One evening William sat on a boulder by the bridge where he and Charmaine had often stood overlooking the city. The world, as it had been then, was still just out there worlding. He hadn’t seen Charmaine for several years. She was off on another leg of her journey.
“It’s an inward journey, William,” she had said with a cryptic grin. “But sometimes you have to go away to do it.”
He supposed that’s what he had unknowingly done by moving to this city from his home town. He remembered Charmaine laughing and saying, “Geographical escape doesn’t work, except when it does.”
William missed her laughter and her loving presence.
He missed her gentle coaching on the Eight Clues. Missing Charmaine gave him plenty of practice in letting go of attachment - his attachment to her. It caused him to realize at a more profound level that the answers in life never really lie outside one’s deeper self. That’s what Charmaine meant about life being an inward journey.
In attending to his own spiritual life and practices, William studied many different traditions. Once again, he found himself enjoying visiting places of worship, because for him they were places to celebrate life. He discovered that the essence of religion was based in the same spirituality, that virtually all religions of the world believe that access to the Divine lies within. This comforted William as he faced the ever-changing landscape of his own life.
Much had changed in William’s life during Charmaine’s absence. He reconnected with his family and had visited them several times. He continued practicing forgiveness toward his father. He truly enjoyed seeing his mother with her loving smile he had so missed. It reminded William of Charmaine in some comforting way. He caught up on all the things that were going on with his brother and sister – which included meeting her new baby girl – Uncle William’s little angel.
On a recent fly fishing trip with his dad, William shared much of what was going on in his life and what he had learned from Charmaine, especially about forgiveness. His father appreciated how William was able to tell on himself and apologize for his contribution to the problems in their relationship. He was amazed how strong William seemed, and completely free of anger or defensiveness. And William seemed genuinely interested in what was happening in his life. His boy had done some serious growing. He was proud of him. And he liked him.
In the presence of William’s open-heartedness his father was able to acknowledge that he now knew he had not really been there for his kids when they most needed him. He admitted he just didn’t know how to be a real father at the time and so he’d stayed focused on his work, letting Mom raise the kids. He was finally able to begin accepting and forgiving himself, realizing it wasn’t too late to build a strong, loving relationship with his growing family.
William had let go of his unrealistic attachment to needing his father to be perfect. He began to see his father as a man, like himself, with strengths and faults and with challenges and shortcomings.
William began to understand that he’d never even considered what his dad had provided for him, in addition to all the pressures and expectations his father must have been under. True, as a father image, he had failed them in many ways. But as a man, he had simply done the best he knew at the time.
William came to feel much more compassion for his own personal struggles and shortcomings. (Charmaine said it was easier to forgive others if we first forgive ourselves.) at realization helped him feel more compassionate and generous toward himself. It was a delightfully circular experience. It amazed William how letting go of his attachment to what he had not received from his father was just as liberating as letting go of his attachment to what he had received from Charmaine!
Sitting quietly one afternoon William experienced a moment of deep joy while reflecting on a question Charmaine had posed to him.
“What if you took the position that we each attract, like magnets, at the moment of our conception and for each moment of our entire life, the very circumstances and people we each need? What if we did this in order to create for ourselves an inescapable opportunity to face the next issue we are ready to face along our spiritual journey? Would it change how you felt about your life if you knew you had actually participated in choosing your very existence, your parents, your time, place and country of origin, your race, your sex and your genetic conditions?”
To William, the implication of this was huge. What if there is a meaning in everything and everything occurs for a reason? What if our life is somehow predisposed, the grand paradox being that we also have free will to deal with each predisposition, moment-to-moment? What if the universe is unfolding exactly as it must and is a constant reflection of the choices we each make? And what if, in aggregate, the world we all live in is also a perfect reflection of the choices we each make?
Then William realized it didn’t really matter if it were true or not. If he simply took the position that it was true, he felt incredibly freed, supported and empowered by life rather than victimized by the facts and circumstances of his youth and his adulthood. It was a very powerful frame shift.
He and Emily had gotten much closer, too. In fact, he was getting ready to ask her to marry him. He could be more open and honest with Emily than he had ever been with anyone. William enjoyed the feeling of transparency in their relationship. It helped him feel authentic and available for intimacy, and though sometimes risky, it felt both freeing and energizing to be so open. Now he could share thoughts and feelings with Emily that he used to keep hidden in order to appear strong and not so vulnerable. It seemed strange that it was just the opposite.
William was gradually becoming stronger and less fearful. He had found his backbone and discovered it was not rigid or mean-spirited! He loved Emily and realized he had more than ever to bring to a relationship. He was learning to talk to her with an open heart, with an intention to simply share rather than justify himself or convince her to see things his way. He felt safe enough to listen so she felt heard and understood, rather than respond too quickly or contradict her.
William no longer felt responsible for the quality of other people’s lives. He respected Emily’s natural ability to solve her own problems. He had learned to be more patient and to ask her what he could do, or how he could be, that would actually cause her to feel supported by him. He could be compassionate with Emily when she was down or struggling, without taking it on as his own issue. He’d learned how to be fully present with her without getting enmeshed and entangled in her life and without going away from her. It was very liberating for both of them.
Fear of conflict had ceased to be a problem since William had come to see it as a natural part of life. He now saw it as a positive, creative part of any relationship as long as he was honest and open-hearted rather than adversarial. All these skills also applied to relationships with friends, family, community activities and at work. Life was definitely getting better for William.
His work life had been transformed. A large multinational corporation bought out his company. His boss and most of the other managers and employees were initially scared, suspicious and angry. Cutbacks and out-sourcing concerned everyone there. And indeed, some employees were forced out and were suffering.
However, William had learned to embrace change. He now had increasing trust in the Universe. He wasn’t entirely clear where things were headed but he had decided he would play a positive role in directing the course of those changes.
It turned out that the new leadership of the company was not initially as open and interested as he had hoped. They had some excellent ideas about possible new directions for the company but showed little interest in what the employees had to say. They also were reluctant to be open to revealing their bigger intentions.
In the face of all the angst and despair, his boss noticed William’s positive stance toward the future of the company and enlisted his support for himself and the other managers. William helped create a forum for people to talk about what they were feeling and to be more present to their own fears and concerns. William learned that what employees really want from their work is job satisfaction and clear communication.
For his staff to feel really satisfied with their jobs, William knew they needed to be able to find meaning and value - a feeling of participation and importance to the company’s over-all goals. They needed recognition and trust from the leadership. at wouldn’t be easy.
Understanding that honest communication was a key to this, William found a way to help his own staff and others, including his boss, not get stuck in the past or worried about the future.
He helped them see that it was their thoughts, their attitudes and their old beliefs that actually created their moment to moment experiences, not their present circumstances. He watched them begin to tap into their natural creativity, intuition, timing and balance. This synergistic effect began to transform their worst fears into more creative and effective choices and possibilities. Over a period of time, this optimistic approach spread to other groups and departments in the company.
Eventually the new management began to be more open to its employees and started to participate by offering support. William encouraged the merging corporation to bring in people to help employees get the information they needed, to feel more secure and valued. William now actually looked forward to work and saw some new directions for himself to expand this positive influence.
There were other positive changes in his life. William and George became best friends. He enjoyed this connection and loved getting closer to George’s family and his circle of friends. He realized his previous loneliness had been self-imposed. He and George run and work out three or four times a week.
William lost his extra pounds, paying attention to what he put in his body. He reads more and watches television less.
He and George joined a meditation group and took Tai Chi lessons together, which helped create a structure to support his daily spiritual practice. He discovered something very expansive about meditating and practicing Tai Chi or Yoga with others.
“I’d never think about starving my body,” he thought. “So why would I allow my soul to starve?” He found meditation nurtured him to the core of his being.
William discovered that learning spiritual practices such as meditation from someone with years of experience was very helpful, maybe essential, to getting started. A classroom setting and being able to hear other people’s questions and experiences helped, too. In the quiet moments of his own meditation it helped to lovingly notice his own thoughts when he was stressed. He learned to be conscious of what these thoughts tended to do to his life. William found peace and compassion when he identified with the witness deep within rather than with his fearful, reactive ego.
He also discovered, on his own, that meditation was not just one thing, that it existed on a spectrum of possible soul-nurturing experiences that might be only a few seconds or hours long, such as knitting, painting, walking or simply following the rhythmic flow of his breath. He found himself taking a centering, ‘letting go’ breath many times through the day, like mini-meditations.
There were other changes William began to see in his everyday life. He didn’t take things so personally or quite so seriously. He felt more passion not only in his work and his relationships but also in his play and alone times. He felt more in touch with his intuition and creativity. He got back into journaling and enjoying music and photography. With Emily’s playful assistance he had even begun to enjoy dancing again.
William listened better to himself and to others. He found it easier to say ‘no’ and to ask for what he wanted. He became more playful and more able to be present in the moment. William felt a palpable connection to the earth and an appreciation and wonder for all its creatures. Everything seemed lighter and he felt bigger. The idea that we are all connected as one was no longer theoretical, no longer just an idea. It was literal, real and evolving into a way of being for him.
Out of this growing sense of connectedness, William became more involved in his community, a giving that fed his soul. William and George began volunteering with a local service group dealing with the issues of hunger and homelessness in their community. He got his company to sponsor several of the projects. Because he loved being around kids, William started coaching a little league baseball team.
William was not yet fully aware of the positive influence of his own growing presence. Charmaine had passed something on to him, and now William was passing it on to others, just by his loving presence.
The spirituality inherent in the Eight Clues turned out to be more practical than he had first realized. And it came up everywhere in his life without necessarily talking about spirit or soul. It had everything to do with moment-to-moment everyday living of life to the fullest. The magic of being totally present boiled down to simply learning to expand, heighten and broaden his awareness and feelings of the realities of being human. William began to more fully experience wholeness with himself, others and nature. He grew more conscious of what was going on around him. He was getting fully involved in the ordinary, everyday miracles that were part of his life.
Knowing that whatever he experiences in life is what he brings to it, William could honestly say he was happy. He knew he didn’t have all the answers. Of course, sometimes he still felt uncertain or fearful, but it no longer consumed his life. In fact, those experiences were increasingly becoming the exception. William was in love not just with Emily, he was in love with life!
The sound of a deep sigh rose from the foot of the boulder. He leaned out and looked down to see a man leaning wearily on the guard rail of the bridge. There was something familiar about the man’s posture - the tense way he held his shoulders. William nodded sympathetically. It reminded him of himself, not so long ago.
“Hello,” he said quietly. Startled, the man looked around for the source of his voice. William raised his hand. “Up here.”
“Oh. Hi. Thought I was hearing voices there for a minute.” “Only mine,” William chuckled.
The fellow looked about uncertainly, like he might bolt at any moment.
“Nice view from up here, huh?” William said.
“Yeah, I guess. I’m new to the city... this place seemed like... a good place to... de-stress,” he answered, rolling head to shoulder, attempting to relax tight muscles. You live around here?”
“Naw, I just come here to meditate sometimes,” William said. “Meditate?” the man repeated distractedly.
“It’s how I find peacefulness and clarity,” William said. William noticed the guy’s inner turmoil was nearly palpable. “A way to relax and deal with stress...”
“I could use some of that,” he said with a weary sigh. “I’ve been struggling a lot lately,” he added. Looking a little embarrassed, he quickly changed the subject. “So, what do you do?”
William grinned. “I’m into metaphysical electronics...”