On December 20th, 2009 I entered a three-week retreat. Something irresistible was pulling me away from the outside world, towards an unknown inner journey of reflection, release, and renewal.
One day, my eyes closed. Shortly after, they opened, but I was no longer in my home in Richmond; I was sitting on the banks of the Ganges river in the ancient city of Varanasi. I was at one of the several “burning ghats,” stone steps where hundreds of cremations occur every day, with bodies placed on wooden pyres, set alight with ghee, while priests chant sacred mantras. There I was, in some astral form, sitting quietly, taking it in.
I could feel the many ways in which people had lived, the ways in which they gave themselves too often to things that did not really matter — to worries and concerns, to activities and aspirations, to quarrels and squabbles. I also felt how quickly each body journeyed from birth, through the drama of life, to these burning cradles that were birthing them out of this world.
Some invisible guide asked me, “What makes life truly worth living? Look how quickly it all ends. What makes the difference between a well-lived life, and one squandered on petty things?”
What I discovered in this shamanic journey is that “the difference” we want to make is about a way of living. It is a choice between petty concerns, mindlessness, sadness, negativity, cynicism — and clarity, truth, meaning, and purpose.
I already knew that there is something written in each person’s heart, in the scripture of their soul, that is their map for an authentic life, and if they follow the paths of that map they will live a well-lived life, a significant life, without regret or sadness. They will live a full, unique, joyful, exuberant life. But now I know it more fully, as if a brighter light has been installed in each cell of my being. Making a difference is not something we do, but rather a lifestyle we choose, one that flows from the words inscribed in the scripture of our heart, of our soul; and in this way of purposeful living we are a constant blessing to ourselves and to others, we are a walking seed and spark that awakens and fires the imagination of others towards a similar way of living. The ways in which each of us will make a difference by definition and necessity will flow out from our inner being. First, we choose the difference between true and false, between authentic and inauthentic. Then, we act. Then, we make the difference that has already been made within us through our choice as to how we are going to live.
I understood that the size and scope of what we do is not important. Our life may be huge and daring and world-shaking, or it may be small and quiet and unrecognized by the masses or media. What matters, what makes the difference, is the fragrance we emit, the intoxicating aura we carry, as we fulfill whatever roles we are called to by the secret that only we know, the secret revealed to us when we enter the deep and beautiful sacred place of our heart to read what is written there for us. That is what counts. That’s how we live a well-lived life.