I am | am I
An interesting premise, an affirmative statement of fact or an illusive search for self unrealized? This is a matter of observation, then perception with an open mind and finally…action with a compassionate, peaceful heart.
You are a product of your past and of the legacy left behind by your ancestors, but you can never come to full realization until ironically, you release the past and cease anticipating the future. Your mind will not be clear and open to the collective cosmic intellect until you find the path which leads to true inner peace and compassion for the human condition.
This journey may seem intimidating, the clarity of an open mind obscured by the veil of fear of the unknown and misunderstood. The path is clear to those who truly seek it. Once an effective meditative technique is learned, once regular practice is adopted, once study of ancient, yet simple teachings is undertaken, even the most resistant mind will soar to a higher level.
Allow me to share my personal journey. For sixty two years I struggled with the stuff of life. I’m sure my struggles are common to most. Surviving childhood, sifting thru an education, finding true love, constant , secure, passionate, finding a job which allows the maximum financial reward with the minimum compromise of morality, surviving life’s tragedies and staying healthy. Yes, surviving ,”The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”
One thing remained seething under the surface of my life. It blocked me from taking a deep breath.It made an open mind and a peaceful heart impossible,.I could sense it, but I could not define it.I knew it was a memory long repressed, but it influenced every step I took on life’s journey.
Then , an event which would seem to be most tragic turned out to be a blessing. Without going into great detail, I broke my neck.It was someone else’s fault.Eighteen months of repeated delicate surgeries, months of rehabilitation, loss of income, addiction to powerful painkillers, overwhelming resentment for those who caused my injuries….all these things began to choke me and pull me into a dark place. I was convinced that my life, as a productive adult , was over.
Fortune smiled on me. I found a psychologist who sent me to a PHD who was also a Zen Master and a teacher of meditation. I learned to meditate.I practiced. I studied Zen teachings. I let go of resentment.I learned to handle my pain with much less medication. I learned to be a better partner to my dear wife and best friend. I learned to accept my physical limitations with no shame.
Years passed and my mind opened like a flower seeking sunlight. Thoughts long repressed flooded over me.My calm, open, gentle mind, solid in the present moment, connected with the cosmic intellect and my hidden dark secret revealed itself to me in this form:
The mountain mist hangs low and wet, some peaks still hidden from the eye.
Twisting, dusty, rising roads, a rocky pathway to the sky.
Hidden in the morning fog, sleeping quietly at dawn’s light, Hepzibah sits still as night.
Waiting for the whistle’s sound, waiting as the miners go to their prison underground.
These simple men, this brutal task,their daily face- a pitch black mask.
In gritty coal cars they descend crouched low thru holes which never end
Breath comes hard inside the mine, caverns fall and caverns wind.
What air there is, is damp and cold.Lungs get black and lungs get old.
Ten hours in this filthy hole can dim the light which was the soul.
The whistle blows its’ sullen shriek as coal cars rise up from the ash.
The men emerge white eyes and teeth, face blackened by the hell beneath.
Their backs are bowed like camel’s humps, their hearing ruined by screaming pumps which pull black water from this hole and dims the light which was the soul.
There was a boy, I knew him well.He dreamed of leaving endless hell.But Hepzibah was not the place to wipe the coal dust from your face.
The mines were it, it was the mines as hard he tried to find a way, the mines kept calling everyday.
But then he heard a different voice.It offered him another choice.He heard that far across the sea , a war was raging .Could this be?
Had he finally found a way? A different place, a different day?
They put a gun into his hand and sent him to a far off land. They told him who deserved to die. They taught him how, they told him why. He made some friends along the way but did not find a brighter day.
He left a boy, returned a ghost. The one thing which confused me most, he never said a word to me what happened there in Germany?
It is called war, it takes a toll.It dims the light which is the soul.
When I was twelve I wondered why this man I knew just struggled by.Work was scarce and work was hard for men who toiled in freight car yards. Where wooden boxes back from war were brought to graveyards neat and straight, a step away from Heaven’s gate.
Some were men, some not so old.It dimmed the light which was the soul.
A silent screaming in the night awakened me to tortured pain. I knew it but I could not see what war’s dark secrets hid from me.
Then I walked down the cellar steps into a hidden world below. I saw a rusty old war chest holding secrets never shown, A rusty scabbard sat atop a moldy book, broken lock.
I opened to a random page. A picture burned into my eye. A baby sat among the ruins, face frozen in a desperate cry. The soot of war caked on its’ face, the work of men and man’s disgrace.
One more page I turned in fear,What horrors might be hidden here? A fence adorned with heads on stakes.The work of men and man’s disgrace.
These were the horrors which he saw.These were the cries which haunted him.This bitter, bloody, brutal war, his outlook for the future, dim.
Though I was only twelve years old, this dimmed the light which was my soul.
So here I am, a full grown man and now….I finally understand why he was so devoid of love, why he drank and stayed away and why he never thought to say the words I longed so much to hear, I love you son give me your tears.
He was my father, he was a man, he ended before I began.
\Bob Sendling- October 2013