Thursday, 17 January 2013

Facing The Fear, The Doubt And The Darkness

In life, there will always come moments of fear, of doubt and when the darkness must be faced.  To progress on the journey of life and to continue to evolve the spirit that lies within each of us, it is necessary to face the fear and the doubt, and the darkness that lies beyond, and it is necessary to overcome them.  If fear is never confronted, if doubts are never dispelled, and if through the darkness, the light never comes, then it is not possible to progress on the spiritual journey.  That journey along the path will cease and the evolution of the spirit will falter.  Do not be fooled into thinking that the path will vanish, for that same path will continue to exist, only the scenery will remain forever the same.  Those same trees that surround the place that has been reached, will continue to stand tall and firm, those same trees will be seen day, after day, after day.  But unlike the person that falters in the face of fear and doubt, the trees will continue to grow, since they have their own destiny and follow their own one true path, and because they show no fear in reaching for the sun.  There can be no growth in the heart and the soul of the person who stands still on their path.  To find the light, it is necessary to pass through the darkness.  There is no growth for those that do not overcome their fears and doubts.  For that person, only a life of fear, regret and spiritual stagnation awaits.

There will always be moments in life, when fear comes upon us.  It can strike at any time and it will often strike without warning.  One moment, it is possible to feel emboldened, ready to take on the world and yet in the next breath, cowardice strikes and with it, the urge to run away and hide from that which awaits.  Fear comes in many guises and it is often impossible to recognise it before it has its arms tightly wrapped around you, as it clutches you in its stifling embrace.  Make no mistake, fear can take the very breath from you.  Fear can make it so hard to breath that you feel you are going to faint,  and indeed, some people do.  Fear can stop all rational thought, making it impossible to think clearly, to make the correct judgements, and to take the necessary actions.  Fear feeds on itself.  It takes only a single, seemingly insignificant moment to plant the seed of fear in the mind, but as soon as that seed is planted, it will immediately take hold.  Shoots will spring forth, gripping ever more tightly, and the seed of fear, that small thing, has quickly grown into an out of control monster that cripples, that drains all strength and courage, and that prevents movement.

Fear lives in the head.  Courage resides in the heart.  The two are age old adversaries that have made battle since the first sentient beings took their first breaths on this planet.  The courage of the heart has no equal, it can vanquish the fear of the mind, but only if it is released and allowed to reach its full potential.  There is no amount of fear that courage cannot defeat.  If fear feeds on fear, then on what does courage feed?  It's my belief that courage has no need to feed, since courage is found in the heart.  I think of courage as a bottomless well, an endless abyss from which a never ending source of courage can be drawn.  Fear will always attempt to block the route to courage.  Fear will try to stifle the heart.  It will take its hands and attempt to strangle the very life out of it.  Fear must stop courage at all costs for it knows that if courage takes hold, fear is utterly lost.  This is the purpose of fear in life and this is the path on which fear walks.  There is only one thing that fear itself fears.  And that one thing is courage.

Passing through fear is a necessary step, if the journey of life and the spiritual evolution of the soul are to be continued.  If the step is not taken and fear is not confronted and defeated, then the particular lesson that life is attempting to teach will not be learned.  If the lesson is not learned, there will be a part of the journey that will never be experienced.  This part of the journey will forever remain a mystery and the fear associated with this experience will stay forever in the mind.  They will become inseparable.  Each time the same situation is encountered, that same fear will rise and plague the mind.  Paralysis will occur again and again, until such a time that the fear is finally overcome and vanquished.

The best way to illustrate this, is by providing an example of fear from my own life and to illustrate how, because I did not defeat my fear in the very beginning, that same fear has affected me time and again, and has been a continual bane in my life.  It happened when I was eleven years old.  Back then, I had a good group of friends that I spent time with after school and on weekends, I was focused and motivated at school, and I enjoyed my life very much.  From everything that I can remember about this period of my life, nothing daunted me.  But one Friday evening, everything changed.  My friends and I attended a local disco for under fourteen year olds, held at the local sports centre.  It was our first foray into the world of music, dancing and girls.  At first, everything was great.  We danced together as a group, we made silly jokes with one another and we made up silly dances to make each other laugh.  We were excited and excitable.  At some point, one of my friends noticed some of the girls from our school that shared the sames classes as us.  We started to talk about dancing with them.  One of them, who I'll call Natalie Jones, had been the object of my infatuation for a long time.  She was at the time, the most beautiful girl I had ever seen - pretty, slim, long golden blonde hair that fell off her shoulders and hung down her back and she took ballet classes.  At the age of eleven, if someone had asked me to define perfection, I would have replied without hesitation, "Natalie Jones".  And now, there she stood, just across the room, on the other side of the dance floor.  All I had to do, was to walk over and ask her for a dance.  One of the most simple things in life and yet, for me, at that moment, an impossible mountain to climb.  I could not do it.  I could not find the words in my mind to talk with her.  I didn't have a clue what I would say.  Fear seized me and held me in its vice like grip.  I had this one moment to shake it off, to reach down and seize my courage and to act, but I faltered and I was lost.  Instead of my first foray into the heady delights of dancing with girls, I feigned a sickness, left and went home.  I was defeated utterly by my fear.

And because of what happened at that disco, at the age of eleven, unable to confront and defeat my fear, that same thing has happened to me over and over again throughout my life.  Even now, if I am at a bar or club and I see an attractive girl, I become paralysed by fear and unable to do anything about it.  That same fear that caught me all those years ago, will not let go of me.  It continues to hold me.  There have been a few occasions when I have beaten it, but those few times I was heavily laden under the influence of alcohol or some other mind-altering substance.  This is my Achilles' heel.  This is the personal battle of my life.  Something so simple for so many has become the most daunting thing that I can ever face.  And all because I was unable to confront and defeat my fear when it first occurred, all of those years ago.

One person's fear cannot be compared with another.  What is feared is personal.  What is feared was conjured in the mind by a unique set of circumstances.  Why do some people fear heights and others not?  Why do some people jump out of airplanes and others quiver at the very thought?  In my life I have scuba dived with tiger sharks, bull sharks, great white sharks and many others; I have thrown myself off of a bridge attached to a bungee cord; I have given a talk to a room of eight hundred people; I have lived alone overseas in a country where I knew no one and could not speak the language; I took myself to the other side of the world to attend university; I looked upon my mother as she lay in her hospital bed, so frail and so weak, and it was difficult to recognise the woman that she had once been, before the cancer took hold of her body; I quit my career, sold up everything and completely changed my life; and I reveal deeply personal thoughts in my writing, in the hope that it may inspire others.  In all these things, I have felt fear and I have overcome that fear.  But what are my own fears, compared to those of someone facing a life-threatening illness?  They pale into insignificance.  Our fears are our own.  They are our own personal battles.  Perhaps the greatest battles that we ever face in life.  And as such, they are ours to overcome and they are ours to defeat.

The worst kind of fear is fear of the unknown.  If the object of our fear cannot be visualised, then how are we able to fight it?  We do not know what it is that we are fighting against, so we cannot choose the most suitable weapon and if we cannot see our enemy, then we do not know when or where to strike at it.  The most frightening horror movies are always those where the protagonist remains unseen, allowing the audience to build an image for themselves, to build the fear of the unknown.  Fear of the unknown is a primary reason that so many people do not discover their one true path in life.  Even if a person knows and understands what gives them passion in life, it is fear that prevents them from reaching out and taking it.  It is the not knowing what lies beyond today, it is the moving away from all that you know, from all that is comfortable and that gives security, that creates a fear so deep, that it seems that it cannot be overcome.  But it can.  Fear can always be defeated, even the unknown can be defeated.  The sword of courage is yours to wield.

Fear has a friend and an ally.  That friend is called doubt.  The two walk hand in hand.  Fear creates doubt.  Doubt leads to fear.  Fear leads to doubt.  Doubt creates fear.  The two are inseparable, creating a never ending cycle that constantly feeds upon itself.  There is only one way to break that cycle: by eliminating the fear and taking a step forward along the path.  By passing through the fear, the doubt is immediately dispelled.  One cannot live without the other.  Strike one and the other will fall.  When you strike, strike hard and deliver a fatal blow.  If not, the foes will quickly rise again, only this time, they will be stronger and better prepared.

In many ways, doubt is worse than fear, since doubt creeps up insipidly and unnoticed.  It begins to grow slowly, imperceptibly, gradually altering the way in which you view or think of a situation.  When doubt has grown large enough, it reaches out to its friend, fear.  It is at this point, that they begin to lead you away from the path, to prevent you from taking the next step.  Fear and doubt will work hard to prevent your spiritual evolution.  Often, they will make you think that what you dream of, the what lies in your heart, that what gives you passion and purpose in life, is foolish.  They will convince you that it is better to stay where you are, to not risk all that you have gained on the throw of the dice called love.  It is they who will tell you that you are not deserving of such a life, that only the special, the chosen few, the lucky, are worthy of such gifts from the universe.  They are wrong.  There are no words that can be written that can prove this.  No amount of reading words on a page can create that belief within the soul.  The words can inspire, they can excite, they can embolden, but the only way to know for sure is to find the courage from within and to defeat those demons we call fear and doubt.

When the unknown fear is faced, what lies beyond is a void of infinite darkness.  There is no way to see through or around it.  It is like trying to see to the other side of the universe, like trying to see around a mountain.  It is impossible.  But it is not necessary to see through the darkness.  That which is unknown is the treasure waiting to be discovered.  Where would the excitement and surprise of life be, if every answer was known, if it was possible to see every outcome and eventuality?  The darkness is actually a friend.  The darkness needs to be embraced.  If all of the answers were already known, if the direction, route and destination of the path were visible, what then?  Life would become extremely boring and the very thing that gives life its meaning would be lost.  I do not want to read the script of my life, I want to write that script!  I am the author, I am the lead actor and I am the director.  This is the play of my life and it will be the play that I want it to be!  Courage will shine a light through the darkness.  Courage will show the way.  No amount of darkness can stand before the light of courage.  Just as the sun rises to dispel the dark of the night, so to does courage dispel the darkness of the unknown.  With each step taken along the path, the darkness is broken, with each step, the light begins to grow, because with each step, it is you who transforms that darkness into the light.  That power lies inside each and every one of us.

What I find interesting is that when an infant is first born, it knows no sense of fear, because there is no sense of fear.  There is nothing that can stop it, nothing that can hold it back.  Everything is unknown and into that unknown the infant ventures without hesitation.  When an infant first tries to walk, it inevitably falls.  It understands that falling is a necessary part of the learning process.  It knows no fear and so it gets up and it tries again, and again, until it one day it has learned to walk.  Then, at some point, it develops its conscious self and in that moment, it also develops its sense of fear.  So, fear is a learned behaviour and as such, it needs to be unlearned if we are to truly become all that of which we are capable.  And of what you are capable, there is no limit.

Never let fear hold you back from becoming your true self.  Never let doubt cloud your mind.  Never look into the darkness and fail to see the light that shines there as a beacon to guide you on your journey.   You have the courage.  Do not doubt that.  If you know where to look, you can find it.  And when you find the courage, take a breath, take another step, and walk on.  Glory and love await those that walk their one true path.

There is one last thing I want to write on the subject of fear.  My grandfather served as a captain in the army during World War II and was involved in the landings at Normandy.  I recently managed to obtain copies of the memoirs he had written on various aspects of his life.  One of these memoirs dealt with his time in the army and of that fateful day of June 6th, 1944, the day that is now known simply as, D-Day.  He wrote about his experience on that fateful day and he described the terror that all of the men in his landing craft felt, as they crossed the English Channel and headed towards the coast of France.  It is completely impossible to imagine the courage it took to exit that landing craft and to move up the beach during that day in June.  All the men faced a fear so daunting, it beggars belief.  All of the men that day faced a journey into the unknown.  At the moment when they needed to act, at the moment when it was needed the most, they found the courage to take just one more step.  That day, there were thousands of people who faced their fears, who faced their doubts, who faced the unknown and who stared into the dark abyss.  That day, courage gained a new meaning.  That day, fears were overcome.  And for that, no amount of gratitude will ever be enough.  Thank you Pop.  If you are able to read this, then please know that you inspired me and that even if I did not know you as well as I would have liked, I loved you no less.


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Shall I Go Quietly Into That Good Night?

I have a friend who is currently going through the trauma of dealing with something that strikes fear into all of us.  It is the silent killer.  It is the killer that strikes seemingly at random.  It is the killer that cares nothing for all the good you may have done, neither the bad.  It is the killer that creeps up on you, unseen until too late.  Cancer.  With luck, my friend will get through this.  The prognosis has so far been favourable.  Through her, and her vivid and graphic descriptions of the torment and hell that she is going through, it has made me realise the fortune that life has thus far bestowed upon me, and for which I am extremely grateful.  I read her latest chapter this morning, as I lay comfortably in bed, supping from a mug of coffee and I felt nothing but compassion.  Once I had finished reading, I was struck by a thought and a series of questions:-

- What have I done in my life that makes my story worthy of telling?
- What do I really know about life, about hardship and suffering?
- What can I possibly teach people about love, when I am such a failure at it myself?

I've been writing my blog since 10th August 2012.  During that time, I've been viewed nearly 2,200 times.  As far as I am able to tell, amongst those 2,190 views, not one has come from my own family.  Not once, has my father, mother, brother or sister made any comment to me about my writing.  Even it they told me they thought it was terrible, at least I'd know that they had shown an interest.  And it's not as though I didn't share it with them, through e-mails, sending URL links, through conversations and through text messages.  What does that say about what I am trying to do?  What does it mean if my own family, the very people whose opinion matters more to me than any other, do not even deign to give the time to read and to understand what it is that I am trying to do.  On these pages, I am revealing my true self.  I am giving anyone and everyone the chance to know the real me.  I am giving an opportunity that most never give.  And that opportunity is being missed by those persons who I love the most.  What does that say about my worth and my value?  If I cannot even count my own family as fans of what I do?  Perhaps they are right, perhaps this is all nonsense.  Perhaps it is better to stop, to hold my thoughts within, and to go quietly into that good night.

What have I done with my life that is worthy of telling?  I suffered sometimes when I was young and I endured times of bullying and name calling at school.  But who hasn't?  I have been in a constant battle with my weight and my self image for as long as I have a memory.  In that, I know I am not alone.  I failed at school and left without reaching anywhere near my full potential.  There is no one else I can blame for that, other than myself.  I didn't work hard enough, I didn't put in the time, I rebelled and looked for the easy option.  I began my working life in a factory, on a production line.  I am certainly not the only person to do so, but what separates me from other people who began their working lives in the same way, and who perhaps had little or no choice in the matter, is that I chose it.  It seems that I purposely sought out failure.  That I purposely strove to under achieve.

Through hard work and endeavour, I was able to rectify some of my mistakes.  I found a job more suitable to my skills and abilities.  I progressed up the career ladder.   And with that progress came the material fruits of success that we think are so important.  My career allowed me to travel on business and to see the world.  My career allowed me to live overseas, to experience a new culture, to make new friends.  And what did I do with this career that was so good to me?  I walked away from it.  I threw it away, I sold it and I gave it way.  And with it, I disposed of everything else that was associated with it.  I deconstructed my life.  I set myself back to where I had been at the very beginning, only perhaps now, there was no way to start over.  Perhaps now, I am further behind than I ever was.  Once again, I strove to destroy me life.

With my love life, I have been the architect of all of my problems.  I chose the wrong people to fall in love with.  I pursued love that was unworthy of me.  I chased the love of which I believed I was deserving.  It is my fault that I am yet to find lasting love with that special someone.  There is no remarkable tragedy, no huge injustice, worthy of a Hollywood movie.  Just a series of poor choices and judgement calls.  If my love life were a movie, you would be waiting a long time for any happy ending.  You would give up part way through watching, you would lose any empathy and you would become frustrated at seeing someone persevere, where there was simply no hope of success.  So what can I teach about love?  I have never had a conventional long term relationship.  I have never known the feelings of deep comfort and security that come from sharing your life with a loving partner.  Doesn't that make me a hypocrite?  Doesn't that make whatever I write about love to be false?

I have no riveting story to tell.  Many of the people I have met along my journey seem to think that I possess a story that is worthy and deserving of being told.  My blog has been my attempt to do just that.  I didn't begin to write because someone told me to do it, I began to write because finally I wanted to achieve something that I have long harboured as a desire.  But what do I really have to say?  I am after all, just an ordinary man, doing ordinary things and I am the architect and the creator of all that has happened to me.  All of the good and all of the bad.  It has all been created by my hand.

But did I really create all this by myself?  What is it that has driven me forward throughout my entire life?  I have never sat and bemoaned any of the situations in which I found myself.  No, sorry, that is not true.  I have done that, I am no different to anyone else in needing time to understand, to comprehend the situation.  But I never sit idle for long.  I am driven by a strong and deep desire to do more, to be more, to be better than I am today.  Where does this come from?  The answer is simply that it comes from my heart.  Perhaps I have been fortunate to discover the power that resides inside of my heart earlier in life than others.  I can see when I look back on the choices I have made in life, that one thing is abundantly clear: Every choice has been made by my heart.  Perhaps it is this, that is the story I have to tell.  Perhaps this is the message I need to share.

I do know that each of us has our own path in life and none of those paths can ever be the same.  Each is unique, each has its own story, its own time and its own place.  It is difficult to understand what is happening to us and why it is happening to us, when we are caught up in the maelstrom.  Only after, when we sit down in the quiet aftermath, can we comprehend it.  Every thing happens for a reason, and that reason is to drive you onwards towards your spiritual evolution.  Maybe I didn't need to suffer the way others have to suffer in order to understand the message of life.  Perhaps, I was fortunate to have formed a connection with my heart from an early age.

Maybe, the value in my life is simply this:  I am an ordinary person, there is nothing special or remarkable about me.  I have never claimed to be any different, nor do I seek to be.  I am only that which I am.  And perhaps, through expressing myself here, through the pages of this blog, I can reach through to others who also consider themselves ordinary.  Perhaps, with my words, I can inspire change, I can inspire personal growth, and I can inspire a spiritual evolution.  When you read the stories of history, the names and the deeds of the heroes are always mentioned.  But in every story, there are astounding deeds of bravery and heroism committed by many, who forever remain nameless.  Each of us is a hero.  Each of us has a remarkable story to tell.

Let make one thing very clear.  I shall never go quietly into that good night.  Any person that I have ever encountered since I found my voice, since I began to discover the real me, will know that I never go quietly.  I never give up the fight until I know in my heart that it is lost.  And I will never change.  I will keep on striving forward.  I will continue to follow my heart.  I will continue to walk my one true path.  And if this is a story that is worthy of telling, then I will tell it.  I trust it to you to decide whether there is worthiness in my words.  Whether you can find meaning in what I say.  I hope that you stay with me on the journey. 


Monday, 14 January 2013

The Teachings of the One True Path

The Teachings of the One True Path

The teacher was seated on a small wooden bench on the grass, in the shade of an old yew tree that had seen the summers of one hundred years.  The students would never have guessed it, but the yew tree had seen almost as many summers as the teacher that sat before them.  In front of the teacher, sitting in silence waiting, were the students.  "Are there any questions you would like to ask?"

All of the students remained silent until one had the courage to raise their hand.  The teacher inclined his head and smiled for the student to continue.  "Why is it that you always appear to be so happy, even when so many things are wrong in this world?"

"Because the light will always shine on those that find the courage to walk their one true path", replied the teacher, remembering that it had not always been this way and that there was always a price to be paid for the happiness.

"What is the one true path?", asked another student, who was now feeling emboldened because the silence had been broken. 

"The one true path is the path of love.  It is the walking of your one true path where you will discover the ultimate gift, which is the love of self.  Through walking your one true path you will find your purpose in life and through that purpose you will enjoy a deep sense of inner peace and happiness in your soul." 

"Can there be more than one path?", asked the same student.

"Yes.  There are many paths that you can walk in life and each of them can teach us the lessons of life.  But there can only be one true path for each of us.  That is the path that gives our lives their true meaning.  That is the path that has been placed in front of you by God.  By walking your one true path, not only are you fulfilling your own destiny, you are fulfilling the work of God."

"Will we learn more of life's lessons on the one true path because that is the path God intended for us?"  All of the students now wanted to ask questions and become involved in the discussion.  Just as in life, it only takes one drop of water to breach the dam and the rest will soon follow.

"No. The lessons of life can be equally learned along any of the paths that you walk.  Often, it is the wrong path that teaches us more and the wrong path can often reveal to us our true purpose and our right direction.  Every path has value and it is for the walker of that path to understand the lesson that is being taught.  Only when that lesson is understood can the walker move on towards their true path."

"What if I don't understand the lesson that is being shown to me?", asked another different voice.

"If you fail to understand a lesson that you must learn in order to progress and evolve, then the universe will create the opportunity to teach it to you again and again, until finally you comprehend its meaning.  You could find yourself continuing to walk the path that you are on until that lesson is learned, or you might find that the same lesson is repeated on a different path.  When this happens, the lesson could wear a different guise, so that at first you do not recognise it when it appears, but the lesson will always carry with it the same meaning.  For some people, all of the lessons that they need to learn in life appear to them on their one true path.  Remember always, that the journey is different for every person." 

"How do you know if you are walking your one true path?", one of the students asked.

"How do you know that you have to breath?", asked the teacher in return.

"I - I just know it.", the student replied.  "I feel it and I do it without even thinking about it."

"Exactly.  And so it is with the one true path.  If you have to ask yourself the question, is this my one true path? then you cannot be walking your true path.  When you are on your right path, you will know it.  You will feel it from a place that is deep within you.  A place that you never knew existed before.  Love and happiness will permeate throughout your body, your soul and your mind, and it will flow outwards from you and it will pervade everything that you do."

"How do I find my one true path?"

"That is simple, you follow your heart.  I, like many others, hold the belief that the power of the universe resides within each of us in the form of our hearts.  That power can be called many things.  Whether you decide to name that power God or Allah, or any other name, it is one and the same thing.  The power of the universe is the force that creates.  It is the Creator.  Therefore, if you are following your heart, you are also doing that which the universe intended for you.  Your heart will always lead you in the right direction, even if you are not conscious of what it is doing.  Your heart will seek out that which you need and it will bring it to you.  Only you can decide whether or not you wish to see it, to see the opportunity that has been placed before you, and to accept the love that is being offered to you."

"If God is in our hearts, does that mean that he is not in Heaven and that there is no such thing as Heaven?", the student seemed concerned about this.

"No.  I believe that Heaven and Hell exist as concepts.  Imagine leading a life where you are never at peace with yourself, where you feel a sadness inside, you feel unfilled and empty, you yearn to do something different but you cannot, you feel fear, you feel resentment towards others that have achieved their dreams in life, you do not experience the power of love, and you harbour regrets about the things that you have not done.  That for me would be a living hell.  Now imagine the opposite.  You feel happy and content with life, you do not live with fear, you view each day as an opportunity, you carry no regrets, you feel a happiness that permeates throughout your body and soul, you express love because you feel love from the inside of your core, and you see the good in every one and every thing.  That would encapsulate the spirit and meaning of Heaven."

"Where do I begin to find my one true path?"

"You take a moment and steel yourself.  You take a deep breath.  You find the courage in you heart.  And you take the first step into the dark abyss of the unknown that awaits you."

"But what if I don't know in which direction to walk?"

"Imagine that you are walking in a large forest and that you have become lost.  How would you find your way home?  You would try each path in turn until you discovered the one that was right, until you found the one that led you back home.  It is the same with the one true path.  To seek, is to try.  To try, is to walk.  And to walk, is everything.  All that matters is that you take the first step and then another.  You must begin to walk.  If you do not walk, then there you have no chance to discover the direction that is the right one for you.  By walking, you will eventually find the one true path, even if you have to walk several paths before you find it.  Each of those paths will teach you something and prepare you for all that is to come."

"Why are some people more fortunate than others and seem to find their path easily?"

"How do you know that these people are more fortunate than any other person?  That is only the way in which you might perceive them because now that they walk their one true path, they always appear to be happy to you.  You do not know the battles that they have faced to get to where they are.  You do not know the battles that still lay in wait for them along their path.  You do not know of the struggles that they have needed to overcome and the nights when utter despair and torment took them.  Never judge one person against another.  Remember that each of our path's is different and that sometimes the greatest stories of heroism in life remain forever untold."

"What if I keep trying different paths and I never find the one that is right for me?"

"Then you are not walking with your eyes open to the simple and plain truth.  The universe is always attempting to reveal to each of us our one true path.  It will manifest it before you on many occasions until you acknowledge it and until you begin to walk along it.  And the universe will continue to do this until that moment when you draw your last and final breath.  If you are not finding the path that is the right one for you, then it is simply because you look but you do not see.  It might be that you believe yourself to be undeserving of the one true path, because that is the path of light."

"You have talked about the path of light and you said that the light will always shine on those that walk their one true path.  What do you mean by the light?"

"The light is the glow of love that basks us in all of its glory, when we discover our true purpose in life and when we walk the one true path.  The love that we feel is generated at the centre of the universe and is freely available to all those who wish to receive it.  Not every person understands that love is not conditional on another person and that love is readily available, if they would just reach out their hand and take it."

"Why is that?  If this love is freely available to all people, then why wouldn't they wish to receive it?"

"Simply because they believe that they are undeserving of receiving such a love."

"What makes us think that we are undeserving of receiving love?"

"There are many factors that influence us, but in most cases, it is because of the way we were raised as children or because of some traumatic episode that occurred when we were young.  As children, we are very impressionable, so if our parents do not give to us the amount of love and attention that we need, our minds are impregnated with the thought that we must be undeserving of their love.  We plant the seed of that thought at the very core of our being.  Each time something happens to us that reinforces the belief that we are undeserving of love, we water the seed and it begins to grow.  Eventually, it eclipses our true soul and it becomes the way in which we think of ourselves.  From the point that this happens, we will always believe that we are undeserving of love."

"Then why don't all parents love their children in the way that they need?  Then every person would feel that they deserved love."

"Let me ask you this in return, how do you know how much love another soul requires to quench its thirst?"

The student looked abashed and stared at the ground for a few moments, then answered, "I would give as much love to my child as I was able to give."

"Quite right, and that is all that you can do."  The teacher smiled at the student to give reassurance.  After all, what good is a student who stops listening because he believes that he has made a mistake and feels embarrassed in front of his peers?  In life, there are no stupid questions, since without the questions we can never learn and we can never evolve.  "Many parents give as much love as they are able, but through the demands of modern life, the amount of time they are able to give is not enough for the child.  It is not their fault.  That faults lies with society and the way we are being conditioned to live.  There are some parents that fall into the trap of thinking that if they provide a comfortable home and fill it with rich material possessions, and give to their child every thing that it demands, that they are creating a loving and nurturing environment.  This is not true.  If it were, then all children born into poor homes would be loveless, which is certainly not the case.  So, these parents work long hours and prioritise work and careers over time spent with their children, in their misguided beliefs and they fail to understand until it is too late, that time with your child cannot be purchased at any price because that is the most precious thing of all.  And it is time spent with your child that provides the child with everything that it needs.  Because all a child really needs is to feel loved.

Silence fell over the garden.  Only the gentle hum of the bees and the songs of summer birds in the trees interrupted the quiet.  It felt like perhaps the class was over, until one of the students, raised their hand and asked, "Why is there so much evil in the world?"

"What is evil?  Evil is a word created to describe something that goes against the morals that you believe in.  Let me tell you a short story.  There was once a small uninhabited island in the middle of the ocean.  This island was equally as close to two different nations and each of those nations made a claim to the island.  The politicians of each nation talked and negotiated with each other but they were never able to reach an agreement.  Eventually, each of the nations declared war on the other.  The politicians of each side told the people of their nation that the people of the other nation they were now at war against, were all perpetrators of evil.  All of the soldiers who fought in this war firmly believed that they had the just and the right cause and many of them died for that cause.  Prayers were offered by each nation to the same god, appealing for the god to help them, to protect them and to help them win, since it was they who fought for the just cause.  Each side captured some of the other side's soldiers and when they met them and spoke with them, they discovered that they were in fact no different from themselves.  They too had exactly the same needs and wants in life, and they too had been told that the other nation was a nation of evil.  In the end, the politicians agreed to share the island, something that had been discussed before the war started and had been rejected, since neither side wished to look weak and lose face to the other.  So you see, to decide what is evil in this world, it really depends on your own personal point of view and in those things in which you believe.  The only real evil in the story was that of the politicians because through their reluctance to reach an agreement and to negotiate a peaceful solution in the beginning, they showed a total disregard for the price of a human life and they cost the lives of many innocent people.  And what is the price you can put on the miracle of life?"

"But there is so much bad that happens in the world.  If there is a supreme power, why does it allow so many bad things to continue to happen?"

"Every person has his or her own path to walk in life.  You can regard those paths as threads in the weave of all of the universe and all of life.  If you look at a tapestry that hangs on the wall, what do you see?  You see many different threads all interweaving to create one single, coherent picture.  To create the picture, each thread must have a different colour, each thread is but one part of the entire story.  And so it is with life.  All of the paths that are walked interweave to create everything that we see around us.  Every person walks a different path.  Every person needs to learn in order to evolve their spirit.  Some of the lessons of life are learned by the need to do good and some of those lessons are learned by the need to do bad.  In order for us to perceive the good, we need to have a notion of what is bad.  Therefore, good and bad must be created in equal measure.  The balance must always be maintained.  In this universe there is matter and anti-matter, and just as the Chinese have their ying and the yang, so there is the good and there is the bad."

"So you are saying that there will always be people who must do bad things?"

"Yes.  Gradually, the collective spirit of humanity will evolve.  What you think of as bad now will no longer be true.  History has shown us that slowly we are evolving as a race.  Many of the things that we might have considered at one time to be bad have been slowly eradicated.  For example, slavery, racism and sexism.  Societies are working towards equality and freedom for all.  And slowly all of society evolves and moves forward towards the good.  But the target is always moving and it is always changing, since societies are constantly redefining it.  What was once accepted as normal is now abhorred.  Without the need to regard something as bad, it could not have been eradicated.  Humanity would cease to evolve its spiritual collective. And that is why there will always be bad things that happen in this world, because humanity must continue along its path of spiritual evolution, spiritual growth and learning."

"But humanity is destroying so much life and the planet in the process.  Why is that allowed to happen?"

"There is a lesson that must being learned by all of humanity.  Humanity needs to understand that is does not hold dominion over life or over this planet.  It is life that holds dominion over everything.  The lesson might unfortunately be learned at a very high cost, but it will be learned by the last of us.  In the very moment when all is lost, enlightenment will be found and the lesson will be understood.  It might be too late for humanity, but life will continue because life cannot be denied.  It has always been this way and it will continue to be this way, until everything has reached its point of ultimate evolution."    

"Does everything evolve?"

"Yes.  Every single thing in the universe follows its own path.  The air that you are breathing.  The blade of grass in this lawn.  The bird in the tree.  The fish in the ocean.   The pebble at the beach.  The moon and the sun.  Each of you.  Me.  In fact, the entire universe is in a constant state of evolution.  All things came from the one thing only.  And so, all things are seeking to return to that one thing.  That is their destiny.  That is where the paths on which they walk will lead them."

"What is the one thing?", many different voices asked, as all of the students were eager to know this.

"The one thing is love."

The teacher stood and the students knew without asking that the discussion was ended.  Each walked away in silence, lost in their own thoughts, contemplating all that had been said.   There was much to consider.


Saturday, 12 January 2013

Why You Must Never Lose Sight Of Your One True Path

Why You Must Never Lose Sight of the One True Path

One thing that I have never been afraid to do, is to admit to my mistakes.  Only by admitting to the errors and missteps that we make in life, can we ever hope to learn from them and to lay them to rest.  Last year, I made a mistake.  To be honest, last year I made more than one mistake, after all I am human, so I am prone to making them.  Life would be rather dull without the odd mistake every now and again.  So, what was the mistake that I made?  It was this:-

I stepped away from my own one true path, so that I could follow my heart in the pursuit of love for another person.

The pursuit of love.  Isn't that the most glorious and noble pursuit of all?  I think so.  I've always thought so and I don't think I will ever change that opinion.  Call me romantic.  I've always believed in the power of love and I always will.  Love is in everything.  Love created the universe.  Love created life.  Love is at the very centre of all things.  So, what then was the problem with going in pursuit of love of another person and why was that a mistake?  Last year I discovered the answers and I learned some very valuable lessons in life in the process.

I fell in love with a girl that I'll call Beatrix.  Beatrix lived far way in another country and literally, in another time.  We maintained our relationship in the virtual world of e-mail and Facebook, as well as using Skype to talk with, and to see each other, almost every evening.  I think we both knew that in order to maintain the relationship over the long term, it was necessary for one of us to move and go to the other.  My lifestyle is transient.  My situation and the nature of my work allows me to travel.  Moving from place to place is in my blood.  It's what I do.  Moving has never been an issue for me.  I do it a lot.  I've always been moving from place to place all of my life, even from an early age.  Back then it was because of my parents and probably some part of the moving home and the constant changes in life that they gave to their kids, has stayed with me.  My mother always claimed that she had the Romany spirit and perhaps I inherited that from her.  The romantic in me would certainly like to believe that this is true.  Living in a new country equally is no problem for me.  I've had the fortune to have done that a few times and I've lived overseas now for ten out of the last eleven years and it is something that I enjoy.  Through living overseas, I've come to understand one simple fact: that all people on this planet have exactly the same needs and wants in life, regardless of race, colour, religious beliefs, or sociopolitical system.  Or to put it rather more simply: we are one.  So moving abroad, which is a strange term to apply here, since I already lived overseas, was not an issue for me.  It was easy to swap one country for another, since I no longer hold a particularly firm attachment to any country.  It was not the change of country that created my problem.

As soon as I first arrived in my new home, I found myself immediately caught up in the life of Beatrix.  There seemed to be an endless list of tasks that needed to be completed around her apartment.  That was not a problem for me as I like helping people, I enjoy feeling useful, and I had a lot of free time on my hands.  So, I got stuck in and found myself busy with chores of all kinds.  This set the pattern for what was to follow for the next five months.  Part way through my stay and I am unable to recall now how it came to pass, Beatrix decided that she would like to repaint her apartment and I volunteered my services.  I undertook a redecorating project of the entire apartment, carrying out minor repair work, preparing all of the walls and ceilings for painting, and then painting all of those walls and ceilings.  My time was no longer my own and I worked hard during the day because I not only wanted to help Beatrix, I also wanted to make her happy.

During the course of the summer, I was to discover that situations would arise that would require me to give my time and attention to Beatrix.  There always seemed to be something that was going wrong or there was some new crisis that needed to be resolved.  I continually helped her as best as I was able, giving my time, giving my knowledge and experience, in fact, giving everything that I could possibly give, in order to make her life better and to help her fix whatever was wrong at the time.

Between my chores, the painting project and devoting my time to the other problems that seemed to occur, my days were usually full, doing things for Beatrix.  As I became more comfortable living in the apartment and more comfortable in our lives together, I began to shop for groceries, to clean the apartment, to take care of the laundry and to cook our evening meals, so that they were ready for when Beatrix arrived after work.  I had become a house husband.

It is important to say also, that during the summer that I spent with Beatrix, there were good times.  There was fun and laughter, there were great times that we spent together and there was romance.  We enjoyed amazing days out, we went to restaurants and ate great food, and we shared new experiences together, I met her friends and her family.  We were two people in love.

The problem that I faced was that almost from the very beginning of our relationship, I had started to forget about myself.  Everything that Beatrix needed came first.  Her needs, her desires, her wants, all came before my own.  And this was not necessarily her fault.  I let it happen.  I didn't take a stand when I should have done.  I had forsaken all of my own needs and found myself consumed by the needs of another person.  Beatrix was just being herself.  I was the one who began to lose himself and although I did not realise it at the time, I began to suffer.  All the time that we lived apart, it did not seem to matter too much that I spent my evenings talking with Beatrix, listening to her problems.  I had my own job and my own life in Costa Rica.  I was doing something that I loved to do.  I was on my own path, living the dream that I had created for myself and I was in love with a beautiful girl called Beatrix.  Life was amazing and I was extremely happy.

But after I had moved into Beatrix's apartment, I had none of my old life available to me.  No longer was I doing that which gave me passion.  I was away from the ocean that I loved so much.  I was away from the work that I love to do.  Rather than living in a rural community in Costa Rica, only a couple of minutes walk from the beach, surrounded by jungle and nature, I now found myself living in the suburbs of a major city, surrounded by concrete and asphalt.  The natural world feeds my soul and it was incredibly difficult to find nourishment in the heart of this sprawling metropolis in which I now found myself.  I didn't realise this at first simply because I had been following my heart and pursuing the love that I held for Beatrix.  As far as I was concerned, following my heart meant that I was still walking my one true path.  I thought that they were one and the same thing.  They are not.

I had given up on my one true path.  I had crossed onto the path of another person and I tried to make it my own, through the love that I held for Beatrix.  It took me some time to realise this.  I was sure that through the love of another person it was possible to change your path.  I was certain that love, the greatest and most powerful of all human emotions, would enable me to do just that, and to remain happy and content on my new path.  I had not understood the strength and power of my own passions and dreams. I had completely failed to understand that it is not possible to give up on those things that give purpose and meaning to your life, without suffering a great loss.  As much as I loved Beatrix, I would never be able to sustain that love and it could never replace that which I had lost.

Why?  Because what I gave up was that which makes me the person who I am.  I gave up those things that are the very essence of me.  They are part of the fabric of my being and an integral part of my soul.  Without them, I simply cease to be me.  I become a different person.  I become less than the person that I am when I am walking on my one true path.  I change.  I know that I do.  Even if I do not want that to happen, it is not possible to prevent it, no more than it would be possible to take the colour indigo out of a rainbow and still call it a rainbow.  It would still be a beautiful thing to behold, but it would be less than it was.  Less than perfect.  The happiness that I feel when I walk my one true path in life comes from deep within me, and it permeates throughout everything that I do.  Away from my path, I do not find that same sense of deep happiness and contentment.

What I learned last year was that in order to find love in another person, it is necessary never to give up on your own one true path.  It is necessary to hold on to those things that make you the person who you are, and it is necessary to hold on to them at all costs.  Nothing is worth sacrificing your own path for, not even the love of another.  I never thought that was true, but now I know the truth of it because I lived and breathed that lesson.  The path to true and lasting love with another person lies not on the path of another, it can only be found along your own path.  Only when the two paths of the lovers meet and coincide with each other, can there be a lasting love.  The love that is found must flow back and forth between each of the two people, crossing the divide that separates each of their paths.  Never give up your own dreams for the love of another person.  The right person will appear on your path when the time is right.  And that person will have been worth the wait and worth the walk.  Love does conquer all, but if you give up on your own dreams, you give up on the love of self.  And that can never be a true and lasting love since it is no longer a complete love.  It becomes less than perfect.

I learned my lesson the hard way.  I fell in love with a beautiful girl whose name was Beatrix and I lost that love.  I lost sight of my one true path and I lost sight of who I am.  But along the way, I gained knowledge, I gained insight and I gained enlightenment.  I enjoyed the knowledge that I was in love with another soul and that soul returned my love.  And for that, I will always be truly grateful.  Thank you Beatrix.


Friday, 11 January 2013

The Pebble and the Moon - Part Two

The Pebble and the Moon - Part Two

Two years had passed since the day when Eli and Alicia first sat on the beach and looked out upon the ocean, discovering the love that they held in their hearts for each other. It was soon after, that Eli had begun helping at Alicia's parents bakery.  In the evenings when school was finished, he helped with the preparations for the baking early the next morning.  On Saturdays, he would arrive early in the morning and help her father fire up the ovens and he would help him with the baking, whilst Alicia helped her mother with the customers.  Eli and Alicia enjoyed these opportunities to spend more time with each other.  They could talk together whilst they worked and they would steal secret looks and smiles with each other whenever they thought her parents were not looking at them.  That was impossible of course, since Alicia's parents knew perfectly well what they were doing and they smiled happily, enjoying seeing their daughter happy and content, as their hearts recalled the days long ago of their own courtship.

The time that Eli enjoyed the most was Saturday evening when he and her Alicia's father prepared the small sweet breads that were taken to the church every Sunday morning.  As Eli prepared the small breads, he would put one aside specially for Alicia.  Each time he put one aside, he was take a knife and carve a message for her in the soft dough, or he would draw a heart with Alicia's name through the middle of it.  Eli knew that each Saturday evening, as he prepared the sweet bread for Alicia, he was not only making a sweet bread for her, he was giving her a piece of himself.  As his knife drew the lines that formed the letters, that became words, he knew that it did so with love and that the love came from deep within his heart.  The sweet bread for him was a gift filled with love, for his love.  Each Sunday after church, the two of them would go down to the beach and sit at their rock, looking out across the ocean, just as they did that first time, and each week, Eli would present Alicia with the sweet bread he had prepared for her.  She loved to receive them and even though she knew that each Sunday he would bring her one, she never stopped feeling excited and thrilled with his gift, just as she had the very first time he had taken one of the breads, wrapped in a small white cotton napkin, from the small basket he had brought with him and handed it to her.  It was not an expensive or extravagant gift, but that was never important for Alicia.  For she knew what all people that are truly in love know, that it is not the gift itself that tells the story, it is the thought and the deeds that go with the gift, that reveal the simple truth.  Alicia knew that each time Eli presented her with one of the simple sweet breads, he was really saying to her, "I will love you until the end of my days."

During the first year Eli never gave a thought to the ocean.  Although he would sit with Alicia each Sunday after church, his thoughts were completely on her and their lives.  He would look at the ocean, but he did not see it any longer.  Eli became immersed in the life of the bakery and being with Alicia and her family.  It was exciting to learn new things and the time he spent there meant that he could see more of Alicia.  He learned about different types of flour and the techniques for making the various kinds of doughs that were required, he learned how to knead and work the dough, how to roll it out without it breaking and sticking to the roller or the work top, her father taught him about the ovens and he learned the correct temperatures and times for all of the different types of breads, cakes and pastries that were baked at the family bakery.  He was so busy with life at the bakery and between spending time with Alicia and his school work, he no longer had time to see his friends after school, nor did he spend much time with his own family.  When the first of the summer storms had rolled in, Eli didn't even think to go down to the beach and watch the waves crashing in against the shore.  That evening, rather than filling his heart and soul, and senses with witnessing the sights of nature untamed, he spent the evening at Alicia's parents house, eating dinner and discussing whether they should find a different supplier for their flour, since their current supplier was threatening to increase prices in the new year.  There had been a time when Eli used to walk down to the beach after dinner in the evenings and sit quietly, looking up at the bright array of stars in the night sky, quietly contemplating life and the universe.  These were the times when his thoughts would drift away to distant lands and to wonder what it would be like to sail across the oceans.  Since Alicia had come into his life, he no longer did this.  It wasn't that Alicia ever prevented him, nor that she discouraged him from going down to spend time at the ocean, it was  just that there was always something else to be done and Eli wanted to spend as much time with Alicia as possible.

Without knowing it, Eli was committing the same mistake that so many people make at the beginning of a relationship.  Although it seemed to him that he was doing the things that he wanted to do and that he was passionate about, he was actually neglecting his own needs and the needs of his heart.  His primary focus had become Alicia and because of that, he was losing himself in the life of another person.  He wanted to be available to help her and to show her that he would grow up to be the kind of man that would be a loving and supportive husband.  It felt natural to Eli to want to spend as much time as possible with Alicia because he loved her, but he did not realise that all the time he neglected himself, it was to his own detriment.  Eli lacked the balance between spending time with the person he loved and spending time doing those things that he had always loved to do.  He no longer pursued his own dreams, he no longer pursued his own passions.  He was unable to see what was happening to him and that he was slowly changing as a person.  This was because he had ceased to do the things in life that he had once loved and because of this, he had also ceased to be the person that he was when he first sat down on the beach with Alicia.  He was losing part of his soul.  He was losing the very essence of himself.  As much as Eli was oblivious to all of this, his heart was not.  His heart was biding its time, giving Eli time to remember his own path, giving Eli a chance to rediscover his own path by his own volition, before it acted.  Eli's heart knew that the path to true happiness cannot be found through the life of another.  It knew that each person has their own path to walk in life, and it knew that true happiness, the kind that lasted, the kind that was found at the very core of a person's being, could only be found by walking that path.  Eli's heart knew that for two souls to find each other and to stay together required that each must be able to continue to walk their own path, while maintaining and building the love between them.  The love should flourish because of their respective paths, not in spite of them.  Eli's heart would wait for the right moment to present itself and then it would act.  It would deal a decisive strike that would reawaken Eli's dreams.

It was at some time during the second year that Eli once more began to feel the lure of the ocean.  It happened one night as he lay in his bed at his parents house.  A storm system out at sea had been generating strong winds all throughout the day and during the night.  Eli's heart was restless and as Eli lay asleep in bed, the wind blowing a gale outside, his heart stirred itself and decided that tonight was the night when Eli would remember his path and would recall his dreams.  The problem for his heart was the Eli was asleep.  The storm continued and Eli's heart grew more and more agitated.  It knew that this night was its chance, but still Eli slept on oblivious to the torment of his heart.  And then Eli's heart decided that it had to act or it would become forgotten just like Eli's dreams.  As Eli lay sleeping, his heart readied itself to do something that it had never done before.

Eli woke with a start in the darkness and sat up.  He wasn't sure what had woken him and he remained sitting in bed to listen for any disturbances or noises coming from downstairs.  There had been rumours of a band of thieves operating in the area.  As he sat listening, he could hear the sound of the waves crashing into shore  through his window, driven on by the storm winds that had shown no signs of abating during the night.  In his mind's eye, Eli was able picture the waves, to see the surf pounding the shore, he could feel the majesty of the wild and untamed ocean and he wished he could go down and watch it for himself.  Eventually, after satisfying himself that there were no thieves, he laid back down and began to drift off into sleep, accompanied by the noise of the still howling wind and the thoughts in his head were carried out across the ocean.  As Eli fell asleep once more, his heart was happy and it began to sing to itself.  It knew that it had struck the decisive blow that was needed.  All it had to do now was to make sure that Eli did not forget again.

The following afternoon, Eli asked Alicia if she would like to take a walk that evening with him, once they were done with their chores at the bakery.  Alica wondered whether Eli had something important to say to her or perhaps to ask her.  Although they were still young, she knew that if Eli was to ask for her hand in marriage, her father would consent.  They would simply have a longer engagement, that was all, but at least they would be officially committed to each other.  The thought made Alicia smile broadly for the rest of the afternoon.  The evening found the two of them walking out under a blanket of stars, the moon, a crescent that hung low in the sky, accompanied them and gave light to show their way.  They walked hand in hand along the beach, enjoying the company of each other.  Eli was content to walk along by the water with the girl that he loved on his hand.  His eyes feasted on the silvery surface of the ocean and it filled his soul, he began to smile.  Not the kind of smile that is created from a fleeting thought that comes and goes as quickly.  No, this was the kind of smile that began from the very depths of his being and continued upwards, until it found its escape through the lips of Eli.  Alicia could see that Eli was happy.  In fact, she decided, it she had not seen him smile and look this happy for a long time.  "My love.  You look so happy right now", she said.

"Yes, I am Alicia.  I really am.  I had forgotten the effect that the ocean has on me.  It is an old dear friend that speaks directly to me.  I've missed it."

"Then you should come down to the beach more often Eli.  You must find the time to do it, if it makes you so happy.  I cannot remember the last time that we walked together like this."  The two of them fell silent as they walked, each lost in their own thoughts.  "Do I make you happy Eli?", Alicia asked.

"Oh Alicia.  You make me more happy than I have ever been.  I love you Alicia.  I have loved you from the moment I first saw you, so long ago.  Nothing is ever going to change that.  Do you see that star up there?  The really bright one that is to the left of the moon?"

"Yes, I see it Eli."

"My love shines more brightly Alicia.  If I released all of the love that I have for you in my heart, it would fill the entire universe with a light so strong, it would blind the eyes of all who looked upon it", and as he said this he felt it to be true.

Alicia stopped walking and pulled Eli around by the hand, so that they faced one another.  Then she pulled his face down towards hers and she kissed him deeply, she kissed him passionately, and she kissed him at that moment because she knew that he was going to be the only man for her.  "I love you too Eli", she said, "I love you too."

They walked on for a while longer before turning and heading back home for the night.  Each of them was happy.  Alicia was happy because she was sure she had found the man she was going to marry and Eli because he had rediscovered his love of the ocean. 

Things seemed to change from that evening.  In the beginning, it was only that Eli would excuse himself during an evening and take an occasional short walk along the beach.  Some evenings, Alicia would accompany him and they would walk along hand in hand and talk happily together.  As the months passed, Eli's walks became more frequent and he began to spend more time down at the beach, often sitting alone, staring out across the vastness that stretched away before him.  It wasn't that he was any less attentive to Alicia when they were together, then, he was the same loving and caring Eli, it was just that he spent less and less time with her.  During that first year, Alicia had become so used to Eli being with her that now it seemed strange when he was not.  She began to worry that perhaps something was wrong.  That perhaps Eli didn't love her the way that he used to.  Or worse, there was someone else.  There would be times when Alicia looked for Eli to arrive at the bakery but he did not come.  Each time she heard the tinkle of the little bell that hung above the door, she would look up expectantly, thinking that this time it was Eli, but she would be disappointed time and again.  Things were made worse when her parents would ask her if there was anything wrong, or ask her why had they not seen Eli recently?  When they asked these things, Alicia felt pain and anguish in her heart.  She wanted desperately to talk with Eli about her concerns but she was afraid of what he might say.  She decided it was better not to ask and to just let things run their course.  If she spoke to him, he might tell her that it was over and she did not want that.  It was better to have a small part of him, than nothing.

A small seed of doubt, once planted, will continue to grow in the mind and so it was for Alicia.  Slowly, imperceptibly, the seed took hold and sprouted shoots that began to clog her mind.  When Eli went for a walk on his own, Alicia started to think that he was sneaking off to see some other girl.  Sometimes, when he came back, she would check his jacket when he wasn't looking, searching for a clue, for evidence with which she could confront him.  She never found anything.  The doubt continued to grow in her mind.  Each Sunday after church, when he presented her with his token of love, Alicia felt reassured, but that reassurance quickly evaporated by the evening, when Eli would head off alone.  She asked herself what it was that she had done to cause this change within him?  She asked herself why he didn't want to spend as much time with her any more?  There was nothing Alicia could have done differently.  It was not the love of another girl that Alicia was fighting against, it was the love that Eli bore for his own soul and his own dreams, and if you fight against another persons deepest desire, there can be no victory.  Each person must embrace the desire of the other, help to nurture and support it.  To fight against it is futile and the result will be pain, loss and suffering for both.

So Alicia did not speak to Eli and she continued to suffer and to torment herself in silence.  She began to doubt herself.  She sat to brush out her hair in front of the mirror one morning, and as she looked at herself, she asked herself what was wrong with her that would turn the boy she loved away?  The answers that came back to her from her reflection were that she was unworthy of his love, that she must have done something wrong, and that she was ugly.  That morning, instead of feeling the joy in making herself look more beautiful for Eli as she had used to do, she sat weeping, feeling sad and wretched.  "I am ugly", "I am unworthy of being loved", she told herself as she wept.  And by reciting these phrases again and again, she made them the truth in her own mind.    

Eli began to notice the changes in Alicia.  He did not see the happiness in her that he once saw.  It seemed that her once amazing and beautiful smile had faded.  The laughter that they used to share was silenced.  They still walked hand in hand, they still shared kisses and they still talked, but Eli knew something was wrong.  One evening sitting down at the beach, he began to think on why Alicia seemed to be different and as soon as he thought about it, the answer came to him.  It was him.  Alicia loved him and he had grown distant from her.  Where once he had spent every free moment with her, now he spent more of that time alone and at the beach.  He felt torn between the person that he loved and the strong desire he felt in his chest and he knew that he had to let one them go.

One Sunday morning, Eli and Alicia sat beside the ocean, leaning up against their rock, enjoying their sweet breads.  Eli had presented Alicia with his token of love, just as he always had.  It was a peaceful day and they both sat in silence because they knew that sometimes words were not needed.  Each was lost in their own thoughts, each felt the presence of the other, and each felt the love of the other.  After some time, it was Eli that broke the silence.  "I'm going to go away Alicia", he said.  The words hung in the air and then slowly they drifted off in the breeze that carried them away, but their message had been delivered and their meaning sank into the heart and soul of Alicia, a knife sliding slowly through the fabric of her very being, tearing her up inside.  Alicia was silent for a few moments.

"I know", she said, "I've felt that you have been going away for some time now.  Something has changed in you.  I know that you love me, but there is something else.  Do you really have to go?"  She already knew the answer before the words were out of her mouth, but she had to ask.

"Yes.  All of my life, I have dreamed of travelling across the ocean.  For a while, I forgot my dream because I thought that loving you would be enough.  Now I understand that if I do not do the thing of which I have so long desired, then I will always carry a regret in my heart.  In the beginning, I'll be able to manage and live with the regret, but gradually it will grow.  Regret will turn into resentment and resentment will turn into bitterness.  And bitterness will eat me alive, from the inside out.  I want you to know that I love you and it is because I love you that I must go away."

Alicia tried hard not to cry but she could not help a tear from falling.  "Will you come back to me Eli, my love?"

Eli was silent.  He did not wish to speak an untruth to the girl that he loved.  "If our love is meant to be, then it will last.  True love, the kind that is found at the very centre of the universe cannot be broken.  I promise you this Alicia, that if my heart wills it, then I will return to you."

Eli leaned on the railing of the ship and felt the wind blowing against his face.  The masts towered above him, the white sails unfurled and full of that same wind, pulling them ever on, across the vastness of the open sea.  Eli looked out across the wide expanse of ocean, across the rise and fall of the swells, towards the land he had left behind.  He whispered some words and with his breath, he blew them gently from the palm of his hand, so that the wind might catch them and carry them back to the girl that he loved.  "I'm coming home soon Alicia.  You are with me always because I carry you on this journey in my heart.  You are my love Alicia, you are my home."  And with that he turned away from the ocean and as he did so, he thrust his hands deep into his trouser pockets.  There, in his left pocket, he discovered something he did not know he had.  His fingers enclosed around a small object and he pulled it out.  As he uncurled his fingers, there in the palm of his hand was the small pebble that he had given to Alicia the very first time they had sat and talked on the beach.  He smiled and at that moment he felt love and he felt peace in his heart.  "She gave me back the moon."


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Pebble and the Moon

One afternoon, a boy and a girl were walking along the beach together, as they had done many times in the past.  They had grown up together in the same village and they attended the same school.  The morning and the afternoon walk were always the favourite part of the boy's day, since these were the times when he got to spend time with the girl alone.

It had not always been this way though.  The boy, who was named Eli, could recall a time not so long ago, when he had thought of the girl as a pest.  All he wanted to do was to get home as quickly as possible so that he could go and play football and other games with his friends.  The girl, Alica, was always talking and asking questions and back then, he used to find that he would become annoyed with her.  He liked to listen to the sound that the waves made when they broke against the shore and he enjoyed losing himself among his own thoughts, letting his mind wander where it would, and this was all impossible with the constant chatter from Alica.  Then one day, something had changed.  Eli could not say exactly what had happened, all he knew was that one Friday afternoon, several months ago, Alica was her same annoying self but by the following Monday afternoon, as they walked home along the beach, she had suddenly become very interesting to him.

The weekends that had once been filled with games and fun with the other boys of the village, now seemed to drag on and last for an eternity.  Eli would keep a constant look out for Alica, hoping to catch just a single glance, but he would seldom see her, as she was often busy helping her father and mother out with running the small bakery that they owned.  Monday's could not come quick enough for him.  To his friends, Eli still seemed the same, he never spoke to them about Alicia because he was sure that they would all tease him about her and that they would tell her.  Eli's parents noticed a change but they did not guess the correct reason.  They mistook Eli's change of behaviour as a change in his attitude towards his school work and his education.  For so long they had tried to encourage his learning but like all boys of his age, he was more interested in being outside with his friends, rather than inside with his books.  When they began to notice him looking a little sad on a Friday evening after school and becoming animated once more on a Monday morning during their breakfast, they naturally assumed that the reason must be because he missed his school work and the opportunity to learn during the weekends.  They were now thinking of arranging for some extra tuition with a private tutor each Saturday morning, and they were sure he would be surprised and pleased with them.

This particular afternoon, as Eli and Alicia were walking, Eli wished he could slow down or even stop time.  That would allow him to spend as much time with Alicia as he wanted.  The only problem though, not forgoing the simple fact that he had no time machine, was that he did not know if Alicia would want to spend more time with him.  In the months since he had begun to see her differently, he had not been able to gauge whether she liked him the way he liked her.  Some philosophers will tell you that the oldest dilemma faced by mankind is: why are we here?  But the simple truth is that it is actually this: does she like me?  Eli faced that dilemma and he was afraid to discover the answer.

It is amazing how often we do this.  We have a question that burns away in our soul and although we wish to know the answer, we are actually too afraid to go in search of it.  Why?  Because we are scared of what that answer might be, of the consequences of knowing the answer, and of what it will do to the dream that we have created and long harboured in our minds.  We decide that it is better to keep the dream alive rather than to discover the reality, in case the reality is not the one that we wanted.  For those of us who do decide to go in search of the answers, we discover that the reality is always far greater and more beautiful than we could ever have dared, even if the answer that we receive is not always the one that we wanted.  Each time we discover a truth, we learn.  Each time we learn, we evolve.  Each time we evolve, we move one step further along the path.  And each time we take a step along our path, we move one step closer to discovering our true destiny

Without knowing quite how it happened, Eli stopped walking and heard words coming from his mouth that he had no conscious knowledge of speaking.  "Can we sit a while and look upon the ocean?" he asked.  "I think that we walk past it every day and we never really look at it.  I think we should pay our respects."  As soon as he had spoken, he felt a great rising of embarrassment and he could feel himself blushing.  The silence from Alicia was deafening to his ears.  He looked down at the sand and began to feel like a fool.  He had ruined everything!  The moments of silence seemed like an eternity to Eli and in the silence he quickly concluded that Alicia was clearly not interested in him.  He decided that it would be best to hurry home and forget all about today.  Eli began to walk on again.   

"I'd like that Eli".  The words were music to Eli's ears.  "That's a nice idea.  Let's sit over by that rock.  We can sit on the sand and rest our back against it."

So they set themselves down in the sand with the flat side of the rock at their backs.  It was the first time that they had sat next to each other and they were both quiet for a few minutes, neither one knowing quite what to say.  The waves of the ocean rolled in and out and the two of them were content to sit in silence.  It was Eli who broke the quiet by telling Alicia how much he loved the ocean and how he came down to the beach to watch the waves whenever a storm came in.  He told her how he loved to see the power of the waves as they crashed onto the shore, driven by the winds of the storm.  He explained to her how he had learned at school that all of the life on the planet had originated in the oceans of the world.  He told her how he would love to travel across all of the great oceans and to see the world, watching each new land appear on the horizon at first as a faint speck, then gradually he would watch it grow so that he would be able to discern the hills and the mountains, then the towns and houses and roads, until finally they arrived into the port.

Alicia listened to him and as she did so, she sat smiling to herself.  Here was the boy that she had liked since the very first day that they had walked home from school together.  For all the time since, she had never known if he had possessed any passion for life.  She had always enjoyed their walks and their time together but he had never engaged her in a conversation that stimulated her before.  All too often, she had tried to get him to talk, to open up, and it seemed to her that he was like a tightly shut clam, that he was not interested in her or what she had to say.  She talked and talked to him partly because she did not like to walk in silence and partly because she wanted him so desperately to talk back to her, but he had always been so quiet.  She had wondered for a time whether the problem might have been that he was not an interesting person, or even worse, she had feared that it was simply because he was not interested in her.  She was now relieved to discover that this boy did, after all, have a soul.

After a time Eli stopped talking and became silent once more.  Alicia was happy to let the silence settle over the two of them.  At that moment it felt like the right thing.  Nothing had been said by either one of them, but Alicia had the feeling that this day, something significant had changed between them.  She was now sure that Eli was interested in her and she was also now sure that she liked him back.  They sat in silence, each lost in their own thoughts, all the while the waves rolled in and broke on the beach and the sun began to sink below the horizon to end another day.  Like so many of us, the setting of the sun makes for a poignant moment, a moment when it seems right to remain silent, a moment and time for quiet reflection, as if the last rays of the sun are holding us in their spell.  It was no different for Eli and Alicia.  They sat side by side in silence, watching the clouds in the sky slowly turning from white into all different hues of orange, violet and purple.  Eli reached for Alicia's hand and held it in his own.  It was the first time that either of them had touched the other and as their fingers entwined together, each of them felt the rightness of the moment and of the physical bridge that was now between them, allowing them to transfer energy between themselves.  The sky grew dark, the first stars appeared and with them, the moon rose to cast its light down upon the earth below.

Although she did not wish to break the moment, Alicia stirred.  "We should be going", she said.  "My parents will wonder where I have got to.  I'm not usually home this late.  It is dark already."

Eli did not want the day to end but he too knew that he needed to be home.  He pushed his foot down into the still warm sand to make ready to stand and as he did so, his foot pushed against something hard.  He leaned forward and buried his fingers in the sand until they enclosed around a small stone.  He pulled it up and looked at under the light of the moon.  He could feel that it was smooth and round, having been shaped by the action of the waves and the sand over many years.  He turned it over and over in his hand, feeling the history of it, reading the story of this small pebble with the feel of his fingers.  Then, on the spur of the moment, he handed it to Alicia.  "This is for you", he said, "I want you to have this pebble as a token to remember the first time that we sat on the beach and talked, the time that we watched our first sunset together, and the first time that we sat under the gaze of the moon and stars."

Alicia took the small stone in her hand and looked at it.  It was nothing special at all, just an average looking pebble that could be found all over the beach.  This was not exactly the memento of the evening that she had been looking for.  She had been hoping for a kiss and she was not able to hide her disappointment.  "It's just an ordinary pebble from the beach!" she exclaimed.  "There are so many others just like this one I could collect.  Why is this one so special?"

Eli thought for a few moments.  "Look up to the sky" he said, "do you see the moon?"

Alicia looked up.  Of course she saw the moon, how could she not?  "I see the moon Eli", she said.  "I see the beautiful moon looking down at us.  But what has that got to do with this small pebble I am holding in my hand?"

Looking up at the moon, Eli began to speak.  "The moon is a huge piece of rock.  The pebble in your hand is a small piece of rock.  They are one and the same and yet, at the same time, each is different.  Each of them has a story to tell of their own history, of their own making.  If I could place the moon into the palm of your hand, then I would do that for you Alicia.  If I could, I would reach out my hand and pluck the moon out of the sky for you, but I do not have the power to do that.  Instead, I give to you this pebble.  The moon and the pebble are one and the same.  The moon travels around the Earth because of gravity.  The gravity of the moon causes the ocean tides and the tides have helped to create life, and they have created the pebble that is now in your hand.  Another word for gravity is love because when we are in love, we are drawn to another soul.  The moon is drawn to the Earth and that is what keeps it in eternal orbit around us.  It is gravity that draws the waters of the oceans toward the land in the form of tides, and it is these tides that have shaped the pebble in your hand and determined its destiny.  The pebble in your hand has been created by love."

Eli stopped and looked down at Alicia, who was staring into his face with eyes that were sparkling with life, with eyes that seemed to penetrate right through to his very soul.  And he liked it.  This gave him the courage to continue.  He kept his eyes fixed firmly on her, he looked into her eyes and into her soul as he spoke.  "This afternoon, as we both sat and looked out over the ocean, I too felt the pull of gravity.  I felt myself being drawn towards you because my heart told me something.  It told me that I am in love.  The pebble in your hand is a miracle of creation.  And the pebble in your hand is love.  That is why it is so special.  Because you see, the pebble and the moon are actually one and the same.  I told you that if I could, I would give you the moon, and so I have.  You are holding the moon in your hand Alicia."

Alicia smiled and she took Eli's hand in her own, the pebble rested between their two hands, and they each felt its presence against their palms.  Hand in hand, they walked the remaining way along the beach back to their village.  As they walked, the moon shone down upon them and from between their clasped fingers, the light of love answered.


Sunday, 6 January 2013

Life On The One True Path

When you're doing something that you truly enjoy, something that gives you passion for life, it is impossible to stop smiling. This is because your heart, soul, body and mind are all in unison and they have truly become one thing only. And that one thing is love.

This is exactly what will happen to you when you walk your one true path.  There are going to be many moments when you find yourself smiling, laughing, skipping, dancing or singing for no other reasons than simply because you can, and simply because you feel like it.  There will be moments when you feel such an up-welling of positive life energy, that people will look at you as if you are mad, and perhaps you are!  After all, only mad people give up the normal daily grind of life to go off and follow their hearts in search of adventure, and to seek out true meaning for themselves - right?  When you are on the path, even doing jobs that might be considered trivial, mundane, or even viewed as being beneath you back in the ordinary world, will become important and integral parts of your life and you'll face them with joy, gusto and happiness, rather than doing them begrudgingly or with a sense of resentment.

The first time I can recall experiencing this, was during my time in Malaysia.  It must have been sometime around April 2006 and it had been perhaps five or six months since I had left my job working at IBM, where I had held several management positions.  One morning, I was sweeping the sand off the decking of the dive centre where I was training to become a PADI Dive Master.  I can remember vividly, looking along the arc of perfect white sand, lined with palm trees that was Long Beach, on the island of Kecil Perhentian.  In this moment, I smiled and laughed to myself in the realisation that I had never been happier than right then and right there.  I laughed to myself at how my life had changed so drastically in those few months.  I had exchanged designer suits, shirts, silk ties and expensive shoes for a pair of board shorts.  I had exchanged my daily commute through traffic for an easy walk along the beach.  I had exchanged my office for a beach.  And I had exchanged my laptop for a broom.  This was the first time that I knew I was walking my one true path and I felt an up-welling of pure and simple joy that I was unable to prevent.  It did not matter that I was only sweeping sand off of a decking, because sweeping sand was a necessary part of living my dream.

This joie de vivre permeates into everything that you do.  It is like an infectious disease that will invade your body and mind and it will invade the fabric of your very soul.  Whenever I am at work, or around the customers that come to scuba dive or snorkel with us, I become animated and alive.  I smile and laugh a lot, I engage with them and take a personal interest in them and their enjoyment.  I want to know where they come from and how it is there.  I enjoy exchanging stories and anecdotes about places and experiences.  I make silly jokes and I try to keep them entertained.  I do not ever feel like I have to do this, or that I am working.  I don't have to think about it.  It comes naturally and I know it comes from within my soul.  I do this for no other reason than because I feel alive and completely at one with my heart.  I am unable to stop doing it because the energy and love that I feel inside of myself needs to flow out and be released back to the universe.  When my heart sings, it is impossible not to sing along to its beat, to its rhythm and to its song.

It is not the same for every person who does the same job that I do now.  Some people will find talking to customers difficult, they will view it as part of the job that needs to be done because ultimately, we are in the entertainment industry.  They might resent that they have to lift heavy scuba tanks up and down the beach, sweep sand, or have to wash and rinse scuba gear at the end of each day's diving.  And this job is not every person's dream job.  I changed my life and discovered my own dream.  I know what it is like to walk on the path that is not your own because I did that for thirty five years.  But because this is my dream, when I am doing it, I feel completely at one with the universe. 

There will always be moments and there will be days when things do not go so well.  Even on the one true path you are still going to hit bumps in the road and suffer setbacks.  This is the inevitability of life.  Without setbacks we can never learn the lessons that are necessary to progress in life and to evolve our spirits.  My life has not always been easy.  In fact, I would never describe it as easy.  It is too easy to look at someone who seems to always carry a positive outlook in life and to think that they had it easy, or that they have always enjoyed good fortune.  This will never be the truth.  I suffered when I was young from being overweight and all of the problems associated with it and as I have written in previous blogs, I still carry those scars with me to this day.  However, I no longer recall that I was overweight or relive the days of suffering from teasing in the school yard.  What I choose to remember is that I had the strength to change my life and to do something about my physical appearance.  That taught me an incredibly valuable lesson: that I was able to accomplish anything that I put my mind to and I possessed the inner strength to change.  I have spent much of my adult life alone and without the love of a partner or companion on my journey.  That still causes me a lot of anguish and I wonder often about whether I will ever find that special person to share my life with.  There are times when I think about how alone I have been, or how much time I have lived without the love of someone special in my life and I cry.  But I tell myself that she will come when I am ready, she will come when I reach that point along my path.  I have moments during my working day when I need to deal with difficult situations or with difficult people.  I have a boss and just like all bosses, he can be a jerk at times and leave you wondering what is going on.  In my old life, even the smallest of setbacks could quickly snowball into something much bigger.  Each setback seemed to add to the previous and it could sometimes seem like an endless stream of them.  I would torment myself about being alone and without love in my life.  I would struggle to understand my purpose in life and I would ask myself why was I even here?  My life held no real meaning for me.  It was so easy to be pushed off course and to become lost in the dark void of despair.

All of that changed as soon as I began to walk my one true path.  Now, even if I suffer a setback, I am easily able to deal with it.  I either fix the problem or, if I am unable to fix it, I quickly move on and leave it behind.  I have a balance and a centre of gravity within my soul that was completely lacking before.  Even when I suffer a major setback, such as my recent relationship break-up and the loss of love, I am able to deal with it, without it causing me huge amounts of sorrow and pain.  In my old life, I would fall into darkness.  I would be lost in a chasm of sorrow.  So how am I now able to do maintain my joy in life and my positivity even though I still suffer setbacks?  Simply because by walking my one true path, I have found an inner peace and stability that did not exist previously.  I know that when I am on my path, doing what it is that I love to do, I feel the joy and happiness of which I wrote in the preceding paragraphs.  That is my core.  That is what gives me my belief and faith in the universe.  Walking my one true path makes me so incredibly happy, it is almost impossible to feel any other emotion.  That is not to say that I do not.  It is just that any negative emotions seems to fall away, like the droplets of water sliding off a duck's back.  They try to stick to me but they are unable to do so any longer.  My happiness cannot be contained.  My happiness cannot be dented.  My happiness cannot be stopped.  As long as I stay true to my heart and continue to walk my one true path. 

I walk my one true path and because I do so, everything becomes one.  I am immersed in love.  I walk in the light.  And when I do, I know that I am part of the miracle of life and the universe.  And at the centre of the universe can be found the most simple thing.  At the centre of the universe there is just one word written.  And that word is love.