We’ve all encountered storms in our lives. Sometimes we can see them coming, others hit us unexpectedly. Sometimes they knock us down even when we thought we were prepared. Sometimes we race to evade them, other times we walk into them head-on. Such events are inevitable because part of the great beauty of life is its continuous transformation. How we respond is the key to whether we grow or are diminished, but the sea of life is ever rolling. And following every storm comes a calm.
There’s a tale in the New Testament about Jesus walking on water. When I was young this was “painted” to me simply as being a miracle (the point of which, I suppose, was ostensibly to impress future followers with his great god-like powers?). Like so many things misunderstood when young, to me now it clearly was meant as a memorable metaphor and never intended to be interpreted literally. This is what myths of all spiritual traditions do—they offer us memorable imagery and stories to help us better direct our journeys forward.
Though indirectly, I feel this passage from a wise Sufi, Hazrat Inayat Khan, gives that tale above a more valuable context and understanding:
“Many seek protection from all hurting influences by building some wall around themselves. But the canopy over the earth is so high that a wall cannot be built high enough, and the only thing one can do is to live in the midst of all inharmonious influences, to strengthen his will power and to bear all things, yet keeping the fineness of character and a nobleness of manner together with an ever-living heart. To become cold with the coldness of the world is weakness, and to become broken by the hardness of the world is feebleness, but to live in the world and yet to keep above the world is like walking on the water. There are two essential duties for the man of wisdom and love; that is to keep the love in our nature ever increasing and expanding and to strengthen the will so that the heart may not be easily broken. Balance is ideal in life; man must be fine and yet strong, man must be loving and yet powerful.”
Tuesday over lunch, I was gifted by a visit with some friends (Cole Gordon & Clarissa LaFountain) who wanted to see an exhibit of my art work. They were complimentary in the comments they offered about my art and writing, for which I’m very grateful. Naturally many creatives (artists, musicians, film makers, and poets) inspire me. Yet I’ve always been drawn toward folks who integrate their desire to grow or spiritual goals into their daily life.
I’ve since been thinking about that lunch chat, and the hearty decisions they both had made in their lives. They graciously offered supportive words about my artwork and writing and great questions. I shared my belief in trying to bring the concepts of honesty and openness into the creative process, and my desire to incorporate being vulnerable, following my heart, and living courageously into paintings. But I was struck by the paths each of these two modest friends have taken. It’s no surprise that both of these giving people are also devoted parents, and that each has cultivated a wide community of friends.
Specifically, what struck me is that while I am nudging these ideas into my art, these two extraordinary people have embraced and LIVED within the consequences of their goals and noble concepts! My admiration kept returning to their very courageous choices: the life-changing, life-affirming, and incredibly gutsy actions they each took. Through much personal effort they both managed to lay solid foundations amid challenging circumstances. They walked ahead amid storms where others might have run for shelter, and for years now have continued the work to grow (while taking on and adapting to still other changes).
Our valley (like, I suspect, many communities) is filled with profound journeys taken by amazing, unassuming people—through their genuine sharing I was again reminded that I only need to make the time to listen for stories of courage to be revealed. Significantly, both of these friends have retained open, compassionate hearts, despite challenges and set backs; without compromising honesty, each continues to spread Light. I’m in awe, and so very honored to know them both. Such friends lift my spirits and my own aspirations.