The Next Step
As long as we live, we will feel the fear of taking the next step and trying
again. It’s an intrinsic part of our makeup, and if we are waiting only for our
fear to end, we will not discover the pure and toving presence that unfolds as
we surrender into the darkest of nights. Only by letting go into the stream
of life do we come into freedom. Facing fear and taking the next step is a
lifelong training in letting go of all that we cling to.
In the realm of action, not every gesture needs to be a grand one. Small
steps can be equally important as can be seen by the story of an old man who
was walking along a beach in. Mexico after an unusually strong spring storm.
The beach was covered with dying starfish tossed up by the waves, and the
man was tossing them back into the water one by one. A visitor saw this and
came up to him, “What are you doing?” he asked. “I’m trying to help these
starfish,” replied the old man. “But there are tens of thousands of them
washed up along these beaches. Throwing a handful back doesn’t matter,”
protested the visitor. “It matters to this one,” the old man replied as he
tossed another starfish into the ocean.
When the next step feels like it’s too much, and life feels far off, let’s
remember that a flute is just something hard with holes until it’s played. So, too, is the heart. As matches are just sticks until lit, as ice is not quenching
until thawed, questions and problems remain obstacles until lived. In this
way, the life of every soul waits like sheet music to be played.
Yet, this is as it should be, must be, the way everything natural extends and
grows. We all lose and we all gain. Dark crowds the light. Light fills the
pain. Living is a conversation with no end, a song with no words, a reason too
big for any mind.
We are often called further into experience than we’d like to go, but it is
the extra leap that lands us in the vibrant center of what it means to be
alive. This is why ninety-year-old widows remain committed to tending small
flowers; why artists going blind paint more; why composers going deaf write
great symphonies. This is why when we think we can’t possibly try again, we
let out a sigh that goes back through the centuries, and then, despite all our
experience, we inhale and take the next step.
Charles “Tom” Brown