Santa Barbara, California, USA.
I am on my way to Los Angeles. Gretchen dropped me off at the Amtrak station where a bus took me to Santa Barbara (yes, one would expect a train but it was a bus). In Santa Barbara I transferred onto a train. I just heard it is the busiest week of the year for the railroad company because it is Thanksgiving on Thursday. The train is packed with students who are heading towards their family.
While the people around me are heading home I am heading towards a new chapter in my journey. On the morning of Thanksgiving I will fly to South Colombia to do a 12-day retreat under the guidance of notable shamans from different Amazonian tribes. The retreat will start on my birthday; I will be turning 41. It seemed like a good idea to ‘celebrate’ my birthday by doing something intense and potentially life changing.
I feel that I want this post to be about Sam, Gretchen and Ernst again. Yesterday I felt shaky, sad and vulnerable. I was afraid of leaving. I have had to let go of beautiful people before on this trip but for some reason this time was harder for me. I felt afraid of abandoning them, to leave them behind in such a raw and vulnerable place. Also I grew attached to them and fell in love with them as family. I will really miss them.
To be part of a family during the process of grieving the loss of a little boy might sound difficult or undesirable to some. But I feel it was an honor. As I sit here in the train, my clothes feeling sticky from the heat, I feel gratitude, love and spaciousness.
Last night Gretchen, Ernst and I sat around the fire, spending our last hours together. At some moment during the night Ernst broke down crying, as happened to all of us several times per day. He said: “I feel so full with love for my son. I feel so much love that my heart is overflowing. Tears might come out of my eyes but I feel only love” Yesterday it brought tears to my eyes to hear him say that, today I realize that it was why it was so special to be with them: I was surrounded by love. Quite often the love was disguised as sadness, sometimes as anger, sometimes as exhaustion, sometimes as hope or willpower. But it was always love. And I had the honor of being part of that and of sometimes helping them see the love at the end of the tunnel.
Dear Ernst and Gretchen, you can trust the love that you feel. It was already there, even before Sam’s arrival. And you can trust that no matter what you feel in any given moment, no matter how hard, difficult or painful the feeling is, you will find that love underneath. Just allow the superficial feeling to wash through you. Just thinking of Sam will guide you there.
Too many people spend their lives running away from everything that is painful, undesirable, shameful or just uncomfortable. This is how we close our hearts. But every feeling has a message; every feeling wants to be felt because it is his nature. And as soon as it is completely felt and acknowledged it will make space for the next. The more often we repeat this process, the more spacious we become.
I feel deeply grateful for the dance of love and sadness we danced together, opening the house again and giving space to all that was there. I feel deeply grateful for meeting Sam and I am in awe of the impact he made on me and many others. May the sadness and the fullness go hand in hand forever. May the overflowing of love never stop. Y’all stole my heart.
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I did not read your blog in between as I was busy with Diwali. Now that I know that you’ve turned 41, I am wishing you a belated Happy Birthday. My ashirwad (blessings) to you. I am 52 years old lady from Mumbai.
Mark Naseck says
Happy Birthday Atalwin!!
May you continue to be blessed with family everywhere you travel. May be blessed with a continuously overflowing heart and also be on the receiving end of others love flowing to your heart.
Blessings to Sam’s family and may his passing be the gateway of inner births for us all.
Love you man!