balancing itself, healing itself.  I can feel things moving around in here, and I know intuitively that it is doing what it needs to do.  I can stay out of the way and let it do its work.

I haven’t been consciously growing my hair or fingernails, nor can I claim credit for my digestion, but it all happens.  The intelligence of life seems to have these things figured out.  Where do we draw the line, deciding what processes we control, and what has been automated?  Is it all just a continuum of learning and assimilating various lessons and subsequent functions?  Who knows?

But I am just rambling.  I guess I should feel free to do so on a blog.  I am expressing myself, and I have been listening to this song on repeat since I mentioned it earlier.  (Check it out here.)  I highly recommend it.  And feel your heart while you’re at it.  I feel that if we all made a habit of this, feeling our hearts as we lived life, things would naturally iron themselves out.  Life can simplify itself – maybe the best we can do is let it.

That’s it for the moment.  I am off to New York with my brother now, to celebrate the New Year with Neil Young at Carnegie Hall – an awesome Christmas present from our folks.  I trust we will have a great time there, a first visit for both of us.  And as this Christmas season winds down, I hope that we can all enjoy the epiphany upon us, the simple epiphany within us, and learn to appreciate the peace in our hearts, and to express ourselves freely and fearlessly.

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Preparing a Return to Work

I’ve been offline for a while – mostly eating, drinking and being merry.  It has been a great holiday season, and I will be back into my groove soon!  Keep an eye out for a new post this week.  I hope everyone has had a chance to pause in the chaos of the season and to experience some of the light that is available in such abundance.  There have been serious power outages up this way (Southern Ontario and Quebec) and despite the cold and dark, I trust there is a chance to connect with the inner light at times like these.  I send love and warmth to those still without power.

I pray that your hearts are warm and your bellies full.  Let’s all consider how we can use the gifts of abundance from this season to fuel earnest work in the New Year, serving our sisters and brothers for the betterment of life here.  Simple local action is the best way to begin.  There’s nowhere closer than your own heart!

Much love and light!

Simple But Not Easy

A few months ago I found this scribbled in a notebook from the road.  It was scrawled in nighttime penmanship, and though I don’t recall writing it, it seems it was from around this time last year:

if you don’t love what you are doing with your life, change it. stop it, drop it and roll on. let go. take time off. time out. there are countless ways to live. you don’t need money. let the universe show you how supportive it is. seek truth. read ancient wisdom. read new wisdom. see what resonates. or don’t read at all. you already contain all the truth you’ll ever need. the more you delve into it, you’ll see that it actually contains you. with patience and practice, you may discover that you are the truth itself. there is no container or contained. then you are free.

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Finding Balance in Paradox

During my years on the road, I have been blessed to meet many special people. Among them, there is a handful of people who made a powerful impact on my life. As I sit down to write today, one very special soul comes to mind. This adventurer truly stands out. I had heard about Sacha before I met him, but when he showed up on the farm where I was working one afternoon in late May, 2012, I didn’t know who he was. He was just a friendly hitchhiker with bare feet. I didn’t put two and two together. I had been living on this farm in Tuscany for more than three months by the time he arrived, but now I could finally put a face to the name and many stories I had heard.

As we became acquainted, I marveled at the light in his eyes. With great zest and vitality, he spoke of a life of adventure and misadventure, and valuable lessons learned in the strangest of places and ways. Sacha was almost 50 when I met him, and he had just been living and traveling in India for two years. He spoke fondly of all it offered. His life oozed inspiration. He had traveled 10 years without shoes. He had traveled two years without using money. He had traveled at length without any bags or documents of any kind, managing his way through international borders by grace alone. But even more exciting to me than his many exploits were talks we had about the wisdom that ripened within him as a result of living as he did.

Of all we discussed, one idea really stayed with me, coming up more than any other; Sacha talked about locating our own paradox – a point of tension unique to every person – and operating from that dynamic centre. He claimed this to be life’s sweet spot. But first we had to make peace with ourselves – we needed to reconcile this tension. It was a confusing idea at first, and yet as soon as he brought it up, I sensed it was full of wisdom. Intuitively, I knew he was on to something. Slowly, it settled in and began making more sense.

As I contemplated his thoughts on paradox, I realized that paradox is not incompatible with consistency. For so long, I had struggled with contradiction and paradox, but suddenly I could see that they were just part of an overarching truth. I saw that paradox represented two sides of one coin. It is only our rational minds that struggle with the division – and we are so much more than our rational minds. Rationality has an edge. We can examine rationality rationally to discover this. The truth resides beyond.

I began to see that this greater truth could not actually be expressed in words or ideas, because as soon as it was attempted, it would be sucked into the dualistic nature of language – the duality of the material world; divisions in the mind, black and white. And though this line of thought quickly became more complicated than it needed to be, it eventually led back to utter simplicity. I saw the futility of trying to define the indefinable, trying to express that which cannot be expressed. We only end up spinning in circles.

So, after chewing on all of these ideas, what does one do? In my case, finding my own paradox became of paramount importance in my life. I had long thought of myself as my own opposite, and the tension was often unbearable. Locating this ever-active and elusive point of central tension proved difficult. And once we contact it, and think we have it, it’s gone again. It seems there is no arrival – at least not in these mortal frames. But eventually we can develop a greater confidence in this practice, living from our own point of paradox, and we can gradually anchor ourselves in this delicate balance point.

The peace that is born from all this confusion is a simple understanding, which dawns on us as we step outside of these spiraling thoughts. We see that this intangible truth is the pure potential behind and within any expression. It is the pure potential present before, after and beyond all expression. This accounts for all art, all relationships, all creation – everything we have ever seen, smelt, tasted, felt, heard, said or thought. It is all creation. Every thought, word and deed is actually an attempt at connection. It is love reaching out to itself, through us – through all life. The surface story so easily distracts our senses. Don’t be swayed. Only the love within is deeply true.

Ultimately, our paradox is balance, and I know of no better way to realize it than meditation. Allowing the mind to settle, we learn to burn through our pains and fears to see with simplicity just how beautiful life is. The lessons of silence are our only true teacher. This talk is all just bubbles and fizz. See for yourself. Be still. Go deep.

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Persistence

Sometimes when I sit down to write, I don’t want to. Now is one of those times. But I am trying, all the same. I am sitting here patiently, typing words, just to see what happens. I am hoping that I might soon feel like continuing. The weakest hint of momentum may just be enough to see me stick with it a while and churn a little something out. But developing the discipline to sit down when I am not inspired is not easy. It takes a lot of persistence. There are more than a few old roadblocks to break through.

I used to consider myself a promising young writer, though I mostly sat around waiting for the spark of inspiration to strike me. Occasionally a whimsical bit of verse would trickle forth, before falling prey to laziness – my base state for quite some time. I could work on something with a brief initial burst of energy, sometimes even following up with a weak second effort, but so many fine ideas fell flat simply because I could not seem to sustain any interest or discipline. I was ideologically opposed to the structure of discipline; I rebelled against its ‘necessity’. I hosted various vague and untested notions floating about my skull claiming that art should not require effort. I had grown wary of hard work, certainly not due to overexposure. But now I see the great value of structure and discipline in allowing our creativity a channel through which to flow. Seeing projects beyond their birth calls for this kind of commitment and perseverance.

I can’t yet speak from any great track-record of outward accomplishments or publications, as my writing regimen is still quite young, but I can feel the fruit of this routine ripening within me. (I think it’s going to be tasty.) Since the beginning of August, I have been rising at 5 AM every day (with rare exceptions), and after an hour of yoga and meditation (or exercise and prayer, depending who I am talking to – as if there were any difference beyond labels), I sit down at my eastward facing desk and write for three solid hours. Solid may be too firm a word. Solid is the ideal. At the outset, I would sometimes sneak away to play the odd song on the guitar. That is pretty rare now. I often look out the window and marvel at the sunrise playing on the underside of clouds. I close my eyes and breathe a lot. But staying in the seat is the goal. From 6 til 9. (Bathroom breaks are always permitted.) Over time, it has become easier to stick it out. This kind of discipline was never my strong suit, but I have found patience to be a huge ally in the battle of building will power. I can look to my simple meditation practice for developing these seeds of patience. 

I have only been an ‘active’ meditator for about two years now (admittedly, on the surface it looks pretty passive – I just sit there), but the growth I have experienced is astonishing. We are all capable of developing powerful faculties we never thought possible. The trick is doing it for its own sake. As soon as you feel some pressure or obligation, the spark is often lost. Setting goals is still vital, of course, but being able to work without attachment to firm outcomes allows us to discover that the worth of the work is the work itself. This is a most beautiful revelation. We can use incentives and other tools, as we wish, but I believe it is the simple creative release of self-expression in whatever we do that truly feeds us. There is nothing else we need. That fundamental dose of satisfaction is all we are really after, whether we see it or not.

I sat here from beginning to end – from word one to right now – and despite wanting to get up many times, I stuck it out, and I am glad I did. It may not be all that cohesive – meandering much as I did while writing it, jotting thoughts and jumping back and forth to tend to open threads – but I am glad I kept writing. This is such a simple reward. Discipline when exercised feels good in and of itself. Persistence pays. Keep at it.

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On The Unknown

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Striking out into the unknown can be scary. But as we wade into uncharted waters – our hearts beating, our knees wobbling – there is never any doubt that we are alive. This is where life is the richest, and most true. This is where real growth happens. Living in safety nets is a trap. Somehow it seems many of us have gotten it all turned around, and we are seeking comfort, blindly numbing ourselves into lives of oblivion. We’re insulating and isolating ourselves in misguided attempts at self-preservation. The odd fireside night curled up on the couch is all well and good, but if wrapping ourselves in this sort of luxury has become our chief aim, I think it’s time to get back to the drawing board. I only speak about this after living many years trying to secure myself and everything around me to prevent any attack from the ‘dangerous world of the unknown’.

Without seeing it, I was choking myself. I thought I was being smart and strong, weighing every breath before drawing it in, but I was actually preventing myself from truly living. I was building unconscious walls between myself and real life. Stepping into the unknown is frightening, but it is also thrilling, and always rewarding. If we reflect carefully upon the lessons of our courageous forays into the unknown, we will gradually become more willing to throw ourselves into uncertainty, trusting that we can handle it, and learn something of worth.

I learned this as I cycled around Europe. I bought a bike in Madrid and rode for about six-and-a-half months, covering just over 7500 kilometres. I rarely had a map with me and I often rode with no real idea where I was going, following little more than my compass and a whim. These were my braver days. It took a little while to build up to that point – though not as much as you may think. But what I discovered was that over time, living in new surroundings, meeting new people, tasting new foods, discussing new ideas, and trying to speak new languages, I was constantly forced out of my safety net, and I began habituating a heightened alertness to all around me. Instead of feeling anxious about not firmly knowing everything about my surroundings, I began developing a trust of life, completely unconsciously.

I would often stop to couchsurf in cities that I passed through, sometimes staying a week or more to explore, and rest my body. Without fail, every time I left a city to resume my ride, it felt like the first time again – butterflies in my belly, wondering what was around the corner. This taught me something. Stepping into the unknown is always going to feel a bit scary, and we need not try to change that. But we can develop the willingness to step out anyway, changing our attitude about uncertainty, teaching ourselves to embrace it. This is revolutionary, and surprisingly simple.

Courage is not about being fearless, it’s about stepping forward in the face of fear. We can be brave despite ourselves. Even when we don’t feel especially strong, we can fake it, behaving as a brave soul would, thus teaching ourselves what it feels like. And if a particular fear has beaten us before, we don’t need to believe it will beat us always. We can simply shift our perspective and understand instead that we have been chipping away at that fear, weakening it over the years, and all it takes is one bold step to cut through it and abolish it forever. Fears may look serious as they stand in front of us, but they are almost always laughable in the rear-view mirror.

So do something that scares you. You will grow. And you will be glad you did it. Give yourself permission to make mistakes.  And try not to take yourself too seriously – this is a huge obstacle to living a full life. Here again, I speak only from experience. I was caught up in my own mind for much of my life, taking everything I did, made, said and thought so seriously that I had painted myself into a little corner of cowardice, too frozen and afraid to take a single step out of it.

But life finally cracked me open and broke me down – and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. So let’s step out into the unknown together and let life break us down a little more. In braving this chaos, we’re actually being built up, becoming stronger and gentler. Our endurance strengthens, our patience deepens, and our compassion broadens. Only through this surrender to the inherent intelligence of life can we be taught and brought to exactly where we need to be. Right here.  Free of the need to know, and loving it…

Remembering

Remembering can inspire, but it can also enslave. The power to decide resides within. Discerning the subtle distinction calls for great vigilance. Like those we remember today, many of whom died fighting for freedom from oppression, we can stand up and declare freedom from our past, even as we honour it. With clarity and sincerity, we can ask ourselves what we are remembering today. Are we echoing cries of love or fear? Are we serving separation or unity? What would we have ourselves remember?

There comes a point when our attachment to memory cripples our future. Letting go of our past can be frightening. It has held us for so long that we don’t know who we are without it. But if we are brave enough to allow even a glimpse of freedom from it, we will see it doesn’t fade away. It simply takes a lighter shade. We gain space and perspective, clearing cobwebs, allowing powerful resolution. The pain of our past suddenly has less gravity, weakening to the point of levity as old war stories cycle through our minds, losing strength with every orbit. Instead of perpetuating patterns of conflict, we can shed our shells of guilt, shame and blame and see ourselves from a higher plane. There is nothing to be afraid of. We will not lose who we were. We will gain who we are. This surrender of memory will not dishonour those who have died in battle. Far from it. Their sacrifice grows richer as we continue their fight for freedom by laying down our arms, by giving up our grudges, and by learning to see ourselves with wider eyes.

Remembrance Day is a time for reflection. Perhaps we should first look in the mirror and reflect on what we see. What would we like to be remembered for? Does it even matter? When will we ever enjoy the ripple effect of our own lives? Do we really believe soldiers would want us to spend our days looking back at their sacrifice? What would that serve? Are we perpetuating war by glorifying bloody battles of the past? There must be a reason most soldiers chose not to speak about the war when they came home. That was their sacrifice, their cross to bear – to be there and see the horrors of war, to absorb it for us, to protect us from it, and to take it to the grave. The heavy spectre of war swallowed some soldiers whole, mere shells of themselves returning from foreign shores. But many were able to let it go, to make peace with war, and to continue living. We can choose to follow in the footsteps of these courageous soldiers, marching into freedom and beyond, overcoming the wounds of war. Lest we forget that love is the only healer. And we cannot love without first forgiving – both our enemies and ourselves.

Remembering can thus be a means for freedom from memory. But we must remember wisely, and realize we are not who we were. Every memory is remade in the moment – in our minds. The stickiness or sting of memory loves to perpetuate itself, feeding on our feelings. There is a part of us that tries to hold on to the pride or pain of memory by not fully witnessing it. We are hiding from the very memories that we hold closest. We become so wrapped up, so deeply invested in these phantoms, that we lose sight of ourselves. But if we allow some space, gaining perspective, we can stop repeating history through our blind identification with memory. As we release our grip, our memories actually become clearer, more reliable, less warped and coloured by emotional overtones. Nothing need be forgotten, but we can learn to see memory through a new lens, with both a broader and sharper focus. It is only the effort to hold on which holds us back.

When we become encapsulated by our former glory or our outmoded hopes, we lose touch with reality, which is only ever alive in the sacred present. This is the gift of life. This is what the soldiers were fighting for – the chance to be here now. It’s all there is. It’s all there ever was or will be. Instead of remembering what was lost, we can realize what was gained. We can honour our veterans and our memories by accepting the freedom that was won for us. Every war must come to an end. Eventually, surrender is our salvation.

We can honour the fallen wisely by realizing they are already risen. We need not chase them into graves. They died for a freedom which they won just as simply. It can be ours, too. Indeed it already is. So let’s remember with perspective. The peace forever embedded in this very moment is our birthright. Don’t miss out. The most important thing any of us can remember is who we are, right now – especially when wandering through the past. I feel our bravest soldiers would agree. While grass has grown over so many graves, life carries on. I choose to honour their lives by standing up to be who I am right now, and resolving to carry this torch forward.

So as we remember, we can lay down our differing dreams and ideas, we can lay down our rifles, at once respecting and transcending the lines dividing us, and if only for a moment, we can align ourselves with the single spark alive in every heart, binding us together forever. And if we must consent ourselves to the dictates of the ages as they pass by, we can at least remember wisely, walking our winding paths with patience and grace. We can ask ourselves a simple question; what kind of memories would we wish for our future? In the silence that follows – an echo issuing from deep within – we can start building these memories today, the only place we have to play.

poppy