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by Lisa Raphael
Most of us spend the first half of our lives rushing from one goal to the next. There is so much to do: Get an education, establish a career, create a home, create a family. By the time we reach mid-life, we have had not a moment to ourselves. We are too busy meeting others' expectations.
Keeping busy is a great way to "a-void" facing the void—the space where our spirit lives, our being, our innermost Self.
As my fiftieth birthday approached I was pleased with what I had accomplished in a half century of living. A child of the Holocaust whose family was decimated in 1939, I had a home in which my new extended family and surviving members of my family of origin came together, and a counseling practice that supported a comfortable life style. As the big "five-O" approached, I felt that I had accomplished everything I had set out to do.
But who was I? I knew who I was while in the role of counselor, wife, mother, daughter, aunt, sister and friend. But who was I really?
That summer, I went alone to the Grand Canyon, deliberately stripping myself of clues to my outside identity. During my week at the South Rim, I wore casual clothing, held only the most superficial, necessary conversations with people, stayed in a single room in a remote motel, and spent a lot of time in silence, without music, tapes or TV. And I walked a lot.
My first glimpse of the canyon—the sun shining on the deep red rocks as I approached at sunset from my motel brought tears to my eyes. The rocks seemed to be welcoming me home. Every day, I took off in another direction, hiking the rim wherever there were few people. One day, I sat on the edge of a rock away from the path, absorbed in watching the changing shadows over eons of exposed history. Time seemed to stop.
It was not until I began to feel chilled that I realized I must have been there for several hours. I got up feeling utterly fulfilled. Somehow, in the silence, in the absence of thought, feeling, motion or human contact, I had made contact with my true Self. I felt as if I had been truly seen for the first time in my life.
Early in my spiritual search, I came upon the Sufi saying: "What you are looking for is doing the looking." When we look for answers to life's questions outside of ourselves—through study, ritual, meditation, gurus and workshops—our expectations frequently cloud our direct experience of the Creation, the Source, the All That Is. I was not looking for enlightenment, God, spiritual direction, or transformation as I sat on the rim of the canyon. I was simply present to the awesome beauty around me. Somehow, in being fully present, I felt witnessed by the Presence.
I once doodled, "the soul is the whole at the center." I found my whole at the edge of the biggest hole in the world.
Discovery of our spiritual selves often changes the balance of our lives. Six years later I was divorced, separated from my family, counseling with a spiritual focus, and using a new name. At sixty-six, I have no designated roles, tasks or attachments.
Life has never felt so full.
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