tending to the path before me

Two truths diverged in a yellow wood, and I,
seeing Leo continue down his,
Turned towards mine with a boundless joy
With his love in my knapsack, and mine in my heart
Wondering who else I might meet on this twisted way

Later I heard his voice across the way
Melanie, come check out this mushroom, that frog
I abided the call, wandering across fields of wildflowers
Through woods, over pastures
Arriving in time for a thunderstorm

How often do our paths diverge and converge again
Weaving through our own narratives, histories
Pieces not yet filled in, places over-full
Recognizing my path is not static, there are flowers growing
Where there were weeds yesterday

There was a field of sunflowers I saw in Leo’s yesterday
And today I imagined one in front of me today,
A small patch, tended by the wild gardener
Of my creative heart
This is enough.

We humans change each other, and allow ourselves to be changed. Leo will not always be beside me, and neither will Joann, Ellen, my mother or father. Our paths will diverge, converge, twist in directions I cannot yet imagine. I want to be present for my truth and for theirs, to allow them to expand my capacity for love and understanding. To weave in the sunflowers and shadows of another path into the one unfolding before me.

We are each wild gardeners tending the path before us. My mind and body, the boundaries of my imagination, the stories and nutriments I consume, all collaborate to build my truth. A mushroom here, a rainbow over an open pasture, a thunderstorm, a lake. On this path what unfolds in my consciousness is a revealing of my heart, the stories I’ve chosen to embody, the identity I’ve taken as my own.

Who am I? What stories am I choosing, consciously or otherwise, to create my reality?

Until now, I’ve accepted the story of my anxious attachment style, forged in the wildfires of childhood, as my truth. I’ve subscribed to my need for consistency and clarity as means of building ease and comfort into my relationships. Sometimes this manifests as asking for vocal reassurance of interest or love, timeliness, full presence, deep listening. Other times I turn to tools like nonviolent communication and co-listening to share with others the kinds of interactions that soothe me. These strategies have eased my anxiety and protected me from the fear of being alone. They may also allow me to escape a deeper question: Am I capable of being loved freely as I am?

For a moment, I step into a vast, dark emptiness. The coldness of fear arises: I'll always be alone, I'll be rejected, I don't know what will happen. I am floating in this void, wondering if anyone will love me without the structures I erect to guarantee love.

I lay in the void on my back, as if floating in the calm ocean waves. A dolphin nuzzles my back. The sun shimmers on my face. I am transported to the calm of the lake in front of me, its very stillness an offering of love.

You are loved, shimmers the sun,
Her rays lighting my tender heart
Look at how I shine for you every day, keeping you warm
There is nothing you need to do.

You are loved, says the raincloud,
Her rain the tears on my skin
Look at how I fill your lakes with rain, your tea cups with water
There is nothing you need to do.

You are loved, murmurs the tree,
Her deep roots echoing my ancestors
Look at how I give you shelter, build your warm fire
There is nothing you need to do.

You are loved in your imperfection and your beauty, your earnestness, your laziness, your energy and play. You are loved as you are without needing to do anything. You are worthy of the gift of this life, offered by god, your parents, the long line of your ancestors. You are beautiful and capable of being loved. Please accept this knowledge deep in your heart, for it will help you to meet the darkness of not knowing. It will help you to be vulnerable and to love first, and to trust in the goodness of others.

I am suspended by love, caught in the horizon of water and sky, the vast darkness transformed into sacred presence. I let go, an exhale that releases the fear of my insufficiency and story of my anxiety. I am enough for the sun and the lake, I am enough for myself, I am enough for others.

What is possible when I allow the truth of this enough-ness into my awareness? I can lean into my relationships with the security of knowing. Knowing that I am capable of being loved as I am. This is a truth rooted in my bones, it cannot be displaced or forgotten when winter comes. I am capable of actualizing my wildest dreams; my intuition, intelligence, and beauty is enough for the world.

When I lead with my own worth, I allow others to accept without question the value of my being. I stand in my own power, asking others for what I want from them without tying my worth to their response. I believe in their own power, trusting that their yes or no comes from a recognition of their own needs, rather than the obligation of meeting mine. The possibility of rejection, while scary, does not shake the knowledge of my worthiness.

I imagine asking my friend John to be together this weekend. It is a risk to give voice to my wants, to initiate, to invite in rejection. And yet there is so much joy in the possibility of being met: to ask without the certainty of yes, to be met freely without obligation. I pause for a moment to take in the wonder of love, freely offered. The risk of vulnerability allows for the possibility of this wonder. Others will surprise and delight me, in their truth meeting and loving me as I am.

I am choosing this path of love, this one of wonder and risk and heartbreak. I want to loosen my grip on this narrative of anxious attachment, to invite in space to lead with security. For years my identity and this narrative have become tangled up, each relationship re-affirming this anxiety as “the way that I am”.

I want to consciously, gently decouple from this narrative. This doesn't mean rejecting or demonizing this narrative, or turning away from the part of me that feels alone and unloved. In certain interactions, this narrative – and the structures that bring me ease – will continue to serve me. Instead, this is about knowing the freedom possible when I allow many truths to exist in my awareness, when I can freely choose which to adopt in any given moment. This is about inviting in the possibility of a new narrative and gaining access to an old truth: the truth of my sufficiency and beauty that goes beyond any intellectual thought and touches the deep core of my being.

Many stories contribute to the unfolding of my path, including the one of anxious attachment I touched on earlier. Some stories I accept and embody because they meet a raw human need: longing for community, for holding space, for creativity and joy. Others I agree to because they feed my ego, provide comfort and ease, allow me to avoid my feelings of grief, shame, guilt, disconnection. I notice that the difficulty of the external story – not belonging, not being loved – can soothe some part of my ego that takes comfort in a wanderer or misfit's identity.

What are some of the other stories that you agree to, Melanie?

  • Being alone allows me to experience true freedom, and making commitments to others risks boredom and being stuck.
  • Having a stable 9-5 job will zap me of my creativity and energy and likely result in boredom.
  • Staying in one place is boring and I want the freedom and mobility to be in many places around the world.
  • I am different and separate from my family, I have different and "better" values than they do because mine are grounded in the practice.
  • I want to make friends and build community with people who share my spiritual practice and/or commitment to self-awareness.
  • I am welcome and safe at Mariposa Institute with my teacher Joann and friends on the path.
  • I am highly sensitive to light, sound, smells, motion, and other inputs.
  • I need silence and rest to recuperate, I like being alone for much of my day, nature gives me energy and heals my body.
  • If others are going to ask for my time, I want to know exactly what they need from me and how long the meetings will take.
  • My work in Palestine allows me to contribute to the wellbeing of young people, and absolves me of responsibility for difficulty at home.
  • I am good at building things, beyond writing code. I am capable of starting and leading my company in Palestine.
  • I am not so sure if I am smart or accomplished enough to be of value in the United States.
  • I am getting too old to be loved, I am not pretty enough to be loved, I am not clear enough in my sexuality to be loved.

The first body of stories is concerned with protecting my freedom and mobility. Words that stand out to me here are: alive, creativity, joy, energy, spark, adventure, wandering, experimentation, curiosity, wonder. In these stories I recognize my deep need for space to be who I am, to touch into my wonder and delight in work and play. To this piece of my ego, I want to ask with deep respect: is it possible that there is space for me within commitment to loved ones, friends, work?

The second batch of stories is about protecting my ability to touch stillness and finding harmony in my environment and with others. I don't like how my brain feels when "under attack" by flashing lights, loud pumping bass music, shaky videos, winding roads. To mitigate the risk of facing these difficulties in my environment, I have strict defense mechanisms to register the possibility of attack. I am conditioned to immediately ask for a change in conditions, to move, to run away. And in contrast, I feel peaceful and at ease in nature and with beloved community, people that share my values and the practice. To this piece of my ego, I want to ask with deep respect: is it possible to accept just 1% more as a means of building resilience to difficulty?

The third group of stories touches on my work in Palestine. On one hand my work in Palestine is joyful and energetic, built on values of wellbeing, partnership, and service. On the other hand I see that my work can become an escape from the anguish of social and economic inequities so evident here in California. These are forms of oppression over others that my family and I contribute to as members of a privileged class, and I have turned away from politics and service at home in favor of work abroad. I do not want to criticize my decision to leave the states, for it was the only choice I could see a few years back. But now I want to turn towards my ego and my heart, and ask: is it possible to turn towards the problems here in the Bay Area to make a small impact in my community for just one day, one effort? To let my value here reveal itself in tiny steps?

The last bundle of stories is tender and alive, and it wonders if I am good enough to find romantic partnership and love as I am. For decades confusion over my sexuality and doubt over my beauty has planted seeds of insufficiency. Here I will invite in the lessons I've written of above. I want to lead with security, with the knowledge that I am completely, utterly enough. To believe otherwise is to turn away from the deepest human truth that burns within my core. The truth of love.

in / love
out / wonder

in / I bathe in the light of love
out / I dance in wonder

in / I am enough for love
out / I rest

in / love
out / still

Who am I separate from my stories? Maybe the Buddhist teaching is true: there is no I to grasp onto separate from my conditions. I am in the rising and falling of the present moment: the quiet hum of this afternoon, the flow of the wind in the trees, the sound of the chimes. I am not separate from this cozy house, the hawks flying over the lake, the cup of genmaicha I’m sipping next to me.

Yesterday Leo introduced the idea that what I “have” in my lived experience is an indication of wanting or liking. In Leo's truth, having something means that we – consciously or not – agree to its arising, because it feeds us in some way. We "like" things that feel good or satisfy a craving (e.g., going to McDonald’s); we "want" things that meet deeper needs (e.g., eating in a way that supports a healthy body).

In my truth, “having” is an indication of consumption. What I choose to feed my consciousness will manifest in my lived reality, including my joy, energy, fear, suffering. If I feed my consciousness the stories of violence, discrimination, and separation, this will manifest in my body as truth. If I feed my consciousness love, rest, and wellbeing, this too will manifest.

The Fifth Mindfulness Training: Nourishment and Healing

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I will practice looking deeply into how I consume the Four Kinds of Nutriments, namely edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I am determined not to gamble, or to use alcohol, drugs, or any other products which contain toxins, such as certain websites, electronic games, TV programs, films, magazines, books, and conversations.

I will practice coming back to the present moment to be in touch with the refreshing, healing and nourishing elements in me and around me, not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past nor letting anxieties, fear, or craving pull me out of the present moment. I am determined not to try to cover up loneliness, anxiety, or other suffering by losing myself in consumption. I will contemplate interbeing and consume in a way that preserves peace, joy, and well-being in my body and consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family, my society and the Earth.