ZUBIN
MATHAI
author of the oarsman
Cries Are Welcome
December 1, 2014

I went out for a short hike this morning. It was my first walk after a rainfall since I’ve been here. Changed from the dusty warmth I was used to, there was a rich red hue to the damp earth, footsteps had less crunch to them, and lazy clouds slept on my mountains.

There was no me on most of the trail, though I did return to say “Good morning!” whenever a hiker or biker passed. A fluffy poodle broke away from its two friends to run over and prop up on my leg to stare. He was gone before I could bend down to pat him.

Like a kirtan chant alternating between a call of longing and an answer of divine Love, I alternated between seeing thoughts and the vast, full emptiness in my chest.

When the mind is busy and we ask “Where am I located?”, we often think of our headspace. When thoughts have semi-faded to their source, and we ask the same, we feel we are located in our heart. When we examine even closer, we see that our chest, our body, is not a barrier to the one energy that permeates within and without. That energy is a complete, loving Nothingness that holds and infuses everything. We are That.

Lost in that space, I didn’t hear a mountain biker until he was almost on top of me. I turned to see a young man, in full, bright gear, roll by with a wave and greet. A little ways behind were two young women who also smiled as they passed. Quite a way down the trail was the last of their party, a woman whom I assumed was the mother, struggling up the slight hill, not looking happy at all.

I waited a few minutes until she got closer, then smiled and nodded. She huffed out a forced grin and hi and I could see she was not in a good place. I gave her a good lead before starting walking again. When I came around the next corner, she was off her bike, pushing it uphill, while her family was long gone. For a while I followed her, walking as slowly as possible, hoping she’d open up the gap, but she was getting slower and slower, looking back every minute.

I could tell, from her dropped head and shoulders, her feet dragging the ground, she felt the loneliest person on that mountain. She was in two spaces, wishing she wasn’t alone when she looked ahead and saw none of her family, and wishing she were even more alone when she saw me, a stranger behind her. She was spent and wanted out of the exhaustion and misery of mountain biking building in her mind. I wanted to tell her to take a break, but whenever the gap narrowed, she would hear my footsteps, turn around wearing the face of a little child on the verge of tears, and force herself to speed up.

Eventually she surrendered, her legs and will needing rest, and she took out her cell phone and dialed. In that moment, as I felt sorry for her, knowing she didn’t want to have a melt-down in front of a stranger, I turned and the light caught an otherwise grey tree and turned a few of its leaves to gold.

I wanted to reach the woman and tell her she was those golden leaves. Her exhaustion, her surrender, her aloneness, all the unfun she was feeling in that moment, was ok. It was just a part of her she was trying to ignore reaching up from her depths to embrace.

By the time I passed, the young man had ridden back from around the uphill corner and was beside her. “What’s wrong? Did you fall? Are you tired?” he asked, and I could see her wiping away a tear. I continued on up the trail and left them alone.

Cries are ok, whether silent or out loud, there should be no shame in them. Longing for the sun on a cloudy day, crying for connection when isolated, or yearning peace after a lifetime of running, all cries are welcome. A cry is not weakness. It is the strength of the divine living through you in a single, yielded moment.

A heart will cry out when exhausted, and eventually realize all its cries have only ever been for what it already is. Only a heart tender enough to cry out, surrendered enough to have no answers, is already full enough to hold Love. And all our hearts have ever sought is the Love they already are.