THE BLOG
08/14/2012 12:26 pm ET | Updated Oct 14, 2012

A Turn in the Path

Like everything living, we open and close, as we lean into life and resist it. For human beings, though, each movement -- opening and closing, leaning into and resisting -- has an emotional mood that colors our days. And so, our feelings are at once a great challenge and our greatest source of information about the life we are living. This recent reflection explores the swirl of choices that are always near as we make our way.

One day, against all odds, when no one is looking, when the clock won't set or the car won't start, we realize how rare it is to be alive. In that moment, if we don't close too quickly, we meet the insurmountable mystery like salmon in the throat of all that water. It's so overwhelming that sometimes we back down and make a race of things, thinking it's easier to run alongside each other than to face what's coming. But when blessed to fall beneath our plans, we might return to the is-ness we were born with.

Along the way, we hinge shut, like salty clams, when it's the ocean coming in on us that lets us grow. But eventually we lose our grip and, like a clam that can no longer close its shell, we're bathed, against our will, in the brine of the deep.

So one day, while running from life -- from a fear we can't control, or a pain we can't avoid, or a limitation we don't want to accept -- we're stopped by the early light on the dew-heavy chrysanthemums. Though we're late and feel a need to keep going, we stop and stare at one full drop, like a hidden jewel now freely everywhere. Though something tells us to hurry up and rejoin the race, it seems the flower drop full of light is some kind of mirror, and there's nowhere to go.

Let me tell you a story. I was in New York. It was spring. I was walking the edge of Central Park. I like to walk the edge of things. At a turn in the path, a mime was blowing bubbles. They were glistening and floating away. I was following one when I saw a little girl, maybe 5 or 6 years old, across the path. She was following the same bubble. And just as the bubble burst, our eyes met. Surprise and wonder filled her face. She pointed at me, as if a friend were hiding in the bubble. She giggled. I pointed back and began to laugh. Her mother smiled and took her hand. I waved and watched her enter her life. I wonder now when the burst of a bubble became a sad thing, when I stopped finding friends along the way.

In Japan, kintsugi is the art of filling cracks with gold, because it's believed that the cracks and wear of life make things more beautiful, not less. As wise as this is, I believe it's not filling the cracks but entering the cracks that reveals the gold. We carry what matters inside and experience waters that seed until the soul sprouts through our cracks into the world.

And one day, against all odds, when no one is looking, we drop what we're carrying -- alarmed as it falls, afraid we will lose it, pained by how much it cost. Sometimes, whatever it is -- a dream we're close to living, an injustice almost resolved, a cracked sense of worth filled with the gold of our choosing -- breaks like an egg on the floor. And we watch the yolk of something we care for run its bright colors into everything. I don't know how to say it or explain it, but this is the journey -- not the race we make of things, or the filling of cracks with gold, but how the bright colors run into everything.

A Question to Walk With: Are you involved in a race of some kind: toward the future, toward success, toward love, toward some achievement? How is this race shaping who you are?

For more GPS for the Soul, click here.

For more by Mark Nepo, click here.

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