Tomorrow Ben would turn three. I've realized for those who have lost loved ones...the pain…
As I laid supine on the bearskin rug in my meditative instructor's apartment in 2014, ancient instruments singing, my instructor walking around me, leading me deeper, I felt my earthly body sinking into the old wooden floors. Deeper, deeper, until I became the floor. I saw (or felt, or sensed) wisps of smoke floating up from my body. My consciousness, my soul? Who was this person I called "me" anymore, connected to the particles around her or coursing through the universe?
I then found myself tumbling in a darkness, similar to space, as if I was rolled up in a blanket. I saw a blue shape, an endless knot levitating in the distance. Ben’s face floated by in a flash, here and then gone. I had not been expecting to see him, so I fought it at first.
When I could regain my bearings, I let him in. His pull was magnetic. I could touch his skin, but not with my hands, with my mind. I gently pushed his hair out of his face. We then became one, connected and true. I felt him within my heart. He was my heart. It was all-encompassing, complete unconditional love. I (or we) began flying through the darkness. I saw the shape of a caterpillar and then a dove, which merged into an essence of golden structures. They appeared like mountains of golden treasures but not any geographic structure I had seen on Earth. They were other-worldly. I then saw a rose with thorns, a teddy bear, and a conductor’s hat. Then the comfort and sense of love began to recede as I felt Ben leaving me.
I asked him to stay.
I’m here with you all the time, he said as he showed me a picture of a ladybug.
I just have to go for now. He glanced off into the distance. Then grinned.
Look mommy! I’m as big as the sun and as small as the head of a pin. Silence.
I love teddy bears!
I asked him to show me more, but he did not want to.
I just want you to hold me, he said.
So we again became one, tumbling through space, as I saw a spinning planet in the distance. After what seemed like an eternity, I felt his presence further and further away from me. The sound of a rain stick, the crack of floorboards, slamming doors in hallway, honk of car horns. And, it was over. (various excerpts from The Gift of Ben, Chapter 64)
When I look back on this session, the overwhelming feeling I get is one of connectedness. This is not a new concept for me. When I was in elementary school, I yearned to be a writer, as there were emotions I needed to express in some manner. I remember sitting, tan legs stuck to the back seat of my grandparents' Chevrolet station wagon, Southern heat pouring in through the window, notebook in my lap. Every hair on my leg standing at attention, brimming with an emotion I needed to relay. I wrote of a young boy, much like myself, alone yet connected. He lived with his father in a beaten down trailer in the heart of rural South Carolina. The boy spent days alone in the woods, listening. Sounds of the swallow-tailed kite and warblers in the distance. With a pencil and pad, he turned the sounds around him into words and visions of a greater place, one without sorrow. In the sounds of the forest, he felt the pains of the world, dropping his pencil periodically to pinch his taught, rail-thin legs. The songs reverberated around him from a higher place, the music of a world in painful love, with struggles, loss, and illness.
As my younger self, I needed to flesh out an emotion growing within my body. There was something greater, neither near nor far, here nor there, inside myself nor in the earth beneath my feet -- but somewhere in between, further away. A connection of fibers, turning into emotions, turning into an invisible cord connecting me to someone else, but who, where? An abstraction I could not fathom at such a young age. I was supposed to be the skin and bones beneath my notepad. God was above me in the clouds. Others with their own pains and struggles were so very far away. But, what were these words on the paper glued to my skin?
I still struggle with these questions. The who am I? Why am I? Why do I feel a connection beyond the physical touch of two bodies, and yearn for a connection beyond that which I feel in an earthly context each day. Why was there a Ben? In the NYC apartment, surrounded by ancient Tibetan instruments, had our two souls connected in the overtones of sound, somewhere beyond the world around me, a place that I could not yet understand.
In the world of string theory, two particles exist, entangled across space and time. A force upon one is a force against the other, and faster than light or sound, a connection much truer, instantaneous. Maybe we are all entangled - our desires, hopes, fears, sufferings, failures, dreams. Maybe the boy in my first venture at creative writing could feel the pains of others so very far away. Maybe he did take them on through his earthly body.
As I dozed off to sleep last night, I had a sense of something I needed to write. Sometimes when I meditate, dream or think while walking in nature, single words or concepts pass quickly through my mind's eye. Last night, I felt "connected, purpose, loneliness, lightness," and possibly more I can't remember. I do oftentimes feel lonely in this world, even though I have a loving spouse and the truest of friends. There is a connectedness beyond this, which I have yearned for, and a purpose I have never found. But, I'm getting bits and pieces now. This may be a question I struggle to answer for all of eternity. I wonder why Ben existed for such a short time, why I have faced such pain with manic depression, why did I lose such a great love, only to expound my demons on paper in my memoir. How do these combine into any purpose for me?
Much like the lightness of wisps of smoke I envisioned leaving my body during meditation, I'm finding a lightness of being bit by bit each day. It is a lightness of my soul floating far away from me and this earth, entangled with the hopes, pains and struggles of others much like myself. People ask me what my goal is with my memoir. It is simple and true:
"I want to say the things others rarely do, to delve into the human part of us all. The messy, imperfect part we keep hidden deep within us—that which makes us truly beautiful. This book is meant not only for those struggling with difficulties in life, grief and loss, but also for those who have lived in the darkness for too long. Look up and you will see the light." (The Gift of Ben, Prologue)
The incredible lightness of being.
"You are not alone; we are all around you."