Heroes aren’t free from fear; they’re just so focused on a worthy goal that they feel they can’t turn back. Heroes don’t feel special, just dogged. They walk their scary paths with shaky knees and trembling hands. One shaky, trembling step at a time.
Around us, life bursts with miracles–a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a leaf, a caterpillar, a flower, laughter, raindrops. If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere. Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings. When we are tired and feel discouraged by life’s daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there.
~Thích Nhất Hạnh
How do you know what is true? What prayers do you pray, what voices do you listen for that speak what is right? The truth is never far from your heart and your spirit. Every person you touch, every act of kindness, every gesture born of your love can uncover something deeply true within and around you. And with each act of truthfulness, you touch a deeper chord in yourself and others. As Emerson said, “Our life is an apprenticeship to truth, that around every circle another can be drawn . . . under every deep a lower deep opens.”
~Wayne Muller, How, Then, Shall We Live?
The secret of seeing is, then, the pearl of great price. If I thought he could teach me to find it and keep it forever I would stagger barefoot across a hundred deserts after any lunatic at all. But although the pearl may be found, it may not be sought. The literature of illumination reveals this above all: although it comes to those who wait for it, it is always, even to the most practiced and adept, a gift and a total surprise. I return from one walk knowing where the killdeer nests in the field by the creek and the hour the laurel blooms. I return from the same walk a day later scarcely knowing my own name. Litanies hum in my ears; my tongue flaps in my mouth, Ailinon, alleluia! I cannot cause light, the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Light, be it particle or wave, has force: you rig a giant sail and go. The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.
Think about whatever you have planned for the next few hours. Would you do this thing if you were currently helping a loved one cross the threshold of death? Will this thing matter to you at all when you’re the one crossing that threshold? If not, stop. Do something that matters in the face of mortality. Living this way makes death a benevolent guide that shows you how to create the best possible life you can have. And doing that brings peace, the peace that matters so much that nothing else can ever compare.
If you haven’t heard of the Humans of New York project, please do yourself a favor and check out the website. If you’re on Facebook, follow HONY. You won’t regret it. The photographer, Brandon Stanton, started out photographing random people on the streets of New York asking them questions like, “What was your happiest moment?” etc. It’s amazing how such a simple idea could have such a powerful impact. I could try to describe it, but you really need to experience it for yourself.
For the last several months, Brandon has been traveling beyond New York (to India,Vietnam, Ukraine, Africa, Israel, and more), and the words of a 97-year-old woman in Jerusalem that he photographed really struck me and have stayed with me. HONY’s website would only allow me to re-blog on tumblr, so I’ve done a cut and paste. Here it is (italics are mine):
“There have been very good parts and very bad parts, but in the end, I love life. Every night before I sleep, I ask God for three more years, so that I can make it an even one hundred. Then I recite a blessing that my mother gave me when I left her in Poland. It was the last time I saw her. The blessing is much more powerful in Hebrew, but it says: ‘Wherever you go, may people always recognize that you have a beautiful heart.’”