This is the last of my regular weekly posts here, though you might see my writing here every once and a while in the future. I wanted to share a few insights about what the experience of writing these columns has been like. It has been such an honor to plant these love seeds into the garden of our souls.
From when I started writing these columns until now, the theme has always been love. As so many of our teachers have reminded us, it is when love moves into the public square that we call it justice. It is this same love that pours out of God’s own being and brings us here, that sustains us here, that will take us back home. It is this same love that we recognize in other people, who love their babies and their community as we love our babies and our community. When we recognize this same love in one another, we will not stand for having something happen to other people’s babies and community that we wouldn’t want to have happen to ours. That is simply what we call justice — and this work of justice is a task of love.
Over the last three and a half years, we have had so many beautiful conversations, starting with the “Disease of Being Busy” to “How to Reach Out to Someone Who Is Struggling.” The love has also led us to the public square. Together, we have sought a tender and fierce love in a world of bluster, sitting with issues ranging from attacks on our immigrant sisters and brothers, the America we have to build together, and more.
The occasion to be together with fellow members of the On Being community at the On Being Gathering was nourishing to the heart and soul. Writing, at least as I’ve been blessed to experience it, often feels like releasing seeds of goodness into this world. We don’t often get to see which seeds find a receptive heart-soil. The Gathering was different. It was a chance to meet hundreds of people whose souls have received these writings with an open heart and responded in radical generosity. I was moved to tears again and again to find out that what had come from my heart had found its way to the hearts of others.
Every now and then, friends have asked me what writing these columns feels like. I know that there are those who experience writing as something akin to having teeth extracted, torture, or giving birth with no medicine. I have to admit that writing this column has never felt that way to me. It has felt more like catching stars, catching a whiff of sweet incense, or picking flowers.
This was not always my experience with writing before writing for you. But there is a grace to writing for the On Being community, or really to anything that comes from the heart. It has, so often, felt like all I have had to do is to open my eyes, my senses, and my heart, and… wait. In the best of times, I moved through the week with a sense of openness and welcoming. It could be seeing the transient beauty of love written in morning dew. It could be the mystery of a watermelon. A cracked mirror, or a repaired cup that reveals the beauty of an illuminated healing. Or a reflection on a loved one’s touch.
It reminds me of something that the great voice of prophetic Judaism in the 20th century, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said:
“It takes three things to create a sense of significant being:
and a moment.
And the three are always present.”
These moments — of being present and open to the cosmos and to humanity — are precious ones. It’s like a lightning bolt that comes down and brightens up everything. The lightning bolt doesn’t last for a minute, but oh for one breath — to see life, humanity, our own selves as perfectly one, whole, interwoven, connected. What a joy it is.
My partner jokes that sometimes I get a faraway look in my eyes. Once, when we were walking through the open-air temple that is Muir Woods, she said, “This is going in next week’s blog, isn’t it?” It was. There is beauty and wonder all around. We have to have eyes that see, a heart that perceives, a soul that welcomes.
I have met a few saintly people in my life who seem to live continuously in that luminous state of being open to the universe, at one with God and the whole cosmos. As for the rest of us, we tend not to stay in that state perpetually. Like the shorelines, we watch these graceful waves come and go. And the coming of the waves changes us, transforms us, moves us. We are not the ocean, nor are we apart from the ocean.
I grew to love these flashes of insight. There is a pure delight in their lucidity. To cherish the awareness that we come from the One, we are One even now, and we are returning to the One. I grew to love waiting for these moments to come and lingering in them. Seize the moment and stay in it. These moments of lucidity feel like a gift, a grace, an unexpected visit from a dear friend. It is in these moments that we get to sing out, even without a word: Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now!
And with time, I learned something else: It is not purely the moments of insight that are precious. It is the anticipation. It is the work of preparing to welcome them — and the returning to them, again and again.
Somewhere I read that Aristotle talked about habit as a virtue. Writing, the welcoming of moments of lucidity, can become a habit. We all see goodness and beauty in others and often not in our own selves. Others come to see it in us. How lovely it is when we make a habit of returning to these states of the heart.
So friends, beloveds: Let me leave you with the words that you already know to be true in your hearts.
Stick with love. Cherish yourself, and surround yourself with those who see in you the incomparable light of your being. See who brings out kinder, gentler, more beautiful qualities in you. Let them be the people in your boat.
We are not meant to be alone. We need community, and if that community is to be a beloved community, we need to create love, channel love, make love real here and now. Community doesn’t descend down from heaven. We have to form it here and now.
Unfurl your own story. It is true that we do have to wait to see “who lives, who dies, who tells your story.” Tell your own story — do it now. There is a power in owning your own story. If you don’t tell your own story, someone else will. And if you are willing to do the hard work of polishing the jewels of your soul, no one else knows the treasures of your heart as well as you do.
Go, be your best self. Be your most beautiful self. Be your luminous self. Be your most generous self. Be your most radically loving self. And when you fall short of that — as we all do, as we all have — bounce back and return. And return again. There is a grace in this returning to your luminous self.
I am not one for final words of wisdom. Some do it well, and with so much heart. I prefer to focus on the journey, and the company we keep on this journey of life, and beyond. It is the journey itself that is lovely and worth taking.
So let us keep journeying together, to a way of being together that makes beauty real and love present. Hand in hand, with this commitment to love guiding our steps; right can be actualized; justice can be mobilized; meanness can be neutralized; love can be organized; and the beloved community can be realized.
Let it be love.