I’m filled with grief over the loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman, or rather what his loss represents in this generation of beautiful souls who, like so many in my own generation of the 1970s, seem hell-bent on taking themselves out too soon, barely discovering their own genius and putting it to use for their people.
I am reading Christine Feldman's book Compassion and in it today I found the quote,
"Each moment you bolt from the reality or even the anticipation of the painful, you are building yet another fence that makes your world just a little smaller. You are telling yourself that your demons and the demons you meet in others are mightier than the vastness of your heart."
"You can take your meditation, your willingness to be still, into your life. You can learn to pause in the moments when you are prone to flee, to soften in the moments when you feel your heart hardening with resistance and blame. Cultivating tolerance is like opening the door to your heart."
Well, you know! I wish I could teach this lesson to so many who are so fearful and so lost. I wish to say to them, just breathe, and now breathe again and again, it will pass, this feeling you are feeling. Let us into your heart! This quote was so helpful to me in dealing with Philip Seymour Hoffman's death and what it represented to me about how many people are fleeing life and living their lives daily on life's terms. It resonated to me about my friend who daily copes, or resists coping, with anxiety and depression and who is barely clinging to life. Not all who cope with crack or heroin or oxycodone are rich and famous. Most are you or me, living a too fast-paced life for their DNA and wondering how to get off the merry-go-round but thinking all their friends are doing so much better than themselves.
Clue 1: They are not living better than you, and if they are it is due to a solitary thing: THE QUALITY OF THEIR SPIRITUAL LIFE.
What is this thing we call a “spiritual life?” It is not, as the Christian Right is wont to say, a life born again into the blood of the lamb. Oh no. It is perhaps that for some people, but it is oh so much more and so much less than that. It does not have to be any of that if you do not want it to be.
Clue 2: Spiritual Life does have to have some of the elements that hopefully born again people find in that life, but that are found through many spiritual paths and hopefully found most through open observation of self and others:
· COMPASSION for one’s self and others
The capacity to feel these things lies within your heart and the heart opens to the exploration of each of these with the power of observation and meditation.
Clue 3: The more you try to escape life, the more inevitably it traps you. You can’t escape so the sooner you turn and face your demons the more likely you are to avoid the inevitable demise of people like your friends who have passed or Philip Seymour Hoffman.
This is sobering. Whenever I am faced with a sudden death of a genius spirit like Philip’s or my friend Alison’s (she was shot by an ex-lover while living a ‘passionate life on the edge’, another amazing genius taken from us at an early age), I am filled with grief from some depth I forgot I had. I know so many people like this in the rooms of the twelve step programs. They are brilliant stars, yet they keep dancing so close to the flame, one wonders when they will snuff out.
No amount of talk can reel these comets in. They hover near safety then spark off to some other danger. Those of us on a path of more spiritual direction pray for their souls, yet we have witnessed all too often what happens when they rumble too near a meteor or a black hole. We’re used to celebrating their memorials, crying the tears, saying, “There but for the Grace of God, go I…”
Peace lies only within. A higher power is of one’s own making – this is true. We have limitless spiritual and non-spiritual traditions that others may draw on, yet what of those who choose to draw on none? We must always go within and face our own demons, yet some I fear will always find their demons too scarey.
I want to tell them that the demon is only wearing a mask.