When I started this short story about my unexpected journey to my inner self, I had no idea where it was going or how long it would take. I know as I set out this morning that this is the final chapter. The story is told. I’m ready to let go. I have other journeys that need to be taken. I have other stories that need to be told.
By now most of you are familiar with the catalyst for this tale. This story is spawned from a routine Tuesday morning when I lost faith in my heart and let fear win out. In losing out to fear in the moment I gained the pieces of information I needed to overcome that fear in the end. I am truly grateful.
This story is a tale that seems to be stuck somewhere in between a long short story and a short novella. With today’s final chapter and perhaps an epilogue my word count will be just under 20,000 words. It is by far the most composed and complete piece of writing that I have released to date. In many ways it has been the additional hidden gift in my heart scare.
What will I do with this story? For now probably nothing. I have a larger project that has been in progress for about a year now, but I had lost my steam and needed a break. Taking the baby steps of letting this eight chapter tale come out of me over the last two weeks has given me that break and made me realize that I can and will finish the other project. I just have to continue to take action and stop worrying about HOW an WHEN I will finish that other project. Everything will be exactly as it is supposed to be if I am willing to surrender and let it happen, right?
If you would like to refresh or have missed some of the story to date, here is how it has played out so far:
Part One – Putting my Heart to the Test
Part Two – Asking for Help
Part Three – Trusting the Process
Part Four – Growing My Heart
Part Five – Another Hidden Gift
Part Six – A Visit From the Angels
Part Seven – Infinite Laughter
And now onto the final chapter which I shall call The Red Cardinal. I hope you enjoy!
Returning to my everyday routine on a Thursday was perfectly scripted from above. Thursday is the only day in my week that I have no commitments either before my work day at Joe’s or after. Despite my morning panic and the banking escapade, I was settling into a nice and easy groove.
As soon as I arrived at work I began telling and re-telling my story. Between co-workers, phone calls and visits from regular customers I would estimate that I had a chance to tell some version of the story over a hundred times on the first day alone. I started to get pretty good at it. All my storytelling experience in the last ten months was serving me well!
I had the short 30 second version where I simply said, “I’m fine thanks. I just hit the wall from exhaustion and I got a little scared when I got light headed. I’m happy to have gotten checked out and know that I’m healthy but need a bit more rest.”
I had the one minute version where I said most of the above and added, “I’m so grateful to be empowered with two very valuable pieces of information. One, my heart is as healthy as somebody half my age who is in really good shape. Two, I need to carve out more space for myself and make sure that I am getting enough sleep.”
Of course I also had the longer versions for close friends and those who wanted to hear the whole story with every little detail. The more often I told my story the more I saw people nod their head when I admitted that I have been pushing things a bit too hard.
Was I the only human on the planet that didn’t realize that my schedule was still not sustainable? I thought about all the things I had cut out of my life in the last couple of years. I sold my portion of the martial arts studio I used to own. I gave up my Tuesday morning yoga classes. I gave up my Thursday evening yoga classes. We are only traveling to Michigan once a month now instead of three times a month because we are renting. What more was I supposed to let go of?
What I had failed to recognize though was, that in clearing out all that space by eliminating the things I mentioned above, I had created room that I was all too willing to fill up with new stuff. In the last year alone I have added weekly Toastmasters meetings, Storytelling classes, open mic shows, our monthly storytelling show, five all-day immersion seminars that we have facilitated, 32 Monday morning newsletters written, over 75 blog posts, trips to Florida, Paris and California, a book proposal that is due at Hay House by September 22, our first international speaking engagement in Ireland is less that three weeks away. And oh by the way I still work full time and teach four classes a week.
Back to my re-entry day. It was later in the day when I was telling my story to a delightful retired couple that adores Christiana and I, I heard myself say these words:
“Even when you are living the life of your dreams, you can’t live it 19-20 hours a day. It’s not sustainable.”
Boom! I had finally spoken in a language that I could understand with my own ears. I began to use that line in every version of my story going forward. I’ve probably said those two sentences hundreds of times now. Each time I say them they are a mantra that resonates in my soul and reminds me that if I am to fulfill my Divine purpose then I have to do the same thing that I tell my yoga students to do in nearly every class I lead:
“Allow stillness and silence to become a part of the symphony of your life. Without silence between the notes, even the most beautiful instrument can only produce a stream of noise…”
That first night back in my everyday routine I did something I almost never do. I went home at 5:00 p.m. and I stayed there. I didn’t go out for a bike ride. The Universe had conspired in my favor and had left me with that flat tire that I hadn’t fixed yet. I didn’t go out in the park and practice. I didn’t go to L. Woods and have dinner at the bar. I sat on my back deck and listened to chill music. I wrote the first chapter of this story. I took a warm bath in Epsom salts and I went to bed early.
I had a vague awareness that Christiana had arrived at home around midnight, but I didn’t stir enough to wake up and get out of bed like I often do. During the night I had a series of very peaceful dreams. I felt soft and light. I felt like I was in spaces that were lit with the brightest white lights that I could possibly imagine. Much like the night before I went into the hospital, I dreamt about my father, and Richard and other friends and family members that have guided me on the path through the years. I also dream about many people that I have not yet met, but I truly admire like MLK, the Buddha, Jesus, Master Funakoshi, BKS Iyengar and Mary Magdalene to name a few.
I woke up at about 5:00 a.m. and held my promise to myself that I would stay in bed until 7:00 a.m. whether I was sleeping or not. Too often when I wake up my brain turns on immediately and I let it take over and force me into action. On this morning I would listen to as many meditation audios as I needed to just to try to empty my mind for the next two hours. By the time 7:00 a.m. rolled around I had dozed in and out a few times. I had stayed in bed for eight hours and I was ready to hit the park behind the house for an hour of kata, which for those of you who don’t know are martial arts forms.
As I got out of bed I had a strange feeling that I had a sense of knowing at a deeper level than when I had turned in the night before. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was that I knew now that I hadn’t known before, but I will say I felt confident. I felt strong.
The weather was perfect. The sun sat just above the tree line in the east. The temperature was around 65 degrees and there wasn’t trace of humidity or a cloud to be found in the sky. I started my practice like I always do by swinging my arms around and tapping my chest and back. I then began to pound lightly on my quads and my calves. I’m not sure where I learned to do this. Maybe somebody taught me. Maybe it was something that just emerged from within as a result of knowing.
After about five minutes of moving and breathing I started with my first kata. I always proceed the same way. I start with Heian Shodan. I go through the five Heian katas. I then do some basic exercises as I jump around to the music in my ears. Over the years many people have seen me jumping and dancing in the park. Once and a while people will stop and engage me in conversation and ask questions. Usually people just think I’m some sort of nut job.
After I finish my first set of katas and basics I always practice my four favorite black belt katas; Bassai-dai, Jion, Kanku-dai and Gojushiho-sho. Some mornings I am done right there and I go inside. Some mornings I repeat the whole process. Some mornings I switch to yoga. Some mornings I sit and meditate.
On this morning, after I finished Gojushiho-sho, I stood with my arms extended in the air as far as I could and faced the sun. I leaned back into a soft back bend and pushed my heart center closer to the sun. As I did so I noticed a red cardinal sitting on a high branch in the tree in front of me. I stood still for about thirty seconds and so did he. We were sizing each other up.
If you are not familiar, a red cardinal is often considered a symbol that a spirit from the other side is sending you a message or offering you support. The idea of the red cardinal as a symbol of spirit or soul is deeply rooted in Native American culture. I fully support these beliefs.
There was no question in my mind that this red cardinal was there to offer me a few affirmations, including:
- Slow down! See the beauty in the natural elements around me even when they are right in my own backyard.
- Allow for that inner voice to speak to me. If I think the message is intended for me then it definitely is.
- Let my true color show boldly. My primary purpose for being on this planet is to bring bright and bold color to my life and all the lives I have the opportunity to touch.
- Settle in! Be grateful for my nest and my tribe. I don’t need to seek anything more than I already have even if I want to allow for Infinite Possibilities.
- Stay connected to Mother Earth and the Heavens. Spend as much of my time of reflection in nature as I possibly can.
Despite those affirmations, there was still one question that I needed to have answered. Which spirit was inside the red cardinal? Who was it that had come to give me this message? Was it my father James Herbert? Was it my dear friend Richard Harsch? Was it my maternal Grandmother Irene who I would visit and share Reiki with while she suffered from dementia for many years? Was it Jesus? Was it Master Funakoshi? Was it Christiana’s grandma Marge who died days before our wedding? Was it my paternal Grandfather Henry, the Irish immigrant who has factored so largely into my story over the last year?
I decided to sit in the grass and close my eyes and reflect. Often when I am in a meditative state like the one I was looking to enter into, I feel the touch of spirit’s hand in my heart when I correctly guess who it is that is visiting me. Then my whole body fills up with a tingling sense of joy and love. I treasure those rare moments. They are coming way more frequently lately.
I sat in the grass for a spell that I would guess was about 15 minutes. I had turned off my ipod and taken my headphones out of my ears so could enjoy the sounds of nature in the park. The answer that I was seeking did not seem to want to come to me on this morning, yet I felt no frustration. I had a sense of knowing that I was not about to have any great revelation as I sat in the grass with my eyes closed, so I took a deep breath and opened my eyes.
I looked up at the sun and there in the same tree sat the same red cardinal. I had no idea if it had sat there the whole time or whether it had flown around and come back just as I opened my eyes. I looked closely at the bird’s cute little face to see if I could find one last clue that would enlighten me to the identity of the spirit inside.
And then like a tidal wave of love and joy my heart filled up to its maximum and in an instant I knew which spirit it was that came to give me affirmation. I knew which soul it was that came to tell me that they believed in me. I knew which Divine source it was that came to push me along on my path as a spiritual teacher.
IT WAS ALL OF THEM!!!
For my entire life I have had a craving to have specific answers. To be in control. To know all the outcomes. My little red cardinal was the final message that I needed to unveil the message that it is in surrender that we find our greatest powers. In surrender we find our Divine purpose.
For the first time in this lifetime, I finally and truly understood that we are all the same, on this side of the Spirit veil and the other side…and that is all that matters.
We are One. We are One. We are One. I rejoice in my Heart…