Stephen Levine, who is one of the most amazing hearts on our planet, died on Sunday, January 17, 2016. I am filled with gratitude for his presence and how much he helped so many of us to see through our stories and come home to our hearts. In honor of his life and how deeply he changed mine, I want to share with you an experience I wrote about after I came back from a retreat led by Stephen in 1985.
I had been at a 10-day workshop with Stephen, a skilled teacher of consciousness and author of many books on death, dying and how to be truly awake for Life. His workshop had opened my awareness in ways that had been blocked since childhood. He taught me how to lovingly watch the workings of my mind so that my attention could become free from struggle and engage with the living moment of Life. After many long, confusing and grief-filled years, for the first time since childhood I was able to reconnect for moments during that retreat with the joy and nourishment of belonging to Life.
Back home again, standing in my kitchen, I was beginning to feel the anxiety of nothing to do. The retreat was over, the driving was done, and my children hadn’t yet arrived home. Seeking to relieve this anxiety, I found myself going out to the back yard and lying down under the oak tree’s protective arms. Suddenly I let go. For the next few moments of my life I wasn’t trying to go anywhere, understand anything, or be anybody. I let go by allowing my life to be exactly as it was. Not needing anything to be different, I was enough. Life was enough.
In a flash, I was here, making contact with the only moment that matters—now. I felt the Earth holding me and the wind caressing my cheek. I could see the veins in the leaves and was moved by the wonder of it all. I completely opened to Life and received the Love that radiated from everything. In this opening I belonged to Life and I belonged to my own life, reconnecting with the rapture of being alive.
I began to sob from the depths of my being. My tears came not only because I had been disconnected for so long, but also because I knew, in the marrow of my bones, that I had just discovered the safest place I would ever know—the moment that Life appears out of Mystery. In that moment, I recognized that I was being breathed by Love, and I was this Love.
Feeling the radiance that poured forth from every single leaf, rock and blade of grass as an expression of the Intelligence at the heart of Life, a thread of trust was rewoven. I knew that my understanding of where to find safety, connection and joy beyond anything I had ever known was radically altered. It wasn’t out there in somebody else’s understanding of me, or in some idea I hadn’t yet figured out, or in some healing that hadn’t yet happened. It was here. It had been here all along, and it would always be here.
After a few moments, the vibrancy began to fade and grief began to take over as the many filters in my mind that separated me from the incandescence of the moment began to reassert themselves. Then I remembered that grief was just another filter and I was able to let it go. And again I was fully present for Life!
When my children came back, bringing with them the myriad duties that come with being a single parent, the clarity, immediacy, safety and joy I experienced under the oak tree faded. My attention was seduced back into the narrow realm of struggle that so often envelopes us. But the essence of that gift stayed with me, fueling my core intention—to come back to Life.
I could now see that I would not find lasting healing through thought. My job was to learn to clear a pathway through the stories in my mind so I could make contact with Life—right here, right now. I needed to relearn how to let go into the adventure while curiously and compassionately paying attention to what was unfolding in the moment.
In the ensuing years, my mind has quieted deeply and my heart has opened profoundly. I am so grateful to Stephen for being such an important mentor in my life and for helping me so insightfully on my journey of awakening for over 30 years.
Stephen, the world is a better place for having been graced with your love, presence and teachings. You will always be in my heart.