Guess Who’s Back?

This has been quite a cold season. I hear a lot of people have been hit hard. Apparently I’m not the only one who was laid up for more than a week. And word on the street is that it can pop up again even after it’s gone. I had a few days of bronchitis in the wake of my cold. I figured that was the final wave. And it seemed to be the case for a week or more. I was back to full strength and more or less normal activity, eating what I usually do, and then BAM! Guess who’s back? The pesky old cold. I thought it was completely gone. I don’t know if it’s a different bug or just one more wave of the same. Does it really matter?

I must say I am taking it well. I don’t have an intense fever as I did before. I am not achy. But my throat is swollen and it hurts to swallow. I even wonder if tonsillitis may have been triggered this time around. I am still producing a lot of that thick yellow stuff every morning as I cough wildly upon waking. (Too much information?) At least I am getting it out of me. I feel like I am taking it all in stride.

I hope this isn’t taken as a complaint. I’m just rambling away here, getting whatever this is out of me, not unlike a cold expels whatever it needs to. I’m not wrestling with much. I accept the process as it is, and I even stop to appreciate the body’s natural healing intelligence. I am doing what I can. I am resting more than normal, gargling hot salt water several times a day, drinking honey-lemon-ginger tea, chewing garlic once in a while and eating a lot of soup.

Today, however, I opted to make a juice. It had been a while since I had done so and I felt like having some concentrated nutrients. I juiced a bunch of kale and spinach, one cucumber, twenty carrots, one bunch of celery, six apples, one lemon, one grapefruit, some ginger, and added a healthy spoonful of turmeric after it was all done. It was quite a project. It took nearly three hours altogether.

I cleaned everything up once I finished and poured myself a pint of powerful immune-boosting juice. I sat cross-legged in a large comfortable chair to enjoy it. I rested my whole body, which had been up and active for several hours in grocery shopping and juice preparation, and I immediately felt the juice doing its work. It was as if I could feel the juice spreading throughout my veins. It was a rush. I sat in a semi-meditative state and let my entire body fall into rest. I could see so clearly – my awareness was incredibly broad, and yet single-pointed. It swallowed everything – thoughts, my body, every sensation. It was quite a reboot.

Sitting here writing (having taken a break mid-stream for another hot water salt gargle) my throat is still sore, but I don’t mind. It’s doing what it needs to do, and I will help it as best it can, largely by staying out of its way. I don’t feel contagious. I feel like things are just in process. So I will let it work. And I might drop in to a doctor if this persists much longer.

I’m off to Toronto this week and I am happy to be checking in with my family and friends there. It will be Family Day holiday in Ontario next Monday, so it will be nice to share it with family. I will be writing to you from there next week. And then we’re off to a family wedding later in the week. Should be a fun one.

Well, there is another off-the-cuff blog post. Nothing profound to share today. Just what’s what.

For the moment, though, I am going to enjoy a nice healthy glass of juice. Why don’t you join me? I wish I could share some of mine through the computer…

Juice

(That’s just a stock image… 🙂 My juice is green…)

 

She Who Laughs Lasts

Laughter

Yesterday I awoke and noticed snow falling softly outside my window. It made me smile. It was actually gathering on the ground for the first time this season. The cool winds of change I have been feeling of late seemed to have suddenly delivered winter. I decided to change up my regular morning regimen and attend the Montreal Laughter League instead of doing my usual yoga and meditation. I figured the laughter would provide a work out of its own, so I suited up and headed out. I had been meaning to join the Laughter League for some time, having noticed their poster up at Burritoville. They meet on the first and third Sunday of every month and I was glad to be finally dropping in. It was only about a ten-minute walk from where I am living right now. As I approached the door I noticed a gentleman crossing the street headed straight for the same place. We greeted one another and entered together.

Sporadic laughter was already issuing from within. I introduced myself to the few folks already gathered and felt immediately welcome. A few more folks trickled in and we got started. We went around the circle introducing ourselves and breaking into laughter afterwards. We were encouraged to put it forward even if slightly forced, allowing the laughter to become more genuine once it got rolling. I wasn’t immediately fond of the notion of forcing a laugh, but the power of momentum surprised me more than a few times. The phrase ‘fake it until you make it’ came to mind. I was amazed at how quickly forced laughter became real. I occasionally pictured my Mom and a couple of cackling Aunts getting carried away in their hilarity, which consistently spurred me on. Even just looking around at the others in the room was often enough for a laugh. The sheer ridiculousness of the setting and our behaviour became a common cause for continued laughter.

We practiced several specific styles of laughter, interspersed with rest periods. We passed laughter around the circle at random; we partnered off for close eye-contact laughter; we pointed at ourselves and laughed, and we even tried to suppress laughter as if we were ‘little schoolgirls’. My cheeks were hurting early on and I was grateful for our moments of down time. We were guided through breathing exercises and encouraged to shake our sillies out from time to time (laughter often emerging from the silence). We also stopped to study the phenomenon of laughter itself.

We learned a lot about laughter. It seems to be a global language. It is a natural reaction to life. It is not something that we strictly pick up from social cues. Even deaf and blind babies laugh naturally, never having ‘learned’ it. We watched our bodies as we laughed to see where it was coming from, belly, chest or throat. We identified a few basic variations of laughter – the HA HA HA, the HEE HEE HEE, and the HO HO HO – and observed the unique characteristics associated with each.

I got really going a number of times and I was sweating before long. Experienced laughers spoke of the importance of dressing in layers so you could gradually strip down when you got overheated. I was grateful for the pitcher of water on the table in the middle of the circle, but we were warned to drink with caution as it could easily go down the wrong pipe with even the slightest chuckle.

After about an hour or so I noticed that my brain was hurting. It wasn’t exactly a headache but it was becoming slightly uncomfortable. It was pulsating pretty intensely and I felt like new parts of it had been ‘laughed to life’. My neighbour mentioned a similar sensation just as our leader began winding us down for the closing meditation. I was grateful for the rest.

As we fell quiet (for the most part), the meditation melted my body and mind. I felt a million miles wide. Already having a great deal of experience in meditation (often following the exertion of yoga), I was surprised at how deeply I relaxed. I feel it was such a deep meditation because of the stark contrast with the intense workout. All that laughter had been quite a release. It was a different sort of exertion than I was accustomed to leading up to my meditation. As we wrapped up, we decided as a group that ‘she who laughs lasts’. It felt like a valuable nugget to walk away with.

As I strolled slowly homeward I thought about the importance of contrast. It seems we are constantly oscillating between opposites, often to extremes. The very nature of growth seems to bounce us between tension and release. In exercise of any kind we first strengthen before trusting our muscles. Learning to let go of our ‘picture of perfection’ and to simply accept life as it is can be such a skill. We can develop and deepen seeds of peace through active surrender, accepting the fluctuations of life’s various storms and seasons.

The ultimate contrast we seem to be experiencing is between being and becoming. Though it can seem chaotic at times, the wisdom of a wider perspective can help us to embrace this strain with a smile, perhaps even a laugh. A favourite teacher of mine, Nisargadatta Maharaj, said that “it is in the nature of being to seek adventure in becoming, as it is in the nature of becoming to seek peace in being.” This feels intuitively true and it has certainly been the case in my life. What we can come to appreciate as we bounce back and forth is the strengthening of our centre. Our balance can become both broader and stabler as we continue learning and growing, oscillating between the extremes of rest and adventure. Patience and persistence are ever our allies on this journey. But it is helpful to remember that resistance to life’s vicissitudes can halt our development. Simply accepting what is seems to be the wise way forward (as difficult as it can be).

As I look out my window again this morning, I smile to see the softly falling snow. I am reminded of all I love about winter, knowing also that summer wouldn’t be what it is without it – the cold affords the warmth. I am willing to suspend, for the moment, thoughts about winter’s less attractive traits, grateful to laugh and see that this snow is beautiful in itself. I accept this gift as it is right now, looking no further forward.

winter-snow-fun

The Giver Never Lives in Lack

GenerosityHeals

Sometimes I like doing something for someone else that nobody knows about – something that nobody can find out about. I enjoy when it is completely anonymous. It is important that I never get any credit for it – it ensures my motive is pure. Even mentioning it here feels almost like ‘cheating’, but I bring it up simply to encourage anyone reading this to give it a try. I suspect many of you already have. And for those of you who do practice generosity on a regular basis, it might be interesting to shake it up and try it in such a way that you won’t be found out. Why not? It could be a fun little experiment.

One interesting side-effect is that this practice can shed light on our face-to-face generosity. Often there are subtle layers of politics operating in our day-to-day generosity. Over time these can become obstacles to deeper service and self-sacrifice. Perhaps acknowledging and examining these patterns can help us to break them down and let them go. I am not claiming any incredible personal track record here, but simply speaking from my own experience. I have learned that generosity offered without any possibility of getting something in return can open the heart to overflowing joy. Even the slightest trace of personal credit can block this boundless love. But with just the simplest selfless action, this love can blossom into the deepest gratitude for life and an understanding of our intrinsic connectedness. There is a peace in this which beats any other high I’ve ever tasted.

This isn’t to say that practicing generosity where we will be credited for our good deeds is wrong. That’s crazy. Clearly any form of generosity is still good for all involved. I am simply suggesting that trying to share in a new way might show us something more about ourselves – something more about life. I’m not trying to suggest that we’re missing out on anything if we don’t practice this brand of generosity, but I know we can deeply enrich our lives with even the simplest kind turn. We can only try it and see for ourselves what a gift it is. If it feels strange to try this alone we can even conspire to commit random acts of kindness with a good friend, or a partner. This sort of collaborative generosity can be great fun too!  (But still try it in stealth mode…)

The title of this piece, for example, was such a gift. Although I know the source, my friend (who came up with it) offered it to me free of strings. He didn’t want any credit. I suppose he is putting trust in his own words – practicing what he preached. I don’t want to deny him the joy of his anonymous generosity so I will simply tip my cap in gratitude, not taking any personal credit for the lovely rhythmic and rhyming title of today’s post. It strikes me as a mantra. The giver never lives in lack. I have found it running through my heart and mind ever since he shared it with me, repeating itself frequently. The giver never lives in lack. It has a beautiful quality to it on purely an aural basis. It feels good in my mouth, too. The giver never lives in lack. It is entirely pleasing, even before considering the message it carries. This, of course, is where the real juice is found.

So I hope it can plant a seed in your heart – or water one already growing – and lead you out into the world with the will to share a little love. It’s not complicated. Maybe you’ll even try a few new ways to give it. I am sure you will be glad you did!

Happy Monday all!

🙂

Generosity

Here, have a piece of fruit…

Truth Is Fluid

Happy Monday all!  I am back from the wonderful woods and still digesting the beauty of the week.  Instead of rushing and posting my immediate impressions, I am going to let them marinate a few more days and see what comes out through the week.  So for today I am posting a portion of a note I sent out as an email circular last year.  It somehow felt like the right moment to revisit it.  If applied, there is some valuable practical wisdom below which can change your life for the better, or at least help you to see that it needed no changing, aside from your perspective.  Enjoy!

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What we think we know, what we are certain of, is already passed away.  We have passed through it.  It needs no maintenance.  Certainty is a hollow construction.  We can let it go and continue growing.  Nothing is lost.  The unknown is the home of the real.  The deepest truth is found, unspoken, in the empty tension between the poles of paradox.  Contradiction is balance, albeit broad – a balance beyond perception, perhaps; but by exercising faith in life, we can see this balance at work everywhere – all around and within us.  By acknowledging this balance, and by living this faith, we can grow in courage, wisdom and willingness, resting only long enough to gather breath for the next step – deeper into the mystery, forward toward the source.

Every outward journey is an inward journey.  All movement is toward our home, a blinding abyss of transcendent stillness.  If we are uncomfortable in this space it is due only to our conditioning, our habituation.  The beauty of life is that we can consciously free ourselves from these limiting attitudes.  We can transform ourselves.  We all have the gift of consciousness and the freedom to choose.  We are aware enough now to see that life has filled us with so many limiting conditions and habits, and we are strong and wise enough to recondition ourselves with more beneficial principles.  We can choose to embrace the mystery of life and free ourselves from the need to know.  This is when we are granted real sight, far beyond our eyes or the horizon.  Herein we find another paradox, as always, in perfect balance; the more we surrender, the more we are granted.

But don’t expect a moment.  It’s a process – full of moments.  Ultimately, there is only the one; now is forever – and we can never hold on to it.  “Ok, James,” I can hear you thinking, “thanks for your philosophizing, but what am I supposed to do with this?”  Well, I am with you – philosophy can’t do anything.  I am not all that interested in philosophy – not as I once was.  What I am most interested in now is the practical application of living wisdom – in regular, old (though ever-new) daily life.

So how do we use the power of our word?  How do we use our intention?  Although we have discovered that unconscious forces govern our thoughts, feelings and behaviours much of the time, we don’t need to feel bad about this, nor frightened.  Instead, we can be grateful for our awareness that we have an unconscious.  Express that gratitude, out loud or in your own silent dialogue.  We can do it right now.  This is exercising our gift of consciousness – with intention.  Furthermore, we can catch ourselves upholding limiting beliefs through unconscious self-talk: “Oh, I can’t do that…I’m not _____ enough.”  We say it, and we make it true; the power of our word, fencing us in, blindly.  But our awareness weakens these old patterns; it is in the nature of a mistake to disappear once discovered.  Why not try flipping that story around, consciously?  “I am strong enough to accomplish anything.”  Say it again.

What is this but another expression of the placebo effect?  It is a well-tested and documented phenomenon and yet it seems that few explore the depths of the mechanism beneath, which allows it to function.  Consciousness.  Is the glass half-full or half-empty?  We decide.  In the simplest terms possible, this is the gift of life: we are free to choose.  In truth, the glass is both half-full and half-empty, and we have the power to create our experience of reality.  The real gift cannot be seen with our eyes, and it has nothing to do with the glass nor whatever it may be half-empty or half-full of.

The nature of our consciousness is malleable, infinitely creative and highly suggestible.  Try telling yourself you love yourself.  Do it now.  It may feel funny.  At first, it may not even feel completely true.  But do it every day for a month.  Many times.  Write it down.  Repeat it.  Drill it into yourself.  Feel the change in your life.  Continue playing with this power and watch your confidence soar – fake it until you make it.  Tell yourself, ‘the search is over’.  This is powerful.  One day it will be true for you – I promise.  Feel gratitude for this gift.  Exercise it.  Be grateful for your self-awareness and watch it grow.  IT WORKS!  Anyone can do it and it’s completely free!  Your mind will try to tell you that this is not working, that you’re not cut out for this, that it’s a waste of time – but this is merely a defensive reaction to its loosening grip over you, the mind fighting for control the only way it can.  Eventually you will recognize these moments as nothing more than echoes of former ways of thinking.  Exercise patience and persistence – what have you really got to lose?  This is a failure-free experiment.

We can take control of our lives, and no longer be swayed by the myriad voices of the world.  Of course, this can only be taken as far as the inner voice, still and silent, when the time comes to surrender once again.  But now surrender is intentional.  Informed.  The paradox here is that total control leads eventually back to total surrender.  Always in balance.  But one step at a time is all we need to manage – slowly, slowly – gradual expansion and patient integration.  There is, of course, no obligation to do any of this work, but we can choose to consciously join the trajectory of evolution – also known as life.  It’s happening with or without our active participation.

Now that we are aware of this ‘river of life’, we can choose to: a) swim against the current; b) grope for branches on the banks; c) let go and roll with it; or d) even swim with the current, at times, when we can sense its course.  But we must continue to live in awareness.  The wild and lazy mind desperately wants to find some rule of life to apply as a blanket solution to every situation – to simply ‘set it and forget it’.  But life is not a Ronco product.  Every moment is unprecedented and calls for new and different responses.  An appropriate response in one instance could be wildly inappropriate (and potentially dangerous) ten minutes later in a slightly different context.  Much of this is common sense, of course, but the further we journey, the more we develop, our faculty for finer discernment needs sharpening.  This takes discipline.

And the more discipline we exercise, the more freedom we can enjoy.  Balance.  But only inner discipline counts here.  In every action we perform, we can ask ourselves what our intention is.  To impress?  Do we want credit?  What for?  Is there anything that any one of us can take full credit for?  Investigate.  We can examine ourselves and discover all we will ever need to see.  Do we work harder in front of others, or alone at home?  Are we more interested in expressing ourselves or being heard?  Which is more important?  There is a subtle but vital distinction here.  Consider it.

Ideas are inert.  Knowledge itself is limp.  Imposing stories upon people is ultimately useless.  But we can activate our understanding, with love and expanding compassion, allowing the power of our word – the very force of life itself – to ripen into living wisdom.  Consider the relationship between belief and behaviour – it’s a two-way street.  We can chip away at either side; our work is open to two paths of approach, both headed for the centre.  We need not try to transform others.  We can simply do our work and display whatever treasures life grants us.  With purity of heart, clarity of mind, and strength of will, we can humbly shine.

So be a beacon.  Be the star you are – a conduit channelling light into the world.  But always remember: the work starts on the inside – fruit is not grown from the skin inward.  And it can be sloppy at times.  So be forgiving, with yourself and everyone else.  We may appear a mess once in a while, but this is the nature of growth – the nature of healing – and we are complete at every point, in process.  Embrace it.

Although some of this seems complicated, I assure you it arises from and returns to perfect simplicity.  Life is indeed a beautiful gift – more colossal, more intricate, and more interconnected than the mind will ever fathom.  There is nothing we need to figure out.  It’s all taken care of.  So if any of this feels too far out of reach, don’t worry, just breathe.  And pay attention.  Oscar Wilde very wisely said that “Life is far too important to be taken seriously.”  Although I care deeply for life, and explore it meticulously, I realize that taking it, or ourselves, too seriously is most definitely a mistake.  Please save yourself the trouble.  This may be the best lesson I am learning.

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On Forgiveness

What if I told you there was a way to be free of all suffering, lifted from the heaviness of life’s drama? What if I told you that it was completely free? What if I told you that you already hold the key to this freedom in your own heart? Fortunately, it’s just that simple.

forgiveness

I won’t lie and tell you that it’s easy, but it is simple. It’s not complicated.

Forgiveness is perhaps the most valuable key to our inner freedom. And we are 100% in charge of the work of forgiveness. Nobody other than ourselves can dictate who or how to forgive. Despite what we may think, there is no pain too great to let go of. None of us is given more than we can handle. If, however, we allow ourselves to believe that some past hurt is too big for us to forgive (which remains our right), we can no longer justifiably blame any ‘offender’ for our ongoing pain. The offence is long gone, and it is we who are choosing to keep it alive in our minds (often unconsciously), refusing to face the raw freedom of forgiveness. And this is ok. We need not get further tangled in guilt over this. We can simply face the pain as we are able to and release it.

Forgiveness is an open door, an opportunity. We are completely free to take it on or pass it up, as we see fit. It can be tough work. Many of us become so identified with our particular pains and burdens of hurt that we cannot imagine living without them. The very prospect can seem downright frightening. We feel as though a part of us may die if we forgive fully, or are fully forgiven. The anger, guilt or resentment we hold becomes a wall that defines us, and we mistakenly perceive this wall as a sense of security, when it is actually a severe limitation.

These limitations dam up our energy and attract further negativity. Trapped inside, we play out our painful narratives over and over, digging deeper trenches of pain. By flooding these walls with self-identification we make ourselves vulnerable to attack. We choose to give these limitations their reality and we bring about our own suffering. Whether a rude comment in passing, a perceived slight, or much worse, anything we take personally is bound to hurt us. But even in extreme cases of pain, imposed upon us unjustly, we are STILL in complete control of our forgiveness. We can choose freedom, however painful a journey it may be, or we can remain prisoners of our past.

When we hold a grudge, or bottle up our hurt feelings, we are allowing a person or an event to hold great power over us. We are blindly scattering our force outward and pointing the blame the same way. This will never lead to reconciliation. But once we take complete responsibility for ourselves, no matter how serious the hurt we have endured, we see that it is actually impossible to blame anyone else for our suffering.

Even Jesus (from most accounts a pretty righteous dude) said, as he was dying, to forgive his tormentors, “for they know not what they do.” This is some real wisdom. It seems Jesus could see that those persecuting him were acting from ignorance. They were acting out of the blindness of heavily-conditioned egos. They were not to blame. Their minds just happened to be muddled and cluttered, full of ideas imposed on them by others, which they had accepted and invested in. This model of forgiveness brings to mind a quote from ‘The Peaceful Warrior’; “Those who are the hardest to love [or forgive] need it the most.”

At its very core, unconditional forgiveness is love.  This wisdom can radically change how we interact with life and one another. We can examine the folly of our former ways and shift into a new perspective, realizing that we need not take anything personally. We can help one another find the courage to forgive, and we can take responsibility for our own behaviour, both past and present, forgiving ourselves for whatever wrongs we may have committed. We come to see that by moving through these hurts and these ‘wrongs’ we can learn and grow, gaining deeper insight into our own hearts.

The further we anchor ourselves in the freedom of our forgiveness, the less likely we are to encounter further ‘offences’ needing forgiving. Our forgiveness enables us to boldly hold out our hearts, and our wisdom becomes a shield keeping us from feeling wronged by anyone or anything. We come to see that we are all just doing what we can with what we were given. Of course we can do better, continuing to learn and grow from our mistakes, but there is no great rush, and quick forgiveness is the best way to move forward.

So now we can ask ourselves, is there someone I need to forgive?  Is there forgiveness I need to receive?  The silence which follows these questions holds the answers. Once fully received, this forgiveness gives us permission to live our lives fully.

Silence is the Teacher

Silence is essential. We depend upon the absence of open space. We cannot experience life without this fundamental emptiness. In no uncertain terms this void has given rise to us, and indeed to all life. And yet it seems that this void is what so many of us are running from. Our lives today are so frantic and caffeine-fuelled that we hardly ever stop to really listen; to hear a symphony of leaves rustling in a breeze, to hear our own breath passing through our nostrils, or to hear our innermost thoughts.

At the core of our being is a window opening to this cavernous infinity literally teeming with the boundless potential of pure emptiness – the fabric of the universe. To come directly in contact with it feels rather frightening if we have not checked in with it lately. But as we allow it to express itself, patiently observing all that arises from this space, we become clearer and freer, more able to truly connect and express ourselves from the depth of our being.

Some fortunate souls have lived lives closer to the centre, not having strayed so far from themselves, and may not have as jarring an experience in connecting with their core, but it seems more and more the norm that the countless diversions and distractions of modern life are alienating us from the peace and simple wisdom of our own inner silence. When was the last time you sat for a few minutes without any input and simply paid attention? No TV. No phone. No music. No book. Not even drifting off to sleep. Awake and alert, just you and whatever thoughts or feelings are stirring about in your present experience. Have a go at it. See how quickly you try to run away. See how soon your thoughts try to busy you with ‘more important matters’.

The demanding and rapidly-expanding speed and scale of our consumer society finds us so often at odds with ourselves that many of us have stopped taking note. It hurts to look inside, so we keep occupied, believing our sheer busy-ness to be some sort of virtue. We are always ‘behind’ the eight ball, playing catch-up in work that has been force-fed us, competing with people we call peers, secretly hoping their failure may lead to our success. What kind of sickness have we been infected with? But we need not feel guilty about this sort of thinking, if we are even aware enough to recognize it. We can simply acknowledge it for what it is, culturally-fed momentum spinning about our heads. This conditioned thinking is only problematic to the extent that it goes unnoticed, or believed.

But a simple step toward silence unravels all of this toxic content, reshaping the very context of our lives, allowing us to see more deeply who we are and to engage with life in a more playful way, free of the desperation of competition and scarcity, no longer obsessed with what everyone else is doing or thinking, finally free to be and do as we see fit with every moment given us. We come to see that each breath is a gift, inspiring and informing us, offering us a chance to become who we really are. Living from this inward and private space of silence, we no longer seek consensus, news or approval from those around us, and yet we understand more clearly our union with everyone and everything. In this space we can speak freely from our hearts and we can listen deeply from the hearts of our brothers and sisters, offering the simple healing power of our presence, free from distraction.

 

Well over 150 years ago, Henry David Thoreau warned of the dangers of losing touch with ourselves, sacrificing our inner silence for the superficial ‘juice’ of society (his mention of the post office might as well be Facebook today):

When our life ceases to be inward and private, conversation degenerates into mere gossip. We rarely meet a man who can tell us any news which he has not read in a newspaper, or been told by his neighbour; and, for the most part, the only difference between us and our fellow is that he has seen the newspaper, or been out to tea, and we have not. In proportion as our inward life fails, we go more constantly and desperately to the post office. You may depend on it, that the poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters proud of his extensive correspondence has not heard from himself this long while.

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