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Living from the Ground of Being
To My Younger Selves: Lessons on Spirituality
by Zubin Mathai

If I knew then, what I know now, how different would my spiritual journey have been? If I could shout out across the years, what would I say to my younger selves to set them on the right path to peace?

To me at eight, I would say nothing, for I had the world figured out back then. Laughter felt like the foundation of my soul, and it lit up my eyes and zapped me with life. There was a golden thread woven through each of my days that I couldn’t name back then, but I know now it was just who I truly was.

We had an old television in our family room, set inside a heavy oak cabinet, and I’d easily get lost in its reflections. The curves it imparted to the couches made them look underwater, and that made me laugh. We had a cold room in our basement, where my mother kept the canned goods. Whenever she’d send me down to fetch something, I’d giggle at the creaking steps. Each had it’s own voice and personality, and each was telling me a joke.

On the other side of the house, the sunlight coming into our living room had a special luster. That light, mixed with the blue carpet and golden drapes, painted the room a vibrant hint of green. The scene outside the bay window was interesting, but not as interesting as that light coming in. Each ray was tipped with a tiny hand, and it was as if my body was no barrier to them, letting them move through my insides to tickle my heart.

In those younger years, I was in love with everything. An easy self-disappearance was all that was needed to feel deeply connected to everything around.

To me at 14, when I stopped speaking and hobbled my voice for nearly ten years, I’d tenderly have two pieces of advice. First, I’d say there was nothing wrong with how I chose to react to a world that stopped making sense. When not everyone around me was filled with joy and laughter, when not everyone around was exuding light, it was okay to see that as not right. It was okay to protect myself by withdrawing.

In silence, I found invisibility and a fragile peace. It was not perfect, but it was also not wrong. I did not need to take on society’s labels of broken or defective, and did not need to begin obsessing over fixing myself.

So, to that younger me, I’d secondly say: fully embrace the silence you chose. See at its core the same laughter and connection you saw in everything a few years before.

To the twenty-four year old me, I’d be a cheerleader on the sidelines, shouting encouragement for a spiritual yearning that was starting to take shape. I would not change anything for the first half of that magical year I went looking for a deeper peace in my life.

Like many on the spiritual journey, I was gifted the ending before I started. I was shown the ordinariness and beauty of truth as soon as I looked, for it was everywhere and in everything. But, also like so many, I turned my back on what was gifted me. It was too simple, too familiar, and my story wanted something more.

Six months into my spiritual journey, is when the present me would begin yelling wisdom back across time: You found what you truly wanted. It really is this simple. It really is this ordinary. If you do not recognize it as all that is needed to live from, then you will spend thirty years going in circles. Your story will entwine around that light, tighter and tighter, darkening it into something more complex than it needs to be.

In the real timeline of my life, my story won out back then. From my teenage years, I had a very noisy, fear-based story. It desperately needed to solve problems to keep me safe. It needed to be hyper-vigilant about the surface of the world to ensure nothing would harm me. And when that panicked story met spirituality at twenty-four, it feared for its survival. It told me that a truth that couldn’t kill the bad parts of me was worthless. The story kept itself alive by convincing me it needed to die.

The present me, at fifty-four, can also call out laterally to the me who forgets even now. From decades of running, from decades of giving power over to the story to chaperone this life, deeply rutted habits have formed. And one of the worst habits has been stretching spirituality across time, across doing and hope, across the idea of future salvation.

Whenever I stop and look in any direction, inside or outside, all I see is myself in everything. There is no mystery, nothing to change, nothing to strive for, nothing to solve before stepping into fulfillment. There is only ready-to-erupt laughter infusing everything. So, to the fifty-four year old me, I have so much and so little to say.

When the story is minimally active, I need only gently whisper, Stop and drown in You.

On other days, when the story falls into pits of rumination, I can say much, much more. I can say the last thirty years were not wasted, so let that idea go, for what is here now was also there through those decades. I can say stop thinking you’ll only live when you can live permanently from That; instead, see what is here giving you life. I can say there is nothing left to do or solve, so just rest, just stop and Be.

Like so many of us on spiritual journeys, I got all that I needed early on in my search. So it is beautiful to see, if I did have the power to shout out across time, that I would not focus on me as the wounded teen, the me broken and depressed, aching for love and begging for help. I’d instead focus on the twenty-four year old me, the one who just dipped his toe into spiritual waters. To him, I’d gently say, Stop. You are found. Nothing else is needed. Now go and live it.

“This is your resting place, your watering hole. Find what supports you, what includes you, and drink it in. Be nourished. Be enlivened. And when you feel thirsty again, drink some more.” —Gangaji

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