Although basically an optimistic person by nature, I also work hard to stay positive. Yet there is no denying the fact that despite best intentions, I occasionally end up deep in an unlit cave. Face to face with this un-seeable mystery, I sometimes experience fear.
The helpless feeling of being utterly alone and afraid causes breathing that is rapid, and shallow. I’m pissed to be stuck there for what feels like, the millionth time. I cry myself silly for the unlovable, unworthy parts who surely deserve this. For a moment or two it is even possible, to believe someone else is responsible – either for the existence of the cave itself, or the fact that I am in it. After the time of working my way through each of these distractions has passed, a spirit of inquiry overcomes un-truth.
Becoming curious allows me to be more aware of my surroundings and forces my heartbeat to slow. The deepening of my breath leads to the discovery that the quality of air, rather than stagnant or suffocating, has variations of density, temperature, and moisture. A hint of movable current suggests that instead of assuming tight confinement, the possibility of adequate space exists. I cautiously reach my hands wide, surprised to discover the luxuriousness of moving freely without restriction. Insecurities subside and despite the complete absence of light, I begin to explore my surroundings.
Beginning in a low crouch I find the texture of solid ground, flat with a slight roughness, that is surprisingly dry. My body begins to unfurl into a more relaxed and upright position. Slowly extending my hands up, I am aware of a sensation that the top of the cave is just beyond the reach of my fingertips. My spine lengthens in response. With arms loosely stretched before me, feeling fine particles as I go, my feet begin to take turns sliding slowly forward, working out from the middle of the void. Imagining the process of echolocation, reveals a solid boundary sensed before contact occurs.
Standing as close as my body will allow, pressing my pelvis against what feels like solid rock, I breathe in and out. I stick my tongue out ever so gently, tasting the flavors of timelessness, energy, and substance. I whisper my name so quietly, that the bones of the earth absorb the sound. Trying again, somewhat louder, and once more, louder still. The notes run together swirling off into space, bouncing back as others sing their response.
Around me, a list grows. Whispered in voices I do not recognize, spoken in languages that, for this one moment, I am permitted to understand. Before this recognition scares me far more than the cave itself, my fingertips make contact with small carvings that cover the walls. I begin to read by touch, what are immediately recognizable qualities, virtues that I (and all of you) possess, even when we find ourselves in places and situations where we would rather not be.
I find the evidence of their existence both reassuring and exciting. I am in awe of their scope and magnitude. On this day, they number two hundred and three. The proof of them even here in the not knowing place, comforts me.
I wonder how these seeds of light, planted as promise in each of us, grew instead, into seemingly brilliant women (and men), who defer fun until completing a degree, deny our favorite foods until the last ten pounds dissolve, with-hold kindness from ourselves and others, or avoid activities that renew, until landing the perfect job, relationship, technology, vehicle, haircut, or home.
Even in the nightmarish cave we often carry these ever available personal lumens without knowledge of their extraordinary wattage. There is no time like now. There is only this one place, life, moment. In it, I make a decision to choose the courageous healing of accepting these qualities, amidst the reality of self abandonment inherent in my latest mis-takes.
Suddenly I am out of the cave and sitting in front of the fire in the living room. Was it all in my imagination? Then I feel it, the piece of paper in my hip pocket. I pull it out, and unfold it slowly. On it, in what is clearly my tiny blue lettered handwriting, are two hundred and three qualities, most of which, I now claim as my own. I wish nothing less than this for you.