The Next Step

As long as we live we’ll feel the fear of taking the next step and trying again. 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.

We’re often called further into an experience than we’d like to go, but it’s 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.

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