Nov 02 2011
Thich Nhat Hanh, the brilliant Vietnamese Buddhist monk, wrote: “The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now.” In that spirit of appreciation, I am inspired to walk as if my feet are tenderly kissing the earth with every step, imagining in turn the earth kissing my feet as I step upon it. My walks are a regular smooch-fest of mutual love and reverence, which is heightened by my current uncertain state of health (still feeling physically good though, \o/ YAY!). It is a gift to be so acutely aware of life’s preciousness.
Steve Jobs, who recently died of pancreatic cancer, spoke about this gift in a 2005 commencement address, saying, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” In addition to his many technological contributions to the world, I believe that this philosophical reminder is one of the greatest gifts he leaves us. Remembering that we’re all going to die helps focus us on what’s really important.
However, for me, maintaining the awareness of this gift comes and goes. Lately I’ve lost sight of it. I’ve been focused on compiling, pruning, and perfecting my newsletters into a book. (Some of you have asked me when and if I would be doing that, and it is happening! I’ve selected 60 newsletters that are most pertinent to the cancer journey.) In this labor-intensive process I have shifted from a human ‘being’ to a human ‘doing’.
Over the last few weeks, Tom has been helping me try to convert my book into Kindle form. We’ve been working on it for hours, editing, and getting everything into place. But once Tom tries to convert it, it turns into a crazy-making crazy quilt of misplaced words and paragraphs, needing to be reconfigured all over again. OY! It has been one screwy, kablooey thing after another with it.
Frustrated, I walked into Tom’s office and started to ask him, “What’s the name of…” and before I could even finish the sentence he said, “Sisyphus.” He instantly knew I was referring to the Greek myth about Sisyphus, who was doomed to push a boulder uphill, only to have it roll back down, repeating this over and over again throughout eternity. Tom was feeling it too; even though a part of him was enjoying the challenge of taming this Kindle beast, he was also frustrated with it not coming together. I went to bed that night ensconced in a black Sisyphean depression. When I awoke, still hung over with a feeling of malaise, I looked over at Tom, and was suddenly struck by the awareness…Tom is in my life…and I’m alive…and feeling good…what could be bad?!
I was lit up by this sudden flash of remembrance of what was really important! I shifted from a deep doodoo place back into a human ‘being’, fully present with my riches. When Tom woke up he was greeted by my Mona Lisa smile as I told him how I’d broken through to what really mattered. We looked at each other, really seeing the other, reclaiming the gift of this present-moment sense of awe and wonder and appreciation.
We no longer wanted to make kindling out of the Kindle conversion, but instead were kindled into an awakening of what really mattered. I know that this was the lesson we were meant to learn. This was the conversion that wanted to happen. Once we learned that lesson, things started coming together more easily, until finally…Tom was successful in creating the Kindle version of the book! I love how things fall into place once the deeper learning is received.
Do you feel weighed down and frustrated by seemingly futile, Sisyphean tasks and challenges? In the midst of pushing that boulder up the hill, I invite you to ask yourself, “What is really important?” Appreciating the peace and beauty and blessings that are available right now is always a choice – it is just a thought away. It is the gift we give ourselves.
You can check out my Kindle book on Amazon.com. The name of the book is Oh No, Not Another ‘Growth’ Opportunity! An Inspirational Cancer Journey with Humor, Heart, and Healing. You can peek inside and read the first several pages, if you like. The paperback version will be available in a couple weeks!