At one point the brothers in the monastery built me a 30 foot by 30 foot art studio up on the second floor. I must admit that there were days when going up there to do artwork was about the last thing that I “felt” I wanted to do, but given the brothers generosity I made myself go up there every day, no matter what I felt. Walking around in the studio with my mug of coffee I’d review the various projects underway and, inevitably, the desire to do the work would switch on, and then I was underway again. In a strange way, the years in the studio proved to be the groundwork for my current spiritual mentoring. As I did the artwork I gradually became aware of a quiet voice deep within me guiding me: “No, that doesn’t work”… “Yes, that’s exactly right”… “What if I…?” I learned to pay attention to that voice and now while talking with someone about their life and their spiritual issues I still hear it guiding me to ask a question, to offer an insight, or to make a suggestion.
During my two-week visit to Hilo in 2013 I observed many of my hippie generation walking around looking like gray-haired versions of their 1960 selves. My future move to Hilo in 2019 represents for me the emergence of a new me, like a butterfly coming out of its chrysalis… a 70-year old gray-haired version of my younger pupating monastic self. Observing my generation-mates during those two weeks I was surprised to gradually hear that voice within suggesting: “What if, for the first time in my 64-year life, I stopped cutting my hair?” Excited by the thought of going down another new road in my life, I stopped getting it cut, and now have a ponytail which touches the collar of my shirt. People who knew me back at the monastery are often startled to see the “new” me.
One thing that the work in my former studio taught me is that we not only have to be willing to start over, but to even come to see starting over as something exciting, something positive, something leading us forward in order to meet our unknown self. The dictionary defines Pilgrimage as: “A long journey or search, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance.” That’s how I view my life, as an exalted journey of searching. I figure that since I’ve safely made it thus far through 66 years of the journey there’s no reason to back away from any of the What Ifs down the road!
Do you hear your quiet voice? Are you willing to listen for it? What if you did?