Stephen Levine and his wife Ondrea are two of only a very few people in the world whom I see as true visionaries. From the first time I heard Stephen speak, at a small conference for nurses at the hospital where I worked, I realized that he saw the world in a truly unique way. Soft-spoken, compassionate and yet ruthlessly honest, he talked about how we use denial to hold on to the illusion that we are safe from pain and loss.
As an example, he used the fact that, as each of us sat there listening to him speak that day, we had no actual knowledge that our loved ones were OK. We believed that they were, just as you believed, when you kissed your child or your spouse goodbye this morning, that he would return to you later, safe and intact. Those beliefs are the glue that we use to hold our world together–to hold ourselves together. How could we ever walk away from the people we love, how could we turn away for an instant, if we did not believe that we have more than just right now? But by living in this state of perpetual denial, we let moment after moment after moment pass us by.
When we live in denial, we live in a world that is one step removed from reality, one step removed from being fully engaged in our lives. By denying our fear, by denying that there is danger in turning away, we separate ourselves from the certainty of what we have right now. Life is easier this way; we do not need to work as hard at getting it right the first time when know we can try again. We can afford to be a little distant; we can hold back a little of ourselves; we can wait until we have more time or more energy or until we are in the mood. But when the do-over doesn’t happen we are left with the intolerable weight of regret, and that is the worst pain we will ever know.
So tonight, when you kiss your beloved goodnight, do it with awareness, understanding completely that this moment is all you have. There may not be a “next time.” So make this time count.
“Safety is the most unsafe spiritual path you can take. Safety keeps you numb and dead. People are caught by surprise when it is time to die. They have allowed themselves to live so little.” – Stephen Levine
Note: Due to ongoing health concerns, Stephen and Ondrea Levine are retired from public life, but you can read and hear their words of love and wisdom on their website Levine Talks.com.