It’s midnight, and I’m lost.
Walking quietly through a labyrinth of endless corridors, I’m seeking to find my way back home. This is not the first time I’ve been lost, nor will it be the last.
Blue, red, pink and turquoise lights glow from the doorways I pass, monitoring the health the occupants within. Beeps, hisses and quiet, but insistent alarms punctuate the night. I long for the sun to rise, to bring new light and show me the way home, but these corridors have no windows. I will need to find another way to return home.
Arriving at another turn, I pause, searching in vain for the signs that will lead me back to the room where my father lies in a restless, narcotic-induced sleep that works to keep a tsunami of pain at bay. Bent, and pale with pain , he arrived several days ago from another country, moving at a snail’s pace as three compression fractures in his spine made each step unbearable. At 83 he’s tougher than most, but I’ve never seen him in this kind of pain – the kind of pain that makes you want to leave your body.
My hand trembles and the coffee in my cup shakes and sloshes, threatening to spill its black, bitter contents on the tiled floor. Down the hallway, to my right, muted conversation is punctuated by loud, microbursts of laughter from a nurses’ station. My eyes burn and my teeth grit. How can they laugh when lives hang in balance? I pause.
Leaning against a wall, I use the pause to breathe and feel into my experience. Certainly there is anxiety here, but there is also pain, and I notice that I, too, want to leave my body. As if trying to escape the discomfort, my focus, attention and presence, indeed the fullness of awareness has wandered outward, desperately searching for solutions to his pain. I’ve left home.
Experience and practice kick in, helping me find my way. Leaning more deeply into the wall I allow my shallow breath to deepen and even as I acknowledge my discomfort, I invite my attention to position itself back in my body, specifically into my heart-center point.
Slowly, quietly, breathing becomes easier and my hands steady.
The coffee that once seemed so bitter is now a potent elixir that helps sooth my mind and the nurse’s laughter has become a comforting human connection. Inside I feel a depth, a return to presence, yet nothing has changed; the nurses are still laughing, my father is still in pain, and life goes on.
So how is it, that my experience of everything has changed?
Within that initial pause, I found a small space, a crack within the current experience that was just enough to help me pause, position and come back home to presence.
From this centrality, I walk on, trusting my intuition and something larger to show me the way. Passing the nurses station, an angel in blue scrubs appears and asks, “Can I help you?” “I’m lost,” I admit. With a twinkle in her eye she replies, “It’s okay, everybody down here gets lost. Follow me…”
Down the hallway we go, twisting and turning around corners until we arrive at an elevator. “Don’t worry,” she says, “this will take you to back to him,” she says. She punches a button and I step in and turn around to thank her, and to ask her how she knew it was a “him,” but she’s nowhere to be seen. In the blink of an eye, the angel in blue has vanished. As the elevator glides upward I wonder, who was she? Where did she some from? Where did she go?
Back at my father’s side, I find him sleeping peacefully, perhaps for the first time since he arrived home. Outside, I see light on the horizon – dawn is arriving and falling snow hints at the depths of winter to come.
I’ve come to appreciate these moments when we’re lost in the wilderness, whether it’s the forest, the city or hospital corridors. Experience has taught me that it’s helpful to have a guide, a compass to help us find our way back home. The visceral practice of pausing, positioning and coming back to presence puts us in direct connection to our Soul and becomes our guidance, our compass as we move through life.
When we allow our Soul’s Compass to guide our lives the strange and miraculous show themselves in everyday life, through the kindness of strangers, the phone calls and emails from friends and family both near and far, and a mysterious angel in blue. Most will never know how much their kind words and messages gave us comfort and connection in those quiet hours, and I am grateful for the kindness of family, friends and strangers.
There is a mystery to life that unfolds when we allow the Soul to guide us. These are the moments when the extraordinary can be found in the ordinary and I hold that you too may be filled with loving kindness, joy and gratitude as we enter this new season and the incredible life we have been given.
PS: The aftermath…. As of this writing, I’m pleased to let you know that my father is well and spending the holidays here in the Shenandoah Valley with family. He, too, is grateful for all who held a healing presence for his well-being.
PPS: If you are interested in experiencing the power of your own Soul’s Compass, please check out The Soul’s Compass: A Wayfinding Program.