(Originally published on elephant journal on July 11, 2014)
Artwork: Light Spirit Touching Heart by Adam Perry
Know that you are loved.
You are madly loved, not just by the glowing hearts who share the journey with you, but by Mighty Mother Earth who carries you upon her shoulders and bears witness to your odyssey.
She has held you in her saltwater palm since before you were born, since you were but a secret twinkle in your other mother’s eye. As soon as your daredevil soul made the decision to return to Earth, to continue its karmic unraveling through the courageous act of breathing, she began to make space for you, to carve a little plot of land that you could call home.
When life overwhelms and knees buckle and stab-wounds bleed, she remains stable, unwavering under the weight of your hurt.
She holds you.
Day after perfect day, Earth holds your feet and rumbles, “Walk, little one. Kiss me with your toes. Rediscover your preciousness. Soak me with your woes. You can, you can, you can, you can because you are loved.”
Know that you are strong.
You are a living fortress, standing your ground in a world full of earthquakes and landslides and gaping mouths waiting to swallow you up and gnaw on your bones. You will not be gnawed on.
You live in a city that has forgotten about the holiness of trees, a city that desiccates parks to build more concrete towers to make more money to pay more fools who think that money means success.
You make little money, but you make other things: you make peace with your actions and love with your words. You make songs about Internet dating sites that soften the sharp, lonesome edges; you make art by the way you move and stand and curve in the world.
Through it all, you hold your head high, and your clenched fist—that enduring symbol of I-will-not-be-overcome-ness—even higher.
You grow babies in your own body and birth them in your own home and you are strong enough to know when to hold on and when to push push push and let it all go. You are the mess, the sweat, the growl, the howl, the busted-open hero.
Know that you are not alone.
You feel alone, a lot of the time. I feel alone, too. But loneliness (that cunning crone) is a gift, a guide, a way out of our own anxious heads and deep into our own loving hearts.
We must sit in silence with loneliness and peel off her fear-studded cloak, layer by prickly layer, until the spark of recognition ignites within us and we can clearly see the inter-connectedness and the sacredness of it all.
All things stem from a single sacred cell. All of your favorite nature miracles (like the forests of British Columbia and the Arizona desert) are entangled in your DNA; you are the forests of British Columbia, you are the Arizona desert. “All is one” is not just a thing people say to encourage action and reaction; it is fact. All is one and we are all in this together.
Know that your body is your friend.
Your body is the flesh-home you need to exist as a meandering, temporary earthling. It is neither too fat nor too thin nor too tall nor too small. It is exquisite. It is the mask you wear when you need a mask to wear and, when the mask comes off, it is your brazen Truth.
It conceals your secrets between the folds of its skin until your heart murmurs, “Speak me now. I am ready to be heard.” It bears the weight of a thousand daily heartaches without being crushed. It holds the throbbing in its muscles and the frazzled in its nerves.
It is your shield in a cruel world, keeping you safe, and it is your pleasure temple, keeping you moaning and groaning for more.
Your body wants nothing but to keep you well and its every pain, every strain, every break, every blemish is a message telling you to “pay attention to this” or “stop doing that” or “please oh please get some rest.” A body ignored is like a letter unopened, but a body acknowledged is the most enduring ally you will ever have. It is always on your side.
Know that you are enough.
You are enough pretty and enough kind and enough talented and enough smart. Everything you need is contained within you. There is nothing missing at all.
Know that you will know none of this.
That, some days, you will roll your eyes at words like “karmic unraveling” and “temporary earthling.”
That you will feel the grasp of your own impermanence pulling at your ankles and that you will sink deep and fast, into your quicksand bed sheets, and weep for weeks. Know that you will become lost, inside of your own maze-like mind, and that you will hate everything about your body and everything about this broken, brutal world.
Know that this is okay because it is what makes you so very, very human.
Know that you are brave. Know that you are worthy of all things good. Know that you are fierce, that you are gorgeous, that you are wise. Know that you are built to bend and bow and arch and flex, to deviate from the straight and create your own adventure. Know that you are the adventure, the belly-dancing Universe, the embodiment of light.
Know that the knowing that takes place in your head is not real knowing at all. Be wary of ego and its desire to know and its desire to win and its desire to be right. Forget about being right and just focus on being here. Be here, right now, awake in your awesome human life.
See! See the sun and the moon and the stars and how they beam when nobody’s watching, expecting nothing in return. See the long-legged spider and how tenderly she swaddles her prey. See the sparrows in the springtime, building nests, choosing to be neighbors. Love is everywhere and to notice is to know this.
To notice is to know this (so open wide your sparkly eyes and see).
Know that you will not be you forever.
Someday, you will gaze into a mirror and see an old lady gazing back, an old lady with paper-thin skin marked by a hundred different wrinkles and a dozen different spots. You will pause for a moment and think, “I thought this was a mirror…” and then you will look a little closer and recognize your eyes. You will be amazed at the life that has drawn itself all over your features.
You will know, then, that you are closer to the end than the beginning and you will know, too, that “end” is but another word for “beginning.” You will feel intimately connected to the God of your dreams and your angel wings will grow.
You will smile at the life you were gifted with, at how short it was and how long it seemed at times. You will not remember most of it, but you will remember some: the day you said “I do” under an eclipsing moon to a man you barely knew; the night you spent with Kerouac and an oil lamp, drinking wine from a Tetrapak and catching falling stars. You will hold your grandchildren close to your bosom to smell the newness in their hair. You will use words like “bosom” and you will not feel old at all.
Know that you are not old at all. That time is not running out. That dreams come true, in their own ways. That the miracle you seek is seeking you. That the miracle you seek is inside you.
Know that a hand gently placed on a thump-thumping heart is the only compass you will ever need. Know that my hand is placed on my thump-thumping heart, right now, and that I feel a flame burning there. Know that I am typing these words with one hand because my other hand is touching fire and my whole body is getting warm, as I move closer and closer to the real.
Place your hand on your thump-thumping heart. (Go on, join me.)
Place your hand on your thump-thumping heart and feel. (You’re getting warmer, warmer.)
Place your hand on your thump-thumping heart and trust. (Feel the flame, trust the flame.)
Place your hand on your thump-thumping heart and know. (You know all of it already.)