I wonder sometimes why people feel they need to travel to the ends of the earth to “find” themselves or their spiritual center. Why do they believe an ashram in India to be more enlightening than their backyard or kitchen window? I’m not judging, because I believe we all have different paths to wander, but I do question if sometimes we miss what is right in front of us.
At the moment, I’m happily living in a distinctly beautiful and serene setting in a rustic cottage amongst tall pine trees and the majestic mountains of the Rockies, but that hasn’t always been the case. It wasn’t too long ago when I lived in a miniscule apartment in Santa Monica overlooking a very busy street.
My life was far from ideal, as a matter of fact, my life was all about taking care of somebody else’s needs, that’s what I was paid to do. I had a window into the privilege that celebrity and wealth brought and then I would go home to my tiny and noisy apartment. The contrast of abundance and excess and the lack thereof, was a striking reminder of my place in life at that time, often painfully so.
Still in the process of grieving over losing a parent and recovering from the nineteen years of the off-and-on caretaking that proceeded my mother’s passing, I felt very much alone when I came home at night. I often pondered how I came to be at this particular point on my voyage at an age when what I had imagined earlier in my life, had look so different.
My constant companion and emotional lifesaver was my adorable dog China, who always greeted me with a round of jumping up into the air and a few rolls on the ground. It was an exuberant display of joy at just the sight of me. How could that reception not give way to a smile on my face and a lift to my heart?
Most evenings China and I would head to the beach for a walk while the sun was setting. It was during those walks when I would find my center and I could once again hear myself breathe. Each day I would have a conversation with my soul. It was a heart to spirit discussion about the purpose of my life, which at the time, seemed void of serving an objective at all other than to attend to the desires of others.
My life was an exercise in complete humility and grace to serve in the way that I did and still remain completely clear that wealth and perceived power was no indicator of integrity, or the lack of either, a measure of a person’s worth, my worth.
It was during those conversations on the beach, when I would look out at the endless ocean where I would see the phenomenal elegance and size of life. The perspective that the vast sea and sky brought to me was that nothing that I witnessed throughout my day really mattered. The haughty behavior, mansions, clothes, private jets, the importance of “things” that held value in someone else’s world, at the end of the day, had no bearing on my life.
Because I was able to find those moments to speak with myself, my grandmother, and my mother, who I felt must surely be accompanying China and me on those walks, I was also able to appreciate the wonderful things about my life and job. The experiences that were truly unique, the people who I came into contact with, many whom still adorn and enhance my life, and the spirit of altruism that I observed which changed the lives of many less fortunate. I was privy to the process of extraordinary creativity and artistic brilliance that few get to see. Most importantly, it was the lesson of humility and self worth – remembering that we are all the same, that I was no better or worse than anybody due to my circumstances or theirs and it was in that place, with the sand between my toes, with my lovely ever-present China that I would “find” myself, my spiritual center and my place in the universe.
Now in my peaceful oasis on the mountain nestled in my tree house in the forest, I see very clearly how those occasions on my journey that at the time seemed less than spectacular, delivered a powerful life message and gave me balance and perspective which now serves me well.
I guess my point is this; the ability to love is the source of our spiritual experience. Three times in my life I have been told by people on their deathbeds just before they have left, “all that matters is love”. I believe this to be the meaning of life, nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t matter what you have, what you look like, what you have accomplished or how smart you are, it’s your ability to love that defines you. Love is something that can be found anywhere beginning with loving thyself. The ashram lies not in a building, a country or another person but within the soul. Look inside – there lies the church, the temple, the place of devotion and the center of the universe.