What Makes For A Rich Life

in Art of Listening


Sometimes words elude us. And then sometimes we read a poem, hear a song, or watch a movie that sheds light on how we’re feeling. This past week, I had one of those moments.

It was the Family Day weekend here in Ontario. As a family we shared moments of laughter, playing games, making meals, enjoying food, watching hockey, and relaxing. It was a good weekend! And then, out of nowhere, I felt a quietness and sadness creep into my soul. I was speechless; I had no words for what I was feeling or thinking in this moment.

Later on the holiday Monday while our kids were playing a game, I went upstairs and grabbed a book by Mark Nepo off the bookshelf, opened it up and read a devotion that felt like it was addressed to me. I sat on the floor, quietly taking in what Mark was sharing with me in this moment of time.

Was he teaching me something new?

No, he wasn’t. Rather, he was using his insight, his life experience and his brilliance to help me see, feel, and touch something deep within that I had forgotten.

And so today, I thought I would share his words with you. Just in case, you, like me, need to be reminded of what makes for a rich life.

 It is true; there is such sadness in the world. But there is a difference between feeling the pain of things breaking, ending, or drifting apart, and the sharper pain that comes from measuring the inevitable events of life against some ideal of how we imagine things are supposed to be. In receiving hardship this way, life is always a falling off. Life is hard enough without viewing all our pain as evidence of some basic insufficiency we must endure.

There is a beautiful Tibetan myth that helps us to accept our sadness as a threshold to all that is life – changing and lasting. This myth affirms that all spiritual warriors have a broken heart – alas, must have a broken heart – because it is only through the break that the wonder and mysteries of life can enter us.

 So what does it mean to be a spiritual warrior? It is far from being a soldier, but more the sincerity with which a soul faces itself in a daily way. It is this courage to be authentic that keeps us strong enough to withstand the heartbreak through which enlightenment can occur. And it is by honoring how life comes through us that we get the most out of living, not by keeping ourselves out of the way. The goal is to mix our hands in the earth, not to stay clean.

I remember, in getting to know a new friend, how we shared our stories in an increasingly personal way. As I kept taking my turn, I heard myself tell of loved ones who have died, of my struggle through cancer, of a marriage that, despite the deepest commitment, didn’t last, of years of being rejected as an artist, of losing a teaching job that was dear to me, of suffering a brutal estrangement from my parents – and just as I was feeling a strength come over me for facing life and being authentic, he wiped his mouth and said, “What a sad life you’ve had.”

It took me some time to withstand his judgement and his pity, but I looked at him across the night and kept breathing deeply through the break in my heart. In daily ways, we are judged, discounted, and even pitied for glories that only we can affirm. In the end, life is too magnificent and difficult for us to give away our elemental place in the journey.

  • Stand quietly by the sink and let water run.
  • Close your eyes and meditate on how life – like the water you hear – runs through our broken hearts, cleansing our hurt.
  • Breathe deeply and feel the mystery wash through the break in your heart.
  • Open your eyes and enter your day. *

Peace to you, my friend, on your journey today.

Until next time…
Be You. Be Unitas.


* The Book Of Awakening


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