To be human is to touch it all.
Jeff Brown wrote that line in his book spiritual graffiti. I wish I could say they were my words; his book is brimming with wisdom and profound offerings on how to navigate and celebrate our perfect imperfections and to embrace the fact that life is complicated.
I don’t or haven’t until now liked to touch it all. I like to run my fingers through smiley happiness, safety and wellness; it doesn’t have to be super exciting, I can take mundane, I think I have mastered patience. I choose love and crave calm, I like peace. I need truth. I want nice. Of course, I have moments when I’m given all of these gifts and more, I am grateful for that. I feel blessed in a million and one ways. As I get older and become more prone to self-inquiry I have realised that you cannot be alive on this planet inhabiting a human form and escape from getting your hands a little dirty, your nails a little chipped, the odd finger broken. And most importantly that we all have our sad stories and war wounds, some a little more tragic or oozing than others. Life is going to give you lemons. To believe that anything else is even remotely possible is almost childlike behaviour, a naivety. Getting older; touching it all teaches you to adult like it or not.
Even if we aren’t personally in the midst of some emotional turmoil or dramatic event that seems to come with the territory of breathing air, aren’t we always the witness to something challenging, a voyeur to another’s painful hardship. Aren’t we always faced with someone’s struggle even if it’s through the corner of an eye? If I love you can I ever just be a detached bystander unmoved, my emotions untouched? (I don’t think so!) Let’s face it most of the scars we carry aren’t necessarily even our own flesh wounds. They are tales of others trauma embedded in our skin, that connection to another that takes you on the journey of suffering with them, their pain becomes your own. Our minds like to pick at the imaginary scabs. We tell tales of woe from olden days; associates and ancestry linked morbidly by addiction illness abuse and grief. We honour their story by harbouring it close by and retelling it from time to time. The mind remembers sadness well. Another grey hair grown or frown lined formed with every encounter with dissatisfaction, a tiny piece of your own soul entering the grave with every loved one that departs to another realm. And these memories hold the keys to our happiness for they travel with us and shape our reactions to what the world throws onto our path. Do we choose bitterness or forgiveness, fear or love? Can we think clearly when challenged with difficulty if our emotions are running riot trapped in the past and our mind is predicting the same old outcomes like some sadistic fortune teller?
If you are exceptionally lucky you would have had a blissful childhood that was filled with love and stable caring humans that cocooned you, provided, protected, and nurtured your growth into adulthood. That statement in itself sounds a little farfetched and fairytale-like due to the fact that parents are humans and humans are flawed even when trying their utmost best, even the great ones. We don’t know how to do this, we learn on the job. It is testing and scary, nobody can really know if they can do the job well. Growing yourself into a fully functioning hang-up free adult is taxing enough, then we get handed this most precious teeny needy object of love to keep alive and make happy. There isn’t a GCSE on raising babies or navigating a teenage mood swing! Or an A level in coping with a catastrophe! I don’t think I like parenting adults! Give me colic give me potty training give me the school run. Or is it just making me feel old, am I losing my control and my ability to keep my babies safe and near? I may need to do more Yoga! My mum and dad had two children by the age of twenty I think we all grew up together.
Who is this person that lives inside us that was once a little girl and now has her own twenty-year-old? Being human, growing old, the whole process is so bizarre when you really think about it. It’s like science fiction. With every extra year of life it brings with it more, more opportunities, more people, and more choices just more. And I know that every breath and every experience even the bad ones they are gifts (maybe ones you’d like to return) but gifts none the less. But I still want what I want and like I said, I want nice. I understand that it’s the tough stuff that gives us our reality check, our sense of gratitude, our humaneness. Our ability to really know what love even is. It develops our compassion and teaches us how to truly empathise and how to show kindness. I sort of believe that the whole reason for even being here in the first place is to experience aspects of all that is dark and dreadful. I am kind of banking on it all being a bit more fluffy upstairs.
I am not saying we shouldn’t tell our truths, in fact, I do think that it is vital to acknowledge anything that has touched us deeply and moulded us a certain way. I am a sharer so Amen to that. Pain will demand to be felt and maybe all it really wants is to be released anyway. I love honesty. The last thing we need is upset nestled nicely into our cells playing havoc with our physical bodies. I just think we shouldn’t get lost in the melodrama of a good sob story it shouldn’t be given that power to grow and define poor me. Otherwise, the darkness wins. Negativity is so powerful in such a nasty all-consuming way. It’s so infectious too. I forget the effect it can have sometimes, and get carried off into the void of crazy drama. Which leads to a whole house full of crazy, it’s like mood swing dominos! Calm is definitely a superpower. Buddha knew.
So going forward I am going to put to use what I have learned so far, I will be the meditating Yogi guru that I have trained hard to be. Firstly I will take a breath, a deep one actually lots of them. I will remember that this too shall pass as everything always does. Good or bad, I will trust the process, go with the flow and search deep within for that place of acceptance. I will try hard to be present and mindful and remind myself that what arises in front of me now doesn’t always have to have the same outcome of a past life event. I will repeat to myself that everyone is battling some kind of demon of their own; no one’s bombproof on this planet. I will still speak my truth but maybe in a quieter voice with less swearing! I will not beat myself up for not loving the bad stuff, the stuff that tests my spirit and hurts my heart. I will try to learn from my mistakes and see them as little spiritual pressies. I will remind myself constantly of what is precious and important and irreplaceable (not material possessions!) I will continue to give thanks to God every night before I sleep for the multitude of blessings bestowed upon me and I will cherish the miraculous fragility of my own life. I will make friends with that grown-up mum of grownups that stares back at me in the mirror. I will remember that love is stronger than fear. I will reach out and touch it all with both hands. I will sometimes fail at some of the above and just cry instead. And that is just fine.
Happy birthday 20th birthday Pierce, I love you with every part of my being. Stay safe always.
More words from Jeff… It’s all divinity, even the murky, the mucky, the mad. How can it be any other way? To be human is to touch it all.