By Tyler Lewke
In times of desperation, I’ve climbed the steps to temples and churches, therapist’s offices and 12 step groups, wisdom circles and countless spaces seeking peace from the struggles and the happiness I thought was promised.
I show up hungry for stillness—peace—seeking refuge from life’s torrents. With pain as fuel, I keep coming back, again and again. Like drinking from a well until finally my thirst is quenched. The spiritual lessons I’ve gained within the confines of these holy spaces give me the courage to go back out into the world.
I walk slowly at first—peek around the corners and tread lightly. As my confidence gains, I take various roads back into real life. Sometimes proud of my past and evangelical about my path; other times I practice what I’ve learned and see how it goes.
The impact is measurable: people feel the peace within me quickly—they see the new view I have, and the stillness inside. It’s attractive.
They ask what happened and I share, as I’m able. For a while, I keep going back to the wisdom and holy spaces. I zealously show up to my favorite meditation cushion or church pew. It feels so good. I’m proud of my accomplishments. I always imagined having a deep spiritual life, and I know I’ve got it. I’ve found my home, the way.
The peace I feel in these sacred spaces is deep and significant—the fact that I’m able to take it into the real world is a gift, and I’m a grateful recipient. Over time, I can see how much this has changed my life; I can see the positive impact in nearly all my affairs.
Eventually, I’ve got it. I own it. I feel the peace and strength of my practice. In a way, I’m one with it now. Life is working. I’m finally happy, finally at peace. I begin to show up less. I’ve got this now; I don’t need to keep going all the time. Right? And yet—the moment I see and feel the impact of this new light within me—I stop embracing what helped me find it.
Over the course of the next while, I show up less and less.
I tell myself those rooms and pews and cushions are for those who still suffer. Good for them for those that are still going; obviously they still need it. More time passes. I think about the wisdom, the practice and the spiritual tools and I pull them out now and again when I happen to think of it. Inevitably, the peace begins to elude me.
The incredible stillness and wisdom I had brought back into the world seem not to work. My inner light, that light that seemed to heal me and change so much about my life seems to dim. The stress and suffering begin to knock on my door. I spend some time struggling, grasping for my newfound vibe. “Why isn’t it working? It must not work, did it ever really work? Where’s the light, why isn’t it in me anymore?”
The wind picks up. My life and the craziness from long ago are back. This time, the storms seem even stronger, the hurt bigger, the suffering unmanageable. I wait till the pain and suffering are almost unbearable. Then I crawl back up those stairs—humbled and bleeding, praying I’ll be invited back in.
Of course, I’m welcomed; the pews are still warm, the cushions ready. The community and love are overwhelming, and I greet my old friends with a mutual awareness that we’ve been “back out there,” and it didn’t work so well. I begin the cycle again—finding the light, and igniting my insides. I reclaim my spiritual connection that makes everything so much better.
I repeat the cycle again and again. Sometimes, as I keep coming back, I find the same people. Other times some seem to go out and never to return; a painful reminder of how precarious it all is. It’s as if the light within me—the vibrant and robust spirit that lifts me up—is also the same light that eventually blinds me. Once I find it and allow it to guide me, it seems to guide me away from the source.
The cycle is so painful.
Thankfully, I finally recognized I couldn’t live like this any longer. The risk of going back out and not getting back up those steps one last time became too great. The light inside me becomes so necessary, so vital to my survival that I became willing to do anything to keep it ignited. I tear down every wall I can find; I tackle every obstacle that emerges. I became willing to let go of anything, do anything, smash any container to get the light out in order to stay on the path and deepen this spirit within me. The peace, happiness and sacred connection become my sole salvations—without them, nothing else matters.
Masahide said, “Barn’s burnt down, now I can see the moon.” That’s what finally achieving long-term sobriety, inner peace and happiness takes for me: relentless focus and an intense, rigorous spiritual practice. It takes constant skill building and commitment to cultivating wisdom and developing an inner life.
And then it takes practicing these principles in all my affairs, without regard to external circumstances. Again. And again. And again.
It takes willing to burn down everything so that nothing and no one gets in the way of light.
Tyler Lewke is brutally irreverent, often way too direct and it gets him in trouble. He’s an optimistic pessimist, a grateful dad and friend, a hardcore capitalist, and a deep-seeking mindful and compassionate guy who’s most inspired by helping people through the bullshit parts of religion and spirituality to define a life of joy and contemplative service to others.
Tyler was born months before the official end of the Vietnam War on the Campus of Washington State University to a hippy mom and a heady scientist dad with an IQ that rivals Einstein… a combo that has left him totally out of place in the mainstream.
Tyler lives in the sky in downtown Chicago, in a 100-year-old bungalow in suburban Illinois and from his backpack as he explores the world. He teaches meditation and mindful leadership, has written as a form of art and spiritual practice every day for as long as he can remember. He shares his personal stories of integrating a spiritual life into a daily mainstream existence through his daily blog where he posts his raw, firsthand joys and struggles of trying to practice these mindful principles in all his affairs. Tyler thinks we all have only one real job, to add more love to the world.
Editor: John Lee Pendall
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