Facing Adversity with Courage, Clarity, and Compassion with Dr. Matt Lyon Charlotte, NC chiropractor
There are very few certain things in this journey. One of the things you can count on is that in this life you will feel and face challenging and sometimes heartbreaking adversity. How we navigate and within this experience will largely define our character and our spiritual embodiment.
Sometimes, adversity comes in waves. Sometimes those waves come so hard and so fast it’s hard to feel like we can even keep our heads above water. The waves may zap our strength and our resolve. We may even feel like there is nothing left. Our hearts may feel so broken that we would in some way like to give up. And yet, deep deep within is an indefatigable resource, an unending stream of nourishing strength. Pithy aphorisms like: “its all ok, we never get more than we can handle” sound like nails on a chalkboard when Life, in her wisdom begins giving us our curriculum at an accelerated rate. “Oh, wait, Universe. I’d like to drop out of the AP class you have thought I was capable of. Please put me back in the slow class.” “Oh, that’s funny, student, I thought you were serious about waking up. All those prayers, all that work, all those books. I am just delivering what you asked for.” It may, at times, feel that nothing works, the old ways of being and thinking are no longer relevant, and we cannot find a system, a teacher, or a map to hold onto. All we can do is be totally naked and vulnerable and present and heartfelt in the experience.
There is nowhere to run. It is utterly frightening, and yet, in the deepest sense it’s the safest place to be. Being out of answers, out of techniques, and out of time has an amazing capacity of forcing us to find what was within the Heart all along. Please do not get me wrong here. I love some techniques. I am well trained in them. I have had (and still have) incredible teachers and mentors. Here is the rub; all the deep authenticity I have found in this life has led unequivocally into the direct experience of life right here and right now. And when we are not available for that because we’d rather be hypnotized into dreams and illusions, the Divine Creditor, in Its Loving Mercy will eventually come knocking asking for our full honesty and our radical, loving compassion.
There are so many “systems” and “beliefs” and “concepts” out there that would pull you out of your experience, that would tell you there are shortcuts to your own deepest Heart awakening. From new-age mythology to vapid pop psychology there are a plethora of techniques, approaches, 7-step lists, and charismatic baby-gurus that would be the tempting sirens on your heroic journey. There is one way out and that is right through the dead center. The paradoxical answer to suffering is not flinching, not avoiding – it is, rather full courageous embodiment and full being association with that which we want to avoid – be that our greatest fear or our greatest gift.
Here is why I am writing this. 3 weeks ago Lynn and I got rocked with the possibility of catastrophic and life changing news. We came face to face with this cultures big C. Cancer. I debated on writing this; Lynn and I talked about it. However, for me, the only relevant teaching I feel I can offer is my own life and my own faltering, fumbling, and stumbling journey into an Infinity that I have never left but often think I have. So, lets have some tea and take this in shall we?
Those that have faced death, lost a loved one, had a life-altering “diagnosis”, or have experienced profound heartbreak know this: in those moments, time stops and everything gets very, very clear. The static is gone, the background drone of never-ending obligations, to-do’s and minor neurotic anxieties stops and we are faced with NOW. It’s at once a moment of clarity and, at the same time, a descent into that which we fear the most.
It happened like this. Sitting around with Lynn’s family, her mother (thank God) saw a black mole underneath Lynn’s hair that neither of us had seen. It was a black mole that was ugly, big, did not have a clear shape, was raised, and was very black. Never a good thing. After a couple of weeks, Lynn finally got in to have it checked. The dermatologist was not happy about it and did a biopsy on the spot. I can’t speak for Lynn, but I will say its one of those things you go through and you really don’t know what to do with it. You just stand in it. Lynn is probably one of the most authentically Buddha-natured souls I have ever met and her capacity to stand in stark uncertainty, fear of loss, fear of disease, and hold the space for an open heart was remarkable. I was not in that same place.
When I learned what the dermatologist had said to her and did my own research and talked to some different folks, I felt an arrow of fire shoot through the center of my chest plowing through decades of walls right into the center where my deepest human love lives. That first night, knowing we had a couple of weeks to wait, I went in and out of sleep, a steady stream of tears running down my face, and a sensation in my belly and chest that can only be described as one of the deepest aches I have ever felt. I have been through massive loss, trauma, and uncertainty in this life and have weathered many storms that would shake most people off the planet. I had, mistakenly, fallen into the illusion that there were some things I can control. Like always having Lynn. Like always being a family with my wife and daughter. I have never “sky-dived” but it was like that, I imagine – a jump into the big black void of uncertainty with nothing to cling to. And I let myself fall. Anchoring into the center, where I feel God, I dropped into the void, into the hurt. That morning, after a couple of hours of sleep, I woke up with Lynn and we cried together. We bawled, really. Seeing our daughter was a beautiful paradox – the most radiant and glimmering experience of Light and Life we have known and the heartbreaking reality that we didn’t know what was next. Wind, rain, and spiritual hail were battering our easy comfortable little nest.
I could go on and on here, but lest just say that for the next week, I allowed myself to fall fully into the experience of total uncertainty, heartache, and the dark night. And, I showed up for my life. I stepped up for my clients. I stepped up for Lynn and I sat there, in it fully, staring into my daughter’s eyes with a heart-aching love that only a fellow parent can ever understand. It was a miraculous and excruciating experience. To and from work I listened to the spoken word of Rumi and all of his poems about the dark night. My spiritual practice deepened, I called on trusted friends, healers, and helpers. We drew into the loving bosom of our closest friends. We got entrained together. We talked. We sat in silence. We mutually acknowledged the palpable, heavy, hot, and jagged ache that was residing in our chests. And we loved. We loved with tectonic power that I am sure if we could hook it up to a generator could put corrupt Duke power out of business. Here was the best part. The bullshit dropped. All the background noise and my neurotic meanderings dropped. Heartbreak, yes, but there was also this radical and profound openness, realness, and softness. There was silence. There was profound love. And, I stood my ground, as did Lynn. No, thank you very much; I will not tune this out. I will not go into denial, I will not check out, I will not resort to rage, blame, anger, new-age myths, or hours on Netflix. I will stand here with my wife, with my heart, with my daughter. Transform this heart of mine, dear God – may your fierce and unflinching love boil away all that which no longer serves, which stands in the way of your Clear Light Void. Rumi was the best friend I had during this time.
There is another amazing experience that happens when you face this kind of stuff. Pettiness drops. All the petty crap that I could hang onto about my partner in life simply no longer mattered. It wasn’t that I was faking it and whistling in the dark – its just that in the face of unconditional love, all the bullshit judgments drop away, like fog on a pond is whisked away by the morning sun. During this time, I had to face some other unexpected and painful relationship changes with some other folks and I cold stand in my fierce loving truth and not blink – in a way that previously would have been very hard for me.
During this time I felt and found healing compassion with a road rage situation (that I mini-blogged about on Facebook). My heart shattered open had no room for the petty and corrosive pollution of a judging mind that is addicted to being right. I had found a level of heart-fullness and soul-fullness that I think I was great at talking about and writing about, but that was more embodied than I had ever felt. Thank you dark night of the soul. I’ll repost here:
“Fascinating encounter. I have to share this. I was just pulling my car to park in Uptown Charlotte. Another guy wanted the space, too. He began screaming, shaking, threatening, shouting obscenities, and with sniper-like shots wholly assassinating my character. As I sat there, I just stopped. The moment stopped. The world stopped. I felt this “odd” tranquility. An old version of me would have reacted so deeply, would have had this profound need to be right, to fight, to not feel small. Instead, I felt these dual waves of compassion + strength + curiosity. I stopped. I breathed and watched. As I stopped he heated up more and more. I inquired, “Do I want to be right, or do I want to BE happiness.” So, I backed up, and took another spot. As he got out of the car, his whole body was in fight or flight. I had this profound awareness that I was not in that space at all – like there was this blanket of protection, kindness, and strength around me. There was no fight or flight. At all. Just Strength. Heart. Solid. Loving. As a result, there was nowhere for him to go. Although he did look at me for one last blast and say, “look at you! You entitled bastard! You must be on welfare.” Still, effortlessly, I did not bite that hook (as tempting as that was). I bought my raw juice. On my return to my car, I saw him again. He was still enraged talking to the sushi people about my idiotic conspiracy to ruin his day. I walked up to him, reached out my hand, and interrupted the crazy pattern at work. I apologized authentically, strongly, kindly (technically he was “right”) for my part. He had NO IDEA what to do. He stopped. He softened, he smiled. I saw his soul. The kid inside of him that ONLY knows to fight. I looked him dead in the eyes and I said, “You know, I do apologize. But let me say this. I used to be so angry, just like you, and it almost killed me and ruined my life.” And that is 100% true. He said, “Why did you just sit there and stare at me?” I said, “I was just taking it all in. I don’t need to react anymore.” He said, “Oh, I guess we just have really different styles.” “Yes, we do.” I replied. I asked him if he was from NYC. He proudly told me he was born in Italy, and that he is not an angry person. And you know what – HE, his soul – is not. His wounds are. I shook his hand again and told him to be well. I felt this flow of love from my heart into his body. I walked off. Of course, in the car, my ego mind was thinking about the welfare comment, my pithy rebuffs, my Rocky like moves that would have flattened him and left me the winner (or not). I breathed into that as well and said a prayer for him, for me, and for all human beings who are struggling to do the best they can each moment. And I was/am profoundly happy that I can walk the world, doing my best each moment to live in courageous warrior heart strength love and compassion. These experiences just light me up more and more to do “the work” – the hard work of the soul – and to serve with a wide open heart and to be a coherent and solid force for good, for evolution – to BE a mighty kindness that brings people HOME to the HEART. Thank you my wild Italian friend for being such a wisely disguised teacher!”
I mentioned I had some relationship challenges come up during this time. I found a centered compassionate power that I would have shied away from previously. Here is what I wrote that came in a numinous moment as I found my ground underneath me: “When you are bold, daring, and bring your authentic voice to the world, those that have repressed that in themselves will feel threatened. You may be judged, criticized, pigeonholed, misunderstood. DO IT ANYWAY. When you sing your song, the “judges” evaluating you will find 1,000 reasons of why your song is not quite right. DO IT ANYWAY. The status quo, the group-think, the collective pain body loves and wants so dearly to be just comfortable enough to not have to change. As a result, just when you feel you are in your passionate glory it may very well happen that you meet massive resistance. DO IT ANYWAY. And as you do this, 1,000,000 unseen hands will be flying to your aid opening doors seen and unseen to facilitate your Journey Home, to a place you never left.”
During this time, Lynn and I also experienced an incredible opportunity to teach with one of our personal heroines: Sera Beak, author of Red, Hot, and Holy. The opportunity literally came in the first day of the dark night as we awaited the news of Lynn’s biopsy.
There is no magic here. It’s just standing with the tender, powerful, compassionate, broken, and wide-open heart of the sage-warrior. And if that sounds to woo-woo for you, it just meant being stark naked in the present moment with everything that was arising. It meant feeling deeply into the sadness, fear, regret, hopefulness, gratitude, heartache, and all-consuming empathy, even to the point that I thought I might explode. It meant sitting with that and showing up for Lynn, Sienna, for my clients, my staff, for others, for myself, and to of saying yes again and again and again to the process of divine purification. By no means am I saying this was done, or is being done perfectly. I know with 100% certainty I am still radically and perfectly an imperfect human being.I just feel in my bones that I am showing up for my life with courage, clarity, and compassion.
We love rites of passage for others, but we shy away from the greatest lessons Life has to offer us because inevitably our tiny little mad ideas about what this life is for have to get rocked to their core. And generally speaking, that process is not only NOT fun, it is soul-achingly painful. From my limited perspective, it is a requisite for the true spiritual warrior path of Goodness. Its easy to transcend out,to avoid the hard work of feeling human but the real work begins, I believe, when we descend back into this heart, this body, this life, these relationships, these shadows, and submit to the wise and uncertain path of the modern Fire Heart – the authentic human being, fully awake in God’s love, and fully present in this life.
We did hear back. It was not Melanoma. Thank God. Very close though. And no promises or guarantees that we are in the clear just yet as we have one more test to get back. As it stands now, its most likely just a really nasty aggressive mole and we need to be very vigilant with her skin. So, I’ll keep standing, keep loving, and keep being 100% real, genuine, and authentic as the blemishes in the Gold of my Heart and boiled away by the Divine Fire.
Here is the big fat obvious take-away: don’t wait for your life. Live now. Face what you must face. Forgive what you must forgive. Speak what you must speak. Change what you can and surrender the rest. What we take with us when we are gone weighs nothing and has no monetary value. Stand alive, fiercely alive in radical integrity, full aliveness, radiating heart bending loving compassion. Do it today. Start where you are. Put down your smart phone, your to-do list, and start living now. If you had 6 months to live, What are 2 decisions you want to make that you know you must make? Who would you forgive? How would you touch another’s life? How wold you be of service? Don’t wait. This incarnation – this life – flashes faster than you can imagine. Do not wait to live. Do not wait to love. Do not wait to make your life a celebration.
I love you all deeply, tenderly, fiercely.
Dr. Matt Lyon, DC