Not large in stature.
Enormous in presence.
Five feet 8 inches tall, perhaps five feet 10 but I suspect the larger assessment to be a product of the energy he put off than in actuality. A lengthy white beard, a bit of dark hair within, but not much. A horseshoe balding pattern but still enough hair that a small pony tail perched just off the back crown of his head. How old? I could only guess, and there was a sense that whatever my guess, that it would fall short of his actual years. I wouldn't say he was smiling, however. The joy exuding from the man was palpable and the reason why trying to guess his years would be so difficult. A child like exuberance was his baseline. The years of his body had taken no toll on the life force within. He joked that the years ... and gravity had relocated a bit of his mass nearer to his waist line but there were no doubts in my mind that if provoked or a situation deemed it necessary, that he could still call down both lightning and thunder.
Once before I had sat with him. It had been an introductory meeting, yet still intimate. Many others were in the room, yet somehow there was a sense that he spoke to us all individually. I wonder now if all there that day even heard the exact same words or had he somehow been able to communicate in such a way that we only heard exactly what we needed to. Lessons were taught, interspersed with joke after joke after joke. His laugh was infectious, a real "bowl full of jelly" kind of thing. You got the sense that if not a soul had been in the room, he'd have laughed just as hard. His joy had no need for external validation. I'd made sure that my vantage point for this opportunity was right up front. However, I'm guessing even from the back of the venue, perhaps unable to hear the entirety of every joke, people were still laughing at and with him. Over the course of two days, I'd guess he threw out 20 or more funny anecdotes. I don't remember a one but I remember that laugh. Infectious. You were happier just for having heard it.
17 months earlier he'd found me. Or had I found him? I wonder now if this had really been our first meeting or just the first that I recalled. My mind is opening more and more these days to the space beyond logic and the rational. Perhaps there is more going on "out there" and "in here" beyond the five senses. As painful as it is to admit, I'm not sure I know everything that is going on in this universe and how it all works.
I'd traveled Des Moines, Iowa to Chattanooga Tennessee, hopped a $70 cab about 60 miles up into the not quite changing colors of the forested mountains. Fall was certainly in the air and my driver excitedly shared that soon these peaks and valleys would burst with color and that people from all parts made the trip to this region every year to watch mother nature set the countryside ablaze in reds, yellows and every possible hue thereof. His words, and the views in all directions, as pleasant and enticing as they were, barely registered.
Sitting cross legged underneath the copper domed massive circular hall, what I'd come for waited somewhere behind the beautifully decorated small stage area surrounded with vibrant plants and flowers with beautifully decorative silks hanging from the temporary backdrop. A very simple, sturdy wooden chair with a white cloth covered cushion waited, like me, for his arrival.
Seeing him, immediately I noticed a difference in the energy versus our last meeting.
The past six months my practice had been nearly perfect in terms of regularity. A couple races had created 2 missed meditations. The homework since our last meeting "required" diligence. If the tools we had all been given were not put to use than what good would they have been. A garden, unworked, bears little fruit. This is all to say that the difference was not simply one way. He seemed less guarded. and I'm guessing the reason being that we had all put in our work to be there. This was not just a "pay your money and your in" event. Described as a 4 day advanced residential program, Bhava Spandana, would become the most intense thing I'd ever done.
There's a scene in the movie "White Men Can't Jump" where Jimi Hendrix comes across the radio and Woody Harrelson proclaims excitedly his love for all things Hendrix. Snipes, instantly rebukes ... "You can't even hear Jimi Hendrix!"
If I were able I would, but I can't so I won't. It's not possible to communicate those four days in Tennessee and do it any sort of justice. Were I at my very best in terms of wordsmithing, like Woody Harrelson, you still wouldn't be able to hear me. Let me attempt to share why.
Try to explain, verbally, the first time you laid eyes upon the Grand Canyon or the warmth of a mother's hug.
Please tell me so I can feel it ... the first time you held your child. The sunset over the Rocky Mountains or it's rising over the Atlantic. Eventually all these efforts end up in the same place.
Exasperated, resigned to the impossibility of the task, exhaling to the realization that the conveyance of such things is pure folly, you say "some things you just gotta experience to know."
And that, ultimately, is all I too can say about the 4 days spent in the mountains of Tennessee.
The jovial mystical man gave us many gifts during our time together. Nearly all are beyond explanation.
There is one though.There is one gift I'd like to share.
The gift of mortality.
What I love most about this gift is that it comes with unlimited possibilities depending on the recipient.
Look at your watch, your phone, the microwave clock just up and to the right of the kitchen table as you read this. What time is it? Pay attention to the exact time because as of right now you have 24 hours to live.
Soak that in. All the way in.
This ain't no experiment. 23 Hours, 59 Minutes, 48 seconds. That's what you have left on this earth.
Believe it with all you got.
And this is where you either accept the gift or you don't. To accept it, one has to go beyond the mind and put every cell on alert that in just under 24 hours this life as we have come to know it is over.
Sure, you can still dabble and play with this gift a little bit here and there but this gift's real potential will be shown to you if you buy in. All in.
Already the gift has begun giving. At the very least, there has been an awareness in the past few moments, an added value brought to them by the realization that their number is finite.
Are you near the refrigerator? Is a piece of fruit nearby? A favorite vegetable? Once you have it, eat it. But eat it with the awareness that it will be the last banana, grape or juicy red tomato you will ever eat.
Don't read further until your done.
When is the last time you ate anything this way? What if every bite of food you ever took from this moment on was eaten with that kind of attention?
Maybe this doesn't find you in the kitchen or near it. Maybe it finds you at your desk. Do you keep pictures of family and friends on your desk? I do. Pick someone out in those pictures ... someone that you know you'll be seeing in the next few minutes or at the very least during the next 23 Hours and 58 minutes. Let it soak in as deeply as possible that this will be the last opportunity you'll have to be with this person. Let your gaze fall upon every one else in those pictures that you'll be seeing during your time window left. How will your interactions with these people so near and dear to your heart now change?
Maybe this finds you just before the sun sets. Perhaps the moon sits clear against the early winter sky as you read this. You might want to go give it a look. Last chance.
When is the last time you made a sunset or a moon rise a priority?
4 minutes have now passed.
23 Hours 56 minutes to LIVE.
How many breaths do you think that is? Are you, like me, guilty of the subconscious belief that these breaths can be counted on to go on forever? This gift still has well over 23 hours to give, but what happens when the timer hits 8 minutes, 6 minutes, 5 minutes? Will each breath start to have more value. Will you be thankful and aware for every single inhale and exhale, their value increasing exponentially as the few remaining sands in the hourglass prepare to fall?
Take a moment to just be with your breath. In, out, in, out.
Just take a few breaths with complete attention and gratitude for the realization that they are not endless....not to be taken for granted. Eyes closed. BREATHE
There's almost a sweetness to it, isn't there?
23 Hours 54 Minutes left.
With all you got, believe this to be true.
Will your hugs be different before going to bed tonight?
Will you spend tonight differently knowing this is the last one you get?
Will you wake up with purpose tomorrow? Will you be up and at em, taking in ... no ... breathing in the sunrise?
Can you live just these next 24 hour hours like they are your last?
Is it possible then that you could live every day for the rest of your life this same way?
If so, than when that last day really does come, you'll greet it with open arms, ready for the next big adventure, knowing you gave this life all ya had. No regrets.
23 Hours 53 minutes.
The Gift of Mortality.