"Love is real. Everything else is an illusion. Live in this realm and be at peace."
Michael Doud - Writer & Film Reviewer
I've had an extremely full life. Is it the life I imagined as a young boy knocking on the door of being a teenager? No. Has it been more interesting than I ever imagined? A resounding “Yes”.
I never dreamed I would have discovered the deep feeling of being physically and spiritually at home while traveling in Tibet. I never thought I would kill other human beings as I did in Vietnam, which has been followed every day thereafter by the feelings of regret and sadness. I never imagined I would spend 3 months in silent meditation and discover what it means to be fully present to see everything as it is. To be part of the whole and as an observer of the whole. I wouldn’t have imagined that I would take a trip around the world with my belongings on my back. I know I didn’t think I would sit in meditation with monks in monasteries all over Asia. It would have been difficult to realize the immense depth of the joys, sorrows, and unconditional love that parenthood brings. I could have never of predicted the incredible bliss of watching my daughter grow up, go through her own experiences, to become the amazing mother she is.
The spectrum of my life has been far more ranging than I ever thought it might be and yet none of it has been a surprise. It is not the life I dreamily wondered about growing up. In fact, just prior to my thirteenth birthday I had a distinct sense I would simply grow up and be like my parents: Married to the same partner till death do them part, with two children, and slowly climbing up the social economic ladder which we describe as the “American Dream”. This is not what took place.
What happened? My life, and all of its complexities, is what happened. And this life unfolded in a most amazing way. Through joys, scars, tears, laughter, wonderment, resistance, willingness, avoidance, work, sadness, fear, and Love, I was able to grow, evolve and learn how to change through acceptance and forgiveness.
As a younger person I might have hoped to have been successful in business as well as in life. From a business standpoint, I have delivered quality and have taken pride in the work I’ve done. I’ve started four businesses and, at times, made a very nice income. The culmination of my business experience was being given the opportunity, as COO, to exponentially grow The Bar Method which was founded by my wife Burr Leonard and her then husband Carl Diehl. To be entrusted with their baby and to bring it to adulthood was an honor.
Just like everyone else, my evolution followed the curriculum I came into this life with. No one else has my curriculum and I do not have theirs. Because it was, and is, my unique curriculum, I needed to learn how to participate in it and embrace what it brought. I am not a victim of life or of my curriculum. Yes, there are times I might have wished that there were others to blame or easier corners to turn and maybe a better and wider paved highway to travel on, but in hindsight, I can see where I missed signs because my ego or arrogance thought it knew best. However, I can also see that missing the signs were part of the learning process and that my curriculum is perfect in the larger picture of evolution. Although our lives can seem to “just happen” to us, unless we spend time inquiring within ourselves and listen to others who can illuminate what our life is about, we cannot change or evolve.
Our gift is that we are given this wonderful ability to choose, learn, and change and that’s what makes it all worthwhile and interesting especially if we do it attentively. We can consciously evolve by choosing how we live our curriculum mindfully.
Through insight meditation, I learned how to pay attention, challenge myself, and question the quick, sometimes intelligent, presumptive inner voice that thought it knew better. Meditation gave me the ability to sit and inquire more deeply about being in the present. An additional result was more mindfulness about the choices that I make. Although the sublime choice wasn’t always forthcoming, different choices appeared. Then, and just as importantly, by looking back on the passing experience, I could consciously ask myself if the choice I made led more towards love, or did it lead towards anger, sadness, sorrow, and unhappiness? People who’ve known me since childhood know that during my younger years I didn’t always pay a lot of attention to how my choices might hurt others, which showed up as unconscious behavior. However, gaining insight about those actions and using the information provided in those lessons and ideas have allowed me to be more empathetic, conscious, and mindful.
I still meditate daily as the lessons are not over and, at times, I still act unconsciously. However, I’m much better at seeing my unconscious actions, and through the process of acceptance and forgiveness, I continue to climb the steps of my curriculum. Having seen the whole as it is, I cannot unlearn the truth, and it gives me something to entrust this journey with: “Love is real. Everything else is an illusion. Live in this realm and be at peace.”