Let me tell you a story of falling and flying, of bleeding and becoming.
It began small and wholly unnoticed at first. I was being nudged towards the edge for years though little neglectful actions and small unkind words. Contained within the tiniest of moments the disregard for me had crept in like a cancer. But the moment of falling began with a note. Left there carelessly, was a note addressed to the one I loved that read, "Thank you for a wonderful weekend" and signed by a name that wasn't mine. This note, discovered just after after a weekend (that apparently wasn't a work weekend as I had been told) was like some metaphorical banana peel placed there at the edge of a cliff where I regularly walked. Just like that, this note was left for me to slip on, to lose my balance and to begin falling over the cliff that had snuck closer and closer over the years. But it was more than just a slip. It was the very ground disintegrating beneath me. The entire foundation upon which I had built my life crumbled right out from under my feet and I went tumbling over the cliff. The "sorry" that echoed behind me as I fell was utterly useless as it did not prevent my descent into darkness. The tears of regret were also useless because I began falling long before they did. The falling was endless and literally lasted for years. Every time I thought I hit rock bottom it wasn't rock bottom it was just some rock, or a gnarled branch, jutting out from the side of this enormous cliff that I would slam into but keep falling on and on. There was no solid ground in sight, only endless falling as it grew darker and darker.
Then one day, out of nowhere, I heard a voice in the darkness. The voice said, "You have a beautiful heart". I wondered whose voice this was. I wondered even more how my heart could be beautiful. I looked down at my own hands where I held together the pieces of my broken and bleeding heart and tried to figure out what of this heart was beautiful. But the voice was gone and I didn't know to whom it may have belonged for I was still falling, endlessly falling.
The next time I heard the voice I decided to share my wounds and show this being that I did not have a beautiful heart. I had a broken and bleeding heart. I showed him my bloody hands. I showed him the pain and fear behind my eyes that began so long ago. He listened with great compassion and then he told me a story. It was my own story of betrayal and pain. And as he came to the end of the story he said, "The woman healed. She was so happy about the wonderful life she was bestowed with. So much beautiful pain that made her what she was. Yes she was more sensitive to the pain of others and she was also close to enlightenment, to utmost freedom. Until then, she lived with grace."
Who was this being that knew my spirit so well? Who was this being that was able to remain beside me while I was still falling from an endlessly high cliff? Surely he must be an angel, for only a winged creature could be so at ease this far from solid ground. I looked more closely and I saw that this being was an owl. Wise, magical, handsome and mysterious was my white-winged companion.
He had said that I was close to utmost freedom, but I didn't feel free. He said I lived with grace, but I didn't feel graceful. All I felt was pain. So the next time I saw him I told him that my heart wasn't beautiful. I told him it was filled with pain. He said it was foolish to believe I had a heart full of pain because only the Heart Sutra resides in my heart. His words completely halted me. The Heart Sutra is my most beloved sacred text, with beautiful words of truth such as; "There is no suffering, origin, cessation or path. There is no wisdom, no attainment, and even no non-attainment" Within the Heart Sutra is the mantra of the Perfection of Wisdom; "Gate, gate, paragate, parasumgate, bodhi svaha" which is usually translated as; Gone, gone, gone beyond, utterly gone beyond, awake! so be it
I reflected on his words, that only the Heart Sutra resides in my heart. No suffering. Gone beyond. Awake. The truth of his words existed beyond words, but had spoken directly to my soul, a soul that understood completely and at the same time had no language to define or label this truth that was beyond labels.
Who is this being that sees right into my soul? But I still felt heavy with pain and grief. I was falling and I was afraid of the falling. I admitted this to him.
He replied, "You aren't falling, you are flying. You are free and you needed to be free."
I said, "If I am free, then why do I feel stuck in darkness?"
He said, "Don't fear the Darkness. Darkness is needed because this is where we grow. I am comfortable in the darkness and I can teach you how to be comfortable in the darkness also."
I looked down at my own hands covered in the blood of my own heart. I had tried to hold these broken pieces together for so long. It was time to let go. It was time to believe in my freedom. The holding on was too heavy for me now. The holding on was dragging me down. Why was I so afraid of the broken pieces even after all these years of not being able to hold them together? Perhaps I am meant to be many pieces and many things, always changing, completely impermanent and free within this impermanence. Free to change and free to transform. Free to become anything I wanted to be. So I let go. I let the pieces scatter. I released the pain. I forgave the memory and I forgave myself for holding on too long. I let go of resistance and I surrendered to the becoming. I recognized the truth of his words, that I was not falling, I was flying.
This beautiful Owl showed me my freedom and showed me my strength. Finally I could shed the illusion of brokenness. With his guidance I grew into my fullness and reclaimed my destiny. It was in that moment I felt my own wings for the first time. Were they owl's wings or would they be shining angel wings? I looked to my left and to my right and I was not surprised to see enormous black wings, black as night, black as the crow, dark and beautiful. I understood that I could embrace the darkness for it was darkness itself upon which I flew and began my ascent. A white-winged owl dwelling in darkness and a black-winged raven dwelling in sunshine, the two together, an unexplained mystery, hold a sacred thread of this wondrous Universe.
This is my story. A true story of falling and flying, of bleeding and becoming. I am a yoga teacher, and a singer. I always conclude my yoga classes with chanting using my own melodies to the words of either the Mani Mantra, the Perfection of Wisdom Mantra or the Tara Mantra. Students will often tell me afterwards that they physically feel the vibrations of my voice. I have no doubt they do, but what they may not realize is that they are feeling not merely my voice, but the wingbeats of this Raven Heart.