One of the biggest challenges for me is finding a way to bridge my inner experience with my outer life. From a pretty early age I had the feeling to just go within and meditate my life away in some distant cave high above the ocean. I really focused on this for some time, believing that was the way to freedom. I kept attempting to imitate the ideal image of serenity. For a while it actually worked, by the Grace of God I was given a taste of peace within.

As I continued along the path I found A New Earth Movement. I was really wanting to experience more and more of the state of peace I had been blessed with. As I kept dipping my hand into the cookie jar without saying thank you, I started to hit up against something sharp. Within an instant the blessed state seemed to be wiped from my memory, and I was left with an undesirable taste that I couldn’t seem to wash away no matter how hard I tried. I didn’t know what to do, all the tricks I normally used only seemed to intensify the discomfort. I would spend hours a day in meditation seeking to find the peace I had once been so naturally enveloped in. This continued for some time as I tried to hold onto what I knew. Meanwhile my relationship with my family crumbled and my ability to function in the world entered into chaos. I didn’t know how to relate anymore.

I was overwhelmed with confusion. The heart of my soul desperately wanted to be of service, so I pushed away the pain believing that only in an “Irie” state of mind could I really help the planet. I forgot myself!! They say old habits die hard, well I sure did! I had found my community, my beautiful partner and the Divine Path I came here to walk. Still I walked away from it. I thought I knew what was best for me, anything to ease the discomfort. And so I literally flew to the Himalayas, found myself a nice little hut with a few ascetic Yogis and continued moving in the direction of what I knew. There’s a whole story that unfolds but I want to stay focused on the point now.

I came to the realization that I really don’t want to close my eyes, I want to open them. Atop this Himalayan peak, fervently focused on my breathing, I was dying inside at the feeling that I could not receive the beauty that surrounds. So I finally decided to stop. I decided I didn’t want to control myself anymore. I didn’t want to hold myself to the expectation of an ideal. I didn’t want to punish myself for not being in love with life. I didn’t want to hide anymore. And then she came, some of the many faces of our Mother. First my partner, then my teacher Nina, and then one by one all the members of A New Earth Movement. Each one filled me with a sense of belonging, a call to work. A sense of purpose reignited my inner compass and I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt that someone was behind my eyes, a knowing that everything is ok, that everything I had been through was actually good, and that I didn’t need to shy away from the delights of life in the name of austerity. I let down, landing with my Mother on the path with gratitude. I felt like I could actually be here, I didn’t need to find anything. I was happy and grateful to have hit up against myself so hard because now I could remember how to be gentle, to show up for myself, to not compare and judge my life to the life of the ones I deemed holier than I. I gathered my things and made my way down the mountain. As I said goodbye to the Yogis they shook their heads and pointed up.

I started to remember what my teacher had shown me, the way she invoked an awareness that pierces through lies. I remembered, with a subtle touch in my heart, that I AM the truth. Nothing can take it away. I started to contemplate what life would be like if I never sought out the concept of inner peace. Could I have experienced the love and bliss without sitting down and closing my eyes? I recalled the way my teacher Tudor would walk, and how it felt to walk next to him, totally absorbed in contentment. I remember in ceremony as we would lift our hands to greet the Sun Nina would say “let’s not forget ourselves”. I was finally starting to listen, allowing those messages to become a part of the artwork I create as I be on this earth. Nina always says we are the artists of our life and we choose what we want to create. I didn’t realize the profundity of her statement until I started to strike a balance between my little Self and my greater Self.

I started to come back into the feelings of blessedness. My mind grew quieter and I was able to feel the love spreading between myself and those around me, the love was taking care of everything. All I had to do was allow myself to be as I am. My relationship with my family started to form coherence again, perhaps only in the way I perceive, as I was able to love, accept and forgive. I wasn’t preoccupied with getting high within, so I naturally became patient and available to form an understanding. I was redefining the way I relate, first to myself and simultaneously to others.

The whole quest into darkness showed me how I can live. The pain illuminated all the places I needed to come into right relationship, how to follow the Divine Plan, not my own plan. I find now that the more I surrender to being here, in the mundane worldly life, the more I am transferred into a higher awareness, an awareness that feels the magic and is in Awe of the unknown. The more I am here the more I heal and the more I see healing reflected back to me, it feels like love is growing, taking over, redeeming itself. What I really feel is required is a simple compassionate perspective towards myself. This creates an energy that somehow ties me to what’s beyond my little self and opens my eyes to the world.

The compassion let’s me navigate safely, knowing that a simple moment of lovingly acknowledging myself can change my whole inner world, grant me the courage to smile authentically, to be in love with who and where I am, full of gratitude for the Mother of life. It gives me the strength to stand up for myself, to not allow the voices of deception to steer me from acting with joy. It wakes me up! What a beautiful gift the imbalances are. Without them I may not know what reverence is. I am truly grateful to have received the gift of humility, that I can actually appreciate the Divine and all its workings, learning to trust myself and trust in love. I feel these profundities help to find peace in the chaos, to expand our perception beyond our small lives and see the greater balance unfolding through us, guiding us into a new way (maybe the oldest!) of being.

-Alex Benfarhat