A CRASH COURSE IN SPIRITUALITY

Bill and I flew into Boston on December 26th. This is the first time we've been up north in winter since 2008. I was so done with shivering in cold weather when we moved that I had absolutely no desire to ever see another snowflake. With Bill's parents pushing 90 and Polly's children growing up so quickly, we decided to add another visit this year, cold weather be damned.

The first time we landed in Miami for a one-night layover after living in the jungle for only three months, I experienced such intense reverse culture shock it almost took my breath away. Having convinced myself that living in the middle of the jungle was really the only sensible way to get through life, walking through the precise grid of paved roads down a smooth sidewalk flanked by manicured lawns, without a single vagrant dog sleeping in the middle of the street, I felt as though life in America was just one big board game. Nothing felt real to me.

I am happy to announce that I can now transition from wilderness to civilization (in winter, no less!) with no noticable change in how I feel inside.

Moving to the jungle played a large part in helping me to find my spirit, but two other factors contributed as well: aging and self-help books. Aside from wrinkles and sagging flesh, getting older is awesome. Lives filled with good intentions are rewarded with new and frequent revelations about what truly matters. I feel so much more fulfilled at 62 than I did at 26.

For many people, the start of a new calendar year is a time for reflection. I'm thrilled to realize the inner peace I've sought so long is finally here to stay. It takes a bit of learning and a lot of practice, but there's nothing more rewarding on this earth than to feel the bliss of surrendering to what is. Here are the books that best pointed the way for me:

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle has truly transformed my life. In it lie the answers to my big questions: Why are we here? What is the point of being human? Where can I find "God"? The answer in a nutshell is that "God" lives inside each of us, and the way to find and sustain true joy is to live fully in the present moment. I see now how much of my life has been wasted hashing over what happened in the past and projecting what will happen in the future instead of allowing myself to celebrate what is happening right now. Here in the present moment, everything is perfect. The world can be falling apart around me, but when I remember to connect with the pure silence inside that is the ultimate truth, everything is just as it should be. I have finally learned to stop and listen to "God" instead of telling her what to do.

Once I realized that "God" lives in the nothingness that allows the rest of life to happen, there was still work to be done. Integrating this knowing into every moment takes practice. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay teaches that whatever happens in our lives is brought on by how we think. Her premise is that all disease originates in unresolved issues from our past. If we truly let go of our past and love ourselves exactly as we are, everything else falls into place. She offers practical advice on just how to do this.

The Power of Now and You Can Heal Your Life are my bibles. I refer to them frequently. There is, however, one other book I'd like to mention. Loving What Is by Byron Katie taught me that whatever anyone else is doing is their business and not mine. This realization has made my life feel like a neverending vacation. I no longer exhaust myself fretting about what I think other people should be doing. If I focus only on responding to whatever comes my way with a loving heart and complete acceptance, I'm helping to improve the human experience in a far more effective way than telling someone else how to live.

Be here now, dig yourself, and let it be. These phrases will sound familiar to any old hippy. The real truth never changes. We can hear it again and again, but it is only when we apply it to every moment of our lives that we find true happiness.