Twenty-nine years ago today I inched my way down a steep and overgrown trail, over the guard rail and under low hanging branches, to reach a little bit of secluded shore line on Clinton Lake just outside of Lawrence, Kansas.
Not that Clinton Lake doesn’t boast any number of public swimming beaches, it was just that I wanted to be alone. I had with me a small bag of edible goodies, a thermos of water (bottled water being unheard of back then,) a notebook and pen and an over-sized towel.
The most important items on that list were the notebook and pen.
I spent the morning swimming and writing, dozing in the sunshine and writing, walking up and down my little stretch of muddy beach and writing, and thinking. I did a lot of thinking.
I had a lot to think about. Earlier that year I had been with my father’s mother when she said goodbye to this earth. I’d sung In The Garden at her funeral service and heaped lilacs on her grave.
I’d opted not to travel to Colorado for the funeral for my mother’s mother, only months later, because I’d already taken so much time away from work to care for my other grandmother. But my dreams were filled with vignettes of her and her little house with a garden wall I could walk on and a clock that chimed sweetly every half an hour.
And I was just coming to grips with the knowing that my father’s cancer had returned. In the bone.
It was my 21st birthday. And I felt closer to death than I did to life.
But sometime, during that day of sun and water and dark thoughts, I began to come back to life. I began to believe in life again.
Maybe it was the butterflies.
There were hoards of them, flocks of them, swarms of them. They appeared while I was dozing, stretched out on my big towel in the midday sun. I opened my eyes and thought they were sunspecks, just an illusion caused by an overdose of light.
The air in front of my face was full of wings, and the tiny creatures covered nearly every inch of my hot pink bathing suit.
I didn’t want to disturb them. So for a while I stayed perfectly still, squinting against the brilliant rays, and thought about life. And death. And everything that happens in between.
That day I reconnected to spirit.
I felt again the magic of knowing that I was MORE than human, that my truest self, my highest self, was infinite and eternal. I felt again the surety and excitement of knowing that I had chosen my life for a purpose, and that everything that had happened, and everything that would happen, was just part of the adventure, part of the quest, part of the game.
All afternoon I wrote furiously, jumping in the lake occasionally to cool off, then coming back to my blanket and the butterflies to write some more. I wrote my dreams, my goals, my beliefs and my intentions.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was following a process that has been used – in various forms – for centuries; I was harnessing the power of thought to create transformation in my life.
It’s become my most sacred birthday ritual– to spend time in contemplation, meditation, and sunshine. But I certainly don’t reserve it for birthdays – the process of connecting to my truest self, my higher purpose has become part of my success formula. More than that, it’s part of my survival strategy.
Because, no matter how often I meditate, no matter how much time I spend in contemplation, no matter how many journal entries I create – I sometimes lose my sense of spirit and start thinking that the material world is all that there is.
“If we shrink from doing the inner work the outer work will come to nothing.”
I wrote that. I believe that. And I’m living proof of that.
And yet, I realized, I seldom share how I do that.
Because, while none of my accomplishments would have been possible without my doing that inner work, that connecting and reconnecting to spirit and purpose and desire and the true nature of myself and all things, I steadfastly denied that I had anything of a spiritual nature to teach.
But today, as for the 29th time I arrange the celebration of my Birth Day to include time for contemplation, meditation and sunshine, as I open a notebook and pick up a pen, I realize that not sharing what I’ve learned about that “spiritual nature” is a denial of my truth, and a muffling of my true voice.
So the first thing I will write on today’s page is this: