Embracing Complexity

25 Oct

When I was a young girl I read a book called The Mists of Avalon that described the island associated with mystical practices in the Arthurian legend. In the story I was struck by the fact that in order to get to Avalon, one had to part through a veil of mist that kept Avalon hidden from the day-to-day world. To lift the mist, a person had to have the ability to navigate between various physical and spiritual realms. Without a doubt this stirred my imagination about what might be on the other side of reality in the realm of the subliminal, supernatural and/or spiritual.


Regardless of one’s beliefs (or lack of), there is so much about the Universe we don’t understand. What is happening in the galaxies or when cells divide or when a flower’s petals fall to the ground and new blossoms appear in their place? And how is one to make sense of all of this? These questions are not unusual when we witness death in our lives. Thus for me, one of the surprising blessings that came after my mom died was a budding awareness that life may very well extend beyond what I perceive in my day-to-day reality.

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I was not raised seeped in religion. I didn’t necessarily perceive heaven as a place one would travel to after death, yet I didn’t dismiss this idea either. What I sensed prior to my mom’s death was that multiple dimensions of spiritual reality co-exist with our day-to-day experience but that we are often grossly out of touch with these realms. When meditating or during highly lucid moments of concentration, I sometimes sensed a type of Avalon existing side by side our world. And if we but opened ourselves to this other sphere, the veil separating us would lift.


When my mom died, it felt like that very veil was lifted for a few weeks. My perception of God seemed illuminated, which surprised me greatly as I was not looking for religious solace to heal my wounds. And yet despite this, the spiritual world felt deeply palpable to me. The peace and beauty I perceived intermittently while grieving my mom’s death felt like glimpses of Eden here on earth despite the fact that I had just lost my mother. Death seemed to heighten this spiritual awareness. Transformation took on vast implications.

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The world is vastly mysterious. When I focus my mind on this the petty worries of the here and now shrink in size as I conceptualize something far greater than me operating behind the scenes. It’s not that my life is meaningless in this larger schema. Rather, it’s a part of it and I don’t have to understand all the minute details.

I have come to believe that heaven and earth co-exist. While we are definitely not living in Eden for the world is fraught with pain and evil, fragments of the Kingdom are here now, being inaugurated. Where there is love, God exists. Each time I witness an act of human kindness, I see fragments of heaven.


Years ago I had an art teacher from Europe who used to say in his thick accent, “If you analyze a painting, you kill it. You take its beauty and power away. Sometimes you have to just let it be.” The same could be said of life’s enormous complexity. As much as we want to nail down our understanding of it, this is impossible. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I don’t want a simple God and I don’t want concrete answers. Instead I want to ponder the beauty and mystery inherent in all life forms. I want to hear the echo of transformation, a refrain playing through the caverns of my soul like a saxophonist’s music bouncing off the subway walls.


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