Sometimes I feel a stillness in my center that lets me know that in this moment all is well and that all shall be well. This is the essence of faith, I suppose. No one has to lay hands on my head, no prophet needs to speak words to or over me, no light shines down on me from the heavens. I simply know. There is nothing I have done to deserve this, no amount of fasting and prayer or attendance at religious services has granted me special access to this truth. I simply have to turn my attention to it and it is there.
I don’t mean to sound all deep and mystical; honestly, I am describing it as simply as I feel it. I have not had a particularly good day today, in fact, the past weeks have been a bit of a struggle and I have found myself in an exhausted funk most days. But that does not negate the fact that at my core I feel at peace, and in this moment that peace is accessible to me.
Lest I be accused of being atheistic or anti-religion, that is not so. I honor many faith traditions and support those who practice and live out their faith and serve their fellow humans even as they serve their gods. And I deeply believe in the Spirit, the spark of the divine that I believe resides in each of us. Perhaps that is what I am accessing when I feel the stillness at my core. I don’t really poke at it or try to explain it, I am simply and profoundly grateful that it’s there.
Like many people, I discovered my faith, I learned what I am made of, touched the spirit, not as a result of some kind of religious revival, but rather when pieces of my life had been stripped away from me. This happened at various pivotal moments in my life when, losing something tangible exposed something deeper and more valuable. I learned about the “grace of God,” at a time when I was so angry at “Him” that I was cursing at him at the top of my voice driving to work one day. “Eff you, God!” I screamed, “I hate you! Why is this happening?” I got control of myself enough to drive safely the rest of the way on my 45-minute commute. As I got out of the car and walked to my building, I calmed down with each step I took. By the time I had walked into my office, having greeted the people outside, I sat down and felt the peace.
I realized that even as I’d been walking I was praying and thanking God. It had not annoyed God that I’d gotten angry. There were no rumbles of thunder and lightening. God did not topple off his throne in surprise that I had sworn at him. I had done nothing to “deserve” the peace that descended on me. I realized that no matter what was happening in my life, my heart of its own volition always turned toward gratitude, toward whatever this notion of “god” is. I understood grace in that moment as I never had before when it had been told to me or preached at me. I felt the grace.
I have had my share of life drama. The storms and arrows of outrageous fortune strike every one of us, even the most privileged and fortunate among us. We are all touched by pain, sorrow, death. Suffering, as the Buddha (and countless others) observed, is all around us. When some years later I experienced a serious of significant losses, I once again learned what I was made of. There were times when I got depressed, approaching despair at the circumstances I’d found myself in. But as I had that day I cursed god, I found myself moved by and grateful for the simplest of things that I experienced all around me: birds singing, warm sunlight sparkling off water, the movement of the stars and planets and moon in the heavens. Life was challenging, but it was also incredibly beautiful.
Finding gratitude, connecting with all the things in my life that were good rather than constantly focusing on all the troubles saved me, kept me strong even when tears were streaming down my face. Fear and pain mingled with gratitude and joy, and appreciating the beauty around me kept me very present in the here and now. Friends and family stood by me, supporting me, encouraging me, loving me, and even protecting me from despair. All these things helped me stay connected to the peace at my center.
Nothing extraordinary happened to me today. And so I rest in gratitude that, here at the end of a normal day, I can touch the stillness and be grateful. And in this moment, all is well.