Yesterday Katina and I, our two kids and Tutu (which means grandmother in Hawaiian) spent a couple of hours strolling in the early evening on Magic Island. I was just waking up, as I worked the previous night. The world for me takes a while to get into focus after a good day’s sleep. As it slowly came in to focus I was gently coerced into moments of utter stillness tracking the slow progress of a container ship on the horizon, and feeling my visual mechanisms dance to the flashing lights of a dinner cruise boat that followed it.
As I write this now I remember reading in the late Father Bede Griffiths autobiography, The Golden String, his description of an early evening walk he took in England when he was in his late year of school. The sun was setting. He wrote “as I walked on, I came upon some hawthorn trees in full bloom and I thought that I had never seen such a sight or experienced such sweetness before”.
He recalled that “a lark rose suddenly from the ground, poured out its song above my head, and then sank, still singing, to rest”.
He ends this passage in his book by remembering a “feeling of awe” which overcame him, such that even the sky seemed “but a veil before the face of God”.
While we were walking yesterday evening, as the sun on the first day of the New Year was setting, and the container ship on the horizon momentarily stopped my mind, it occurred to me that my life, with all its unanswered questions, lingering anxieties and unwashed clothes, was complete.
Yes, most of my time in this world has been spent skimming the surface of life, but I realized I was dreadfully wrong to think there was anything amiss. There was a sense of implosion, although that makes it sound way too dramatic, rather, an unwillingness to see any difference between surface and depth. The surface is the depth and the depth is the surface.
Its not about mindfulness or mindlessness, or meditation or inattentiveness. The golden string Father Griffiths refers to in the title of his autobiography, is what you follow through the tangled ball of your life to touch the heart of the divine.
You find the golden string with the simple intuition that arises in your heart when everything that is false in your life falls away.
The path is simple: find your golden string and unwind the tangled mass of your life.
There is no need for heroic measures, mortifications, retreats away from family or work, years of disciplining the mind, attaining states of absorption, memorizing lists of arcane mental states, or spending lots of money on workshops or CDs.
There is a way to live your ordinary life in pristine peace and joy just as it is right now. This is the way of everyday mysticism, yet it’s not about any “ism” at all.
It’s about grace, not effort, and everything is grace.
I feel extremely grateful to the one of the greatest practitioners of this simple path: Thérèse of Lisieux. She wrote of a “little way” to the fullness of life that you seek, a way to joy, to happiness, to peace, and this way is short, and you have access to it in your present state. (This “little way” is described by mystics in many of the world’s sacred traditions, she just happened to have written about it in hauntingly beautiful language.)
If you are entangled in a ball of string, the messiness of your life, in the distress of uneasy feelings, this way is for you.
Everyone wants to love and be loved. It’s just a matter of awakening to this desire in you and directing it to its true source.
This little way is a path, she would say, of awareness and willingness, of gratitude and surrender, of confidence, and above all, of love.
Please joy us and we travel this short path together.
With warms hugs and best wishes for the New Year from Katina, Uila, Kupai and Tom.