“By knowing things that exist, you can know that which does not exist. That is the void.”
- Miyamoto Musashi
To suffer a loss of spirit is a test of your humanity. Losing someone dear to you; a parent, a child, a spouse, a lover by betrayal - the emotions that tear through your being like a hurricane and leave you stranded on a desert in pain, every drop of life sucked out of you. Left on your knees, empty and dry, not knowing how to live or die. Your soul is ripped out of your chest and your heart lays beating in your hands. The emptiness is a bottomless pit once filled with love and presence. How does the spirit feel such pain? No physical ache equals that of a grieving soul and a heart in pain. In the aftermath of a recent personal trauma I traveled to find my spirit again and heal the pain inside while wrestling with a gaping hole of emptiness. A spirit torn asunder, scattered in pieces and I knew I would never be the same.
Intellectually, the scientist I am realized the internal pain resulted from stress and shock; hundreds of neurotransmitters and hormones raging uncontrolled in my brain and my body (beta-blockers would have helped). The same neurochemicals that regulate physical pain control psychological pain. Yet what makes me human struggled to resolve the conflict of the pragmatist and the humanist within. I had to dissociate from the pain and grief to find humility and peace. Needing to find the remnants inside and nurture their growth to fill what had been mistakenly given away, I returned to old medicine for my soul: the mountains.
As I gazed at the deserts and mountains passing below me the world became bigger and I became miniscule. Sprouting metal and mental wings, I watched time unfold below me, shape the earth and terraform history. I saw time guide the waters as they cut through the earth, smoothing mountains and eroding layers of colored sediments. Rivers and creeks gouged deeply into the land leaving threads that snaked through the terrain below. It reminded me of yards of speckled velvet thrown from above, lying quietly ruffled and wrinkled. Colored mesas and tabletops reached up to the sky above like stalagmites. Scattered straight and winding roads transected the land like large pencil marks made by humans and their machines. I imagined the singularity of elements and the bonding between them, the evolution of nucleic acids and proteins transforming into creatures, and the dynamic complexity between the inanimate and animate. I imagined life being born and dieing, all within a blink of an eye.
Nothing is static and nothing acts in isolation. Everything is connected in a meaurable or immeasurable way. Everything is mutable to some degree. The dichotomy of our consciousness to reason and make choices between our biology and our environment scares most people. Yet that is what makes us human: the capability of making decisions and choices. Even indecision is a choice. And every decision and choice is a trade-off with consequences, good and bad. Sometimes that requires considerable strength.
Relative to the stage below, I realized that my pain, my thoughts, my drama, my life were inconsequential to the play below. All before and after me are actors on this stage of time forever caught in a play billions of years old and which never ends. I don’t need to rationalize my existence nor that of others. The meaning of my life does not derive from without but from within and my interaction with my surroundings. My life, my death are one in the same. It is Humility. I again resolved myself with the world around me, acknowledging my capabilities, fears, faults and desires and the essence of who I am and can be. No one can take that away.
At 11,000 feet in the air and without hesitation I faced an old fear and conquered it. By embracing my fears, my death, my weaknesses, I regained my strength. Again life infused my soul and my spirit soared like an eagle over the mountains upon which I stood. My only remaining fear was to act without honor or in dishonesty to myself. And to unconditionally give it all away. That will not happen again.
Let the healing begin.
“The truth is that strength lies in the interior of the Warrior: in his heart, his mind and his spirit… The heart is essential in helping the intellect to understand the spirit.” - Miyamoto Musashi, ‘Book of Five Rings’