perfect offerings

You know that eternally beautiful song Anthem by Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

I don’t remember when the light began to get in.  It might have started when I realized there was no one who could save me.  Except me.  Over the years, my life became privileged: a loving spouse, a beautiful daughter, an amazing career, a home, friends (two-legged and four).  And still, the split endured keeping me from truly connecting with what was right there in front of me.  Until one day.

The horses we had were housed in a barn on the edge of a stream.  It was early Spring and the snow melt had begun.  Walking back from the barn, I felt my body stopped by an unfamiliar sound.  It took a moment before I realized it was the sound of the stream rushing through the culvert in the small ravine.  I’d walked that path every morning for ten Spring seasons and never heard it.  Slowly I looked around as if I’d come to this place for the first time in my life.  And, in effect, I had.  Everything seemed brilliant in the sunlight – the snow, the sky, the pine and spruce trees.  I slid down the slope to the stream which was wild with enthusiasm for the renewed life it had, released from the clutches of ice and cold.  Sinking into the snow and mud, I knew no one could hear this stream except me.  No one could see the sky or the trees except me.  No one could feel the chill soaking wet of the ground except me.  And I could not give this perfect moment to anyone – no matter how badly I believed it would  help them.

The crack through which the light entered was the sincere desire to prevent suffering.  Over the years, when life did not fit my belief that doing good had good outcomes (that’s the “Just World” hypothesis we tend to hold), I modified my experience so that the belief held.  Good didn’t happen for others because I wasn’t good (read: worthy) enough which only caused me to ramp up the intensity with which I tried to “do” good.  Community was also important so I fell into sangha-building as yet another means of “doing” good.  The disasters accumulated and the slope became more slippery than that Spring slide down to the stream as the perfect offerings became warped and unrecognizable.  As did I.

I had to “die” in those waking moments I mentioned yesterday, to die to these perfect offerings.  The reality of perfection is that it is never about beauty or love but rather about fear.  And only when I allowed myself to be consumed by the wolves of fear was it possible to fully experience my life.  Unfiltered.  Raw.  Broken open.

I wrote to my coach about a lovely experience this is currently unfolding in my life:  If we die in every moment, then I have died happy for several in this day.  That, in all its simplicity, is life.

7 thoughts on “perfect offerings

  1. That sense of coming to a place for the 1st time — even when having actually been there many times …………. isn’t that a wake up?? I think THAT is a ‘crack’ too — when our light get OUT too.

    • YES! I meant to write that the crack resulted from the years of breaking myself in trying to spare others from suffering. Pain became a way of truly shining forth.

  2. I am mesmerized by your postings. They speak to me so clearly, recognizing myself in them – not to the details, but the universal experiences of pain, awakening and opening… Even your words are opening this heart to the old places in need of light, coinciding with a couple of circumstances I find triggering old stuff this week, with huge waves of fear attending.

    The 2nd to last para is exquisite – being broken open by fear et al. I hope you will clarify more what it really means to need to “die to the awakening moments” – is this about dying to the self/ego, the experiences… ? I will be patient and wait to see how the rest of your postings unfold in this wonderful series this week… 🙂 With gratitude…

    • No single moment can return, be brought to life again. All we can do is resurrect a flickering memory of it. When I wake up in the morning and sense that sinking into despair, I can grab it and make it the albatross I carry through the day or I can see that the flicker of sensation I name as “despair” dies as quickly as it arises. And something else is born… being able to be aware of or present to that something else will depend on whether I’m hampered by the dead albatross. 😉

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