It is not Life's job to tell you its ultimate meaning. Rather, it is the task of the individual to offer Life the best lived, most meaningful life one can manage. - Elie Wiesel
This journey has given us the opportunity to read and study and observe and discuss and meditate and contemplate in a way that is not possible in the everyday world of career and responsibilities. And after years of searching and months of travel and days of silence sitting at the top of a hill in northern India, four small words presented themselves to me with a clarity and a conviction that I have never previously experienced.
love, compassion, integrity, and grace
Four small words that finally found a home in my heart. Could it really be that simple? I felt like a piece of the big picture was finally falling into place. These words provide the guidance that I have been searching for to become the man I want to be.
You know, I remember reading somewhere that you finally achieve enlightenment when you realize that you've been elightened all along. Far from the heady claim of enlightenment I know that these answers have been inside of me for many years, yet I have lacked the courage to live a life based on these truths.
And if you read the saints and the mystics and the kabbalahs and the sufis of the world's wisdom traditions, you will find that they too have come to the same conclusion. Be a good person. Live with integrity. Give back to the world. All the world's religions boiled down to their most fundamental Truths. All the rest – the rosaries, the songs, the incense, the fasting, the rules – all are just trappings to help us achieve a foundation of love, integrity, compassion, and grace.
I now believe this as firmly as I have ever believed anything in my life. This is my God.
So is it that simple? Swimming in the bliss that often accompanies such profound (?) insights, we left the retreat full of promise and excitement, believing the next step in our lives was just beginning.
But to allow these newfound skills to flourish, we needed a break. Aside from the ten days spent in intense, mind-altering, sleep-deprived meditation, we had never been in one place longer than seven days, and that pleasure only once. One hundred different beds in less than two hundred days. Sounds like a David Lee Roth memoir.
So we decided to park it for two weeks of naps, swimming, reading, chess, and motorcycles. Our chosen spot was the tiny, northern Thailand town of Pai – population 3,500.
But first we had to get there.