I heard the loud thud of the bird hitting the windshield; then saw it bounce off and fall onto the gravel roadside, as the car continued on its way. Walking along the opposite side, I next ran across the road to check whether the bird was only stunned.
Dropping onto my knees beside it, I spoke softly, giving reassurance not to be afraid. The bird lay on its back, chest heaving up and down, and beak open as if gasping for air. I gently placed my hands over the bird, close but not touching, palms down while delicately moving my fingers along the length of its body from head to feet.
I was applying therapeutic touch (T.T.), a type of healing modality in which the healer’s hands move over the energy field of the body, to calm the recipient and reduce physical pain. Some individuals trained in T.T., in fact, do treat animals in distress as well as humans.
But survival was not to be for this beautiful little bird. So I prayed for its spirit now to rest in peace after as little suffering as possible, as I always do whenever I am driving and see animal or bird life snuffed out by drivers. In a cradle of field grass I relocated the bird farther away from the road’s shoulder, so that it would not suffer further indignities from oblivious drivers.
Life is so precious, so uncertain, so fleeting. Once we lose someone or something that had provided meaning to our own existence, where do we turn for solace? The loss could be a loved one, a close friend, our own physical or mental health, or a livelihood or vocation that had filled our days with security and purpose, or all of the above.
Three times, thus far, my personal and professional worlds together have totally fallen apart. Each crisis tossed me, rather unceremoniously, onto new and unfamiliar terrain. Once more I had to figure out not just how to survive yet, more importantly, explore processes to make meaning from life’s traumas and grow closer to spiritual wholeness.
Indeed, a perennial truth is, the way we are tested does not reside in the circumstances that befall us but, more precisely, how we respond to the circumstances.
Acknowledgment of the wisdom that is passed down through the ages, to influence our own accomplishments, is expressed by saying that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. I characterize that wisdom more humbly, believing that I am being held in the arms of those beautiful souls whose stories of steadfastness and bravery I recall to lift any fog of darkness that, at times, obscures the path forward.
The reason is, at those moments of wandering toward an abyss, or standing at the edge, the personal narratives of people who have confronted, and transcended, enormous tests – whether provided from the external world or from their own inner demons – always have fortified me.
That is why paying attention to people’s stories is so vital, to deepen and expand our consciousness and our compassion for all beings. The stories that we choose – to reflect upon, to create and/or to tell each other – are what render us distinctive from all other species on Earth. Even so, we as humans ought not to feel superior for that reason. The reality, in fact, ought to humble us.
I recall the wisdom of Art Solomon, an Anishinabe elder who was a spiritual mentor to me many years ago. He expressed how humans are the only beings who forgot their `original instructions’ from the Creator about how to live in this Creation with respect and love. All other earthly species, and the elements, live in accordance with the laws of Nature.
Recognition of the laws of Nature means squarely facing the yin-yang of existence. We do so by learning how to negotiate the light and the darkness in the material that life presents to us, at all levels, from our personal lives to workplace, community, nation state and globally – in both human and planetary interrelationships.
What my own journey has taught me could fill a book (which I hope to publish in the future). The experiential learning skills, added to the academic knowledge and psychological training that I pursued, all contribute to what I can offer today, to help other people through teaching, workshops and individual mentoring services.
To sum up, for this blog, what sustains me daily is the following. Wherever I am (at home or on the road), I exercise kindness, recognize the sacredness of all life, treat my own body with respect, be consciously grateful for something, glean a new piece of knowledge, and keep informed about events in the larger world, with full awareness about how my well-being is interwoven with all life on the planet. As well – and very pertinent to living in a world out of balance – is the conscious enhancement of my own inner equilibrium by paying attention to aspects of beauty and joy, within and around me at serendipitous moments, that feed my soul – again, as a daily practice.
Note that those practices identify not “more things to do” during a day that already could be full. They instead identify a state of consciousness in how to move through the day, in relation with whatever domestic, neighbourly or professional responsibilities are happening. Meanwhile, I do not assume that I have “arrived” at any destination. My inner and outer journeys continue, respectively, toward fuller understanding, and being more effective in how I engage in the larger world, as long as I have breath on this physical plane of existence.
Regardless, I have come a long way to live a more balanced life today than formerly, during many years of workaholism and focusing all of my energy toward changing a troubled world while neglecting my own emotional and physical health. Those are common unhealthy patterns, by the way, among many helping professionals and activists.
Our own stories are ever evolving. When life falls apart offers content for one chapter or more in a book of life that remains open. We simply are called to turn the page onto a new chapter yet to be realized. Later, we even may decide to rewrite, at least on our heart, how we framed earlier chapters. The choice is ours.