The Great Meadow of Life

Posted on in On Our Radar by Mary O’Malley


Imagine a beautiful meadow on a sunlit morning. In this meadow is a rainbow of wildflowers and the heart-opening music of birds. The smell of heather and the beauty of mountains bring a deep sense of peace. There is also death here as one moment dies into the next, and everything in the meadow—absolutely everything—eventually dissolves back into the great mystery of life. In the ongoing unfolding of this meadow, everything flows and nothing resists that flow. The grass doesn’t say, “I don’t want winter to come.” The trees are not trying to be better trees. The animals don’t live in fear of death.

The meadow represents your natural state of open, alive connection with life that you lived in when you were very young. You hadn’t yet learned how to see life as a problem, and thus it flowed through you—the easy and the difficult, the joyous and the sorrowful.

But there came a time when you left the flow of life and got caught in your mind, and the clouds in the air began to circle around your head. At first they were just wispy clouds that didn’t fully block your experience of the meadow. But over time, usually by adolescence, the clouds completely surrounded and filled your head so that you could no longer see the meadow. All you could see were the clouds of your mind that were about good and bad, right and wrong.

This cloud bank is made out of fear and held together through judgment. We are all so used to listening to the chronic low-grade voice of fear that we hardly notice that it is fear until it flares up. We are also unaware of how much we judge, mostly ourselves. We are amazingly hard on ourselves, sometimes so chronically that we don’t even notice it except for a sense of unease that permeates our life.

This cloud bank of fear and judgment is where we live most of the time, lost in our ideas about life, always trying to make life be better or different than what it is, but rarely truly being here for life. It is the essence of John Lennon’s famous quote, “Life is what is happening while you are busy making other plans!” Becoming a human doing rather than a human being cuts us off from the meadow of our own being. Earlier, I took on a ferocious struggling self that was fueled by a relentless and cruel judge inside of me. I used to say that this judge went to law school and was president of the debate club. Now I live from the aware heart.

How do you get to the place where the core voice inside of you is the wisdom of your heart rather than your judging, fear-based, struggling mind? The key is all about bringing curiosity and compassion to the struggling self. We don’t need to stop this storyteller in our head that is always trying to do life and do it right. All we need is to discover how to see it and touch it with our hearts. The more we do, the more its stories dissolve like morning fog touched by the sun.

Your perception radically shifts when you discover that you are not the stories in your head that are made out of fear and held together with judgment. When these stories are met with curiosity and compassion, they let go of their hold on you, and what is left is life in all of its magical mystery, right here, right now. What is left is the remembering that all the joy, peace, and love you long for is to be found here and now. The more we individually and collectively unhook from the storyteller in our heads, the more we discover that it is safe to open to life—not an idea of it, but the living experience. And this is what we are homesick for—the experience of truly being alive.

Alan Watts, the celebrated philosopher, author, and teacher said, “. . . it appears as a vivid and overwhelming certainty that the universe, precisely as it is at this moment, as a whole and in every one of its parts, is so completely right, as to need no explanation or justification, beyond what it simply is.” In other words, it is safe to open to life! The most courageous and healing thing you can do is to open to the way things actually are, rather than always trying to make life be what you think it should be. When you see through the game of struggle enough that the veil between you and this living moment lift, you become a healing presence in the world. These moments of full connection with life matter. In fact, they matter more than you can possibly know. They are what will heal our world.

So I invite you to contemplate the possibility that the chronic, low-grade struggle you have lived in most of your life can be lifted just like the early morning clouds can be lifted by the sun. I also invite you to open to the radical notion that in your life, whatever you perceive to be in the way is the way. In other words, your challenges are tailor-made to help you see your particular brand of struggle and help you unhook from it so you can again know the joy of being fully alive.

In the early 1970s, a powerful awakening led Mary O’Malley to begin changing her relationship with her challenges, freeing her from a lifelong struggle with darkness, and she has been helping others heal their inner wars ever since.

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