Not too many years ago, I had a near death experience and a good stay in intensive care, plus a month of recovery. I want to tell you a story from that week. I was trying to get out of the hospital, but they wouldn’t release me until I could walk down the hall of my own accord. My two older boys are MMA and jiu jitsu practitioners, big muscled men, and they offered to escort me, one on each side, arms linked. I passed out during the few steps down the fluorescent hall, and they caught me on the way down. I was a dead weight on their hooked arms. Later, my son Jarrett Sleeper wrote about it. He said – much more eloquently than I will here- that when you train in a martial art, you’re always preparing for “your moment”. You think it will be in a back alley somewhere, a fight. But in his case, it was catching his mom and stopping her head from cracking on the tiled floor. He thought he was preparing for war, but he was preparing for service. He was strong enough to serve.
Similarly, over on Hawai’i, I’ve watched Kenny Reid a young man in his full power, 32, with a wife and 3 little kids, lose his land and homestead to the recent flows of Pele, and then last week, be pummeled by Hurricane Lane in their new place. In the midst of it, Ken used his trailer and his muscles and his strong spirit to help others rescue belongings, sandbag homes, pull baby goats in the lava’s path, get clean water out- all while running a business (thank you Ken for your exquisite work at New Earth Mandala, repairing the quake damage and making more beauty at our baby retreat center and permaculture farm) and caring for the young men and women he’s employing and training. This is strength in service.
I don’t want to overly bias the physical in this reflection on strength and its source. Everyone has some limits to their capacities, from genetics or habit or circumstance. Some people aren’t as physical, but they are gentle in their demeanor while carrying a latent power and self assurance and inner strength.
Yet, if you have a body, a body that works, why not prepare it for service. For when the flood comes and the elderly man next door needs saving? Or for building things? Or exploring new frontiers? Or for play? Personally, it’s inspired me to train my own body in a new way, like I did when I was a gym rat in my 20s. That’s big cardio and weights along with my usual yoga and dance. Feeding it beautiful alive food. As part of being given more days to live, I’m loving and nurturing this body without argument, without criticism, without guilt.
Some unusual phenomena have been happening in my perception since the February incident. Periodically and without warning, I will feel my entire body become light as a feather, like the space between the cells has expanded, like there is light coming from my diaphragm and spreading out to the edges of the skin and beyond. It’s very blissful. It is similar to the feeling I had of being in the liminal space when I was in the hospital: conscious and free, but without the heavy armor of the meat suit. The feeling lasts less than a minute, and then passes. I notice that this light in the middle seems to be the source of all inner strength and resilience: kind of an inner nucleus.
The other thing I notice is what I can only describe as a peace resonance: I can scan a room and see immediately the people who have divinity (nature, cosmos, a spiritual or mystic sense from any religion) in the center of their lives. Their faces show it, and their energy fields emit an unmistakable quiet strength. In my own experience, when the interconnected everything is more directly felt, when it is at the forefront of consciousness, my energy rests in the web of life more easily, the pressure is most definitely off, and this ease is reflected in my presence.
We are both AND: we are the body that has sensory experience and will eventually die, and we are the inner nucleus that is unchanging and eternal.
In accepting this, and by integrating the two, we are neither in cultural or religious repressive denial about our sensual, physical selves, floating off into some aggrandized “spiritual life” NOR are we some deadened meat body that thinks we ourselves are the source of our ideas and energy, isolated beings, anxiety laden and competitive and disconnected.
The light and life flow through us and animate us all the time, so we can be in full experience of embodiment.