Clarissa Pinkola Estes defines faith as remembering what we know is true, even when the evidence of it is missing outwardly, or when others don’t see it or remember it. This is a question I often live with, asking myself what I know is true.
Recently, Golondrina was present as I was listening to Dr. Estes tell about a time when, as a child, she was lured by the beauty of freezing Lake Michigan, fully clothed, into the water. Clearly, she was in danger, when a beautiful lady appeared to her in the waves, playing a game that led her to back towards the beach, where she could be rescued. Later, the child’s relatives denied seeing anyone in the water with her, and scolded her for lying.
Listening, Golondrina asked if this was true. And I was conflicted, because I know that it’s true, and I know, at the same time, that it’s a story. Perhaps her question was only whether this story had occurred, but I wanted to answer something more, whether one can see things that others don’t, and whether they are true. I answered that it was true.
I am tangled up in my mind. I know there are truths that are not visible to my eyes, that my ears cannot hear, and that a person standing next to me might not recognize in this moment. And yet, to my heart and my soul, they are truer than the breath that passes through my lungs. I know that. It’s indisputable, inarguable, simple, true.
At the same time, I have experienced myself holding onto something that was my mind’s own creation, a product of my desires for it to be true. But that was the only truth of it: my desire. And so I know that there is danger in holding on to truths —no, I should call them ideas.
So, how do I know what is faith and what confusion, distraction, untruth disguised? How do I know when it is my soul and my heart, and when it is my desire that determines my thoughts?
In fearful, small mind, I am confused, unclear, afraid.
And yet I do know. Even when I think back to those times when I was grasping at something that I wanted to be true. Underneath it all, I knew. I did. I intuited there was no truth in it, only danger.
So my answer for myself is: do not grasp.
And in these days of change, of feeling the landscape change around me, and powerful winds blowing at me from different directions, perhaps the best thing I can do is to embrace what is directly before me, without hanging on to any truth; remembering, using those moments as opportunities to reach down into myself, to be aware of what I recognize, what I remember is true.
Perhaps knowing what is true is not always immediate or easy. But ultimately, it is possible in each moment, if I take the time, if I stop and move inward, if I ask and open myself.
And if not truth, maybe, at least, in this process I can acquire some wisdom, wisdom that will allow me to stand embracing and welcoming of the next opportunity, the next gift, which I might initially call a challenge, that this rich and beautiful life that I live presents to me. If nothing else, at least, wisdom.