One Last Call

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Earlier this week, an AirAsia flight from Perth to Kuala Lumpur had to urgently return to Perth mid-flight after an engine ruptured, which caused the plane to shake violently. After being notified by the captain of a serious problem with the aircraft (so serious that he suggested the passengers say a prayer), a priority of many of these terrified passengers, in what could have been their final moments, was to try and make phone contact with their loved ones. A natural response in these types of circumstances that is yet not really understood, this piece will seek to elucidate why these passengers acted as they did when faced with the imminent prospect of death.

In a society where its members abhor the thought of dying, it is unsettling to have to contemplate a scenario like the one above. We have a tendency to act like we are going to live forever, and although we comprehend with the mind that we could die at any moment, we frequently deny that reality by taking for granted that we will live to see the day out. Every day, people die unexpectedly and what is left behind are unexpressed emotions and unfulfilled plans. The father dies without his son having heard how truly proud his dad was of the man that he had become. A best friend dies in an accident, leaving future occasions bereft of her company.

It is true that life is fragile, and as we embrace this truth, so can we infuse every breath with a love that yearns to perpetually express itself. Born in love, it is only natural that the deepest part of who we are would want to leave the physical world immersed in this same eternal love that is never born and never dies. Having its foundation in the metaphysical dimension, it is eternal love that is characteristic of our spiritual nature. Calling for love’s unhindered expression, this becomes effortless when we align with our true nature, and do not allow our ego to resist its flow.

To resist death is to restrain the flow of love that is characteristic of life. Being life’s counterpart, it is the shadow of death that has much to teach as it follows us. Teaching us that this moment is all that we truly have, it is this day that it would not have us waste with egoic concerns and trivial pursuits. Many of us live our lives with the nagging feeling that we are missing the essence of life. Consumed with getting ahead, we forget that the true essence of life is only to be found in the here and now. Remembering this as we put ourselves in the position of these airplane passengers, a new perspective emerges that gives us the permission to be free. No longer do we have to settle for an artificial and unfulfilling existence, for with every choice to love comes new life that the realm of form cannot take away.

With moments to live, it would be the things that matter least which would fade like the clouds on a summer’s day. Wanting only to bring contentment to our heart, we would not think to call the office to wind up our business, or call our financial advisor for a final assessment of our net worth. Who we would call are the ones who mean the most to us. These are our spouses/partners, parents, children, or our closest friends. What we would say are the words that each of us yearns to hear from the ones who we care the most about, ‘I love you’. With these words would come others that express the same sentiment. Love speaks most eloquently, and with this clarity it is beyond reproach. Being what we cannot deny because of its identity in spirit, this eternal love is what heals the heart and cleanses the mind of the misperceptions that in the ego’s company, we take to be reality.

In the moments before his death at the hands of a gunman, Gandhi showed us the way to an inspired life. Mouthing the words, “Krishna, Krishna”, it was love that he chose to be his final message. Knowing love to be the only way, it is what he could not withhold as he returned to oneness. In the company of spirit he walked, and by his example, we can learn to do the same. The choice to love need not be reserved for our final moments on the physical plane, for being abundant in its presence, it is what we can embody here and now, in the holy instant that always lives and never dies.

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The Calling of the Moment

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Typically, when we think of a calling, we characterise it in singular terms as one’s definite purpose in life e.g. to start a shelter for the disadvantaged or to serve an institution in a particular capacity. Framing it this way, living our calling becomes an all or nothing proposition, which can and does contribute to the pressure that many people feel to find that ‘one thing that I have been put on earth for’. In this sense, we have romanticised the notion of a calling in the same way that we have romanticised the notion of the one and only soulmate on which our happiness depends. It is seductive to think that one day out of the blue, we will have a road to Damascus moment where God will call us from on high, and from which point forward our life will become immeasurably better. We all want to believe that our life is going to get better and more engrossing in the future, and feeling uncertain and lacking faith in ourselves to create this reality, we place our hope in the lap of external intervention, whether divine or otherwise, to deliver what is missing from our life.

The hard truth is that nothing external to ourselves is ever going to deliver us what we feel is missing from our life, whether it is happiness, peace or love. Each of us has the inherent power to cultivate a relationship with our spirit from which these fruits spring, and to discern what our ‘callings’ are. Notice here that I have used the plural form of calling. What my research has shown is that we don’t just have one calling, but rather multiple callings which extend into the different domains of our life. Interestingly, it was primarily the women in my sample who accounted for this finding. Many of the women that I interviewed reported feeling just as much called in their role as a mother, as they felt called to service in the professional role that they occupied. Men, on the other hand, tended to have a more limited perspective on this, and primarily saw their calling in terms of the profession that they were engaged in. When one considers that it is generally women who bear the burden of occupying these roles across different domains, it is understandable why they would have a broader perspective on the subject.

Since I have completed my research and reflected on this question of whether we are called to one thing or multiple things, I have come to the realisation that there are as many callings as there are moments in time. Here, our misperceptions about time need to be acknowledged. How we ordinarily perceive time is longitudinally, that is it extends over hours, days, months, years etc. While characterising time in this way helps us to measure and account for it, our mutual participation in this superficial relationship with it blinds us to the reality that the present moment is all there is. If you were to reflect on your life cross-sectionally, that is at specific points in time, you would see that you were more accurately living in moments that were present for that time. So while we would classify those memories as past events from a longitudinal perspective, the moments in which they were lived are no different than this present moment in which I am writing this piece. The wisdom which says that there is no past or future, only now, is timeless for a reason.

Whilst I am giving expression to my calling in this present moment by writing this piece, I will manifest my calling differently in the moments that I share with my family this evening, or in other moments when I am called to inform and inspire an audience. Our calling, just like the spirit of life from which it emanates, is fluid. Living our calling therefore is dependent on our present moment receptivity to the promptings of our spirit. This requires openness, awareness and trust, which makes for challenging work, primarily because we are so invested in our ego identity which drowns out the voice of our true spiritual self. As a starting point to effecting change in this area, we need to become conscious of the present moment and the opportunity that it presents for transformation. Just as we can change our habits, so can we change what we bring to the present moment, and what it in turn has to offer to us. If we orient our thoughts, intentions and actions towards our true spiritual self, and in the process become a conduit for it, then from that alignment will the fruit that makes our life rich be beared.

I know this because I have experienced it myself and in the lives of others. I also know how challenging this present moment alignment with the spirit is because I struggle with it every day. Admitting this doesn’t make me a hypocrite, but a fellow traveller on the path to greater levels of conscious living. Just like you, I am required to cultivate more faith in myself and my source, and diminish the influence of ego in my life. When I do this I can more readily appreciate that I am called to enrich my relationships with others and make the most of the opportunities for growth that each moment presents, as much as I am to my work. Hopefully, through this piece you can come to appreciate the same in your own life.

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