Who looks outside, dreams.
Who looks inside, awakens.
Is it night? Is it day?
No one can be certain.
In every direction you turn,
A thick fog of gloom pervades the landscape.
You have been on this journey long enough,
To have learned the ways of this desolate place.
You have befriended the surrounding darkness,
And, in return, it has sharpened your senses.
Blazing through woods in search for prey,
You scout the land and sniff the air.
Hungry, thirsty, lonely.
After treading lightly and listening closely,
At last, a creature is nearby.
You strike swiftly, taking it to the ground.
Barehanded, you grappled the beast.
Until, finally, it sucks one last breath.
You claim your prize.
Dinner is served.
As you rest from your hearty meal,
A faint voice intrudes.
“Hello there, my friend.”
“Where have you been?”
“You have traveled miles, my friend.
Sailing oceans and climbing mountains.
You have seen a lot and done a lot.”
I have, as a matter of fact.
“So, are you full?
Is your thirst quenched?
Are you satisfied?”
I certainly am now.
“But, why are you thinking about the next meal?”
You and your amusing questions.
Of course I’m thinking of what’s next.
Soon after, I will be hungry, thirsty and lonely again.
“Why did you set out on this journey?”
I want to live by the edge and push myself off the limit.
“You have passion, my friend.”
Somebody once said that years from now
I will be more disappointed by the things I didn’t do
Than by the ones I did do.
That’s why I’m here, living a life of no regret.
“So you’re having a great adventure out here?”
Yes, I am.
“And when will you return home?”
What are you are still looking for out here?”
I’m not looking for anything.
“Then, why are you…”
On the road, there are no yesterdays.
And no tomorrows.
Who I am is what I am.
Right here, right now.
“What about back home?”
Away from this journey,
Who I am is because of what I was.
Or what I have to become.
It’s a wretched tangle.
Guilt from the past,
Worry about the future.
“Why do you bear such weight, my friend?”
Why do you ask these questions?
“Tell me. Why do you bear such weight?”
That’s just how it works, Silence.
If you want to make something out of yourself,
You have to be willing to endure the struggle,
Work hard and push your way forward.
No one is ever going to give it to you.
You have to earn it yourself.
“Earn what, my friend?”
“Is that what you are looking for?”
I said I’m not looking for anything.
“I want to show you something.”
Against the obscure background,
A pale glow creeps from behind.
Your eyes squint as snatches of light
Cast a shadow in front of you.
“Does this look familiar, my friend?”
It seems to be running left and right.
Restlessly jumping up and down.
What is that?
“That is you.”
“Traveling far and wide,
Working day and night,
Searching every nook and cranny.
Making sure no stone is left unturned.”
“You have been running around, my friend.
Wearing masks, trying to please everyone.
Silently asking: Do you love me? Do you love me?”
I have not.
“Haven’t you been going in circles,
Using others to give you some sense of self?
Haven’t you been endlessly pursuing one thing after another,
In the vain hope of finding your worth?”
That is not true!
“Go take a closer look, my friend.”
As you suspiciously observe the shadow,
An emptiness begins to uncover within you.
Inside, you drift cautiously,
Unknowing of what is to be found.
This vastness you could not fathom.
Not until the hollowness sets in,
And pierces through the pit of your being.
You gasp and your body curls.
The glow surrenders.
The shadow fades.
“You were not simply hungry.
You were famished.
Nor were you just thirsty.
You were dried out.
And not only were you lonely.
You were lost.”
But how could I not notice?
“You have become insensible, my friend.
You have learned to become satisfied
With things that leave you and your desires
Partially and temporarily fulfilled.”
“It’s the same deep longing,
Only different obsessions.”
Are they not important?
Then, what’s wrong with finding fulfillment in them?
“You have let them define you, my friend.
Haven’t you attached your whole being to them?
Aren’t they consuming you?”
They do keep me up at night sometimes.
I am afraid.
“So what do you do?”
You have been running away.
You never dared to understand,
To come directly and experience
What it is you fear.
Instead, you preoccupy yourself,
Taking refuge in something or in somebody.
Subtly begging for some sense of certainty,
Some sense of security.”
“Along with those and many others,
You have come to see love as a commodity.
Something to be earned.
Something to be deserved.
Something to be exchanged.
Just like in the market,
You conclude: love is not free.”
But, how can it ever be?
“That love you refer to
Will always ask for a reason.
What you call love
Will always have its limits.
I long for one that doesn’t.
“You are learning, my friend.”
But, is there such a love?
“In a world that constantly compares
Who is more or less intelligent,
More or less attractive,
More or less successful,
It is hard to really believe
In a love that requires no reason.”
So, it exists?
“Seek and you will find out.”
With head raised,
You close your eyes,
And a tear escapes from the right.
Sliding down your cheek,
And dripping off of your chin,
It became the first of many.
Where have I been?
What have I been doing?
“Do not blame yourself, my friend.
You do not need to feel guilty nor ashamed.
The pain you feel is not yours alone.
It is the pain of mankind.”
But, why only now?
“Your outward journey is a reflection of an inward journey.
Every second of your search is a step closer to the light.
You embark even if you are unsure of the destination.
And, along the way, you learn to read the signs,
Accept the help of strangers,
And, most of all, trust your compass.
“Your hunger, thirst, loneliness –
Your true north.”
The glow from behind returns,
Blooming out of the fog,
Slicing through the dark,
Radiating across the landscape.
This time, it blossoms.
Brightly yet softly,
It seeps through your wet eyelids
And fills your tightly shut eyes.
Its warmth touches your back,
Spreading slowly to your arms and your legs
Until, finally, caressing your entire body.
In what seems like an eternity.
In the stillness of this silence,
In the warmth of this glow,
In the light of this moment,
You inhale deeply.
And a voice whispers,
“Open your eyes.”
This is a story of awakening to the human condition. I started writing this after reading a friend’s post about her experience being on retreat. Her post, I Am Loved, immediately resonated with me and moved me to narrate a memory of my own. Throughout my writing, I imagined speaking to my past self with wisdom borrowed from Nouwen, Tolle, Krishnamurti, Coelho and Peck. Their voices, as well as the kind people who introduced them to me, have shed a light unto my path.