I had this realization this week that life, in all its shapes and forms and moods, is all spiritual. And if for some reason that word doesn’t resonate, swap out the term spiritual for the word Love because really when it comes down to it, the heart and purpose of any true spiritual path is simply to help us come closer and closer to understanding the nature of Love.

My realization happened yesterday when I was in a space of feeling decidedly unloving. Ironically, I was attending a mindfulness seminar for continuing education credits, and despite the grateful, joyful, be present and go with the flow theme of the class, I was extremely resistant and crabby.

I don’t particularly do well in groups. I definitely don’t do well in classroom type settings. And the combination of burn out from all those years of grad school + my extremely introverted- highly sensitive- overly intuitive- being around high volumes of people drains my energy because I pick up on too many emotions and psychic feedback + my free spirited, don’t fence me in man!, abhorrence for structure and order and others planning the time line of my day =ed me sitting in the back corner in ripped up jeans and a rocker tee (a silent rebellion on my part from having to look professional) mentally scowling.

I wasn’t feeling mindful. I was resentful, not grateful. And no matter what I did, I just wasn’t able to choose positivitiy and change the stream of my thoughts, as the class suggested, and get myself in a better frame of mind to embrace the experience.

So I decided to practice self-love instead. To validate and embrace the utterly human reaction that occurs when we don’t want to do something and we force ourselves to step up anyways. To honor the fact that this particular experience  was not gelling and meshing with me in that particular moment. To roll around in the mud of my feelings and simply accept them for what they were- an experience of self, no more no less.

Which is how I eventually, somewhere between mindfully eating a raisin for the span of 10 minutes and taking a mindful walk where I was supposed to notice the tendons in my legs and feel the feel of the feel of my feet- I started to think a little differently about the day.

We have this tendency when we are being our better selves- our loving, kinder, gentler, more patient selves- to feel like we are being good. The best version of self. More presentable and acceptable. More spiritual in a sense.

While I am all for continuing to learn how to access our better selves and reach towards our own sense of light, I am coming to realize we lose so much that is authentic, real, and raw; we lose so many opportunities to practice self-love, and in return to learn to better love others, when we invalidate the experiences of self that feel ugly, dark and less.

Self-love is the fundamental footstep to the sacred path. It is a path that we are all on, whether or not we are aware of it; all of us trying to return to a space of love, all of us seeking love to help heal the wounds in our lives. And the only way we can learn to find self-love is to embrace all our moments. The beautiful ones. The ambivalent ones. The ones where we are sitting at the back of the class angry and churlish and scowling.

When my brother died back in January, I learned what cessation truly means. I vividly remember realizing that he no longer had the chance to be better. He no longer had the chance to suck. He no longer had the chance to choose good or choose bad or create his own labels as to what those things mean.

He didn’t have the chance to hate Alaska or look for a new job or to move to Hawaii or to play video games with his friends or to sleep in too long or to drink too much or to eat prime rib or to have an extra bowl of Rocky Road or to yell at me or to love me or to open presents on Christmas or to watch Lord of the Rings with me or to know what his future would hold.

To have good days and bad days, sorrow and joy.

He didn’t have the chance to strive for new possibilities. He didn’t have the chance to roll in the mud and be stuck and wait for things to turn a corner. He didn’t have the chance to reach for the light or to choose to live in shadow.

We no longer had the chance to be better or worse than what we were.

That is the meaning of cessation to me: the realization of how absolutely finite it all is.

And in that sense of finite, I have begun to see how sacred is the whole journey, because if we are HERE- here in the beautiful, difficult, finite, possible space of this place- it means we have chances. Choices. Possibilities. Regardless of what we choose to do with them.

And chances, choices and possibilities are an inherent gift. Inherently holy and hallowed and precious and cherished and prayerful and revered and sublime and divine and all the words that usually get relegated to religion, but really shouldn’t, because they are simply adjectives that describe the gift of being HERE and the opportunities that are our lives.

That is what I mean when I say it is all spiritual, all sacred, and though I definitely prefer some moments to others (eating freshly baked chocolate chip cookies out of the oven anyone?) I can no longer separate one moment from the other and judge it as better or worse, more valid or less valid, more spiritual or dark, when I have begun to see the gift itself is the whole.

Even sitting in that mindfulness class feeling spiteful and grumpy and bored and restless, once I embraced what I was feeling, I couldn’t help thinking what a gift it is to be so utterly human- to be in the space of HERE- that I can revel in those emotions and have the experience of feeling them. Of choosing where to go from there. As is my nature, as is all of our natures, I chose to move towards love.

We were never wrong. We were never bad. And even in our darkest of places, there is always something divine to be found.

It is all spiritual.

All sacred.

All a chance to Love.