A few years ago I spent most of a week reading a book by one of my heroes, Father Greg Boyle. Tattoos on the Heart had me alternately weeping and experiencing the most intense waves of love and compassion. I set it aside repeatedly, not wanting to finish the lovebath in those written words. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s gorgeous and, at least in my experience, it carries with it the potential for a spiritually transformative experience.
I was thinking about Father Boyles’ work with deeply wounded LA gang members as I headed to Andolini’s to pick up lunch for my nephew’s birthday celebration. The restaurant was crowded after church and the entryway was filled with would-be diners waiting for tables.
I settled in and picked up my phone to do what waiting people do these days. Suddenly, the room hushed and there was a weird change in the atmosphere. The clatter of cutlery on plates, the voices of those near me, the traffic passing by on Cherry Street, all of those sounds became muffled and there was a feeling of density in the air. At the same time the sound changed, everyone around me lost the vividness of their human suits and I could see with perfect clarity that there is nothing between us. Or, rather, there is something between us and it flows everywhere, within and without, through all things, even what had appeared, seconds before, to be the empty spaces in the room.
The human costumes became misty and their brightness faded. Something else came to the fore: a pulsing, waving kind of energy, an alive-ness. It was extraordinary. It’s also really hard to describe. I saw it, but beyond that, it was intensely felt. While the people looked almost like outlines and there was that strange quieting, everyone was still talking and moving around.
I sat in the entryway in the midst of that crowd and everything — all of us in there and every thing in the place — was suddenly connected. Not only connected, but of one piece. There was no distinction, no physical separation. I saw it with my real human eyes ~ a fact that still astonishes me ~ and in seeing it, there came an overwhelming rush of tenderness for everyone there, for all of us, because we are so oblivious to our own extravagant beauty. Tears were flowing though I wasn’t crying. It was a no-words experience I keep trying to find words for.
In those moments that I was able to perceive what they couldn’t, what I never had before, I could see that we’re just occupying these human suits and they are nothing compared to the One Thing that inhabits and connects and flows through us all.
We ~ the Lynette story, the you story, all of this material world ~ are like myths residing within a limitless thing of enormous power and beauty. We’re more like echoes of the truth than the truth itself; pieces of thread in the divine tapestry. We are that or, better, as my beloved teacher says, THIS, because it was just the One Thing. I have tried to find analogies to make sense of what happened, but they don’t come close to the experience.
That experience, though, was the assurance of a truth I’d understood intellectually before: what’s real and eternal is the One Light, the thing we don’t see in ourselves or others the majority of the time. Most of us live our entire lives scarcely aware of it at all. In that restaurant, I was infused with a powerful sense of that Divinity flowing equally through all of us. Equally. All of us. I wish I could describe it better.
In thinking about that encounter, I realize I was given a peek into an eternal truth, a fact of existence almost never revealed to us in human life. Near death experiencers return to us with tales of life absent these meat suits, and their evidence is quite convincing. Legitimate university-based afterlife researchers have proven that life goes on after we cease breathing, while quantum physicists continue to squabble over the fact that science alone cannot explain consciousness. I have certainly been convinced by the extensive study of life after death I commenced after my sweethearts died in 2012. But understanding that life goes on as I did when I walked into Andolini’s is a different thing from seeing ~ for an instant ~ the fabric of the universe.
At death doula training in San Diego a few weeks ago, part of our process was to explore our legacy in the world as if we were dying. What was my life about? Any regrets? What am I most proud of? What do the people I love not know about me?
One thing on my list has been secret much of my life in part because it’s doesn’t fit well in this world. And though it’s taken a while, over the years I’ve finally come to see it as a kind of superpower, maybe even my purpose for being here. That secret power is being able to see the light in all beings. All of them.
It’s easy and a pleasure to see the sacred in my family and friends, in great people I’ve worked with and met in various nice, mainstream places. But I also see it (here’s the unpopular part) in the guy begging for money on the corner, in that addict waiting on a court date, even in the faces of people who’ve hurt and killed their children. See? That sets you back a bit, yes? Honestly, it sets me back.
To be clear, I’m not naive. My heart doesn’t bleed for perpetrators at the expense of their victims. My heart bleeds for everyone. That’s the weird part and, weirder, it’s not something I can help. It’s as if I came down the chute as a newborn with this feature already installed. For the record (and some comfort if this confession seems appalling): I believe in consequences for behavior and in the need to protect regular people from the deeply wounded. I’ve thrown myself into putting people in prison when it was warranted, and also into saving some from that when the story wasn’t a simple one.
I used to feel kind of ashamed of this part of me. I certainly never talked about it openly, but it tends to leak out. My sister recently shouted at me, “You’re always for the underdog! Quit seeing all sides!” But it has been part of me since childhood, from my earliest memories. Decades before I came to understand the truth about who we are, that we carry within us the potential for ALL states of being, that there’s actually only One of us here, I knew there was little to differentiate me from that other person who was in trouble or suffering or really messed up in one way or another. And knowing that made me feel connected to them, no matter how wretched. Before I knew what I was looking at, I was seeing in even the most disturbed human beings echoes of the divine, my fellow threads in the tapestry of all that is.
On that sunny Sunday in May, waiting in that restaurant for my nephew’s lunch, I was given the gift of revelation. I got visual evidence of what I had known in my heart was true all of my life.
My spiritual teacher, Suzanne Giesemann, has a superb meditation CD called “Journey of Remembrance.” In that work, her guides, Sanaya, speak of the Sacred Seven, facts-of-who-we-are installed in every one of us, no matter what we’ve come to believe about ourselves, no matter what may have happened to us here, and no matter whether our stories have taken us so far from who we really are that we’ve become unrecognizable.
Joy, peace, strength, courage, gratitude, humility, and Love. These are always within us and our superpowers are rooted in these. They’re tucked away inside us all, not always so deeply hidden for those who can see their own light and who shine so brightly in this life.
If you’ve never recognized one of your own quiet soul gifts as a superpower, I’m asking you to take a look now. What is it that you secretly treasure about yourself? Maybe it’s something that’s made you feel out of step with the world as a whole. Generally, I think they feel like love, like kindness, compassion, and other products of the Sacred Seven. I suspect our purpose here is to share them with others. Someone famously said “don’t hide your light under a bushel,” and at parochial school, we used to sing about our little lights and how we should let them shine out into the world.
I was lucky enough to see with my own eyes the big light, the foundation underlying our superpowers: that we are One and separation is an illusion. Maybe you’ve experienced that too. If so, I’d love to hear about it. I believe sharing stories of our magical encounters with one another gives permission to think about our lives and experiences in a different way. At the soul level, we all know that we are sacred beings, shining aspects of a dazzling whole. I say share your light out loud. The world needs your shine.
**And a little gift with this post. As I was contemplating writing about my superpower, I heard the words in my head, “yes, seeing the light in all is your power; be sure to use it on yourself, dear one.” Wise words, and yes: easy to see in others, not always so effortless with ourselves. xoxo